Intrigued by Metabolic Training?
You should be.
In all of my years in the gym, I have never experienced anything quite like it… a program that delivers gains in strength, size, cardiovascular endurance, and mobility in the most efficient way possible?
I don’t know about you, but a program that complete, that unique…well, that grabs my attention. Want to design your own Metabolic Training workout, and try it out for yourself? Well keep reading, this one is for you!
You will want to first determine the length of your template. A typical template will average around 30 minutes, however that all depends on time availability and personal preference. Generally, sessions that are shorter than 30 minutes will be extremely intense due to the necessary training density, while sessions much longer than 30 minutes can be a little “drawn out”, and even induce boredom. If you currently workout at a Metabolic Studio, please note I am discussing template length, not the length of the workout from the start of the explanation, to the last drip of sweat being wiped off of the floor after the finisher. Once you know the length of your template, you will need to determine the length of your sets, and the rest period between sets to tell you how long the workout should take.
Time Under Tension
Ideally, you will rotate through a variety of templates, that all have a wide array of TUT protocols, some geared more towards strength development (:20-:30), while others will be geared more towards metabolic stress, hypertrophy, and the questioning of your psychological sanity (these sets will be :50-2:00 in length). For your very first template, I would settle somewhere in the metabolic “sweet spot” of :35-:45. Please note, I said “geared towards” not “only for”…of course, there is strength development that can occur with sets lasting 2:00 long, and conversely, hypertrophy can result from sets that last :20.
Target Reps per set
WITHIN the TUT, it is also important to marry a rep count. This is where I see so many Metabolic newbies go wrong. They spaz out for :30, pounding out as many shitty reps as they can, getting no mind muscle connection, and playing some odd game of trying to “beat” the clock. If you try to play this game with the clock, the odds of it ending with you curled up a nausea induced ball in the corner are quite high, so we need to match the TUT with a rep count, particularly on our loaded strength movements.
By prescribing 8-10 reps in :30, we not only can emphasize proper eccentric control, and mindful pauses/contractions, but we can also properly load. If you can do 10 more reps after the :30 has elapsed, the load was too light. If you are grinding harder than a college kid on a Saturday night with :15 to go, maybe go a little lighter! I have written entire articles about this, but this is why TUT is so powerful…when married with a rep count, it forces you to train optimally, and to employ the proper technique.
Time Between Sets
Now that we know how long each set will be, we need to determine how long to take between sets. The better your fitness level, the less recovery you will need between sets. In this case, I would recommend :10-:20 between sets. Are you used to doing sets of 5×5 on the bench, or taking lots of rest between sets? Use rest periods of :20-:30. Metabolic Training is defined, in layman’s terms, as “strength training at a pace” so anything longer than :30 between sets is really getting away from the fundamental principle of the training philosophy: more work, less time, better results. For you, as someone new who wants to experience Metabolic Training, but needs a moderate amount of recovery, we will select :20.
Selecting the Exercises
Metabolic Training, while it can be done with bodypart splits, is optimally performed utilizing a full body approach, with an “emphasis” on certain muscle groups. Let’s say it is Monday, and we are hitting a full body workout that is primarily targeting chest, back, and quad dominant lower body movements. We always want to see an upper body “push” (DB Floor Press, Pushups, TRX Pushups, etc) an upper body “pull” (DB Rows, TRX Rows, Chinups, etc), a lower body movement (Squat, Lunge variations), a core exercise (Planks, Walkouts, etc), a mobility movement (Spidermen, Squat to Stand, any movement to enhance mobility/flexibility), and a functional movement pattern (carries, animal movements, athletic movements) in there at some point.
The Indicator Lift
Each session should have an “indicator” lift that you will use as your primary movement of the day. The programming of the day is built around this lift, and while you are trying to improve on everything, you are REALLY trying to improve upon this movement from week to week. It should be a staple lift, done on the same day each week, with different rep ranges and accessory movements each time. An example would be KB Goblet Squats on Monday, DB OHP on Thursday, etc.
This is where it is very easy to go wrong, and a trained, skilled eye will immediately see holes in program design that is sub optimal. Any time we are training in a fatigued state, such as with Metabolic Training, it is important to consider safety, and manage the fatigue as best as possible. You will want to place your mobility movement immediately before the indicator lift of the day. This will allow for the heart rate to come down a bit, breathing to regulate, and the correct mental state to occur before trying to perform optimally.
