Building a Better Metcon

Metcons, or “metabolic conditioning” might sound like one of those fancy newfangled words you hear during secret CrossFit meetings, before they pass around the sacred kool aid. And lo and behold, here I am sticking it on CrossFit Wednesday, so maybe I’m a big part of this misconception. Metabolic conditioning is one of those more valuable tools you can add to your workouts to develop a real world carry over into how you perform, whether its on the job, on the field, or between the sheets (jk you know you’re done in a few seconds).

Metabolic conditioning really should be applied to more types of workouts. I often use it, as do probably most strongmen/women, as conditioning can break someone in the middle of a medley type event. Bodybuilders can use it to develop a righteous pump, as Dorian Yates did with his methods of HIIT lifting. And even powerlifters might use it, specifically on dynamic effort days of a conjugate program. The 3 basic energy systems of the human body (for the sake of dummy proofing it: short burst, medium, endurance) can be developed with this training method, and its up to you to make sure you apply it properly.

A big problem is, people see the famous workouts like “Fran” and pull away all the wrong aspects of those types of workouts. It results in what appears to be two major flaws, not necessarily related to each other but often showing up hand in hand, at the same time. These two flaws, are aimlessness and slop.

  1. Aimlessness – I saw this often in the Army, as NCOs would put together lazy PT plans. There is no rhyme or reason to which exercises were chosen, or what the work/rest ratio is. A well designed metcon is going to take aim at 1) a specific set of motor patterns, specific to the athletic needs or specific to the training goal of that day and 2) specific to the energy system being developed, which requires a designed work/rest ratio. Just because “it sucks and is really hard” does not make it a good or effective workout. I blame this on the proliferation of the horrible concept of “muscle confusion.”The right movements for your sports or occupational needs are important to consider, AND rest periods are important to consider.
  2. Slop – Occurring as a result of the competitive nature of humans, especially those who get involved in sports or athletics. Your buddy probably did one more rep, or maybe did something a few seconds faster. And deep down (or not deep down, because you are still talking trash to him between dry heaves) you know you’re better than he is. Instead of making sure you’re getting good reps of the PROPER motor patterns, you get lazy. You cut corners. This stunts the actual development of your functional fitness, and opens you to an increased risk of injury.  Remember, you are trying to increase the capacity of a certain function of your body. And you get strong by making reps, not by missing reps. Slop reps are missed reps. You only cheat yourself this way.

But don’t be discouraged. Metabolic conditioning, even done properly, is a lot more mentally stimulating than boring old cardio. And its a highly effective tool to utilize for increased performance. For broadening your mind on this topic, consider the following:

Metabolic Conditioning vs. Aerobic Exercise (from Dr. Nathan Thompson)

Metabolic Conditioning – When “Cardio” Is Actually Good (Frank Daniels) (from Max Impact Training)

10 Minute ASP HIIIT Metabolic Interval Soccer Workout (from Advanced Sports Performance)

Football Off-Season Conditioning Workout (from Nick Waddell)

Strongman Workout [Core Conditioning] (from Chandler Marchman)

Strongman Cardio (from Official Strongman)

2 thoughts on “Building a Better Metcon

Leave a Reply