Metabolic conditioning workouts are also referred to as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that teach the body to access energy stores effectively during and after a workout.
The exercise time splits up into short bursts of intensive exercise followed by rest periods. The idea is to quickly increase your heart rate then to rest for a period.
These workouts include lifting moderate to heavy weights or performing calisthenics in sets with targeted timed recovery breaks.
This style of exercise elevates the heart rate quickly, adding a cardio component to the strength training regimen and causes the body to burn fat rapidly.
How Metabolic Workouts Work?
The body accesses energy based on the activity being performed. There are rapid, moderate, and slow energy burning modes within the metabolism. Metabolic Conditioning activates them synchronically to maximize caloric burn.
Power exercises, which are performed quickly, 10 seconds or less, utilize the creatine phosphate pathway to supply the body’s energy needs.
Directing a lot of energy quickly to perform this type of exercise, for example, a power lift, like the clean and jerk, is very demanding.
The intensity of the activity requires a longer recovery time of about three to five minutes.
Intense activities of short duration, one to four minutes, access the glycolytic pathway.
Examples of activities, which activate this energy pathway, are lifting weights and running 400m to 800m.
Recovery time for this energy pathway is one to three minutes.
The aerobic energy pathway is the one most discussed and best understood by the average person. It supports activities of easy to moderate intensity.
This energy pathway draws on stored fat cells to fuel the body’s activities. It can engage for hours.
The rich fuel source of this energy pathway, fat cells, means its recovery time measured in seconds.
The variety of exercises involved in a Metabolic Conditioning workout, the level of intensity applied to them and the duration of recovery periods determines which energy pathway becomes activated.
The objective of the exercises in a given session also determines the recovery period allowed for each exercise.
For example, doing bicep curls with a low weight but high repetitions will access the aerobic or slow burn pathway.
Since the objective of this type of workout is to keep the body in an adaptive mode, all of the energy pathways become engaged at some point during the workout.
HIIT: Fat Burning
Studies have shown that interval training offers higher fat burning and weight loss than normal, slow cardio.
In fact, not only does interval training work better for fat burning, but the interval training workouts are much shorter and require far less workout time than normal cardio workouts.
However, many are reluctant to switch from ineffective cardio to fat burning intervals as according to exercise machines (which are not even 100% accurate), higher amount of calories is burned with the old way.
They are also hung-up on the marathon mentality of always having an elevated heart-rate, which they think is the most important component of a fat burning workout. But that is not true.
Instead, the most important workout factor is how much “WORK” is done. If you increase the intensity of the work, as you do in interval training, then you will do more work and put more stress on the muscles.
Heart rate goes up and then comes way back down during recovery. By doing so, more fat is burned.
What one should know is that the heart rate need not stay constant for 30 minutes for that to happen.
One of the biggest problems many have with interval training is that they do not rest enough during the recovery period.
Because they are addicted to an elevated heart rate, they skimp on the recovery, by either exercising too hard or recovering too little.
This leads to a decrease in the intensity used in the work interval and that might lead to less total work or total fat burning done in that session.
Therefore, the quality and intensity of the work interval should play important role when doing interval training.
This is to say the only time exercising is mainly done during the work interval.
On the other hand, during the recovery interval, one should go as slow as possible without stopping.
This allows your heart rate to recover and for you to be prepared to work really hard in your next work interval.
So, an interval training workout is a time of extremes. You should be going at an 8/10 or 9/10 intensity level in the work interval, and dropping down to a 3/10 in the recovery period.
To give you a perspective, a normal 30 minute cardio workout would be considered a 6/10 intensity level. Try it out yourself!
Results of HIIT
Metabolic Conditioning workouts can be crafted to maximize desired outcomes: weight loss and fat burning, muscle growth, improved speed, power or endurance.
They also provide faster results, because they apply knowledge of the body’s energy systems strategically.
Work and rest ratios should be applied to ensure the desired results.
