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How Metabolic Conditioning Will Help You Burn the Most Calories

MetCon, the abbreviation for Metabolic Conditioning, is the term CrossFitters use to describe their all-out, fast as possible, nauseating workout of the day. Have you ever wondered what in the world MetCon means, but have been too scared to ask? Well, don’t worry! Today I’m going to fill you in on the in’s and out’s of MetCon.

What is MetCon?

Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus, was the first to coin the term Metabolic Conditioning in 1975 which he describes as “the ability to work at a high level of intensity for a prolonged period of time. The ability to work at a level very close to 100 percent of intensity for a period of at least 20 minutes.”

Working at that intense of a level for a prolonged period of time may seem impossible. But remember, this does not mean you are working any specific muscle at 100%; but, that the body as a whole is working at its highest capacity for the duration of the workout.

Typically, Jones’ workouts were simple circuit workouts, with the key concept being to move from exercise to exercise as fast as possible with little rest in between, while maintaining a specific rep range and quality of movement. It’s switching between exercises and muscle groups that makes maintaining this intensity physically possible.

Not surprisingly MetCon is an incredibly efficient way to workout. There is no better way to get bang for your buck from your workout. However, these workouts are not for the weak-willed. These workouts are essentially structured to push your body to it’s limit. Basically, if you’re not an out-of-breath, sweaty, dying mess during MetCon, you’re doing something wrong.

How Does It Work?

MetCon uses a combination of strength and cardio to tax both your anaerobic system (system the body depends on during max bursts of energy such as sprinting or weight lifting), and your aerobic system (system the body depends on for endurance cardio exercise) to achieve an increase in metabolism and maximum calorie burn at the same time- and it’s awesome!

These workouts involve immense calorie burn. During just one of these sessions you can burn the same amount of calories as an hour of steady-state cardio like walking or jogging, and in just a fraction of the time!

And what’s even better, because of the intensity of MetCon workouts, they increase EPOC, or excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption. EPOC, which you may remember from some of my previous blogs, is the scientific term for the after burn effect. It’s your body burning calories even after your workout is over!

According to one study, you can burn extra calories anywhere from 16-24 hours after an intense workout such as MetCon, HIIT, or circuit training. Nothing better than your workout burning calories for you even after the work is said and done!

How to Implement MetCon into your Fitness Routine?

People who generally take to MetCon best, are those that are used to pushing their body to the max. Athletes, firefighters, marines use workouts like these to quickly take their fitness to the next level.

However, this type of exercise can provide amazing results for weight loss. Although, this type of exercise can be very difficult for beginners as often, beginners experience extreme muscle soreness, burnout, exhaustion, and even injury.

There are steps into that even beginners can take to prepare themselves for this sort of training to avoid overtraining or injury. If you are beginner looking to implement this kind of exercise into your routine, I highly recommend working up to it.

4 Ways to Work Up to MetCon Training

General Strength

Before beginning MetCon style workouts, it’s extremely important that you understand the proper form for various exercises. If you don’t know the proper form for general weight lifting, I highly recommend enlisting the help of a personal trainer. They have a plethora of fitness knowledge, and will be able to help you achieve that great form you need.

Body Weight Circuits

Start getting your body stronger, and used to moving from exercise to exercise by performing circuits with body weight exercise! If you’re looking for a bodyweight circuit you can do at home, check out: Lower Body Strength Circuit for Beginners, or Beach Body Bootcamp.


Increase your aerobic capacity, simply by adding cardio to your fitness routine. Whether it’s going on walks, jogs, runs, or hopping on the machines at the gym like the stair stepper or elliptical. Improving your cardio capacity will help you when the going really gets tough during a MetCon workout.

Interval Training

Interval training is an awesome way to condition the body to more intense bouts of exercise. You can do interval training either with exercises, or cardio. All it is is bursts of high-intensity activity, alternated with periods of rest or lower intensity activity.

One last word of advice from me. If this CrossFit/ MetCon stuff has you excited and you’re ready to go for it, consider this.

CrossFit gets a bad rep because there are trainers out there who don’t transition beginners into the class at their level. It takes more time, focus, and energy on their part to do so. So, instead they just throw them in the class, which can lead to injury and burnout.

That’s one reason why many people write off CrossFit as an unhealthy training regimen. But, this issue is more of a reflection on the coach than CrossFit in general.  CrossFit can be done safely and effectively, and there are trainers and coaches out there who will put your health and safety first.

When you’re shopping for a gym/class, ask prospective trainers questions about their classes! If it’s a group class, how do they incorporate you as an individual? Does the trainer have a progressive plan that will take your fitness level and body into account? Do they focus on proper lifting form, and how do they incorporate that into the group setting?

Find a coach you are confident will push you to that next level in a safe, encouraging environment.  Don’t be afraid to keep shopping around until you find someone who will put your health, safety, and body at top priority!

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