Can You Really Lose Fat by Exercising Less?
When talking about getting ripped, you may have heard the term “metcon” thrown around by some exercise enthusiasts. Some love it; some hate it, but if done correctly, metcons can really enhance any person’s fitness results, at any level of fitness whether a beginner or advanced.
What Science Says
In order to get ripped, steady-state cardio is a thing of the past (clap hands, yell hooray)! Studies reveal its long, arduous, and monotonous mechanisms unnecessary (and inefficient) for fat loss and cardiovascular conditioning when compared to the new superstar: metabolic conditioning, a.k.a. metcon. With a proper metcon program, you can get the same improvements more quickly, more efficiently, and more safely while also improving other factors of functional fitness.
Several fitness studies conducted with scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada and published in the Journal of Physiology, reveal that metcons are better than long, steady workouts. Subjects’ muscular development was just as equal to the subjects who did endurance training. During metcon training, muscle glycogen (stored sugar/energy) is broken down at a rapid rate, which results in improved muscle insulin sensitivity (insulin sensitivity increases in muscle when glycogen stores are low), causing nutrients to be shunted into muscle and then fat stores are released. Thus, metcons are a great way to burn fat while simultaneously maintaining lean muscle.
Research also shows that metcons naturally elevate growth hormone secretion in healthy adults. (Growth hormone helps your body use fat as fuel and helps preserve lean muscle mass, bone density, and prevent age-related body changes). This –in combination with carbohydrate back-loading which also helps release growth hormone at night when you sleep– can double up your health benefits.
How To Do It
Basically, to get ripped, a metcon is done by working EXTREMELY hard for just a short time, making your oxygen requirements increase substantially. You then rest and repeat. The best exercises to use are those that use more than one muscle group at a time (squats, lunges, deadlifts, mountain climbers, rowing, burpees, etc..). You attempt to attain as many repetitions (and work as hard as possible) during the work cycle. It will probably hurt as lactic acid builds up during your work time, but you keep pushing yourself until the rest minute starts.
Four (4) Types of Metcons
Tabata- Izumi Tabata
This is a program based on a 1996 study about high-intensity intermittent training by Japanese sports scientist, professor, and researcher Izumi Tabata. Its whole premise is to have your rests shorter than your work periods (doing an exercise for 40 seconds, resting for 20 seconds). Professor Tabata discovered, when compared to the subjects who performed an hour of steady-state cardio, the subjects who performed the shorter, burst training burned more fat and calories while increasing their muscular and aerobic endurance capacities (due to the oxygen requirements from an increased heart rate in order to perform each exercise as hard as possible). In addition, the body has to expend more energy (than steady-state cardio routines require) for post workout recovery to bring itself back to a normal resting rate.
A typical Tabata usually consists of doing 20 seconds of work as HARD AND FAST AS YOU CAN and then resting for 10 seconds. This is done for 8 rounds totaling 4 minutes.
Personally, I love cycling through 10 different exercises 4 times each, totaling 20 minutes. A simple timer I use can be downloaded to any device by clicking here.
HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training (also known as circuit training or interval training)
This is very similar to Tabatas except the rest and work periods may be adjusted. Thus, for example, you could do 20 seconds of work with 20 or 30 seconds of rest, or even one minute of work with one minute of recovery, or 35 seconds of work and 5 seconds of rest. It can also be applied to many different forms of training, including boxing, running and cycling. With HIIT, you push until you can’t; rest until you can; and go until you hear the timer.
If you’d like to follow along with me, here is an example of a 15 minute HIIT session.
HIT – High Intensity Training
HIT attempts to attain total muscle failure within one set of a weighted exercise. With HIT, you can choose between 4-12 exercises and each exercise is performed one time to failure. Once failure is reached (meaning you attempt to move the muscle until you physically no longer can), you move on to the next exercise until failure is reached again, so on and so forth. Continue with your cycle until you complete all the exercises. For example, this might include, a pull down, a row, a chest press, a leg press or squat, and an overhead press.
This is a hybrid of both HIT and HIIT; however, it uses just weights (where HIT and HIIT can use either body weight and/or weights or some combo of the two). For example, for 6 exercises (3 upper body and 3 lower body) you perform each exercise for 1 minute as hard as you can, maximal effort, then rest 1 min. You will alternate upper and lower body exercises until you have completed 2 rounds (totaling 24 minutes).
These Are Not for Me!
Many assume that metcons are for the extremely fit. Therefore, people who are extremely overweight and/or have not exercised for years, or decades, and/or who have heart problems and/or medical conditions cannot benefit from an intensive exercise routine. However, science does not support this. In the study groups at McMaster University, the subjects were overweight, middle-aged, out of shape, and some were even cardiac patients who were physically unwell. All saw significant improvements and gains in health. What is more, the subjects who were Type 2 diabetics improved blood sugar regulation, as well.
How To Be Successful
The key to getting fitter with metabolic conditioning is to always push yourself to work harder (working as hard as you can so that it is difficult to talk, which will be different for everyone). Also, it is vital that you find exercises that you enjoy so that metcons becomes a pleasure and a part of your life rather than a chore. For example if you enjoy biking, you can use the bike to do intervals (1 min as hard as you can, 1 min recovery OR 20 seconds as hard as you can, 10 seconds recovery). Metcons can be done with just about any type of activity. Personally, I have used it with running, biking, swimming, and a whole realm of unique body exercises (like pushups jacks, stance jacks, cross jacks, mummy kicks, pulsing squat, etc… ). You can also get creative and create an exercise that works for you. The main thing to remember is to push yourself to your limit during the “work” part.
The Awesome Benefits of Metcons
- TIME EFFICIENCY! Not only does each session range from about 5-20 minutes, but you only have to do them a minimum of 2x/week
- BURNS MORE FAT! Expedites release of fat stores and increases the released fatty acids into the mitochondria to be used as fuel.
- BURNS MORE CALORIES! Increased metabolic rate, increases caloric expenditure post workout
- INCREASES ENERGY LEVELS! Makes you feel great by decreasing excess inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, and optimizing cortisol secretion.
I made this table as a general guideline to help you further visualize the differences between the metcon modalities.
|TYPES OF METABOLIC CONDITIONING|
|NAME||Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata||High-intensity interval training||High-intensity training||High-intensity interval resistance training(a hybrid of both HIT and HIIT)|
|EXERCISES||4-10 full-body exercises||4-10 full-body exercises||4-12 body and/or strength exercises||6 strength exercises
(3 lower, 3 upper)
|INTERVAL RATIO work:rest||2:1||varies||one set till failure||1:1|
|LENGTH OF INTERVALS||20 seconds of work/10 seconds of recovery||varies||usually 60-90 sec||one minute work/ one minute recovery|
|NUMBER OF CYCLES||eight total(4 minutes)|| varies
|One||Two total(24 minutes)|