What Is Metabolic Resistance Training

What is metabolic resistance training?

In its simplest form, metabolic resistance training is the combination of intense strength training with aerobic conditioning.

Metabolic resistance training (also known as metabolic conditioning) trains three major biological systems, muskuloskeletal, circulatory and respiratory.

Most people perform their resistance training and their cardio, or aerobic workouts, separately.

But, for the most part, this isn’t how we function.

And it’s definitely not how most athletes function, such as hockey players, football players, mma fighters, basketball players, soccer players, lacrosse players and more.

You can improve your metabolic conditioning strictly through your strength training workouts, provided the intensity level is high enough and the rest periods are short enough.

High Intensity Training to Boost Your Metabolism and Burn Fat

metabolic resistance training

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Some of the best metabolic resistance training workouts are overlooked. Simple high intensity training workouts have a fantastic metabolic conditioning effect on the body.

Most people don’t think of high intensity weight training as a way of improving your overall fitness and conditioning level (while improving strength levels, too) but these workout have proven very effective in this regard.

Metabolic Resistance Training is not only for improving your fitness levels but for burning calories and losing fat.

Back in the 70’s, Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus, popularized very intense, very short, weight training workouts as the best way to build strength and muscle mass.

This later became known as HIT and Arthur’s legacy was carried forward by people like Ellington Darden and Mike Mentzer, both of whom wrote numerous best selling books on the topic.

A big problem with HIT is that many of its proponents (and critics for that matter) varied in what they considered to be high intensity training. But that’s another (long) article for another time.

For now, let’s just touch on some general agreed upon principles.

With high intensity training, the workouts and sets were very intense.

A big part of HIT was taking each set to temporary muscular failure, where you could not complete another rep of the exercise. Arthur Jones suggested ending each set with a static contraction hold.

Second, very few sets were performed, usually only one but not more than three sets per exercise.

Most training sessions were full body workouts.

HIT involved short rest periods.

While you will greatly improve your strength levels with this type of high intensity training, you didn’t do so with long rest periods, a traditional aspect of pure strength training workouts.

This is where metabolic conditioning came into play with HIT workouts. Your level of metabolic fitness would come into play here as the more out of shape you are, the longer your rest periods will need to be. But the goal is to bring them down over time, so that they are minimal.

If you think high intensity training is just about strength and building muscle mass, let me tell you about a workout that Ellington Darden witnessed and passed along in a few of his books on HIT.

Ellington Darden watched Arthur Jones put one of his trainees through a typical HIT workout. The bodybuilder was Casey Viator and Casey was a freaking beast in all caps, BEAST!!

Casey Viator Bodybuilder

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A typical high intensity training workout for Casey during his competitive days.

Oh, and this workout was two days before the Mr. America contest, when nowadays most bodybuilders either aren’t training, or they are weak and tired from their starvation diets and hours of traditional cardio.

1. Leg Press on Universal Machine 750 pounds for 20 reps, immediately followed by (NO REST!)

2. Leg Extension on Universal Machine 225 pounds for 20 reps, immediately followed by (NO REST!)

3. Full Barbell Squat (and Casey went down LOW) 502 pounds for 13 reps


4. Leg Curl on Universal Machine 175 pounds for 12 reps, reduce weight to 150 pounds (drop set) and do 10 reps, immediately followed by (NO REST!)

5. One legged calf raise with 40 pound dumbbell in one hand, first one leg and then the other for 3 sets of 15 repetitions per leg (alternating until finished)

Each set was taken to momentary failure and there was no rest except the two minutes between exercises three and four.

The entire lower body workout was over in eleven minutes.

But Casey wasn’t finished. He still had an upper body workout to complete and it went like this.

6. Nautilus Machine Pullover, 400 pounds for 11 reps, immediately followed by

7. Nautilus Machine Pulldown, 200 pounds for 10 reps, immediately followed by

8. Nautilus Machine Rows, 200 pounds for 10 reps, immediately followed by

9. Nautilus Machine Pulldown (Behind Neck) 210 pounds for 10 reps.

Rest for two minutes

10. Dumbbell Lateral Raise, 40 pounds (per hand) for 9 reps, immediately followed by

11. Barbell Press, 185 pounds for 10 reps

Rest for two minutes

12. Biceps Curl on Nautilus Plate loading machine, 110 pounds for 8 reps, immediately followed by

13. Chin up with bodyweight for 12 reps

Rest for one minute

14. Triceps Extension on Nautilus Plate loading machine, 125 pounds for 9 reps immediately followed by

15. Parallel Dips, bodyweight, for 22 reps!

The upper body workout took 17 minutes and 40 seconds.

