Do you find yourself continually searching for the perfect workout routine? The one that saves you time while changing the game in terms of performance, effectiveness, and calorie burn?
Metabolic resistance training has become all the rage for athletes and fitness professionals seeking to make their workouts and strength levels soar. This challenging style of training blends some of the best workouts together (HIIT, P90x, and CrossFit) to burn calories and build muscle.
As a fitness and nutrition professional who’s always looking for new inspiration to step-up my client’s progress, I looked at the scientific research on metabolic resistance.
So what are the benefits of metabolic resistance training? Metabolic resistance training is highly effective when it comes to cardiovascular health, calorie burn (during and after the workout), and muscle building. But since this workout is extremely challenging, it’s not suitable for untrained individuals and may require a build-up period even for athletes.
Let’s dive into what makes metabolic resistance training good some people, while being “too much” for others.
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What is Metabolic Resistance Training?
Metabolic resistance training is a workout method that combines intense and effective cardio and muscle training. It works by maximizing your body’s capacity through a combination of strength training and aerobic cardio exercise. This allows for a longer period of calorie burn.
In order to achieve this state, you give your all during a series of compound movements, which use more than one muscle group at a time. The workouts are more quick and intense than standard cardio or strength workouts. This includes heavy weight training, with minimal rest, with an aim of reaching a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of about nine to 10.
According to Cleveland Clinic, the rate of perceived exertion scale is used to measure the intensity of your exercise. The numbers relate to how easy or difficult you find an activity. For example, zero means nothing at all. This would be how you feel while sitting. While 10 is very heavy work, such as after an exercise stress test or extremely difficult activity.
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3 Benefits of Metabolic Resistance Training
Evidence shows that traditional resistance training (free-weight, resistance, machines, bodyweight exercises) produces many health benefits such as improvements in muscle size, power, and endurance.
Stepping up standard resistance training by adding compound movements at a higher intensity and with little to no rest, has been shown to boost heart and metabolic health, scorch calories during and after a workout, and effectively build muscle.
HEALTHY BOOST FOR YOUR HEART AND HEALTH
General metabolic training has been shown to be very helpful for patients with metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. In one study, participants who trained for 45 minutes, three times per week, lost fat mass while preserving muscle. In addition, it’s been shown to help reduce blood pressure, and help promote bone development.
Traditional weight training usually involves doing a set, taking a break, then repeating it. With metabolic resistance training, you don’t have the same amount of rest, so your heart will be continually pumping hard. This could also help you save time on your workouts since you wouldn’t have to split weight and cardio days.
SCORCHES CALORIES DURING (AND AFTER) YOUR WORKOUT
During your metabolic resistance training workout, you can burn hundreds of calories but a main perk of this intense exercise is the afterburn.
As described by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) works similar to how a car engine stays warm after a long road trip. So even after you’ve completed your exercise sesh, your body “stays warm” and your metabolism can continue to burn calories even at rest.
Exercise that puts more of a demand on anaerobic (without oxygen) energy pathways during the workout, so it can increase the need for oxygen after the workout. So after the intense workout, your body requires more oxygen and energy to restore and repair to its natural state. In fact, it’s been shown to elevate calorie burn for up to 38 hours after the workout.
Circuit training, as defined by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) typically includes workout stations with about eight to ten different types of exercises, targeting different muscle groups. Instead of resting, you move quickly to the next station. Circuit training is the most popular form of metabolic resistance training.
As stated by Harvard Health, a 155 pound person can burn about 300 calories per 30 minutes while doing 30 minutes of circuit training. Circuit training has also been shown to have increased effects on the impact and length of EPOC when compared to other forms of strength training.
EFFECTIVELY BUILDS MUSCLE
In addition to the intense calorie burn, metabolic resistance training boosts muscle gains. It does so through what’s called the lactate threshold which is the point which lactic acid begins to accumulate in your muscles. This is the intensity of exercise at which lactate accumulates a quicker rate then your body can remove it.
According to WebMD, when you exercise, your body uses oxygen to break down glucose for energy. When there isn’t enough oxygen available, lactate is made. Your body can convert lactate to energy without oxygen.
When lactic acid builds up, it can impede muscle contractions, meaning you’ll do less reps. Metabolic resistance training counteracts these negative effects by buffering it and bringing it out of your muscle tissue.
Since metabolic training uses compound exercise with resistance, at high intensity, it uses and exhausts more muscle and triggers the release of growth hormone. Growth hormone helps boost protein production and promote the utilization of fat. It can also help develop larger muscles and improve exercise.
Compound exercises are those that work on multiple muscle groups at the same time. For instance a squat would include working your quads, glutes, and calves. In comparison, isolated exercise focuses on one muscle group at a time. Metabolic resistance training workouts should also include every muscle group with compound movements. Each workout should incorporate chest, back, arms, hamstrings and core.
1 Problem with Metabolic Resistance Training
Metabolic resistance training is an excellent workout. But because it’s so difficult, it can put great demands on both the aerobic and anaerobic system. As a positive, this helps burn fat, increases exercise capability, and enhances muscle strength, but this means expending a lot of energy.
This means it can leave you feeling completely wiped. Or in some cases, reaching the point of needing to pass out or throw up. As a negative result, this could be a demotivating factor. When you exercise to the point of complete exhaustion, you may also set yourself up for a risk of injury.
Even if you’re a trained athlete, you could still be at risk of injury, especially if you’re overtraining. You need to have a basic knowledge of strength training before doing metabolic conditioning.
