Metabolic conditiong for more strength and endurance
Hardly anyone who is more intensively involved in fitness can ignore this training option: Metabolic Conditioning, or MetCon for short, has for some time been considered the ultimate when it comes to demanding everything from the body. The workout provides extra strength and endurance in a relatively short time. Let’s take a closer look:
Not to be mixed up with HIIT
Metabolic Conditioning is a real hit, especially overseas. Sporting goods companies have long since jumped on the bandwagon and have launched shoes designed explicitly for this ultra-hard fitness variation. A survey among personal trainers and fitness coaches in the USA has also shown that many do not know it. Instead, they mix it up with HIIT, although there are apparent differences. To understand what Metabolic Conditioning or MetCon is all about, we need to delve a little into sports physiology.
The physiology of Metabolic Conditioning
Most people have probably heard of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), our universal energy source. ATP provides energy to every cell in the body and relies on three different energy systems to do so:
- the phosphagen system
- the glycolytic system
- the oxidative system
How the phosphagen system works
Our muscles can access the phosphagen system very quickly. This is important for all fast-paced exercises like sprinting or lifting a heavyweight. However, these reserves are actually used up within ten seconds. However, since the phosphagen system also receives support from the other two systems right from the start, it can even contribute to the energy supply for up to 20 seconds. This works exceptionally well with athletes who are already well trained. However, after these ten to 20 seconds, the system needs a few minutes of recovery to perform again.
The glycolytic and oxidative system
The glycolytic system comes into play for exertion lasting longer than ten to 20 seconds and beyond. This means longer runs or strength training with several stations and runs. But even the glycolytic system is exhausted at some point, and then the oxidative system steps in. So, adequately trained, we can complete a marathon or a triathlon.
MetCon makes the three energy systems more efficient
What is very important here is that none of the three systems works entirely alone. They all work together and support each other. Depending on the load, one system is more than the other. Put simply, Metabolic Conditioning is a form of training that contributes to the more effective use of the three different energy systems. So it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with constantly pushing the limits or beyond when training. However, high-intensity fitness programs, in particular, are very good at improving what is known as metabolic efficiency – and this, of course, mainly concerns the phosphagen system.
Building Metabolic Conditioning properly
What MetCon training ultimately looks like depends entirely on your goals and the so-called work to rest ratio. Let’s take a look at what this means using the following examples:
- If you exert yourself to the maximum, for example, by making a ten-second sprint and then recovering for two minutes before making the next sprint, you have a work to rest ratio of 1:12. This is because you are primarily training the phosphagen system.
- If you do 30 seconds of push-ups with one-armed rowing (see video) and then do 30 seconds of medicine ball slams without rest (see video) and then rest for five minutes, you have a work to rest ratio of 1:5. This benefits the glycolytic system in particular.
- In HIIT, you alternate between a 20-second rest and a 10-second rest for four minutes and complete several rounds. The work to rest ratio here is 1:2, which benefits oxidative capacity.
Don’t train harder, train smarter
- A low work to rest ratio (1:12 to 1:20) is ideal for building strength. A medium-high BEV (1:5) is best for improving performance during intense and somewhat prolonged exercise. A high work to rest ratio (1:1 or 1:2) enhances endurance. Studies have shown that even heart patients and diabetics benefit from HIIT.
- A MetCon workout should, of course, be adapted to the individual’s performance. Beginners should definitely build up a foundation before venturing into this form of training. And even for already experienced athletes, it is advisable to listen to the body. Those who take too long to recover from exertion or sleep poorly need to reduce the intensity.
- When choosing exercises, make sure that different muscle groups are used. Two to five exercises are possible depending on your fitness level. Below you will find a program as an example.
- Since a MetCon workout only takes five to ten minutes, it can basically be integrated into your training program at any time (you should be well warmed up). US studies have shown that it is ideal to do a MetCon program at the end of a regular strength training session.
Example workout with three exercises
Depending on your fitness level, you do three to five exercises (see below) with a 30-second load and a 30-second rest. This gives you a workout time of 10 to 15 minutes. It is essential to perform the exercises correctly, even when very exhausted. A partner or trainer should supervise the workout.
- Squats (20 or 30 seconds depending on fitness level)
- Box jumps (20 or 30 seconds depending on fitness level)
- Push-ups (20 or 30 seconds depending on fitness level)