Metabolic conditioning refers to exercises intended to increase the storage and delivery of energy for any activity. Most people focus on cardiovascular training and improving the transport of blood to the working muscles. Metabolic training conditions the muscles to better use the fuel delivered to them by improving the metabolic pathways. The way to do this is to complete a series of exercises, predominantly multi-joint in nature, while minimizing rest between sets. The goal is to call upon as many muscle groups as possible in a single training session.


The overall training effect is a greater metabolic disturbance in the body's physiology, which in turn can elevate your caloric expenditure for an increased length of time. The goal is to create more work for your body to restore itself to pre-workout levels. During this time, your body is going through hormone balancing, replenishment of fuel stores, cellular repair, improved nerve stimulation, and an increase in muscle mass. This style of training can also be very effective for body composition changes and increasing one's work capacity. Body fat will decrease as lean body mass increases. Over time there will be an increase in the amount of work you are able to perform; you will be able to go longer, faster, stronger.


There is no single way to do a metabolic training workout. The possibilities are endless. Resistance can include your body weight, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, machines, tubing, medicine balls, sandbags, or anything else you can resist against or that resists against you. The higher intensity is created by increasing the volume and density of work you do. The goal is to work your biggest muscle groups, shorten your rest periods, and use supersets or circuits. Workouts can be organized by reps or by time: keep going until you hit the goal number of reps or do as many reps as you can in a certain amount of time.


Be sure to listen to your body and rest if needed, especially if you are a beginner. This is not the type of workout that can be done daily, but it is definitely a format that should be regularly integrated into a program. Pushing yourself is the key!


Sample workout organized by repetitions:

Move from one exercise to the next with minimal rest, ideally less than 15 seconds.

  • 10 push-ups, 10 walking lunges, repeat circuit three more times

  • 10 plank rows, 10 squat presses, repeat circuit three more times

  • 10 pull ups (assisted if needed), 10 deadlifts, repeat circuit three more times

Sample workout organized by time:

Move from one exercise to the next with minimal rest, ideally less than 15 seconds. Complete as many repetitions as possible in 30 seconds. Repeat circuit a total of three times.

  • jump rope

  • push ups

  • burpees

  • dumbbell squat press

  • mountain climbers

  • inverted row

  • walking lunges

Author: Jillian Fleming, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor at the Burbank YMCA

Jillian Fleming is an ACSM certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor at the Burbank YMCA. She has her Masters in Exercise Physiology from Springfield College and has been working in fitness and wellness for 13 years.