Metabolic Training Program Design:
Now that you know what Metabolic Training (MT) is, are you ready to embark on a new journey, and take your body to new heights, unleashing its ultimate potential? It may “seem” like MT workouts are haphazardly thrown together, but as with all other training systems and programs, there needs to be a purposeful methodology of muscle group targeting, exercise sequencing, exercise selection, and time under tension for each working set. Get ready for all you need to know to design a MT session that fits YOUR needs.
Muscle Group Targeting:
MT sessions are typically full body in nature. The reason for this is that, for most people, the EFFICIENCY of MT allows them to achieve their physique goals, even despite the busiest of schedules. You want to get in the gym, and get out, knowing that you got the most effective MT session possible. Assuming most of you have 3 days a week to commit to the gym, this makes the most sense, because 99.9% of the time, given equal training volume, an approach that allows trainees to hit a muscle group with more frequency will yield superior results in strength, development, and motor pattern skill acquisition (i.e. Goblet Squatting 3x/week will help you improve your Goblet Squat more than doing it once per week) Here are 3 ways to split up your weekly MT/Training Cycle, which is entirely dependent on frequency:
I would absolutely go with a full body approach here, hitting one exercise each for an upper body “push” (think chest, delts, tris), upper body “pull” (think upper back, lats, bis), lower body “push” (think quads, glutes), lower body “pull” (think hammies, hip abductors, glutes), core, and a functional movement pattern. Non consecutive days would be optimal (i.e. M/W/F), but not necessary.
I would continue doing full body sessions, however I would “split” the muscle group focus on each day, into 2 days: chest/lats/quads/glutes (A) and hammies/delts/upper back/biceps/triceps/glutes (B). So, in this setup, you could do “A” workouts on M/W/F, and “B” workouts on T/Th/Sa. Please remember, this is an “emphasis” based split, so you could include lower intensity, bodyweight exercises (i.e. pushups or glute bridges) on a day when you are not directly targeting that muscle group.
Exercise Sequencing Non Competing:
Believe it or not, there are a number of factors that go into designing a MT routine. For most clients, I recommend sequencing exercises in a “non competing” order. This means alternating upper body, lower body, core, and cardio exercises in a way that none of those four categories are repeated for consecutive stations. The benefit of this is that a full effort can be given to each muscle group with adequate rest between muscle groups provided. This method is optimal for strength development because it allows for the CNS to become acclimated to heavier training loads. An example of this would be:
- KB Goblet Squat
- DB Floor Press
- Plyo Lunges
- Strap Chinup
- Foam Roller Plank
Joint health must also be taken into consideration. A lot of clients have sensitivity throughout the joints of the shoulder, knee, and hip, so properly distributing the stress on those joints throughout the workout is crucial. You wouldn’t want to incorporate 4 exercises where you are on your hands, or 5 exercises that involve a high degree of knee flexion under load or impact.
Another technique it to intentionally fatigue a muscle group with 2 consecutive exercises. The advantage of this is that it can be a little more joint friendly, as lighter loads are typically used, while still eliciting a significant amount of muscle damage. An example of this would be:
- Duck Walks
- Alternating DB Lunges
- Strap Pushups
- Band Jacks
- Plate Sewer Cap Row
Pre-fatiguing a muscle group is an advanced technique, and one that I would only use sparingly when in a situation where the loading is inadequate (i.e. on vacation and the dumbbells aren’t heavy enough) or to provide a “fun” change of pace.
While ANY piece of training equipment will work with a MT program, there are some factors to consider. Barbells should be avoided. Many of you have done traditional barbell work before, but when acclimating to an MT workout, the loading you will need to use to keep a constant amount of tension, in a state of cardiovascular fatigue, will be less than what you may be accustomed to.
For example, if you typically do 185×10 on Squats, you may be shocked that this only takes you :22 to do. If you are asked to do a set for :40, given the typical 2-3 Second eccentric, and 1 second concentric that is advisable for optimal results, you would be at the 10 rep mark. However, if you are unable to keep constant tension at a faster tempo past :20-:25, then you are really robbing yourself of :15-:20 of growth/strength potential.
Remember, placing muscles under load, for time, is our priority in MT. Given this conundrum, most clients will be better served avoiding “traditional” exercises that they have done in the past, and may have an ego about. This will help prevent injury, frustration, and boredom, all detrimental to progress.
Multi-joint, compound movements will typically yield the most “bang for your buck”, and help work as much muscle mass as possible, allowing you to spend less total time in the gym. Squat variations, lunges, hip hinges (RDLs, swings, high pulls), rows, chinups, inverted rows, pushups, and almost all pressing variations are all terrific options.
When pressed for time, “combo” movements like DB Squat to Press, DB Curl to Reverse Lunge, DB RDL to Upright Row etc are GREAT options to “kill 2 birds with one stone” and work an incredible amount of musculature, simultaneously.
Time Under Tension:
Typically in most workout programs, you will see “3×10” for Bench Press or “5×5” for Squat. While it is not a hard and fast rule, in most MT programs, TUT is a far better method to deploy to optimize each set performed. Think about it.
When you tell someone to do 10 reps, what do they do? Most people bang them out as quickly as possible. However, when you tell someone to perform a set for :30 with constant tension, odds are they will give you those same 10 reps, but with controlled eccentrics that allow for the proper training stimulus to occur.
Time periods ranging from :20-2:00 are great, one of the wonderful aspects of MT is that a wide variety of TUT ranges is encouraged. At times, there is a time and place to assign “rep counts” to provide a unique and fun training session, but the vast majority of MT workouts will implement TUT as the dominant form of executing each set.
There will inherently be an inverse relationship between the number of sets you use and the length of each set (the shorter the work periods, the more sets you will perform, and vice versa). While you will be well advised to utilize a wide variety of TUT protocols when designing your workouts, please keep in mind that you will want your templates to be 30-40 minutes in length. A wise man once said “You can workout for a long time, or you can workout intensely, but you can’t do both.”
Hopefully this knowledge gives you tools to start playing around, and designing YOUR OWN MT training session!