Metabolic Conditioning is one of the most efficient and most used methods for weight loss. However, the phrase “Metabolic Conditioning” is thrown around a lot in the fitness industry. It holds no one meaning and may mean something as simple as intervals while another trainer may think of it as a complex circuit. Knowing this we will take a look at what metabolic conditioning actually is and what types of workouts are most effective.
Metabolic Conditioning refers to any structured pattern of work that utilizes rest to get the desired response from your body. The desired response is usually to maximize the efficiency of a particular source of energy used by the body. The body has several methods of getting energy and different ratios of work / rest target different systems. Metabolic Conditioning therefore should be based upon the desired outcomes of the client. For instance someone looking to build muscle should utilize a different work to rest ratio compared with someone that is looking to get leaner or run further. Therefore exercises should be paired and completed to a set time to gain maximum benefits.
There are three primary ways for our body to get energy with each having it’s own place and purpose. We will take a brief look at them below.
The Immediate System
This system is the fastest and most powerful method of getting energy. It’s mainly utilized when performing power exercises that last less than 10 seconds (think Olympic lifts and sprinting). However, more important than the duration is the recovery time. This system takes between 3 to 5 minutes to completely recover and be ready for the next activity.
The Intermediate System
This is an intermediate system that provides energy for activities lasting between one to four minutes. It’s primarily used in shorter duration, intense activities including weightlifting and mid-distance running intervals (400-800m). This pathway usually takes between one and three minutes to completely recover.
The Long-Duration System
This long-lasting energy system can go for hours upon hours of easy to moderate intensity work. Since we have almost limitless amounts of fuel for the aerobic system in the form of fat, it can recover in a matter of seconds.
With the three major pathways for energy outlined, keep In mind that more than one will be used at a time. No one pathway will solely work by itself and throughout the workout each one may be utilized at certain times. However, with certain work to rest ratios we are able to primarily target the energy system we want. This system will then be used far more than the other 2 throughout the workout.
Developing Your Metabolic Conditioning Circuit
The purpose of metabolic conditioning is to maximize the efficiency of a one energy system to achieve the desired results. As a bonus you will increase your caloric burn even after the workout is finished. Exercising at a high intensity during the session increases EPOC and leads to a higher resting metabolism for the next few hours.
The final effectiveness of your metabolic conditioning is determined by your work to rest ratios. The key is finding out exactly what you’re trying to improve. If your goal is to be better at sports then you’re better off working in the intermediate pathway. This pathway closely mimics the demands of sport (20 second plays with about a 40-50 second rest). However, if your goal were to become better at endurance exercise, you would be better off incorporating longer circuits with minimal rest between exercises. Keep in mind that to get the desired results you need to work as hard as possible during the work phase. You should then make sure you completely recover during the rest phase so you can give it your all again.