After this, the order of exercises should be as antagonistic as possible (unless pre fatigue in part of your plan of attack, which as a beginner to MT, it shouldn’t be). Keep in mind the “non obvious” forms of fatigue, such as the pectoral fatigue that can accompany holding a heavy KB in the Goblet position, or the grip fatigue that can accompany heavy RDL’s.
Let’s use the following 6 exercises, and look at a couple of sequencing examples: Spidermen, KB Goblet Squat, Incline DB Med Ball Press, TRX Chinups, Plank Punch, and Burpees.
Indicator Lift: KB Goblet Squat
Incline DB Med Ball Press
KB Goblet Squat
“Hold the World” (Hollow Plank)
At first glance, “Sequence A” may seem fine to the untrained eye, as there is a nice balance of the prerequisite movement patterns. However, there are a number of issues here. For starters, the chest will be SMOKED when it comes time to hold the KB for the Goblet Squat. Since this is the indicator movement of the day, we want to base our entire template around the successful performance of this movement. This means we want to bring the heart rate back down, and perhaps more importantly, mitigate the amount or pre fatigue. Clearly, we have failed here.
In addition, our “functional movement pattern” of the day, Burpees, is going to tax the chest, shoulders, and triceps do the pushup involved in the movement. Even though the Incline DB Med Ball Press is not the indicator lift of the day, we still want to perform well, and be safe while doing this movement. The Burpees would be better served as a challenging movement to do either immediately after, or seperated 2-3 stations away from the Incline DB Med Ball Press. If you look even more closely, you are now asking someone to perform a heavy anteriorly loaded movement in the Goblet Squat, in an extremely fatigued state. This is an unsafe practice that should be avoided whenever possible, which is why it is optimal to implement the mobility exercise immediately before the indicator lift.
Indicator Lift: KB Goblet Squat
KB Goblet Squat
“Hold The World”
Incline DB Med Ball Press
“Sequence B”, with the same exercises, looks like a far more effective way to tackle this workout. You will see nice performance on the KB Goblet Squat, the Burpees are separated far enough from the Incline DB Med Ball Press where they will not pre fatigue the press, or even the squat for that matter. The mobility movement done prior to the squat should help the heart rate come down, and the CNS stimulation from the Burpees should even aid the KB Goblet Squat.
Ok so we have the time (30 Minutes), we have the movements, we have the TUT (:35) and we have the rest between sets. Using this information, we will be able to get 5 cycles of this workout in 27:10. If you are absolutely smoked, or get bored quite easily, you could always do 4 cycles with a different “finisher”. If you are a glutton for punishment, or don’t have the time to perform a separate finisher, but could spare a couple of more minutes to train, you could even do 6 cycles. The choice is yours, but the beauty of multi round programming is there is a ton of opportunity to warm up within the template itself by ramping up in both load and intensity from set to set, or even scaling back if need be.
Ahh, the almighty finisher. Some people are “dessert” people, and HAVE to have something sweet after each meal. Others are “foodies” that prefer to focus on the main course. In my experience, I think over the long haul being a “foodie” will get you closer to your goals, as the meat and potatoes will provide more substance than the cookies will. With that said, cookies are fun, they taste good, and enjoying the “meal” is a huge part of the process. When it comes to finishers, throw them in if you love them, skip them if you don’t, but never, EVER “save room” for dessert. Always give your best effort, and if you have a little left, a little room for that dessert, then so be it, but by no means is it necessary.
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
Metabolic Training is new, it is exciting, but it is NOT something that you should dive into with 110% intensity until your “fitness level matches your strength”. I used to see this all of the time, with men especially. They hear about the program, come in, act like it is Senior year in high school on the football team, throw up, and we never hear from them again. We got smarter as the years went on, and learn how to “onboard” stronger men and women into our program, or even individuals who lacked the aerobic capacity to recover from set to set. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the beauty of Metabolic Training is the goal is simply to become a better version of yourself each and every day. By training efficiently, intensely, and consistently, not only will you be able to walk the dog without getting winded, or pick up your kids, but you will have the time to do so, because you aren’t living in the gym. Use this article as a resource to create a customized Metabolic workout for you, and your goals, and hopefully it encourages you to get others around you to participate, as anyone who does Metabolic Training knows, it is ALWAYS more fun with others. Take your time, stay dedicated, and let the gains begin!