I received this email from a client after he finished week one of his program from me.
“Just completed this for the first time this evening Kim. Until a little more than an hour ago, I would have told anyone you were a nice person. Woof.”
Another client followed a similar workout, and the next day said, quite simply, “whimper.”
Metabolic circuits vary in that some have you working every minute on the minute (EMOM); for example, ten kettle bell swings on the minute for ten minutes.
There are also ladders and reverse ladders, for instance you might do 10 kettle bell swings paired with one push up, and the next set you'll do nine kettle bell swings and two pushups, until you get to your last set, which will be ten push ups and one kettle bell swing. You might also do a Tabata, where you work for 20 seconds and rest for ten, working for a total of four minutes doing a series of four different exercises.
Whew. I just said a lot. And I'm lumping some different terms in together, but all of these approaches have a common denominator - they are more effective than 30 minutes of steady state cardio when it comes to fat loss.*
My main take home point is this: metabolic circuits have the benefit of raising your excess post oxygen consumption (EPOC). Basically, you'll continue to burn calories after the workout is over.
The circuits my clients were referring to were five full body exercises, with 8-12 reps performed sequentially and with little to no break in between. Upon completion of the first set, rest for 20 seconds and repeat again for a total of five times. Something like this:
A1. Push up 10-12
A2. Walking Prisoner Lunges - 12 steps per side
A3. Jumping Jacks - 35
A4. Single leg Romanian Deadlifts
A5. BW squats - as many as possible in 30 seconds
A7. Inverted row - as many as possible in 25 seconds
A8. Mountain climbers 18 per side
I know. It sounds brutal and it is. (At some point I'll link to videos of these exercises, but for now, you'll just have to google the trickier ones). I used this particular routine when I did a fat loss program with John Romaniello, and the first time I did it, I followed the mountain climbers with a face plant into the gym floor. And was too busy gasping for air to care about the pile of nasty gym lint in my face.
I know, I know.
Why would you want to make out with a dirty gym floor?
You don’t. But if you do, hey, I’m not judging.
I don’t add metabolic circuits into programs because I’m a masochist, or because I was training a Baltimore Raven’s fan. (I wasn’t…) And it’s not because I’m just cruel. (Though former athletes may disagree. Look for the story about Sergeant Sprint later). I include these circuits in workouts because they are effective, especially for fat loss. And because they help keep boredom at bay. You're too busy to be bored.
And these type of circuits also help to answer the question that I've been getting a lot. What do I do when I get to the gym? (Epic post coming on this next week; well, at least lengthy..)
Some of us choose the steady state cardio because it's simple. If you're not familiar or comfortable in the gym, it’s attractive to wonder over to the treadmill in the furthest corner of the facility and catch up on the latest season of “House of Cards” (I just started season three, don't spoil it). You don't have to think about anything once you get on the recumbent bike except what you want to watch on t.v. If that's what you want, that's fine. But if you're doing it because you don't know what else to do, then give the above metabolic circuit a try.
*Disclaimer – If this is your workout routine and that’s you’re bag of apples then hey, that’s cool. But if you’re bored or plateauing on fat loss, you might consider shaking things up with some metabolic training.