MetCon is the Spice of Fitness

With a MetCon workout, you are combining compound strength power moves with bursts of cardio.

5 min read

Health & Wellness

MetCon is the Spice of Fitness

As a trainer, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive is about the most effective workout format. Is it best to spend hours doing cardio? Hit the heavy weights? Or do HIIT workouts daily? What about yoga or pilates? Well, there is no simple answer. It really depends on who you are, your goals, genetics, etc. However, one of my absolute favorite functional, efficient and fun workout formats is MetCon.

MetCon is short for metabolic conditioning. This type of workout is designed to get your heart rate up and get your cardiovascular system pumping, leaving you with that out-of-breath feeling. The ultimate goal of a MetCon is to increase your overall fitness level, so the conditioning aspect of this format isn’t just a bunch of cardio. With a MetCon workout, you are combining compound strength power moves with bursts of cardio.

Furthermore, a MetCon workout calls on both anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. The common misconception is that MetCons are the same as HIIT workouts. Although HIIT workouts can sometimes be considered MetCon workouts, not all MetCons are HIIT workouts. The biggest difference is that HIIT focuses on cardio and body weight or light-weighted exercises. Metabolic conditioning workouts are designed to incorporate heavy lifting. In fact, if you do a MetCon without pushing your limits on your strength abilities, it will not be effective. Heavy weights are strongly encouraged in MetCons, unless of course you have an injury or other limitations.


Workout 1

Here is an example of a MetCon workout that is completed at your own pace using just heavy dumbbells and your body weight. Motivate yourself by setting a timer and seeing how long it takes to complete. You can also revisit this workout and try to beat your time and/or up your weights. The goal is to do each round unbroken, meaning you rest AFTER completing all 5 exercises before the next round. It is a total of 7 rounds. The 5 exercises are:

  1. Dumbbell (DB) Squats
  2. DB Push Press
  3. DB Lunges
  4. Burpees over DB
  5. Butterfly sit-ups (option to add DB)

Round #1 is 20 reps of each exercise. Subtract 2 reps each subsequent round (18-16-14-12-10-8). If you want an added challenge and you’re feeling extra strong, keep multiple weights close by and increase your weights as the reps decrease. Do not feel discouraged if you are unable to do this! Remember that overall this is a lot of reps and the main goal is to do each round unbroken, completing all 7 rounds in one session. Another added challenge would be to add a short run (approximately .25 miles) between rounds. Longer runs (1 mile) can be performed before and after the workout as well.


Workout 2

Here is another example of a MetCon workout that is done for max reps in specific timed intervals. This workout includes 6 exercises. Some of the exercises are bilateral and some are unilateral. The 6 exercises are:

  1. DB Deadlifts
  2. DB SA Suitcase Squat – Right
  3. DB Lunge to Clean – Right
  4. DB Snatch – Right
  5. DB Thrusters
  6. Devils Press

Round #1 is 45 seconds of work with 20 seconds of rest between each exercise. After completing this with the right side, move on to the left side (note: bilateral exercises will be performed the same for both sets). Total intervals for Round #1=12. Round #2 is the same but 35 seconds of work (10 seconds less) with 20 seconds of rest still. Round #3 is 25 seconds of work with 20 seconds of rest. This workout is 36 intervals total, so it’s challenging to do the reps over and over while maintaining form and continuing to lift fairly heavy dumbbells. Although the intervals are getting shorter, it is unlikely the weights will get heavier in this format. Water breaks or longer rest periods should be taken between rounds if needed but not during rounds. This is a lengthier MetCon format.


Workout 3

The final example of a MetCon workout is done AMRAP style. This means “as many rounds as possible” at your pace. The 6 exercises in this workout are:

  1. Kettlebell Swings
  2. DB Jump Lunges (or super heavy fast alternating lunges to alleviate some of the impact)
  3. DB Hang Cleans
  4. DB Ground to Press
  5. Medicine Ball Slams
  6. Box Jumps

Every exercise is done for 10 reps unbroken, followed by 5 burpees, and then repeat as many times as possible in 3 minutes. Rest 60-90 seconds in between stations. After all 6 stations are completed, repeat but rest for 2 minutes each station, and instead of full burpees, switch to half burpees (no push up). Total working time=30 minutes. This workout is also a great one to add a finisher, meaning an extra little push after the workout is complete. A few recommendations would be tabata-style sprints (20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds total) on any cardio equipment (treadmill, rower, bike, ski erg, etc) or tabata-style alternating DB snatches. This will only add 4 minutes to your workout while pushing your body a little harder.


Level Up Your Fitness

Metabolic conditioning is extremely challenging but also one of the most enjoyable types of workouts. The physical and mental demand on your body will keep your mind and body busy and distracted. There is no room for boredom, and each workout is designed for clear paths to growth (heavier weights, more reps, less rest, starters, finishers and in between round challenges, etc). It is also very time-efficient. MetCons are one hour max (including rest) and usually much shorter. The average workout time for a MetCon is 30 minutes, but some are 15 or 20 minutes and still extremely effective. The benefits of both heavy lifting and cardio are combined, so it’s a one-stop workout that will not leave you wanting or needing more. This is also a very demanding format, so do not expect to do this type of workout daily. 1-3 times per week is plenty.

Pick one of these 3 workouts, and give it a shot in substitute of your next workout. Bonus if you have a buddy who can perform it with you for an added push and to add in a social element – you will probably get a lot of credit for presenting them with such a solid challenge. Happy MetCon-ing!


MetCon Infographic
MetCon Infographic


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