Objective: Improve power
Focus: creatine phosphate pathway
Work to rest ratio: 1:10
Objective: Improve sports performance
Focus: creatine phosphate pathway
Work to rest ratio: 1:2
Objective: Improve endurance performance
Focus: aerobic pathway
Work to rest ratio: 4:1
Objective: Burn body fat
Focus: targets the creatine phosphate and aerobic pathways
Work to rest ratio: 1:2 and 3:1 workouts each performed once a week
Creating HIIT Workout
Creating a workout is pretty straightforward. For example, weighted squats for power performance would be performed for 10 seconds followed by 1.5 to 2 minutes of rest.
Three more power-building exercises, plyometric jumps, broad jumps and plyometric push-ups, would follow to form a circuit.
Each of the exercises would be completed with the same work to rest ratio.
One set of all exercises included in a session forms a circuit. The circuit is usually completed 3 to 4 times.
Implementing Metabolic Conditioning Workouts
Metabolic Conditioning must be done at least two to three times per week to see results.
This approach to exercise activates all three of the body’s energetic pathways during one workout. It is this component of the workout, which makes it so effective.
In addition, the post workout calorie burns associated with these types of workouts last up to 36 hours following exercise and that is what makes this type of workout routine one of the best choices for burning fat.
The workout needs to include 3 to 4 exercises performed in sets based on time intervals with energy pathway based recovery times.
These are intensive workouts and not ideal for beginners who should take care and work up to the fitness level required to perform them.
It is also important to check with your doctor before starting this type of fitness routine.
While they are intensive, their effectiveness and results they provide from very short sessions of exercise make the effort totally worthwhile.
Sample workouts are widely available in fitness forums, online, on workout DVDs, and in magazines.
Benefits of Metabolic Workouts or HIIT
Recent studies are showing that when it comes to fitness maintenance, less can surely be more.
1. HIIT helps the body reach its maximum capability.
This is not something easily achieved by long exercise periods.
A short burst of exercise gets the heart rate increased to a higher intensity and stimulates the body in ways that can’t be achieved by ‘regular’ exercising.
Therefore, these exercise periods of short bursts of intense exercise can be done by almost everyone and doesn’t necessarily require special equipment or a gym membership.
2. HIIT helps burn fat
Running on a treadmill will burn fat. However, the lower intensity, which the body is working at, doesn’t have the metabolic benefits of short bursts of exercise.
When you have an intense burst of exercise you create an oxygen debt. The body will have to use energy to recover from this and this happens during the rest period.
Therefore, you keep burning fat when you are resting. This also increases the body’s metabolism.
All exercising increases the levels of the hormone cortisol. What cortisol does in the body is to break down muscle and stall fat loss.
Thus, although you are burning energy, you aren’t necessarily losing a lot of fat.
Unlike regular exercising, short bursts of exercise raise muscle-building hormones (anabolic) and human growth hormones resulting in more fat burned compared with regular exercising.
Therefore, short bursts of exercise together with rest periods boost the body’s immunity, reduce inflammation, and stimulate fat burning properties.
3. HIIT improves heart health
A study on teenagers in England found that short bursts of exercise could help reduce the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes in later life.
It showed improvements in how the brain controls heartbeats and in the function of blood vessels. In adults, it was noted that heart structure was improved.
4. HIIT helps Type 2 Diabetes
Many studies now show that High-Intensity Interval Training helps type 2 diabetes suffers to control blood sugar more effectively than ‘traditional’ exercising.
One study in Canada reported that participants over a three month period subject to HIIT regime showed a larger reduction in cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Their heart health was better and in general lost more weight.
It was also noted that it was easier for people to incorporate a high-intensity exercising schedule into their weekly routine and therefore were more willing to continue the exercise program.
5. HIIT helps fit in your busy schedule
It seems from various studies that even shorter ‘burst exercise’ periods of under a minute or so can also have significant health benefits. This means that most people will be able to fit HIIT into their schedule.
For many it is also a more enjoyable form of exercise.
Endurance exercise – running for half an hour or so on a treadmill can be physically and mentally draining for many.
Others just don’t have the time to go to the gym 2 or 3 times a week.
Some have used the excuse that they’ve “no time for exercise.”
Studies into the benefits of short bursts of exercise have shown the all find the time to keep them fit and healthy.
Numbers 2 and 5 are good enough for me, how about you?
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