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Safely Using Metabolic Training

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Safely Using Metabolic Training

Metabolic training is an exercise program where you complete whole body movements or multi-joint exercises one after another. It is similar to circuit training, but the amount of rest is minimal. While many of these exercises will be familiar ones, the intensity will be higher when performed during this type of workout. The result of such a quick succession of metabolic exercises is that your metabolic rate is accelerated and your body burns calories more efficiently. Metabolic training is a highly valuable use of training time; however, it is not a modality of training that should last longer than 4-6 weeks if performed correctly. Extended weeks and months of metabolic training can result in an increased risk of injuries.

Metabolic training is a great time to wear your heart rate monitor. The goal is to correlate your heart rate with your rate of perceived exertion (RPE).

What is Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)?

The Borg Scale RPE is a 6 to 20 scale. These numbers correlate to how hard you feel you are working. This scale is designed to give you a fairly good estimate of your actual heart rate during activity. To do this, you multiply your RPE by 10 to get an estimated heart rate.

For example, if your RPE is 12, then 12 x 10 = 120 beats per minute. This scale was designed for the average healthy adult. 9 would be walking at a comfortable pace,  19 would be full out sprinting- 2-6 seconds of output

While this traditional Borg scale has been an accepted method in the fitness industry for years, many fitness professionals focus just on understanding exertion without correlating it to heart rate. Therefore, a 1 to 10 scale is used to make things easier when training.  You will often see the coaches at POW! Gym ask both kids and adults what their RPE is based on a 1 to 10.  It is also a good way for a trainer to get to know a client and their personal intensity levels.  This can then be estimated and correlated to the standardized heart rate charts. 

Heart  Rate Charts

The percentage range on the various heart rate charts are based on:

(1) metabolic systems in your body that fuel your muscles during exercise, and

(2) how hard you want to train. Training from 40% to 85% of HRmax is aerobic exercise ("cardio").


Types of Metabolic Training Segments

Circuit Training - The emphasis will be to move quickly from one resistance exercise to the next with no rest, therefore exercises will be placed closer to one another. This can be rep driven or time based. The goal is that the movements leave you breathless by the rest period. The number of movements you will see in a typical POW! circuit training might be up to 10, usually no less than 5.

An example might be:

  • Med Ball Slams (heavy) 5 reps or 10 seconds
  • Jump Squats with ball 5 reps or 10 seconds
  • Burpees 5 reps or 10 seconds
  • Kettlebell Swings 5 reps or 10 seconds
  • Push Press 5 reps or 10 seconds
  • High Pogos, 5 reps or 10 seconds rest 10 seconds
  • Repeat 5 times


Tabata Training- These are high intensity intervals. These are interval-type workouts that tap into anaerobic energy pathways. They’re structured so that you do 20 seconds of intense activity followed by 10 seconds of recovery. You repeat this sequence for 8 rounds total. Most people do 2 to 3 rounds in total. During the short intervals, you work at near maximum intensity. This is very amendable to combat sports classes.

An example might be:

  • Interval 1 - Jab, Cross, 20 seconds, 10 second rest
  • Interval 2- Upper Upper, 20 seconds, 10 second rest
  • Interval 3- Cross, Hook, 20 seconds, 10 second rest
  • Interval 4- Bob and Weave, 20 seconds, 10 second
  • rest x 4

AMRAP Training- As Many Rounds As Possible - this style has been absorbed into the culture of CrossFit workouts. AMRAPS, like Olympic Lifting have been used by explosive athletes for decades and not used only by Crossfitters. They offer the same metabolic benefits of the other styles of metabolic training. I like AMRAPS because they allow training to be scaled to a wide range of participants. They also allow for movements to be regressed since you are doing as many rounds of a set number of movements, for a set number of reps.

For example 3 minutes AMRAP of :

  • 50 jumps on rope (regression run in place)
  • 5 Slams ( regression- perform on your knees) 
  • 5 Splits squat jumps (regression- split squat in place, 5 on each side, or jump in place, then switch)
  • 5 Goblet Squats
  • 5 Power Pushups

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