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Metabolic Workouts – Some are Sprints, Others are more like a Jog

Metabolic workouts are the only sort of cardio I enjoy (ok…I do like sprints as well). I hate long distance running or any steady-state cardio for that matter.

Maybe I love them because metabolic workouts come in all shapes and sizes so you can work all the energy systems. Maybe I just love them because they contain a ton of variety and keep me interested…Who knows…

But they are a version of cardio that I love.

And I don’t just love them because I feel utterly destroyed after each one. Because, in fact, I don’t.

Not every metabolic workout should smash you.

While workouts like the 20/20/20 are great and even essential to your workout routine, so are metabolic workouts where you never redline, where you never feel completely smashed.

It is like the difference between sprints and a long jog. After sprints you may feel exhausted because each one is an all out effort and you need to rest in between. Whereas with the jog, you should feel like you can keep going at the same pace the entire time because you never give an all out effort.

Some metabolic workouts need to be like that. Some metabolic workouts should have you working at 70% of your max output instead of going all out.

Below is a great aerobic metabolic workout. Make sure during it that you never redline. You want to keep moving at about 70% of your maximal output for the entire time.

10 Minute Metabolic Circuits

cardio workout

Stretch and Roll Out:


Set a timer for 10 minutes. Work at 70% and keep moving the entire 10 minutes. Rest a couple of minutes between circuits. This is a great workout to do with a friend or two.

Agility Ladder (Mix up the drills and go forward, backward and sideways. Keep going through then walking back and repeating.)

Med Ball Throws (Rotational throws, side throws, overhead passes, chest passes, throws for height, mix them up and throw against a wall, slam it into the ground, throw it for height or work with a partner. Keep moving, but never redline.)

Crawling and/or Locomotion (Jog, back pedal, high knees, skips, butt kickers, side shuffle, bear crawl, crab crawl, gorilla crawl, keep moving and mix up the drills. Move forward, backward and sideways.)

Stretch and Roll Out:

For more metabolic workouts, check out the Workout Library.

What are some of your favorite cardio workouts?

Metabolic Monday

So today is a “metabolic” workout day – aka…MY TYPE OF CARDIO!

A metabolic workout is a high-intensity workout where you do compound movements back to back with as little rest as possible between them.

That doesn’t mean stringing together the hardest exercises you know of and just doing them back to back to back for an hour only resting when you feel like you either can’t function or are going to puke.

The point of a metabolic workout isn’t just to destroy you – it is to raise your metabolic rate both during and AFTER the workout so that you can burn some serious calories and more importantly some serious FAT.

It is also super good for athletic performance since it can improve your cardiovascular capacity. It can help improve your lactic threshold and VO2 max.

Yup…If you want to be able to run faster for longer or do well in any endurance sports, you may want to incorporate metabolic training into your workout routine!

So how do you design a metabolic workout?

My mom and sister in town for a metabolic workout around the holidays!

My mom and sister in town for a metabolic workout around the holidays!

Well..there are a ton of different ways. The key points to consider are…

  1. Include compound moves – aka work the BIG muscles groups…Bicep curls and such are pointless moves to include.
  2. Use some resistance. You don’t need to use the max weight you can handle, but you do want to incorporate challenging weights to make your muscles work to their max!
  3. Add in rest – The key here is to teach your body to recover as quickly as possible. HOWEVER, if you don’t include any rest in your workout, you AREN’T going to be working at a max effort the entire time. To really get some of those cardiovascular capacity benefits, you need to be working near a maximal effort as much as possible, which means you NEED to rest and recover! When you start, you may want to rest 3 to 5 times the time you work. As your fitness level improves, cut the rest until you even hit a ratio of 5 times the work to rest.
  4. Keep the intervals short – When you get into the 2 minutes and above range, you start to work the aerobic energy system. If you really want to focus on improving your lactic threshold, keep your intervals of work between about 30 seconds and a minute thirty. Honestly, I even prefer keeping the work between 30 seconds and a minute.
  5. Don’t throw in the kitchen sink! – Don’t just combine 30 hard exercises and do them each once. Balance what you are working. If you pair up exercises, or even go through a circuit, make sure that you vary what you are working. Think about movement patterns (push vs. pull) as well as hemispheres (upper vs. lower body). If you vary how and what you work, you will find that you are more able to work to your full potential each round EVEN if you feel a bit fatigued and out of breath.

Below is a sample Metabolic Workout. While we love using sleds and ropes and sandbags, I do realize that not every gym or household contains those things so I tried to stick with bodyweight or more traditional equipment. (If you don’t have any medicine balls you could mimic with a dumbbell or even a cable machine with a double-handed overhead chop down toward the ground. Make sure though to use your lats for the pull over as well as your abs and legs!)

Metabolic Workout

WARM UP (make sure to do dynamic stretches, foam rolling and activation. Very important to be WARM!)

40 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest between each exercise. Rest for 1-2 minutes after each round of all 5 exercises.

Repeat anywhere from 3-5 times depending on your fitness level.

Front Squats (add dumbbells or kettlebells in a front rack…light but challenging)
Medball Overhead Slams (Bring the medball back overhead and then slam it straight into the ground)
Crawling (Table top position..Forwards and backwards)
Lateral Hops (aka Skater hops…So hop as far as you can to the side off of one foot onto the other)
Russian Twist (Hold a weight plate and rotate side to side as QUICK as possible)

If you are a beginner, you may want to start with less work and more rest…Even say 20 seconds of work, 40 seconds of rest and work your way up to 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest. For lateral hops, you can also sub side shuffles as long as you stay LOW and move quickly!

Yay! Metabolic workouts…what a great way to start the week!

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