“I did metabolic conditioning for 3 months and discovered chiseled abs”

After a year of re-establishing a workout habit and focusing on strength gains, I was eager to see more results. That meant visible abs for a major anniversary getaway. My virtual trainer on the Future app had just the blueprint to make it a reality: metabolic conditioning.

Sure, I’d enjoy the beach and wear my bathing suit no matter what, but I wanted to look as strong as I felt. I was willing to work for that too. I knew metabolic conditioning is no picnic from my previous experience taking MetCon classes at Equinox.

What is Metabolic Conditioning: You work faster with less rest and often lots of supersets, which gets your heart rate up the most, according to Kelly Bryant, CPT, a performance coach at Future, who I’ve been training with for the past two years. It can include a variety of equipment (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands) or bodyweight movements. However, this style will not maximize muscle growth.

This mode was perfect for my goal and time frame. I had about three months to put the body back together before the anniversary. “Whenever we’re looking to ramp up fat loss a little, especially in the short term, I focus on ways we can maintain muscle mass by adding just a little more calories burned,” says Bryant. “When we have a short-term goal, it’s a great option for quick body recomposition.”

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My previous education also set me up for success with a strong starting point. “Working on strength first also helps prevent injuries as you start working faster in metcons,” says Bryant. “With metabolic conditioning you probably won’t get as much muscle gain as you would with traditional strength training. You’ll increase your calorie burn, making it easier to create a calorie deficit and lose fat.” Additional benefits include better cardiovascular health, more efficient training, and higher calorie burn in a shorter amount of time.

Here’s what happened when I added metabolic conditioning to my routine with a focus on body recomposition and visible abs:

My metabolic conditioning workout routine

My new training cycle included metabolic conditioning (a variety of moves) along with more traditional strength training focused on hypertrophy (muscle building), a row machine workout, and a fun run/walk. I also have two to three Pilates reformer classes a week just because it brings me joy. Sounds like a lot, but all of my workouts were about three hours a week. I took a day or two to recover.

Training example:

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Dynamic heating (7 minutes)

Metabolic conditioning (60 seconds each, 30 seconds rest between rounds, four rounds total)

Central trimmer (30 seconds each, 30 seconds rest between rounds, three rounds total)

Cool down (5 minutes)

Work it into: My plan called for three to four 25-minute metcon workouts per week, which is a great starting point for dedicated training, according to Bryant. Alternative programs included two days of metcon and two days of cardio (if you’re a cardio junkie who needs more muscle) or two strength days (if you’re a lifter who needs cardio).

The Future app took all the guesswork out of my schedule. All I had to do was open the app and hit play on the day’s workout. A full week of all the routines and moves awaited me, complete with exercise demonstrations and what equipment to use.

The journey of metabolic conditioning

My motivation and enthusiasm level was through the roof to get started. I had a new goal and an optimistic attitude that it was so achievable. However, my first weeks moves were a bit disappointing. I felt silly doing side hops and duck walks in my living room or hopping between different bodyweight exercises. Surely there were more efficient ways to get around. I was honest with Bryant, but promised to do my best. I trusted his process and plan. However, I loved the superset style of moving from one move to the next with minimal rest.

metabolic conditioning training review

Jennifer Nied

Halfway through, I hitched a ride on the fight bus. I hadn’t missed a workout, but the results weren’t showing yet. I also had a cold that wouldn’t go away. However, I didn’t give up and did like Nemo and kept moving. My energy levels were low, but I did what I could. I completed the metabolic conditioning exercises at a slightly lower intensity and added more Pilates for evening relaxation and walking to do my steps.

I also dialed in my nutrition and felt my muscles responding. Initially the moves were exhausting. Between intervals of jump split squats or burpees, I fell to the floor out of breath. As the weeks went on, I could push myself a little harder and not become one with my carpet to recover. I kept moving throughout the intermission and didn’t need a quick break anymore. I also slept better. When my head hit the pillow, I instantly fell asleep and stayed asleep.

For the past month, I’ve been experiencing breakthroughs and seeing the results of my consistency. I have to admit it was hard to be patient and trust that the metabolic conditioning program would work. Three months is actually a pretty short amount of time to see noticeable results from a consistent exercise routine, and I’ve achieved a lot despite obstacles like illness and a busy schedule.

metabolic conditioning training review

Jennifer Nied

Unlike previous training bouts (such as training for a marathon or committing to a more rigorous fitness/nutrition plan), I didn’t end up feeling burnt out or craving a new workout. I actually wanted to Moreover of this type of training. I loved the variety, it literally kept me on my toes every session. I loved the results too, I saw and felt real changes without reorganizing my whole life around workouts.

So when I had a chance to set my next target, I doubled down on the same to move the needle further out with the body recomp. I wanted to solidify my gains and make more progress, like adding weight to my squat and deadlift and chipping a few more abs along the way.

metabolic conditioning training review

Jennifer Nied

My takeouts

If you put in the effort to at least start each workout, you’re more than likely to finish it.

metabolic conditioning training review

Jennifer Nied

Even when I was feeling exhausted after a long day or the last kindergarten illness was destroying my motivation, I had to try every workout. The routine always started with a mobility warm-up and I told myself I would at least do that. What happened next was negotiated.

Most of the time I kept going because the training just flew by. I was completely immersed in the metabolic conditioning moves and didn’t have a spare moment to think about pausing. My motivation increased as the workout progressed and I usually continued until completion. I didn’t always set jump or speed records, but I was often surprised by my performance. When my mind wanted me to skip everything, my body was totally ready.

A high-impact sports bra sets you up for an all-out session.

metabolic conditioning training review

Jennifer Nied

I work from home most days of the week, so my go-to style is all sportswear. (I have a rainbow of leggings options, and the love for lycra is real!) I look like I could jump into a workout any time of day, and I often do. But those comfortable looks don’t always allow me to perform at my peak, especially plyometric movements or high-intensity metabolic conditioning.

I realized I was putting extra effort and intensity into my workout if I switched to a high impact sports bra and stopped bouncing. Seems like a super minor change, but it made a huge difference to me (my DDs needed support). It took about 30 seconds to change clothes and I know I worked harder and made my session worth it as a result. My higher heart rate was proof of that. Even the smallest cup sizes benefit from proper support.

Results and a remarkable transformation don’t actually require marathon workouts every day.

metabolic conditioning training review

Jennifer Nied

It requires a plan, though. I didn’t just do random routines or moves I saw on IG to bring out my abs. I underwent a specific and strategic metabolic conditioning program from an experienced trainer tailored to my goal. Each metcon workout was intentional, targeting specific muscle groups while allowing others to recover. For example, on a day when my legs were toasted from a lower body workout, I had an arm or abs workout waiting for me.

Every minute really counted. As a busy mom, I appreciated this the most. Doing 30 to 40 minutes of metcon was enough. The manageable workout duration freed up more days for other types of movement. I might chase my toddler around the playground or take my dog ​​for a long walk in the park. I wasn’t even completely blown away and unable to get off the couch.

Even if you don’t intend to recompose the body, the efficiency of metabolic conditioning workouts makes them a fantastic option for anyone. Who doesn’t want a few more minutes in their day?

Headshot of Jennifer Nied

Jennifer Nied is the fitness editor of Women’s health and has more than 10 years of experience in health and wellness journalism. She’s always out exploring workouts and sweat-testing gear, hiking, snowboarding, running, and more with her husband, daughter, and dog.

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