Metabolic Health 13 MIN READ

Metabolic Resistance Training vs Metabolic Conditioning: Ultimate Guide

Metabolic workouts are popular nowadays, but before someone starts performing one, it is important to revisit what the term metabolism actually means, understand what metabolic resistance training is, how it differs from metabolic conditioning, how they both work, their advantages and disadvantages and how you can start incorporating them to improve your overall fitness.

Written by Team Ultrahuman

Nov 10, 2021
metabolic resistancetraining cover

Metabolic workouts are popular nowadays, but before someone starts performing one, it is important to revisit what the term metabolism actually means, understand what metabolic resistance training is, how it differs from metabolic conditioning, how they both work, their advantages and disadvantages and how you can start incorporating them to improve your overall fitness.

How do I get the energy to workout/ resistance training?

Metabolism occurs in every cell in the body. It is a series of chemical processes in each cell transforming the calories we eat into fuel to keep us alive. These processes sustain life, everyday functioning and include breaking down food and drink into energy and building or repairing our bodies.

Metabolic processes are usually classified as,


The process of breaking down big, complex molecules (such as proteins, lipids) to smaller molecules (amino acids, fatty acids) to yield energy.


The process of production of new cell components, usually through processes that require energy and reducing power obtained from nutrient catabolism. The anabolic state represents the growth of muscles, bones, and other body structures

Metabolic health is having ideal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist circumference, without using medications. It directly correlates to a person’s risk for insulin resistance, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Exercise Metabolism

There are three major pathways for exercise metabolism and each serves a unique purpose.

How to maintain energy during a workout?

The primary ways that the human body gets energy while exercising are as follows:

Phosphagen : The immediate system

This energy system, also known as the Creatine Phosphate Pathway, is the fastest and most significant method of getting energy. This system supplies energy to the body instantly with a chemical known as ATP (Adenosine TriPhosphate), which is fundamentally energy that is converted from our dietary intake.

The creatine phosphate is used to renew ATP by supplying the phosphate group that combines with ADP(Adenosine DiPhosphate) which provides energy instantaneously. There is a limited amount of CP(120 gms) and ATP(80-100 gms) stored in the muscles.

Due to this, there is a restricted and finite amount of energy accessible for muscular contractions; thus, the phosphagen system is primarily employed while executing power exercises that last less than 10 seconds, like sprinting and Olympic lifts. It takes around 3 to 5 minutes for this system to fully recover due to its intense nature.

Glycolytic: The intermediate system

The second energy system also referred to as the Glycolytic Pathway, is called to action when the phosphagen system gets drained. It does not require oxygen and uses the energy contained in glucose for the formation of ATP.

This pathway occurs within the cytoplasm and breaks glucose down into a simpler component called pyruvate. As an intermediate pathway between the phosphagen and aerobic system,

The Glycolytic pathway can produce ATP quite rapidly for use during activities requiring large bursts of energy over somewhat longer periods of time, between 1 to 4 minutes—usually intense, short-duration activities such as weightlifting and longer sprints (400–800 meters). The system takes between 1 to 3 minutes to fully recover.

Aerobic : The long-duration system

This energy system requires oxygen to produce ATP because carbohydrates and fats are only burned in the presence of oxygen.

This pathway occurs in the mitochondria of the cell and is used for activities requiring sustained energy production and can thus be used for hours of easy-to-moderate-intensity activities.

In most cases, there is more than enough fuel—in this case, fat—for the aerobic system and hence recovery takes only a few seconds.

What is metabolic resistance training?

Metabolic resistance training (MRT) is a workout plan that maximizes the number of calories the individual’s body burns while they are executing the workout, as well as thereafter.

In order for the individual to achieve this longer calorie burn, they have to put in their maximal physical effort while performing multiple compound movements (meaning exercises that involve more than one joint and multiple muscle groups of the body), involving some form of resistance(body weight, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, battle ropes, etc) for a short, intense period of time.

These workouts are shorter in duration compared to an intermediate cardio or strength-training workout, but the intensity is a lot higher. The Intermediate (Glycolytic) energy system is used here.

Health Benefits of Resistance Training Workout

Higher calorie burn as the individual is working out

These workouts are incredibly efficient at working the individual’s full body and one can burn up to 600 calories in a single session. This happens because most of the exercises are compound exercises which engage multiple muscle groups performed with high effort and small rest periods.

For instance a workout that has squat programmed into it would include working the quads, glutes, and calves. In comparison, isolated exercise focuses on one muscle group at a time. The workouts are quicker and more intense, with the RPE being around 8-10 (RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion is a scale that is used to measure the intensity of an exercise).

