Metabolic Conditioning

Metabolic Conditioning has always been a staple in strength & conditioning, and the term has become a fitness buzzword in the last decade. Despite this, many people don’t actually know what it is.

Metabolic conditioning or ‘Metcon’ refers to conditioning exercises intended to increase the storage and delivery of energy for any activity and is highly effective for both fat loss and athletic performance. The first thing that comes to mind for most people when training to improve endurance is conditioning the cardiovascular system to improve transport of blood to the working muscles. Concurrently, metabolic conditioning is conditioning the muscles to better use the fuel delivered to them by improving the efficiency of the various metabolic pathways. While it was once believed that only aerobic conditioning served to increase cardiovascular health, studies have now shown that anaerobic conditioning may also condition the heart to a same level as aerobic training alone. For example, in the work of Dr. Izumi Tabata it was shown that a four minute high intensity Tabata group experienced better V02 max improvement than a control group following a 60 minute moderate intensity regimen - another point to note, is that only the control group following the Tabata protocols saw an anaerobic improvement.

Metcon uses a variety of strength training and anaerobic conditioning drills, workouts are timed and consist of varying exercises, usually performed in multiple rounds with short rest periods. Put very simply, the sole objective is to maintain the highest level of output, in the shortest time possible, in order to complete the required workload.

Various training tools along with functional movements, applied to a system of varied, high intensity training has quickly become one of the most prominent training systems in fitness today, primarily for it’s raw effectiveness and ability to increase power, speed, endurance, metabolism and muscle mass, whilst probably being the most effective training system for reducing body fat.

A study by The European Applied Journal of Physiology showed metabolism to be elevated for up to 16 hours following intense resistance exercise. A major contributing factor to this elevated state is due to the body’s high demand for oxygen post exercise, otherwise known as EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). After intense exercise, there as an increase in lactic acid, an elevated body temperature, an increase in breathing and heart rate, synthesis of phosphocreatine in the muscles and elevated hormone levels. In order for the body to recover effectively, higher amounts of oxygen are required. Not only do you burn a greater number of calories during the workout, but post-workout as well.

The strength work will involve performing basic, multi-joint, compound movements with high energy demand. Potentially utilising barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells, along with body weight exercises and conditioning drills at near maximal intensity such as sprints, shuttle runs, box jumps, burpees; every facet of strength and conditioning is improved, so the benefits of metcon are endless. You will notice increased strength and cardiovascular endurance, power, speed, and metabolism. This equals stronger muscles, less body fat, increased power and endurance. Not to mention improvements in any sport that requires strength, power, agility and endurance. Programming is versatile enough to suit any limitations or tailored to meet any needs or training objective.

Phil Rigden


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