Metabolic Resistance Training has received a lot of attention over the last few years, especially for fat loss. However, the reality is that many strength coaches have been using this technique with their clients and athletes for a very long time.
Before we go any further, and so we are all on the same page, my view or definition of metabolic resistance training is any strength training session that employs a series of 4-8 exercises (which are predominantly multi-joint in nature), while utilizing little (i.e., under 30 seconds) to no rest between sets. In other words, these metabolic resistance training sessions incorporate things like the Olympic lifts, squats, chin-ups, push-ups, kettlebell Swings, medicine ball throws, etc. in order to call upon as many muscle groups as possible in a single training session. In addition to the shorter rest periods, one may see “timed sets” as another variable, where the client performs as many reps as possible in a given time frame.
The overall training effect of metabolic resistance training is a greater metabolic disturbance in the body’s physiology, which in turn can elevate your caloric expenditure for a greater period of time following your workout. Compared to a traditional strength training session, this style of training can be very effective for body composition changes as well as an increase in one’s work capacity.
All of this sounds pretty great, especially if a client’s goal is fat loss, right? Well, yes and no. You see, the problem is that some people just aren’t ready for metabolic resistance training, especially when they first come to see you (or at least not to this degree). Many people, especially sedentary individuals, have underlying muscle imbalances that can lead to faulty movement patterns.
And, I’ve also found that some people are too weak to even get a proper metabolic training effect. So, in both of these cases, wouldn’t these people be better served by doing some structural balance work and maybe just some overall strength training? And, if we wanted to get some conditioning in with client, perhaps it might be better to use a Airdyne, VersaClimber, or Prowler after the strength training program wraps up for the day. This way, we can still get them a bit of a sweat, but the learning curve is pretty low. Just a thought.
So, you may be asking yourself, what should you do instead? Well, you can actually still set up a strength and conditioning program that will improve someone’s body composition without using metabolic resistance training. In fact, I often use more of a German Body Comp style of training for client’s in the early stages of training, especially for beginners or sedentary individuals. In other words, I may pair up a lower body exercise (like a split squat) with an upper body exercise (like a flat, neutral grip DB bench press) and allow the client 60 seconds of rest between each set of the two exercises. Or, I may use agonist-antagonist sequence, like a TRX high row followed by a push-up while employing the same protocol for the rest period. This type of training program will allow me to get quite a bit of work done while also giving me the flexibility to target a client’s weaknesses, develop better overall strength and stability while also giving me the opportunity to teach them how to move more effectively.
On the other hand, if I just fast tracked them into a more metabolic style of training like I see many trainers doing with their clients, I’m not allowing that client the opportunity to develop the kind of solid fundamental movement patterns that I want them to have. And, I may be just building strength on top of a dysfunctional foundation, which could lead to a setback further down the road. So, next time, you sit down to design a new client’s fat loss program, ask yourself the following question:
Is this client ready for Metabolic Resistance Training or do I need to first progress them to that point?
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