In part 1 of my article, I talked about my first four tips to incorporating successful and effective MetCon within your workouts. Here are my four remaining points to supporting metabolic conditioning and getting the most bang for your buck.
Check out Jason’s first 4 tips for effective MetCon training.
Rule #5: Benchmark Yourself
It is important for coaches and athletes to understand the importance of benchmarking. Your benchmark is a standard point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed. Establishing effective programs for athletes requires testing and establishing benchmarks which are key to measuring success. Prescribing MetCons in your program is no different. You cannot manage what you do not measure. In the case of MetCons, it is crucial to measure and manage the work output of each set in order to create sustainability for the energy system you are focused on developing.
Rule #6: Pick A Realistic Goal and Stick To It
Keep your conditioning training inside your overall fitness goal. If not, you will just keep spinning your wheels. You cannot ask your body to improve body composition, set strength PRs, and win the Kona IRONMAN in Hawai’i all at the same time. However, you can pick a single goal and hone in on your conditioning to help you reach it faster.
If your number one goal is gaining muscle or getting as strong as possible, you cannot get crazy with MetCons. You should do just enough conditioning to keep body composition within the appropriate performance needs while maintaining work capacity.
If your goal is to improve your body composition, then MetCons can take a larger role in your training plan. However, be smart and adjust your weight lifting volume and frequency down to accommodate the needed recovery of MetCons. There is a finite amount of stress your body can handle. Therefore, if you keep adding stress beyond the point where your body cannot recover, then you are asking to be on the physical therapy table or you’re just sabotaging your body composition goal (i.e. no fat loss in addition to muscle loss).
Now if you’re a “competitive” athlete you have to be very careful. More so than anyone else, your conditioning has to reflect your athletic demands. If your sport has lots of stops and starts like rugby or football, your MetCons should too. For example, go all out for short bursts, rest longer than you work, and repeat. If you play a power sport like golf, baseball or Olympic Lifting, your sport is almost 100 percent anaerobic (not much oxygen required during exercise) and alactic (e.g. does not produce lactic acid). With that said, the work intervals need to be very short (less than 10 seconds), recovery needs to be long (up to 15x work interval length) and intensity needs to be maximal. You will be digging deep into your nervous system to find your absolute strength. For example, if I ask you to give 100% max effort on a rower for one minute and you complete 300 meters, you should not be able to produce the 300-meter if asked again due to your nervous system needing more recovery time. I observe a lot of coaches whose clients do not have the aerobic foundation to come close to tapping into their absolute strength. Coaches out there will agree, there is nothing worse than watching a football player or baseball player jogging around the track for conditioning. Do these conditioning methods make any sense considering what the athlete actually does when he or she plays?
Rule #7: Don’t Forget Your Strength Training
Even if improving your body composition (aka fat loss) is your number one goal, don’t stop weight training. The biggest mistake you can make is to stop strength training and turn your training into one giant, sloppy MetCon workout. You still have to do your compound movement patterns and you still need to keep your intensity heavy (85% -95% or 3-8 reps per set). Maintaining muscle mass is critical to the improving body composition process. Maintaining performance is essential, so you still need to train with weights even if trying to get shredded for a beach day.
The bottom line is the more conditioning you do, the lower your lifting volume has to be and that is ok because you do not need a ton of volume to maintain strength.
Rule #8: Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition
As Paul Chek says, “you are what you eat.” Our body is renewing 222 billion to 242 billion cells every day by the average adult human body based on information from Wikipedia. I don’t know about you, but I want my body renewing cells with the best ingredients, not garbage food that requires more energy to digest then provides. In order for this to happen, the first step is to clean up your nutrition. Seriously, don’t even think about adding in a ton of conditioning to your training plan without getting your nutrition in check. You also don’t burn a ton of calories during MetCons for the simple reason that your not consuming enough oxygen to be delivered to the muscles. That said, you can’t smash a MetCon workout and say “Oh yeah, I’m burning fat for hours, so I’ll go pound some burgers and beers!” Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
MetCons can certainly deplete a lot of glycogen and require a lot of carbs to refuel. You may have the urge to drive to your all-you-can-eat buffet, but big meals like these are going to well exceed the calories you burned during exercise. Be smart about the food you use to refuel after a hard workout. Don’t think your workout entitles you to a giant junk food replenisher meal. You won’t reap any benefits not to mention you’ll battle digestive issues and inflammation associated with garbage food.
Using MetCons to fix bad nutrition habits is similar to treating symptoms and not the disease. You won’t achieve your goals if you don’t look at the whole picture. Get your nutrition dialed in before you start the high-intensity conditioning to really see results.
There you have it. Eight rules to help make your MetCons achieve results. We want you to be successful and achieve what you set out to do. Want to get after it now? Join us for a workout in our Carlsbad sports performance facility.