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Metabolic Conditioning and Supersetting

Metabolic conditioning is one of the simplest ways to maximize the productivity of any workout. Learn all about it from a CSCS trainer - Davey Fisher

Metabolic conditioning (sometimes abbreviated as “Metcon”) is one of the simplest ways to maximize the productivity of any workout.

What does that mean exactly? 

In short: forcing your body to constantly “switch gears” (i.e. the anaerobic / aerobic energy systems) while keeping work capacity consistently high will dramatically increase caloric burn and overall energy expenditure of any workout.

Metabolic conditioning is a great way to get fitter and stronger at the same time, while also building endurance and boosting the metabolism. It’s not a surprise that this type of training will have you burning, sweating, and breathing.

It can be accomplished several ways. You can make any workout into a metabolic conditioning workout. Simply operate on a strict tempo and work to rest ratio.

For example, only allowing 20 seconds of rest between strength exercises will make any weight lifting workout much more difficult. You can also maintain an interval sequence such as “20 calories on the assault bike” straight into “10 strict pull-ups.” In this example, a more aerobically dominant exercise is countered with an anaerobic one. Even with moderate rest, this will be a difficult type of workout. The anaerobic aspect of a workout like this is primarily responsible for creating short bursts of intense exercise (the pull-ups), while the aerobic portion is primarily responsible for the less intense and longer duration exercise (the assault bike). Forcing the body to constantly adapt between anaerobic and aerobic thresholds creates a much more capable level of fitness as part of a well-rounded training approach.

Besides operating on specific work to rest ratios and interval sequences, supersetting is another great way to make an ordinary workout into a metabolic conditioning workout.

Supersetting is taking two different movements or exercises and working them to fatigue back-to-back then repeating for any amount of rounds.

A good example of this would be doing 20 squats, then 10 pushups, and back to squats.

Alternating exercises like this allows you to work each exercise a bit more effectively on limited rest. One muscle group works while one recovers and visa-versa.

Like other forms of metabolic conditioning, the heart rate will stay much higher for longer periods of time, causing you to expend more energy than an ordinary workout. The key is to keep tempo fairly high. This might mean limiting rest to a minute or less; which sounds like plenty, but it goes by much quicker than you might realize when supersetting. You can superset almost any two exercises, but ideally you don’t want one to have much of an effect on the other. As a result, it is ideal most often to superset two exercises that aren’t related or aren’t very similar. An upper body supersetted with a lower body exercise is a great way to experiment. Give it a shot! 

No matter what technique you use, if you’re burning, sweating, and breathing, it’s working. 

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