Most people’s primary motivation for working out involves weight loss. Traditionally, experts suggest doing a minimum of thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise at a moderate intensity three to five times a week in conjunction with resistance training two to three times per week. Realistically most of us can’t commit that much time to the gym. The good news is we don’t have to! Current research shows you can burn more fat, increase your strength, and improve cardiovascular endurance in less time by utilizing high-intensity, low volume training into your routine.
One study compared the effect of a 20-week endurance training program with that of a 15-week high intensity in terms of body fat loss and muscle metabolism. Researchers found a bigger decrease in body fat in the high intensity group compared to the endurance group (Smith 2002). Another study published in The European Applied Journal of Physiology showed metabolism to be in an elevated state for up to 16 hours following intense resistance exercise (Schuenke, et al. 2002). From a fitness perspective, the Journal of Applied Physiology did a study measuring the cardiovascular response of a high intensity program. The results? Participants’ endurance actually doubled (Burgomaster et al. 2005).
While the research isn’t to suggest we completely eliminate longer workouts, especially if your goals are endurance based. However, considering how precious time is in today’s society, isn’t it wise to incorporate short, intense workouts into the mix? The question now is how? While there are several methods to high-intensity training, one of the most popular and effective choices is metabolic conditioning.
In a nutshell, metabolic conditioning is a high intensity circuit workout using a combination of strength training exercises and cardio conditioning drills at a higher repetition. The goal is to complete the workout as quickly as possible while staying around your anaerobic threshold for maximal challenge and energy expenditure. In most cases, circuits are three sets with a minimum of fifteen reps performed per exercise with minimal rest between exercises. The workout usually lasts between twenty to thirty minutes (not including warm up).
Metabolic workouts should be self-paced and adjusted to your fitness level. If you are just starting an exercise program, I recommend at least 12 weeks of aerobic base conditioning, muscular endurance training, and mastering lifting technique before adding metabolic conditioning into your routine.
Now that you’re ready, try this challenging circuit (See Video) that is guaranteed to get your heart pumping and your muscles burning for more!
Alternating Lunges w/Dumbbell Curl & Press: Start in a standing position while holding a pair of dumbbells. Step forward and sink into a lunge holding the down position. Remember to keep your knee behind your toes. Perform a bicep curl immediately followed by an overhead press. With control, bring the dumbbells back down to your sides and lunge back to the standing position. Alternate sides until you complete a total of 10 reps per leg.
Burpees: Start in a standing position with your feet hip width apart. Lower into a squat and place your hands on the ground shoulder width apart. Hop or walk your legs behind you until you are in a pushup position. Immediately hop or walk you legs back underneath you and jump into the air. Repeat for a total of 15 repetitions.
Pull ups or Weight Assisted Pull ups: Grab the pull up bar with your grip just wider than shoulder width and you palms facing away from you. Pull yourself toward the bar keeping your chest out and driving your shoulders down away from your ears until your chin is above the bar. With control lower yourself back down to the starting position. For modification, use a weight assisted pull up machine if needed. Repeat for a total of 15 repetitions.
Split Jumps: Begin in a lunge position with your left leg forward and your right leg back. Jump into the air scissoring your legs so you now land with your right leg forward and your left leg back landing both feet simultaneously. For modification, add a stutter step by letting your forward leg land prior to the back leg landing. Repeat for 20 repetitions.
Pushups: Depending on your strength start in a pushup position from your toes or knees with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keeping your body straight from head to toe/knee, slowly lower yourself towards the floor until your arms are bent at 90 degrees. Using control and staying aligned, push your body back to the starting position. Remember to keep your shoulders relaxed throughout the movement and repeat for 20 repetitions.
Medicine Ball Slams: Stand with your legs hip width apart with your arms hanging just below your hips holding a 6 to 20 lbs. medicine ball. Keeping your core tight, quickly raise the ball overhead and slam it down to the ground catching it on the bounce. Repeat for 20 repetitions.