Higher calorie burn after the workout is over

Post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or afterburn, is one of the best byproducts of MRT, as the body keeps burning calories for hours after the workout has been completed. Post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is the process of consuming oxygen at an increased rate for the body to recover from or rest after intense exercises.

This resting state is called homeostasis. While studies around EPOC are often contradictory or inconclusive, some can make the case for EPOC or ‘afterburn’ as the body reaches homeostasis. This takes place from increased oxygen consumption for around 3 to 72 hours after an intense session of exercise.

It is further identified that EPOC replenishes between 6 and 15% of the total oxygen spent by the body on exercise. The EPOC process also carries the benefit of the body consuming more energy or fuel, hence the term ‘afterburn’, which means to continue to burn fuel after one has finished exercising.

Building lean muscle mass happens quicker

Since MRT involves performing compound movements with resistance (for instance, weights, in the form of dumbbells, barbells, etc) at high intensity, more muscles are engaged, thereby triggering the release of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Testosterone which are crucial for increasing muscle mass in the body.

Cardiovascular health improves

While MRT involves strength training, the rest periods are lower than a typical strength-training session, which means that the heart will be working harder as the body works to maintain the momentum. Another benefit is that there is no need for separate cardio days — ubiquitous in the average training calendar.

Disadvantages of Metabolic Resistance Training

Shorter rest periods

Traditional resistance-training programmes contain a decent amount of rest in between sets and between one exercise to the next, typically between 45 seconds to 3 minutes, which allows the body to rest and recover before moving on to the next set or exercise. The presence of shorter rest periods in MRT may be an issue with someone who may be lacking that level of cardiac output or get past the buildup of lactic acid or who is not actively recovering that fast.

Dependence on the goal

If someone wishes to purely gain size and muscle mass(from a bodybuilding perspective), the training is going to look different. MRT may not be ideal as it creates more calorie burn, while someone who wants to put on size would want to be in a caloric surplus mode.

However, if that same person wishes to put on more muscle while losing fat, a few sessions a week of MRT can be advantageous.


Metabolic resistance training entails a lot of compound movements that involve multiple joints and muscle groups, which can lead to overtraining of said muscle groups.

For example, if someone performs 3 or more MRT sessions in a week while performing a workout that has different push ups, chest press, shoulder press, that would be overtraining the shoulder muscles. Without proper recovery, overtraining of the most commonly used muscles can cause cramps temporarily, and joint dislocation or muscle tears in the long run.

Not suited for beginners, persons with injuries or rehabilitation

Physical medicine and rehabilitation is a medical specialty that helps people regain body functions they lost due to medical conditions or injury. This term is often used to describe the whole medical team, not just the doctors.

Physical therapy (PT) is the treatment of a condition, disease, disability or injury with physical processes such as exercise, cold and heat treatments, massage, light therapy, ultrasound and stretching.

PT can be practiced in an array of healthcare settings such as a hospital, an outpatient clinic, private practice, nursing home, and even at home. It can aid with improving conditions such as arthritis, joint replacement, sports injury (rotator cuff tears, shoulder displacement, tennis elbow), knee pain, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and many more.

Physical Rehabilitation is used to help in reinstituting and improving physical disabilities or injuries in a controlled environment for people who have spinal injuries, neurological damage, injuries to muscles and ligaments, bones as well as joints.

It aids them in regaining strength and/or movements or body functions that they may have to relearn, such as normal intestinal function and urinary bladder problems, chewing and swallowing, critical thinking or reasoning, movement or mobility, speech, and language. Someone who has undergone a surgical procedure may need to go through rehabilitation to regain some body functions.

In certain cases, for instance, when one is very new to exercising, has current injuries or is going through rehabilitation or physical therapy, MRT may not be the best option.

In fact, it can make an ongoing injury worse or lead to rhabdomyolysis (a condition in which the fibres from a damaged muscle enters the bloodstream, which can lead to renal failure).

What is Metabolic Conditioning Workout?

Metabolic Condiction(MetCon) is a type of exercise programme that makes use of the immediate (Phosphagen) and intermediate (Glycolytic) energy pathways, and in which the work and rest intervals are designed in a manner that the body’s energy systems get trained to become more efficient.

MetCon exercises are usually performed under 30 minutes as well as at moderate-to-high-intensity interval sessions. Some of the most popular names in MetCon exercise programmes are CrossFit and P90x.