The entire workout, including warm ups, rest periods, water breaks AND posing at the end (remember, he had a bodybuilding contest in two days), took forty-one minutes.

Do you think Casey’s heart rate was jacked up near maximum?

Do you think Casey’s metabolic fitness was top notch?

It would have to be to complete that workout, don’t you think?

As Dr. Tabata’s interval training testing showed, short, intense training such as metabolic resistance training and HIT, have a carry over effect. Not to mention the post-exercise metabolic boost and calorie burn.

There is no doubt that HIT, performed in this manner, will improve your metabolic fitness.

And NO, you don’t have to use the kinds of weights Casey was using. I don’t think many, if any, could! Ladies, metabolic training is for you too! You’re NOT going to look like Casey!

In fact, you can do plenty of great metabolic conditioning workouts that use nothing but bodyweight exercises, something I’ll cover in a future article.

Circuit Training Workouts

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Circuit training has been a big part of metabolic conditioning for awhile now. Simply put, circuit training is performing a sequence of activities with very brief rest or recovery periods between circuits.

Circuit training is basically a form of interval training.

With circuit training you can manipulate the following variables:

  • Number of exercises per circuit
  • Number of repetitions performed (or time)
  • Amount of recovery time between exercises and circuits
  • Number of circuits

With this type of metabolic resistance training you can improve your conditioning levels by improving on the following:

  • Increase the resistance of the exercise
  • Increase the number of reps (especially if you are using timed intervals instead of repetition numbers)
  • Shorten the recover periods
  • Increase the number of circuits performed
  • A combination of any of the above

Here’s a simple 5 minute metabolic resistance training workout using bodyweight exercises.

You can either do this at the end of your regular workout or on a day that you’re really, really busy and can’t get in your complete workout.

You can find out a lot more about these metabolic workout finishers here.

A variation of circuit training that is catching on (again, as it’s been around a while) is combining the resistance training with more typical aerobic activities or calesthenics.

John Romaniello calls this dynamic interrupts and makes great use of them in his killer fat loss program, Omega Body Blueprint.

Like the metabolic finisher workout above, you can do entire workouts based on the concept of as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in a given time period. Here’s a full fat burning workout that utilizes this technique.

Pavel over at Dragon Door suggested this with kettlebell swing workouts.

When you do kettlebell swings for a specific time period (say 12 minutes), Pavel did not recommend standing around during your rest periods. He suggested jogging.

So let’s say you start off with 30 straight reps of the kettlebell swing. You would then jog for however long you felt you need to rest before performing another set of swings.

You would do this for the entire 12 minute swing workout.

Another example would be to jog around a track, and every half lap, perform an exercise, such as bodyweight squats, or kettlebell snatches.

This is how interval training works if you are using a machine such as a treadmill or stationary bike.

You don’t pedal all out for 30 seconds and then come to a complete stop. No, you pedal all out for 30 seconds and then pedal easy for the recovery phase.

With the treadmill you don’t sprint and then jump off and stand there next to the machine with your hand up your…, you sprint and then jog (or walk).

In general, metabolic resistance training involves 10 – 120 seconds of intense effort, with short rest periods.

With metabolic conditioning you will

  • build lean muscle
  • burn serious amounts of fat
  • boost your metabolism so that you burn more calories 24/7
  • improve your aerobic conditioning
  • and more

If you’re stuck and not seeing the results you want from your current program, I highly recommend giving MRT workouts a try.

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Gregg Gillies is a Certified Metabolic Trainer and author of the 5 star rated book, Flat Belly Blueprint, available for $4.99 (and instant download) on Amazon. He’s written hundreds of health and fitness related articles that have appeared on sites like Bodybuilding.com and has been published in the print edition of Ironman Magazine. Connect with Gregg on Google Plus and Facebook

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