Metabolic training allows for maximum output in a short amount of time. These 3 circuit workouts will challenge you beyond just fat loss and into a healthier state.

Spring is here. Whether you’re ready for it or not.

Chances are, you’re part of the team that’s in need of some serious conditioning to burn off the winter insulation you’ve put on during sweater season.

And that’s why we’ve got you covered.

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The answer doesn’t have to be endless drudgeries on the treadmill or elliptical to attain steady state cardio benefits and burn fat the slow way.

That’s all fine and good, but if you’re a person with a busy life, you can’t spend hours at the gym every given day.

For those reasons, it’s helpful to have a good handle on your metabolic training arsenal.

Using weights to substitute cardio is a serviceable way to attain all the same benefits while making things more time efficient. All you have to do is simply manipulate your rest intervals and choose your exercises wisely, while modifying the amount you’re lifting per exercise.

Why Metabolic Training? Think Past the Mirror

So, we understand that you can train metabolic style for fat loss, and to save the cardio portion of your workout. But what about your precious gains?

Here’s the truth: Most self proclaimed “strong” gym rat meatheads, desperately need to get in shape. And their 600 pound deadlift won’t do anything to stop them from cardiac arrest due to high blood pressure, cholesterol, or body fat.

Being strong doesn’t mean you’re fit. It just means you’ve got one of over 11 components of human fitness taken care of. There’s more to work on. It’s time to think of conditioning training for reasons beyond the generic cosmetic vantage point and “seeing your abs”.

Especially if you’re not 22 anymore, it’s worth your while to keep on top of this for the sake of your health and longevity.  Don’t worry – your precious PR’s won’t go anywhere in a hurry, and your muscles and joints will probably thank you too, if you approach this the right way.

Here are 3 examples of workouts that can work wonders for conditioning and fat loss.

Workout 1: Vertical Push/Pull Circuit

This workout relies on vertical plane movements to really tax the muscular and aerobic system, and it doesn’t take too much loading to make it happen.

In fact, you only need a single kettlebell or dumbbell, and a pull up/dip station.

Exercise Sets Reps
A1. One Arm DB/KB Snatch 6 8-10
A2. Bodyweight Dips 6 10
A3. One Arm DB/KB Snatch 6 8-10
A4. Bodyweight Pull Up 6 8-10

That’s one round. Rest 90 seconds between rounds and repeat for a minimum of 6 rounds. This circuit seems painfully simple, but rest assured that by the end of round 3, you’ll be contemplating a lot. In a puddle of sweat.

On one arm db/kb snatches, choose one hand and perform the reps in a continuous fashion. Note that using a different implement warrants an entirely different lifting technique. If you’re not proficient with kettlebells, then it’s a smart idea to stick to a basic dumbbell snatch.

Start at a hang position (just around knee level between the legs), and use the body to project the weight over the head in one strong motion. It’s ok if you hop off the ground a little; just make sure to “stomp” to time your catch phase correctly.  Lower the weight slowly and repeat.

As a guide, use about 60-70% of your 10 rep DB shoulder press max weight.

Utilize the alternate arm on each time you perform this exercise during the circuit.

Workout 2: The Barbell or Dumbbell Complex

By this point in time, you’d have had to be living under a rock to be unaware of the training methodology known as complexes, and all the benefits they deliver. But just to be safe, I’ll break down what they are.

Simply put, a complex comprises of 2 or more exercises done in succession, with the same implement. What’s more is, you can’t put the weight down until the final rep of the last exercise.  All of this produces a very lactic acid- inducing giant set, which can last upwards of 2 minutes of straight time under tension. For these reasons, complexes can leave a lifter’s heart beating heavy for the rest of the week.

In the video below, you’ll see an example of a challenging and very advanced, but epic barbell complex, comprising of bent over rows, front squats, push presses, and back squats.

A few ground rules:

1. Be sure not to use too many exercises3-5 is usually a great range. More exercises risk over fatigue and a technical breakdown, which could lead to injury.

2. Choose a weight that leaves a “2 rep buffer” in the weakest lift of the complex. For example, if you’re doing deadlifts, cleans, front squats, and overhead presses for 5 reps each, don’t use 70% of your deadlift max, because the other 3 movements will crush you.

3. Don’t be afraid to mix up the rep scheme to play to your strengths (or your weaknesses!) The reps on each movement don’t need to be identical. If you want to go lighter to accommodate a smaller lift in your complex (like curls, strict presses, or lunges), just make up for it by choosing a higher rep range for the respective exercise within the complex. 

For example, a 95 pound bar used to accommodate a 6 rep biceps curl may be too light for a deadlift. So prescribing 12 deadlifts and the same 6 biceps curls is a fair course of action.

And remember, this subheading does address dumbbells too. Here’s a quick example of a dumbbell complex:

Other exercises that fit complexes in both barbell and dumbbell form can be the following:

Barbell Exercises

Dumbbell Exercises

Related: 3 Simple Strategies to Get Leaner Without Lifting

Workout 3: The Calisthenic Special

Especially if you carry a lot of muscle, traditional bodyweight training methods can be a humbling experience, and more than enough to give you a solid workout that addresses your cardiorespiratory needs. Try this circuit for a burn:

Exercise Sets Reps
A1. Inverted Rows 4 Max Reps
A2. Tiger Sit Outs 4 8 Each
B1. Turkish Get Ups 4 2 Each (alternating)
B2. Prisoner Squats 4 12
C1. Kettlebell Swings 4 25
C2. Hanging Leg Raise 4 10
D1. Push Up 1 Max Reps*
D2. Feet Elevated Push Up 1 Max Reps*
D3. Close Grip Push Up 1 Max Reps*

*Perform 1 set of each, for max reps each time.  Rest 90 seconds between sets.

Wrap Up

The moral of the story is this: Get in shape.

Beyond the fat loss and aesthetic advantage it puts you in, it’ll also lengthen your life span.

Your gains won’t go anywhere, and you’ll probably be able to scratch your back without using a wall corner or tree to do it.

Besides, no one cared how much you were able to lift anyway.

Posted on: Sat, 05/07/2022 - 17:57

No doubt Strongman competition is different than “getting in shape”. That’s not their focus.

Keith Harry
Posted on: Sun, 05/10/2020 - 12:31

The last sentence in the great article says it all ! Great job Mr. B.

Posted on: Mon, 04/16/2018 - 19:53

I totally agree with Mr. Boyce. I have been following weightlifting principles similar to his and they definitely work if you want strength rather than size. In my opinion, 'bulking up' is not all it's cut out to be anyway unless you are a competitive bodybuilder by profession.