Metabolic Workout: A Step-by-Step Guide

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A female fitness enthusiast is doing pushups

Definition | Creating a plan | Sample workout routine | Benefits | Tips to avoid injury

A metabolic workout can be a boon for people who wish to speed up their calorie burn. In simple terms, this is an exercise regimen that combines short bursts of high-intensity and moderate-intensity exercises with brief rest periods. 

Metabolic training exercises are now increasingly becoming a popular trend among everyone from fitness enthusiasts to professional athletes and military personnel.

What is a metabolic workout?

Metabolic workouts, alternatively called metabolic resistance training, or metcon (metabolic conditioning), refer to a type of exercise program that aims to work your muscles hard in a series of quick and intense exercises with short rest periods between sets.

A simple definition of metabolic workouts [1]American Council on Exercise: When Is Metabolic Conditioning the Right Choice? is that they’re high-intensity, interval training exercises designed to boost energy storage and delivery during physical activity. What distinguishes metabolic workouts from other forms of energy-consuming workouts is how rapidly energy is generated, used, and expended.

It is a great way to burn fat and build muscle simultaneously. To understand how this is achieved, let us take a closer look at the following:


Metabolism is an essential process in the human body that converts food and drink into energy. A key to this process is a chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) [2]National Library of Medicine: Physiology, Adenosine Triphosphate. The body activates energy pathways to turn macronutrients present in the body into ATP.

The link between metabolism, ATP, and workouts? [3]National Library of Medicine: Interaction among Skeletal Muscle Metabolic Energy Systems during Intense Exercise The amount of ATP your body generates is almost directly linked to the amount and intensity of your physical activity. 


Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), also known as the after-burn effect, is the amount of oxygen consumed by the body to restore itself to a pre-exercise state(homeostasis). EPOC is generally triggered by high-intensity exercise and has been used to measure physical activity intensity. 

Every time you perform high-intensity exercises, your muscles activate your anaerobic system to generate more fuel. A recent study has observed that EPOC levels rose after high-intensity training sessions.

Metabolic conditioning

Metabolic workouts or metabolic conditioning involves a combination of high-intensity and resistance exercises that increase the body’s need for oxygen and promote muscle hypertrophy (increasing muscle mass). This stimulates both a higher metabolism and an increased EPOC rate.  

The metabolic workout is designed to help you burn more calories than you normally would during a regular workout. It usually lasts around 15-30 minutes and can help you burn fat and build muscle simultaneously.

Creating a Metabolic Workout Plan

Before we provide you with a detailed metabolic workout plan, it is important to understand 3 important factors that decide how you should design your metabolic workout: 

1. Assessing Your Fitness Level

Before you embark on a metabolic workout plan, it is important to assess your fitness level and understand your goals. This helps you determine the intensity and duration of the metabolic workout plan. Additionally, plan your workout in a way that the strengths and weaknesses of both your upper body and lower body are addressed.

2. Choosing the Right Exercises

When it comes to metabolic workouts, the right exercises are those that target multiple body parts and involve large muscle groups. Exercises like push-ups, squats, pull-ups, burpees, jump squats, lunges and mountain climbers are great metabolic exercises.

You will need to combine these with exercises that provide resistance as well. This will help you maximize metabolic stress and ensure that you are burning more calories. Incorporate exercises like kettlebell swings and dumbbell press into your metabolic workout plan.

3. Progressing Over Time

It is important to note that metabolic workouts are intense and you should progress gradually over time. Start with three metabolic sessions per week for about 15-20 minutes and then gradually increase the duration and intensity of the workout as your body gets used to it. 

Metabolic workouts can be extremely beneficial if done correctly. They can help you develop strength, build muscle and burn fat simultaneously. But remember to listen to your body and understand its limitations.

Sample Metabolic Workout Routine

Here are three sample metabolic training routines for beginner, intermediate and advanced-level fitness enthusiasts:

Warm Up3-5 minutes3-5 minutes3-5 minutes
Push Ups30 Sec45 Sec90 Sec
Rest15 Sec15 Sec15 Sec
Jump Squat30 Sec45 Sec90 Sec
Rest15 Sec15 Sec15 Sec
Kettlebell Swings30 Sec45 Sec90 Sec
Rest15 Sec15 Sec15 Sec
Woodchoppers30 Sec45 Sec90 Sec
Rest15 Sec15 Sec15 Sec

Note: Perform 3 sets of every routine with 2-minute rest between each set.   

