When you do squats, your heart pounds because your muscles need oxygen, just like when you do intense cardio.
When you run, sprint, or cycle hard, your legs ache because you drain your cellular fuel stores and accumulate metabolic waste products, just like when you crush them with squats.
So the question is, do you really need separate workouts for “strength” and “cardio”?
The answer: You don’t.
Smart coaches recognize that your muscles and cardiovascular system are interrelated parts of a larger whole and that with the right approach, you can target them both — and burn record amounts of fat in the process.
That approach is called “metabolic conditioning” (or simply metcon), and it’s characterized by full-body movements — like squats, burpees, pushups, and chin-ups — performed at a high intensity with limited rest.
It’s not easy — the first time you try metcon, you may be surprised by how much you sweat and pant — but that’s the point.
“Intensity is the number one factor in a good workout,” says Ben Bergeron, head coach at CrossFit New England in Natick, Mass. “It’s the shortcut to the good stuff [more muscle, a smaller waist, and greater athleticism].”
In addition to cardio conditioning, muscle building, and the most effective fat-burning workout you’ll ever sweat through, metcon provides a natural spike in HGH, a hormone essential for tissue repair and muscle growth, according to Australian researchers.
In their review in the Journal of Obesity, they found that HGH levels in study participants spiked by 10 percent following metcon-style workouts.
They also showed that such workouts stimulate a massive release of adrenaline and noradrenaline—two of the primary hormones responsible for unlocking fat stores.
“Most people aren’t trying to get ‘skinny’ — they’re trying to get strong, tight, and lean,” says Los Angeles-based trainer Kendra Smith, ASCM-CPT. “That’s exactly what metcon delivers.”
(Pro tip: For access to a massive selection of streaming metcon workouts, check out Beachbody On Demand.)
It has something for everyone — no matter how fit you are.
But if you’re already in decent shape and want an extra challenge — or simply want to switch up your usual routine — try the metcon workout below.
It’s called “The Metabolic Inferno,” and it lives up to its name.
“Metcon can be brutal,” says Smith. “Don’t be surprised if you tap out after just a few minutes.”
But stick with it, and we’re confident you’ll see the fat melt away.
The Metabolic Inferno
All you’ll need for this workout is a flat bench. If you don’t have one at home, a park bench will also do the trick. Perform the exercises as a circuit, doing each move for 30 seconds, and resting 15 seconds between them.
Once you’ve completed all five exercises, rest 1 minute, and then begin the circuit again. Do 2 to 4 circuits total.
Place one hand on each side of a bench, gripping it firmly between them. Jump your feet to the other side, and then jump back. Continue jumping back and forth.
Stand in front of the bench with your arms raised in front of you. Drive your arms down, dip your knees, and then jump onto the bench. Step down, and repeat.
Stand in front of a bench and place your hands on it so that they’re shoulder-width apart. That’s the starting position.
Jump your feet back to your left so that your body is diagonal to the bench. Do a pushup. Jump your feet back to the starting position, and then back to your right.
Perform a pushup. Continue alternating sides.
Lateral step over
Stand with your left side to the bench. Step laterally onto the bench with your left foot followed by your right. Now step down onto the other side of the bench.
Repeat in the other direction, this time initiating the movement with your right foot.
Continue alternating back and forth as fast as possible while maintaining control and good form.
Lie face up on the ground with your legs together and your arms by your sides. Raise your legs and bend your knees 90 degrees so that your lower legs are parallel to the ground.
Keeping your left leg bent, straighten your right leg as you lower it toward the ground. As you bring your right leg back up, straighten and lower your left leg. Continue alternating.
Metabolic Training on Beachbody on Demand
Many of the hundreds of workouts at Beachbody On Demand emphasize metcon principles to maximize your time and effort.
Check out FIRE AND FLOW with Elise Joan and Jericho McMatthews, which focuses on metabolic training and conditioning. The FIRE routines with Jericho are powerful full-body workouts that emphasize metabolic conditioning and help increase metabolism.