Metcon to Get Lean

Brad Borland


Strength and Conditioning, Bodybuilding

Metcon to Get Lean - Fitness, strength and conditioning, resistance training, metabolic conditioning, cardiovascular fitness


Metabolic conditioning, or metcon for short, has surfaced as an everyday term within many fitness circles. Short for metabolic conditioning, it has taken on a life of its own, and has become a go-to term for small group trainers to weekend warriors. What’s all the hype about? How can you benefit from this type of training?



Metcon training has taken off in big ways. It’s now the cardio of choice for many because it’s not only unique in its execution but it is also a massive time saver for those crunched by the clock. The theory behind metcon isn’t new, however. Its foundational principles have been around for quite a while.


Hard Work Is the Bottom Line

You may feel like you’re about to embark on a magical journey filled with incredible secrets to success in the gym. You are sadly mistaken. Yes, metcon is a unique tool to have in your arsenal, but it will still take commitment, discipline, and good ole-fashioned hard work.


Simply put, a metcon workout consists of interval style training conducted at varying intensities to optimize your metabolism for more fat burning post workout. Think of it as a fuse that is lit during a workout so that the rocket can keep burning long after you exit the gym doors.


Since it’s a form of interval training, you won’t have to endure long steady-state cardio sessions, which is where the time-saving benefits kick in.


By using circuits, giant sets, and other groups of exercises, you’ll mainly become familiar with a wide variety of fitness tools, if you aren’t already. Bodyweight exercises, kettlebells, med balls, sprint work, plyometric training, among other forms, will be extensively practiced. No more long, boring strolls on the treadmill.


The Benefits of Metcon

The benefits reach further than just saving you time. Think of metcon training as teaching your body to burn fat on an hourly basis. Remember, the workout is the trigger that lights your metabolic fire.


Another benefit that separates it from traditional cardio is the potential for it to help you gain a little muscle and strength. Set up right, certain metcons can shape your physique, not just burn fat.


Lastly, the muscle you already have won’t be at risk of shrinking. For cardio freaks that seem to perform endless amounts of muscle-wasting cardio, metcon can actually help you retain what you’ve already built.


Variables of Metcon

There are many avenues to take when designing a metcon program. Some will be exclusive to one variable while others will comprise of a variety. Let’s break down these variables.


  • Cardiovascular-Based Conditioning: This is the more traditional form of conditioning. Most cardio interval training programs will consist of running, sprinting, biking, and agility training as well as using different types of gym equipment such as treadmills, recumbent bikes, elliptical machines, rowers, and step machines.
  • Resistance-Based Conditioning: Here, you’ll use more resistant training equipment to achieve a conditioned state. Anything from barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells to bands, chains, sledgehammers, med ball,s and tires will be utilized. This is also where you’ll develop a little muscle and strength to go along with scorching fat.
  • Hybrid or Combined-Based Conditioning: Here, you’ll utilize both cardio and resistance training to create your metcon program. You’ll benefit from the best of both worlds.



Widen Your Horizons

Within the above variables you can use a wide array of means to achieve success. Bodyweight-only programs include plenty of pull ups, chin ups, push ups, inverted rows, parallel dips, bench dips, crunches, sit ups, planks, and many others. These combinations can make one serious metcon workout.


You can further specialize your training by performing upper and lower splits. This is mainly used with resistance training methods by setting a terminal training time or setting a completion goal without regard to time.


Finally, an oldie but goodie is to use the PHA training method. PHA (peripheral heart action) is a method used to make your body work overtime. You alternate upper and lower body exercises to make your heart work extra hard to pump blood to each area during the workout.


Whatever you choose, there is a fit for you. Later we’ll take a look at a few routines to try.


Take It Slow at First

If you’re new to metcon style training you won’t want to jump in on your first go. Perform rounds at a slower pace, reduce the volume and/or reps, or cut out a few exercises. You don’t want to burn out and get sidelined early in the game.


The goal is to coax your body to adapt to the rigors of this type of training, not force it. As with most things, if you force them they will eventually break and no longer work. It will take several weeks to adapt so practice patience.



Putting It All Together

Now, let’s break down the steps to formulate your metcon program. We’ll be using an age-old technique to keep things simple. The FITT principle (which stands for frequency, intensity, time, and type) has been around for a while, and for good reason. It’s an easy way to set up any training program without resorting to complicated formulas or confusing instructions.


Frequency: This is simply the number of workouts per week. For our metcon purposes you’ll eventually train up to three or four times per week but to start, and if you’re new to this type of training, stick with twice per week on nonconsecutive days.



Intensity: In strength training circles, intensity is measured by the percentage of your one or multiple rep max on a particular exercise. For our metcon program we gauge it by the volume of training. This is determined by sets and reps performed. Another factor to consider is the amount of effort you’re putting into your training.


Time: This refers to the amount of time you have daily and weekly to devote to training. The program should last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on your availability.


Type: This refers to the type of exercises and the type of training or how it relates to your specific goal. If you’re a swimmer then your type will be swimming, and anything else that relates to help you become a better swimmer.


Example Metcon Routines

Below are a few examples of metcons you can try out. Remember, if you’re new to this type of training, simply roll back the volume and intensity slightly until you adapt.


Metcon Warm Up:

Perform 1 to 3 rounds of the following circuit with little to no rest between exercises for a general warm up before performing any of the following routines.


  • Jump squats – 10 reps
  • Push ups – 10 reps
  • Walking lunges – 20 total steps
  • Inverted rows – 10 reps
  • Calf jumps – 10 reps
  • Bicycle crunch or leg lifts – 20 reps


Bodyweight PHA Workout:

Perform 3 to 5 rounds, 3 minutes rest after each round.


  • Box jumps – 10 reps
  • Feet-elevated push ups – 15-20 reps
  • Reverse lunges – 10 reps each leg
  • Reverse-grip chin up – 10 reps
  • Step ups – 5-10 reps each leg
  • Diamond push ups – 15-20 reps
  • Hanging leg raises – 10-15 reps



Equipment Muscle-Builder:

Perform 3 to 5 rounds, 3 minutes rest after each round.


  • Clean and press – 5-10 reps
  • Weighted walking lunge – 10 reps each leg
  • Renegade row – 10 reps
  • Goblet squat – 10 reps
  • Ab rollout – 10 reps
  • Kettlebell front swing – 10 reps


Hybrid Routine:

Perform 3 to 5 rounds, 3 minutes rest after each round.


  • Squat jumps – 10 reps
  • Renegade rows – 10 reps
  • Weighted step ups – 10 reps
  • Plyo push ups – 10 reps
  • One-arm kettlebell push press – 5 each arm
  • Hanging twisted leg lift – 5-10 reps each side


Upper/Lower Split:

Upper: Perform 3 to 5 rounds, 3 minutes rest after each round.


  • Push up – 20 reps
  • Close-grip pull up or inverted row – 10-15 reps
  • Kettlebell swing – 20 reps
  • TRX curl – 10 reps
  • TRX triceps press – 10 reps


Lower: Perform 3 to 5 rounds, 3 minutes rest after each round.


  • Jump split squat – 10 reps each leg
  • Goblet squat – 10 reps
  • Side lunge – 10 reps each leg
  • Farmer’s walk – 20 yards
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