Types of metabolic conditioning workouts

In a MetCon workout, exercises are chosen out of the following categories (based on the goal):

Upper-body exercises

Lower-body exercises

Speed/agility exercises

Core exercises

Full-body exercises

Cardiovascular exercises

AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible): In an AMRAP programme, one has to perform as many rounds of a predetermined set of exercises as possible.

EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute): For every minute on the clock, one has to perform a certain number of repetitions of each exercise.

Benefits of metabolic conditioning workout

There are many benefits of MetCon workouts:

Less time spent at the gym

Since MetCon workouts are designed to be completed in a shorter period of time (20 minutes on average) than a typical cardio or strength-training session, the time one has to invest to get a good workout in significantly reduces; this means it will be possible to save at least a few hours every week while not compromising on one’s goals or wellness.

EPOC or afterburn

MetCons are designed to be performed at moderate-to-higher-intensity levels which means that the heart rate stays elevated during the duration of the workout; thus, the calorie burn even after the end of the session stays high.

Growth of lean muscle mass

According to a study by Wewege et al. published in 2017, in which they compared the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) for improvements in body composition in overweight and obese adults, both MICT and HIIT can help in reducing body fat. Additionally, a link was found between regular strength training and building lean muscle mass.

Revamped metabolism

Since muscle burns more calories than fat, MetCon assists in building lean muscle, which in turn improves the metabolism.

Disadvantages of metabolic conditioning workouts

There are a few cons to consider for MetCon workouts:

Higher chance of getting injured

According to a 2015 study by Gray et al., it was found that most fitness injuries occur due to overexertion. If someone is not adequately trained to perform an exercise, or they may not have complete knowledge of all the form cues and techniques, of the precautions to take, that they may be overusing certain assistant muscles, overworking some of the joints, and they may be performing an exercise incorrectly which over a period of time, can lead to injuries.

May require professional guidance

MetCon workouts are quite challenging and performing them without adequate knowledge about form, cues, techniques, breathing patterns, precautions to take can be detrimental. It is always advisable to work with a trained fitness professional who can guide and correct as needed.

Not the right fit for certain health conditions

Although exercise is recommended for the majority of the population, it is always advisable to talk to a doctor and get their permission before starting a new exercise programme. If someone has undergone a major surgery, or has had a life-altering incident, or is currently going through physical rehabilitation, or is undergoing treatment with a doctor, and/or is taking certain prescription medication, or has had a recent health scare, this may not be the ideal workout to be performing at that point.

Difference between metabolic resistance training and metabolic conditioning workouts

Although MetCon workouts and MRT look similar at a first glance, they are not the same.

MetCon workouts are of moderate-to-high-level intensity, designed to be completed in approximately 20 minutes and are meant to use the Phosphagen energy pathway for activities lasting 30 seconds.

The Glycolytic energy system kicks in after that. MetCon workouts are designed to be executed between 89 and 94 percent of the trainee’s maximum heart rate.

The goal of MetCon workouts is to strengthen both the aerobic and anaerobic systems of the body.

A sample MetCon workout can look like this:

  1. 30 seconds of treadmill sprints followed by 1 minute of walking
  2. Repeat 10 times

On the other hand, MRT workouts are designed to be executed at between 80 and 89 percent of the trainee’s maximum heart rate, following which is an active recovery period. The Glycolytic energy system is used for these workouts. The exercises are always vigorous and the rest intervals are specific, usually 30–60 seconds. There is a strength component to this kind of workout, usually comprising compound movements that can either be performed with one’s own body weight or with another form of resistance, such as dumbbells, barbells or kettlebells.

A sample MRT workout can look like this:

  1. 60 seconds of the following workout, 30 seconds of rest in between each set for 5 sets in total:
  2. Burpees
  3. Push-ups/Modified push-ups
  4. Squats
  5. Pull-ups/Band-assisted pull-ups
  6. Low plank/High plank


MetCon training is designed to challenge the body by incorporating moderate-to-high-intensity-interval training workouts that help engage and improve the cardiac output as well as different energy systems of the body.

MRT helps to build lean muscle mass performing resistance training exercises while working at a high level of effort close to their maximum heart rate.

Metcon and MRT have their own elements of metabolic boost — MRT increases lean muscle mass, and MetCon helps boost the EPOC effect, which keeps the body burning calories at a higher rate even after someone finishes their workouts. Both include moderate and high-intensity workouts that improve the energy systems of the body.

Both MetCon and MRT can be an excellent addition to an individual’s exercise regimen depending on their goal — once they get their doctor’s go-ahead — to improve their overall fitness level, burn more calories than a traditional workout and that too at a lesser amount of time.

Disclaimer:The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new health care regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.



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