One way to fix this is decrease the level and work your way up to more advanced exercise. You can do this by taking slightly longer rest periods or doing slightly less reps. Just don’t cheat yourself; you still want the workout to feel tough!
How to Do Metabolic Resistance Training
When building a metabolic resistance training program, it’s important to focus on engaging every muscle group in the body. This includes your chest, back, arms, legs, and core.
The key is to do more exercise in less time, focusing on 15-20 reps per set, with very minimal to no rest between sets. As mentioned above, the effort should be a rate of perceived exertion of about nine to 10. The reps themselves should be relatively quick.
Don’t forget to start with a warm-up. Warming up gets your body primed for a workout by revving up your cardiovascular or circulatory system, which helps increase blood flow. This helps the flow of oxygen to the muscles and heart. It also helps prevent injury and get your mind ready to be in the workout zone.
Since metabolic resistance training is such an intense workout, it’s important to incorporate rest days in between. Aim to train two to three, non-consecutive days per week. Doing the exact same workout two or more days in a row prevents muscles from recovering and getting stronger. When you and your muscles have time to rest, it can help you reach your goals faster.
Studies suggest that the concentric movements during metabolic resistance training should be done quick or explosively, without compromising your form. The eccentric movement should be done slower.
Concentric movements are when the muscle shortens while producing force. Think about contracting your muscle, for example during a bicep curl. Eccentric on the other hand is when the muscle lengthens. For instance, when you lower the weight back down during a bicep curl.
Metabolic Resistance Workout Examples
There are various types of metabolic resistance workouts that you can do. These include circuit training, paired set training, and combo training.
PAIRED SET TRAINING
This involves two exercises performed back to back, without rest. For paired set training, you want to focus on opposing muscle groups. So say if you’re working on biceps, then you want to counter it with triceps. A good way to structure it is to perform a set of the first exercise, then move into the second movement with about 30 seconds of rest, then into two additional sets. Then move to the next muscle group(s).
Combines resistance training and aerobic exercise. This tends to be the most intense and physically demanding. For this type of exercise, you do a set of exercise, then a short bout of moderate-intensity aerobics. For instance, you may start with a set of squats, then go directly into quick knees as quickly as possible.
Circuit training includes a series of stations that work with the muscles in a push and pull way, covering all major muscle groups (biceps, triceps, chest, back, shoulders, quads, hamstrings, calves, core). You want to move to the next muscle group or station as quick as possible, ideally less than 15 seconds. Aim to do three rounds.
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Metabolic Resistance Training Workout Example: Circuit Training
Ready to give it a go? The actual workout should take you about 30 minutes. Remember to do a five minute warm-up and five minutes of stretching at the end.
30 seconds of bicep curls
While standing straight and with arms extended towards the floor, with weights in each hand, raise your arm quickly to shoulders then gracefully back to the starting position. Keep elbows close to body and wrists straight.
15 seconds of rest (if needed)
30 seconds of tricep kickbacks (with weights)
Keeping your head, neck and spin in line, tilt forward and while keeping your arm next to your body, engage triceps as you extend your arm holding a weight back as far as you can, then return to the starting position. Alternate arms.
15 seconds or rest (if needed)
30 seconds of pushups
On a mat or the floor, put your stomach flat on the floor. Your legs should be straight out behind you with palms of hands at chest level and arms bent in 45-degree angles. Push the floor as you lift your body in a straight line, pausing in the plank position, then return to the floor.
15 seconds of rest: (if needed)
30 seconds of jump squats
Standing with feet hip-distance apart and feet slightly turned out, do a normal squat, with tall spine and engaged core. When your hip sinks right below your knees, jump as high as you can then land softly back on your feet.
15 seconds of rest (if needed)
30 seconds of speed skaters
With knees bent and back leaning forward, leap on alternating feet from side to side. Make sure to stay on the balls of your feet and use your arms to propel your jumps. Swing the back foot behind the standing leg but don’t let the toes touch the floor. Jump from side to side.
15 seconds of rest (if needed)
30 seconds of mountain climbers
Start in a plank position with shoulders over hands and weight on toes. With an engaged core, bring one knee forward, under your chest, with the toes above the ground. Switch and bring the other knee forward, switching as fast as you can while keeping good form.
15 seconds of rest (if needed)
30 seconds renegade row (with dumbbells)
With dumbbells on the floor, position yourself in a plank position with a hand weight in each hand, under your shoulders. Keep your core engaged and back in line as you lift one elbow at a time, squeezing your shoulder blade, then return the weight to the floor.
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Metabolic resistance training is a highly effective workout that can take fitness to the next level. It comes with amazing cardiovascular benefits, long lasting calorie burn, and muscle strengthening and build. However, since it’s such a difficult workout, it’s extremely important to keep in mind that it may take you some time to build up to it, even if you exercise regularly.
It’s always a good idea to check in with your physician or a fitness professional before embarking on a new fitness journey. Wishing you success instead of “resistance” in your metabolic resistance training program!
About The Author
Lisa is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with over 15 years of experience in nutrition, fitness, and mental health coaching and education. She studied Foods and Nutrition at San Diego State University and earned a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition at Hawthorn University.
Having certifications and experience in group exercise, intuitive eating, coaching and psychotherapy, and digestive wellness, she’s enthusiastic about the relationship between the body and mind.
She’s dedicated to helping people understand how to implement healthy habit change, while gaining a deeper understanding of what makes them feel their personal best.