End with 3-5 minutes of cooldown exercises.

A step-by-step guide to performing metabolic exercises

Here’s a step-by-step guide for performing each exercise in the given metabolic workout routine above:

Warm Up

A general warm-up routine for metabolic workouts can include exercises such as jogging or brisk walking to increase heart rate and warm up the muscles.

Push Ups

To do push-ups, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Lower your body towards the ground by bending your elbows, keeping your body in a straight line.
  3. Push your body back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. To modify, you can perform push-ups on your knees or against a wall.

Jump Squat

To do jump squat, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes slightly turned out.
  2. Lower your body into a squat position by bending your knees and pushing your hips back while keeping your chest lifted and your core engaged.
  3. Explosively jump up as high as you can, swinging your arms for momentum.
  4. Land softly back in a squat position and immediately repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Kettlebell Swings

To do kettlebell swings, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell with both hands in front of your body.
  2. Lower your body into a squat by bending your knees and pushing your hips back, keeping your chest lifted and your core engaged.
  3. Swing the kettlebell back between your legs while keeping your arms straight and maintaining a flat back.
  4. Drive your hips forward and swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height, using the momentum of your hips and legs.
  5. Lower the kettlebell back between your legs and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


To do woodchoppers, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell or a medicine ball with both hands.
  2. Rotate your torso to one side, bringing the weight diagonally across your body towards the opposite knee, keeping your arms straight.
  3. Engage your core and twist back to the starting position using your oblique muscles.
  4. Repeat on the other side, alternating sides for the desired number of repetitions.

Cool Down

Finish the workout with 3-5 minutes of cooldown exercises such as static stretching, deep breathing, or light cardiovascular exercises like walking or cycling to gradually bring your heart rate and breathing back to normal.

(Note: Remember to start with weights or modifications that are appropriate for your fitness level and gradually increase the intensity as you progress. It’s always a good idea to consult with a fitness professional before starting any new exercise routine.)

Benefits of metabolic workout

Here is a detailed look at some of the benefits you can gain by incorporating metabolic workouts into your fitness regime:

1. Muscle building

By combining the stressors of both aerobic and resistance exercises, metabolic workouts promote the release of human growth hormone [4]PubMed: Growth hormone release during acute and chronic aerobic and resistance exercise: recent findings. This leads to more muscle gain in a much shorter time than other traditional forms of exercise.

2. Faster calorie burn during workout

We have mentioned above that fat burning and metabolism are connected to the release of the compound adenosine triphosphate(ATP).

Performing high-intensity exercises has been observed to result in as much as a thousand-fold increase in the rate of ATP. Metabolic exercise routine taps into this potential and induces faster calorie burn by combining high-intensity and moderate-intensity exercises.

3. Post-workout calorie burn

Metabolic activity, even after your workout is done, continues to burn calories. This metabolic effect is known as the ‘afterburn’ effect. This is a result of the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC causes the metabolic activity to stay elevated even after you have completed your workout.

4. Higher metabolism

Metabolic conditioning results in increased muscle mass, which in turn leads to a higher metabolic rate. As a result, you will burn more calories even when you’re at rest.

5. Aerobic benefits

This workout increases the amount of oxygen utilized by your body during exercise. The exercises incorporated into this workout routine generally increase heart rate and breathing rate. This helps improve your aerobic capacity.

6. Cardiovascular benefits

The metabolic workout routine helps in improving cardiovascular health by increasing heart rate and overall blood circulation. This helps improve the functioning of your cardiovascular system and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Tips to avoid injury

Since metabolic workouts incorporate bursts of high-intensity exercises, it is important to perform them safely. Keep the following tips in mind while performing metabolic workouts: 

  1. Warm-up properly before starting your workout.
  2. Use proper form and technique for each exercise.
  3. Progress gradually to avoid pushing yourself too hard.
  4. Listen to your body and stop if you feel pain or discomfort.
  5. Stay hydrated before, during, and after your workout.
  6. Wear appropriate footwear for support and cushioning.
  7. Allow for rest and recovery between workouts.
  8. Modify exercises as needed for your abilities and limitations.
  9. Exercise in a safe and clear space, paying attention to your surroundings.


Metabolic workouts are an effective way to speed up fat burning and build muscles at the same time. It’s important to choose the metabolic workout plan according to your fitness level and challenge yourself by adding more compound exercises. This will ensure maximum benefits from your workout routine.

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