A Girl’s Guide to Metabolic Conditioning

Metabolic conditioning is your secret weapon when it comes to sculpting a leaner, curvier figure. 

Training can be hard, especially if it’s boring. Hours and hours of cardio can be enough to make you ditch the health kick and resign yourself to a life of excess body fat.

But what if you could combine the fun and muscle toning of weights with shorter, sharper cardio workouts?

Sounds great right?

That’s what metabolic conditioning is all about. A system of training where the intensity dial is switched up to the max, but so are the results. Workout time on the other hand is slashed right down as session become shorter and shorter.

Faster, stronger, sexier.

Girl, ‘metcon’ is where it’s at.

The lowdown:

  • What is metabolic conditioning?
  • The science behind energy systems and metcon training
  • Guidelines and benefits
  • Example workouts to get you slim and strong

What is Metabolic Conditioning: The Basics?

Metabolic conditioning is a workout style that involves short periods of hard, intense exercise, with periods of lighter intensity recovery.

The industry is full to the protein shaker brim with training programs, protocols and celebrity-endorsed workouts. For the large part, they’re gimmicky and don’t last long before everyone forgets all about them (remember ‘Shake weights’ and six second abs? Nope, neither do we).

But metabolic conditioning is the most results-based, science-driven workout program we’ve seen in the last few years.

And it’s here to stay.

‘Metcon’ as it’s known, is a workout centered around work: rest ratios. The idea is to blast that booty of yours through repeated short, high-intensity periods, followed by intermittent recovery bouts. 

As one of the longest lasting fitness trends over the last few years, it’s literally taken the industry by storm – casting a cloud over the more overly-hyped fitness programs.

Think cardio… but supercharged.

How many calories do you burn in a metcon workout?

Every time you move your body you burn stored energy in the form of calories. What defines how many calories you burn though is intensity. In other words, the harder you push your body in the gym, the more fat you burn.

Although the exact number of calories burnt can vary massively per person, average calorie use for common exercise methods includes:

  • Walking – 158 kcal per 30 minutes
  • Jogging – 215 kcal per 30 minutes
  • General weight lifting – 260 kcal per 30 minutes
  • Metcon – 450+ kcal per 30 minutes

This gives you an insight into just how powerful metabolic conditioning is.

Principles of Energy, Fat Loss and Metabolic Conditioning

Metcon principles of fitness training

When it comes to achieving peak condition and health, your approach should follow a set system – one that keeps you safe, but also optimizes your fitness results journey.

In other words, there’s no value in hitting the advanced stuff if you’ve not got your foundations in place.

As the old saying goes…

“You can’t build a house on sand!” ~ Matthew (7:24–27)

Metabolic conditioning isn’t for noobs. It suits those that have a healthy mind and a solid nutritional program. You should be able to move well without injuries, and already have a good base of fitness from cardio, flexibility and strength training.

You don’t have to be a master in the weights room by any stretch but being confident with dumbbells and barbells and showing good technique certainly helps. Because once you start using weights at high speed, form is key.

Metabolic conditioning primes your energy systems

The clue is in the name. Metcon is all about hijacking your metabolism and ramping it up to maximum output.

The term ‘metabolic’ is a general term for when your body increases the amount of energy it burns.

And more energy burn = higher fat loss.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the compound your body needs to extract energy from food and use it within cells. For you to lift weights, run on a treadmill or even stay alive, ATP is key.

Your body can only store a limited amount of ATP at any one time. It therefore relies on systems to regenerate more as you need it. These ‘energy systems’ recharge ATP levels so you can work out harder, for longer.

There are 3 energy systems used to regenerate ATP:

  • Aerobically – Oxygen is used to convert food energy into ATP. It’s a slow process but generates lots of ATP molecules. You use this system at low intensities such as walking or jogging because you don’t need energy that fast.
  • Anaerobic glycolysis – ATP is made without oxygen from stored glycogen in your muscles and liver. By skipping the aerobic part, it can make ATP fast, but just can’t make as much as it would with oxygen present (which is why you fatigue faster at higher intensities). Anaerobic glycolysis is used primarily during moderate to high intensity such as fast running.
  • Phosphocreatine – This system is also anaerobic but uses stored creatine in the muscle rather than glycogen to make ATP. The phosphocreatine system generates ATP super-fast, but creatine stores run out quickly. At high intensities you run out fast. Used during sprinting and all-out hard exercise.

