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What Is Metcon? Metabolic Conditioning Explained

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What is metcon training?

Metabolic conditioning or “metcon” for short is a style of training made popular in recent years by the CrossFit community – although the style of training itself is nothing new. The term describes short bouts of higher-intensity training designed to increase metabolic demand and increase energy usage.

“Every CrossFitter swears by metcon for the performance benefits for competing and for the fat-loss physique benefits,” says PT Tom Wright.

How do metcon sessions work?

Typically metcon follows either a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) format with short periods of intense exercise followed by similar length at a lower intensity, or circuit training with various exercises performed back to back.

“The goal of a metcon session should be to achieve and sustain a high effort output over a short period of time, with as little rest as possible between work to make your body more energy-efficient, or fitter,” says Wright.

How does metcon burn body fat?

Many studies have shown HIIT to be superior to steady-state cardio for faster fat loss. Although more calories are burned in a longer, lower-intensity session, total fat loss tends to be greater when doing HIIT.

“Metcon is great for fat loss because of increased fat oxidation, reductions in appetite, and the increase in muscular adaptations and the subsequent increase in lean body mass,” says Wright. “In short, do metcon workouts and you’ll get lean.”

Are there any downsides?

One downside to the recent popularity of metcon training is that it’s often misused – or mis-labelled. Metcon should be used to take you to your training threshold, with short rest times in order to improve metabolic pathways.

“Longer CrossFit workouts like ‘Murph’ (one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 press-ups, 300 squats, one-mile run) aren’t metcon and tend to be overused, with trainees smashing themselves every session,” says Wright.

When should I do metcon?

Because of their short nature metcon routines can be used as workout “finishers”. If you’re trying to drop body fat while maintaining muscle, focus on resistance training without decreasing the volume of your workouts, and add five to ten minutes of metcon at the end.

“Doing this three times a week will increase your metabolic output,” says Wright. “That’ll help you to get leaner over a period of a few weeks as well as increasing your fitness.”

What moves should I do?

If you have spent a lot of your session working on pulling movements like deadlifts and barbell rows, for instance, then doing metcon with kettlebell swings and rower intervals would be a good choice because they recruit the same muscle groups but with a different stimulus.

“Alternatively you could use metcon to work on areas you didn’t hit in your main workout – adding some pushing, pulling or hingeing after squats, for instance,” says Wright.

See related 

3 Metcon Workouts To Finish Strong

3 Metcon Workouts To Finish Strong

(Image credit: Unkown)

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Joe Warner worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach, from 2008 to 2013, then returned as editor of Men’s Fitness UK from 2016 to 2019.

With contributions from