metabolic conditioning

Why We Rarely Recommend Metabolic Conditioning

For many coaches, metabolic conditioning is a keystone of their training programs. We’d like you to consider another approach.

Although metabolic conditioning can be good for some trainees who have a good training background, there are often effective alternatives that get more sustainable results. And for athletes, metabolic conditioning is rarely productive and often detrimental.

This article will explain why you can get better results from an approach that focuses on maximizing muscle in the gym and body composition in the kitchen.

What Is Metabolic Conditioning?

Metabolic conditioning is a variation of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that generally uses weight training circuits. Loads are moderate, volume is relatively high, and rest periods are short. The goal is to overload the body metabolically because this leads to lactate buildup, which triggers growth hormone (GH) release, a potent fat burning hormone.

Metabolic Conditioning For Muscle Growth: Good of Bad?

There are certain situations when some form of metabolic conditioning can be beneficial. However, athletes training to compete don’t fall into this category.

For athletes, the goal of training is to increase muscle mass and get stronger for sport. Two ideas come into play here:

1. Muscles are built in the gym.

2. Abs are made in the kitchen.

Muscles Are Built in The Gym

It all comes down to training economy. Training economy is the concept that you only have so much time to achieve X goal. Extra work will take away from speed, power, and adaptation to the most important physical qualities we are trying to achieve.

If you tack on a metabolic conditioning at the end of a workout, many athletes will hold back during the earlier parts of the workout as they anticipate the effort required to get through conditioning.

This comes back to goals. In the weight room, the goal is to improve speed and power over conditioning. On the field, let the athlete play themselves into shape.

With a well-designed strength program that includes tempo, rest intervals, and precise loading, you might be able to increase your ability by 10 percent in the offseason. Adding a metabolic conditioning protocol takes away from the max strength and speed you can develop, and you might only improve by 7 percent.

Abs Are Made In The Kitchen.

If you need to lose body fat, this can be best addressed through nutrition. Chasing body composition with high-intensity workouts drains the mental reserves and has diminishing returns. “Exercising to eat” is a poor approach because your metabolism downregulates over the longer term.

If you get dusted in the gym from conditioning, you are more likely to end up bingeing in the evening. It’s better to avoid pushing to the point where you experience an excess of lactate buildup because this training is mentally and physically taxing.

Coach your athletes to focus on daily habits that help them manage their hunger and stay on point with nutrition: Prioritizing high-quality protein, eating breakfast, getting an array of colorful, nutrient-rich foods, hydration, and supplementation.

Alternatives to Metabolic Conditioning

You might wonder about helping athletes get or stay fit in the offseason. Vo2 max can drop off when they aren’t playing their sport regularly. But if you are training properly with adequate volume, programmed rest intervals, and counting tempo, you can maintain conditioning.

Add in some strongman training and you have a great program that builds work capacity without compromising strength. At the same time, strongman with properly programmed recovery intervals builds power and speed reserve—two key factors that can make the difference for an athlete on the field.

What If You’re Not An Athlete?

For general population clients, training can be challenging. Focus on high-quality training sessions and checking these boxes daily:

Are they eating breakfast?

Sleeping 8 hour a night?

Drinking water?

Difficult workouts aren’t that helpful when you are trying to put together a complete package to improve your health.


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