When we're talking about Metabolic Training, the old saying "What's old is new again" definitely applies. I sometimes hear people talking about this "NEW TRAINING SYSTEM" when in fact there's nothing remotely new about it. I will say that to the general public it's quite new. But for people who are followers of old school fitness and bodybuilding techniques, this has been done for a long long time. To really break it down, Metabolic Training is using the big compound or multi-joint exercises combined with little or sometimes, no rest. This has a number of effects. One is that it kicks your growth hormone into high gear allowing you to build a shocking amount of muscle in a short time. Another is that it creates the Afterburn Effect (also known as EPOC or Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption). This means that your body will remain in fat burning mode for hours even after the workout is finished. So what we're looking at here is short and sweet workouts or the most work done in the least amount of time. After about 40 minutes, cortisol levels rise in your body so it's best to not go over this time.
Years ago this was referred to as German Volume Training. Tests were done when someone would pick one exercise and perform 10 sets of 10 reps with only about 30 seconds to a minute between sets. Later on, legendary bodybuilder and trainer to the stars, Vince Gironda, used the 8 sets of 8 reps method but took things further. His goal was to only rest as long as needed. Ultimately you would only take a few breaths in between (probably about 10 seconds). Then of course there were the guys from the 1960s like Sergio Oliva, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dave Draper, and Franco Columbu to name a few. Supersets and trisets were often done. These were usually done with zero rest between sets. I have an old magazine article from Dave Draper from the mid 1970s where he said he prefers to superset or triset his entire workout. There were some single joint movements in there but very few. It was almost entirely large compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, rowing, etc. A number of years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Draper and he's a great guy! There's my personalized autographed photo from him in the accompanying post photo. By the way, if you get a chance to, read his book "Brother Iron Sister Steel". You won't be disappointed! Franco Columbu also said that especially when he was preparing for a bodybuilding contest and he had to get his bodyfat as low as possible, he would train with supersets, trisets, and sometimes in a circuit with 4 or more exercises.
So we know that we should use primarily large compound exercises. We know we must take short rest periods. What are some of the exact methods used to implement this? I've compiled a list here of the best ways to get it done.
1) MULTIPLE SETS - Here's the 8 x 8 or the 10 x 10 routine. You pick one exercise per muscle group and limit the rest periods to about 30 seconds or so. It's important to try and use the same weight for all the sets. The first few aren't too bad, but the last ones are just absolutely brutal!
2) SUPERSETS AND TRISETS - 2 or 3 exercises done back to back with no rest in between. Once a superset or triset is completed, a short rest is allowed before repeating for the required number.
3) CIRCUITS - A circuit is similar to supersets and trisets, except that there are more exercises. Generally anything over 3 is considered a circuit.
4) TIMED SETS - There are a lot of options here. Generally you will use a 2 to 1 ratio, meaning that your work time will be double that of your rest time. For example, you will do 20 seconds of squats followed by 10 seconds of rest. These numbers can of course be adjusted according to your level. For beginners, 20/40 works well (work for 20 and rest for 40). Intermediates may use 30/30, and advanced people can use 40/20. The hardest one I've ever done is 60/15. But believe me, a workout using that timing is not for the faint of heart!
5) EMOM - Every Minute On the Minute. You'll have 1 minute to do your work AND to get your rest before going onto the next set. I usually like doing 5 sets of these. So I may do 20 reps of squats and it may take me between 20 and 30 seconds to do it. I'll have the rest of that minute to recover. When the beeper goes again at the end of the minute I do it again and again until I've done 5 total sets.
6) LADDERS - These can be done either with reps OR with time. If you're doing reps it can be done with descending and/or ascending reps. A common way to do this is to combine ladders with supersets. For example let's take pushups and TRX rows. You'll do 8 pushups followed immediately by 8 rows. Then you'll do 7 pushups and 7 rows, and keep going until you're down to 1 rep. Then you can either stop it there or you can do a Full Ladder meaning that you'll work your way back up to 8 again. This can also be done with time. You could do your first sets for 50 seconds, then 40, then 30, 20, and 10.
As mentioned already, these techniques can be combined with each other. Ladders work well with supersets and circuits as do timed sets. And EMOM can work well with the 8 x 8 structure. So hopefully I've given you some insight into Metabolic Training. You're really only limited by your imagination. With all these techniques and possible combinations, there is no limit!
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