Metabolic Conditioning and why you should do it


Metabolic Conditioning and why you should do it

What is metabolic conditioning anyway? It isn’t necessarily a specific workout as much as it is a type of workout.

Metabolic conditioning is something you do that improves your bodies ability to utilize stored energy in the body.

These types of workouts Improve how you look, how you feel, your athleticism, and your overall fitness level. If implemented correctly with a great strength training program (like we do) these types of workouts will deliver you to a great level of fitness.

I use some sort of Metcon in almost all of the programs I make and we use it daily at CrossFit Seven Cities.


Before we can jump into more on these workouts and how they work we need to define what we are talking about.

Metabolic (relating to Metabolism) covers the whole range of biochemical processes that occur in our bodies.

Metabolism consists of Anabolism (or the build-up of substances in our body) and Catabolism (the breakdown of substances in our bodies).

In a nutshell, Metabolism is the various processes and pathways our bodies use to create, store, and expend energy to be alive and do all the other processes our bodies need to do daily.


Conditioning is the process of becoming stronger and healthier by following an exercise program. We use exercise to improve our physical fitness, our energy levels, and overall our confidence.

It could also be considered a form of learning between when we encounter a stimulus which results in a response from our bodies making us more fit!

Conditioning and how “In shape” you are is a major key to your health and your fitness.

Time for some #science

All forms of exercise and training requires us to to use energy which means our bodies are called on to produce that energy.

What separates a Metcon style workout from others is how the energy is made and then how quickly it is expended to do the work required.

Our body creates energy from food on the cellular level to fuel physical activity. Our cells then create energy and use it from molecules called ATP. The amount of energy and how it is created depends on the activity we perform, how long it is, and the intensity we use.

Our bodies accommodate these calls for energy by changing how it produces this energy through three different main ways of energy production.

Phosphagen Pathway

This pathway of energy creation is also called the ATP-CP or ATP Creatine Phosphate pathway. This pathway is highly involved in things that require a High amount of energy and power.

When we call on this pathway for energy it will only be able to provide energy for somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds before it is exhausted.

We use this pathway for things like Olympic Lifting, Short Duration Assault Bike Sprints, Short Duration Rowing Sprints, Jumping, and explosive Slams.

When we use this pathway we will require a pretty significant recovery period which is around 3-5 minutes.

Glycolitic Pathway

This pathway power activities that last in duration for several minutes. To be exact this system can power activities from 30 seconds all the way up to 4 minutes.

We use this system in things like mid-distance running intervals like 800m repeats, some weightlifting activities, and most portions of our workout for the first few minutes.

This system also is connected to produces a by product that we all have grown to love called “Lactic Acid” which later turns to lactate.

Your bodies goes through a process call acidosis while in use of this process. This is why you “feel the burn” here. Acidosis is a nut shell is when you feel the acidification of your muscles.

When you start to feel the burn in a portion of your workout there is a good chance your body is using this pathway to produce energy for you activity. It takes 1-3 minutes to recover during this pathway before we are ready to go for another effort.

Oxidative Pathway

This pathway is where most of the work we do and most activity we do ends up and covers all low power/output activities lasting more than several minutes. A marathon runner spends about 98% of the race in this pathway to utilize energy.

While in this pathway our body begins to call on our fat reserves to produce energy once the Glycogen in our muscles has been depleted.

Since we have a good supply of fat stores throughout our body we can recover from this pathway in a matter of seconds.

True Aerobic Work or Oxidative work is very sustainable in output. Meaning, we can keep and hold certain paces for as long as we need to maintain them.

Some of the Best Functional Fitness Athletes in the world take the activities that make most people use the other energy pathways and they turn them into and aerobic event that can be sustained.

Putting it all together

The first two of our energy pathways are also considered “Anaerobic”, meaning they are without the presence of oxygen. This is why if you push really hard you can feel lightheaded sometimes.

The last energy pathway as stated above is an aerobic event meaning you have oxygen making it as sustainable as possible.

In terms of efficiency Metcons are a great way to get in shape. You can get an amazing effect in a shorter amount of time.

In terms of fat loss they are even better! They put us in a state called “EPOC” or Excess Post Oxygen Consumption. This is what some people will call the “Afterburn”.

This simply means that your body is burning body fat and energy excessively post workout for up to several hours after your Metcon Training. Amazing I know!

The true value of these types of workouts can be hammered home for hours but I will end it hear. For the best training you can receive in the shortest session possible pair a well thought out Strength Program up with a great Metcon and you will be well on your way to a great level of fitness.

Written by:

Cody Smith