What is a metcon workout?

Metcon combines strength training and cardio for an effective full-body workout. Experts tell us more about the fitness phenomenon.

Combining strength training and cardio might conjure thoughts of jogging with a barbell balanced on your back, and who could blame you? After all, our workouts are so often separated into neat categories: cardio or strength training.

Although it might be hard to believe there’s a workout that perfectly combines the two, it appears we’re all in luck. Metabolic conditioning, commonly referred to as metcon, is a workout style that’s quickly gaining popularity. If you follow the fitness influencers on Instagram you may already have an idea about the weighted, high intensity nature of this training style.

And if you happen to have missed one of the metcon videos – of which there are nearly a million on the app – don’t worry, we’ve assembled some fitness experts to reveal all.

Kimberley Mitchell, a personal trainer at OriGym says, “The main goal of metabolic conditioning is to increase the energy usage of your body, this form of training is not designed to target specific muscles. It’s much faster paced than cardio and it involves a much higher-intensity workout.”

With gym closures leaving people confined to at-home and outdoor workouts, many are seeking new ways to make their go-to cardio routines more challenging. According to the experts, metabolic conditioning may just be the answer. 

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If you’re no stranger to adding weights to HIIT and bodyweight workouts, metcon might not sound like much, but Steph Brand, a personal trainer and GM at UN1T, says it’s unique.

She explains, “Lifting weights under fatigue during a metcon creates a different type of stimulus, which can improve strength and help build muscle if done alongside a high protein, balanced diet.”

Mitchell says, “It certainly promotes the growth of lean body mass, as it involves compound exercises performed at a much higher intensity. Multiple muscles groups are targeted at once and are forced to adapt to new training conditions, which increases muscle definition.”

She advises clients: “If you’re wanting to maximise the changes in your body, or set a new record or achieve a personal best, I’d always encourage trying out metcon.”

As your body never quite gets used to the unpredictable style of training, it can stimulate faster muscle growth. According to Aimee Victoria Long, personal trainer and founder of the Body Beautiful Method, “You can see muscle building results faster as a result of exhausting multiple parts of the body rather than just one area. Metabolic training is thought to help increase growth hormone levels in the body meaning you will be able to recover quicker and build lean muscle tissue.”


As with all workouts that raise your heart rate, you can expect to get a boost in circulation from Metcon training. Where it differs from traditional cardio workouts like running or HITT, is the inclusion of weights combined with high reps.

Brand says the benefits of training in this manner go beyond an increased heart rate. She says, “Metabolic conditioning is fantastic for increasing your GPP – general physical preparedness – as it generally uses functional movements that prepare you for everyday life. Combined with the conditioning element, it also makes performing daily tasks like walking up stairs or moving objects much easier to do without you feeling exhausted.”

The reason metcon improves your body’s range of function is because you’re not always doing a set workout, it’s like a fitness pick and mix. “It incorporates a number of different styles, including HIIT and cardio, yet offers its own benefits as a hybrid style which has no set exercises.” says, PT Kimberley Mitchell.

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The great news is that you don’t need access to a gym or a personal trainer to set up your own metcon workout. To begin with “you can do this style of training with just body weight but I would recommend having a kettlebell or set of dumbbells as well to really reap the rewards,” says Long.

The PT says formulating your metcon sequence is made simple if you pick six exercises: “You are going to perform each of these exercises one after another for thirty seconds. Once you have completed all six exercises then you get two minutes of rest. That’s one set – perform three to four sets in total.”

Once you have the hang of the basics, she says, “you can take the exercises up to 8 or 10 or increase the time you’re working on each exercise for. You can play around with your rest in between sets also.”

Stone advises beginners to, “Remember it’s only for 20 minutes and intensity levels are self-determined.”

Whatever frequency you choose to perform at during your metcon, Mitchell says be cautious and “start by adding one or two metcon workouts in a week and take plenty of rest days to avoid burnout.”

Image: Stylist

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