Refers to conditioning intended to increase the storage and delivery of energy for any activity or conditioning the muscles to better use the fuel delivered to them by improving the efficiency of the different metabolic pathways.
As well as performance benefits, Met Con is a great fat burner. It increase your metabolic rate (not the same as the metabolic effect of food). This is mainly due to something called EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). During high intensity exercise, your body can't get all the oxygen it needs to clear away lactic acid, reduce your body temperature and replenish phosphocreatine levels. So you end up with an oxygen debt that must be paid back after your session has finished, which means you can carry on burning calories for up to 24 hours after. Pretty cool, huh?
Another advantage of met con over aerobic exercise is that it can make you eat less, it suppresses hunger. How do you feel after a 40 minute jog or swim? Hungry.
How do you feel after 15 minutes of hill sprints? Knackered, gasping for air and possibly a little bit sick (although you don't need to take it that far). Eating couldn't be further from your thoughts and it is generally 30-60 minutes before you feel ready to eat.
The coolest thing about metabolic conditioning though, is because it requires strength as well as fitness, your body will favour burning fat rather than muscle. The stronger you are, the more capable you are of completing the session. Compare this to jogging where you need little strength, but larger fat stores to help fuel the workout (the oxidative system uses fat as fuel). So your body will adapt by storing fat for your next marathon, even at the expense of muscle.
I've already talked about hill sprints in a previous post, so lets explore some different ways.
Kettlebells: By far my favourite tool for met con, everything just flows so well. You basically put a series of exercises together without setting the bell down. Here is one I particularly enjoy, or don't enjoy depending on how you look at it.
Squat to Press 5 reps, Bent Over Row 15 reps,
Squat to Press 10 reps, Bent Over Row 10 reps,
Squat to Press 15 reps, Bent Over Row 5 reps.
Bodyweight: Not everyone has access to equipment, but you all have your bodies, so take advantage:
10 press ups, 10 hill climbers, 10 alternating lunges
20 seconds Squat Jumps, 20 secs Press Ups, 20 seconds Star Jumps.
Choose one of the above examples, put 20 minutes on the clock and see how many quality rounds you can complete. Quality is the key word here, as soon as your form starts to deteriorate end the session, otherwise you're inviting injury. One more thing, always do your met con after strength work in order to get the most out of your sessions.
So there you have it. The why, how and when of metabolic conditioning. Now go have some fun and if you have any questions head to the comments section below.