Metcon workouts rely on as much ATP as your body can generate. Science dictates that its anaerobic energy production that takes charge during high-intensity metabolic conditioning workouts. The good news is that the faster you need ATP the more calories you burn.

And that’s why it’s so effective for fat loss.

Battle ropes metcon workout

Metabolic Conditioning: The Guidelines

Metcon is a flexible, dynamic exercise system. Stick to the guidelines and you’ll reach peak fitness in no time.

There aren’t any rules when it comes to metcon workouts; but there are guidelines to follow.

Metabolic conditioning allows you to choose exercises that you like, hit muscle groups you want to improve, and work at a work:rest ratio that bests suits your current fitness levels.

If you want the beach body butt or be able to run a mile in record time, metcon is the way forward. If you want to tone your arms or just slide into those new pants without issue, give it a try. It suits those goals too.

Here are the principles you need to follow to get the best from your workouts:

  • The focus needs to be on resistance training, not cardio: free weights, body weight, bands and kettlebells work well.
  • Plan your work:rest ratio in advance: this helps you get the best from your workouts and put your all into each rep.
  • Intensity is key: Metcon only works if you raise your heart rate and push your body. Don’t be afraid to really go for it, girl.
  • Recovery should be ‘active’: Don’t crumble to the floor during rest periods. Instead, try walking and taking deep breaths – it’ll speed up oxygen transfer and recovery.
  • Use large muscle exercises: these have a higher metabolic cost, tone more muscles and burn more calories. Squats, presses, pulls and deadlifts are your best friend from now on.

Benefits of Metabolic Conditioning Training?

Hopefully at this stage you’re excited to give metcon a go. Maybe you’re even lacing up your gym sneakers right now.

But before you start to get your game face on, check out these extra benefits:

  • Improved V02max – your top end cardio fitness and ability to take in, transport and use oxygen increases significantly.
  • Lower body fat levels – presuming you’re not sneaking in the sweet treats or knocking back a few too many gin and tonics every night, metcon will smash fat stores into submission.
  • Muscle toning – because you’re utilizing strength work to burn calories you’ll also develop firmer, more shapely muscles.
  • Health – leaner, fitter individuals are less likely to suffer from vascular, metabolic or cognitive disease later in life.
  • Higher levels of testosterone – don’t worry girls… naturally high testosterone won’t give you big, bulky muscles – just tone, fitness and extra sass. It’s only when you take steroids that you lose your sexy femininity.
  • Builds confidence and resilience – develop a bad ass attitude with just a hint of queen bitch confidence.

Lean and fit woman sticking to a diet on the weekend

Sample Metabolic Conditioning Workouts

It’s time to get rockin’ with some serious metcon gym time. Here are a few sample workouts to get you started.

Body weight metcon fat melter

ExerciseReps / TimeRest PeriodRounds
Prisoner squat jumps15 reps or 90 seconds45-60 seconds3
Hands elevated push-ups15 reps or 90 seconds45-60 seconds3
Alternate rear lunges15 reps or 90 seconds45-60 seconds3
Cycle crunches15 reps or 90 seconds45-60 seconds3

A simple beginner’s home workout using body weight exercises.

Kettlebell power conditioning

ExerciseReps / TimeRest Period
Kettlebell swing60 secondsN/A
Double hand kettlebell overhead press60 secondsN/A
Kettlebell goblet squat60 secondsN/A
Alternate single leg deadlift60 secondsN/A

The key here is to work through as many reps as you can in the time you’ve been given. Record the total number of reps completed and try and beat it next time. 

Dumbbell metabolic blast

ExerciseReps / TimeRest PeriodRounds
Dumbbell deadlift12Rest for remainder of 60 seconds3-5
Dumbbell overhead press12Rest for remainder of 60 seconds3-5
Dumbbell bent over row 12Rest for remainder of 60 seconds3-5
Dumbbell squat jump12Rest for remainder of 60 seconds3-5

This ‘every minute, on the minute (EMOM)’ workout pushes you to complete 12 reps of each exercise as fast as you can. Your rest time is however long you have left before the minute’s up. 


The atom bomb power of metabolic conditioning will get you leaner, stronger and fitter than ever before. It helps build psychological strength too, by enhancing resilience willpower and womanly resolve.

Start by using longer rest periods of shorter set lengths and build up from there. As you get better, challenge yourself more.

Good look girls.

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