Metabolic Training and Conditioning – VFA Learning

Metabolic Training and Conditioning

Metabolic Training and Conditioning- VFA Learning 2015

Metabolic Training and Conditioning- VFA Learning 2015

Metabolic Training and Conditioning- What is it?

Metabolic Conditioning is a form of training that aims to improve performance in a particular energy system or pathway by improving the amount of fuel source available for and the efficiency of that energy system resulting in improved energy delivery.

To provide a quick recap of energy system physiology, the body creates energy from three separate systems that are used interchangeably (all three working together).   The first two are anaerobic (no oxygen is required to provide energy) with the third being aerobic (oxygen is required to provide energy).   All three have a specific fuel source that is used to provide the chemical energy for mechanical work.  The energy system that we predominately use is influenced by the training variables intensity and duration.  That is how hard you work and how long you are working for.  The summary of the three energy systems and their fuel source and characteristics are detailed in the table below.   Please note that various names do exist for each energy system, and remember they are consistently working together with one predominately contributing the majority of energy for work to be completed.

Energy SystemDurationClassification

Energy Supplied By:

1) ATP-CP energy system1-4 secAnaerobicATP (in muscles)
4-10 secAnaerobicATP + CP
2) Lactic Acid energy system10-45 secAnaerobicATP + CP + Muscle glycogen
45-120 secAnaerobic, LacticMuscle glycogen
3) Aerobic energy system120-240 secAerobic + AnaerobicMuscle glycogen + lactic acid
240+ secAerobicMuscle glycogen + fatty acids (e.g. can maintain for 90mins)

*ATP = Adenosine Tri-Phosphate, CP = Creatine Phosphate

Metabolic Training and Conditioning- How Do You Do It?

Training that focuses on developing ‘fitness’ through aerobic and anaerobic stress.  Performing interval training is very important where the intervals are of a very high intensity.  Hence, high-intensity interval training has become a standard form of training within the Health and Fitness Industry.  A combination of cardiovascular and resistance training can be used to illicit this response.  Greater benefits will be achieved if compound (two or more joints utilised) movements are performed that stimulate a larger amount of muscle mass. This is opposed to isolated (single joint utilised) movements.  Exercises including squatting and pressing, burpees, lunging and sled pushing and pulling, and trunk rotations cover the fundamental movement patterns that we use throughout everyday life (push, pull, press, tow or row and rotation).  This will create a greater transference of improvement into sporting activities and more importantly to the general client, activities of everyday living.  Cardiovascular responses such as heart rate are subsequently higher from such movements also.

The work to rest periods when prescribing metabolic conditioning will influence the energy system developed.  As the table above shows, duration influences what system is predominately used, provided the intensity also comes into line with the appropriate system.  In order to have a consistent high-intensity training session or block an appropriate rest period is required. But at the same time this rest period can not be too long otherwise it defeats the purpose of metabolic conditioning, that being the development of lactic acid and the improved ability to tolerate and remove this and other waste products from within the body.  Generally speaking, work periods of 20-60 up to even 120 seconds are utilised with rest periods that are double, equal to or half of that duration.  Again the intensity and duration of the work bout will influence this rest period as well as the level of fitness of the participant.  Several minutes of conditioning can also be utilised with a combination of exercises prescribed with a set number of repetition that need to be completed as fast as possible and as many times as possible.  This is often known as an AMRAP or As Many Reps or Rounds As Possible.

Metabolic Training and Condition- What are the performance benefits?

Benefits of this form of training can include the maintenance or development of lean muscle mass (which will improve strength power and body composition) while still reducing fat mass (body composition benefits again) and improving capacity of both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, hence improved ‘fitness’ or aerobic capacity and anaerobic threshold.  This method of training is especially for team based sport requirements where repeat efforts of high-intensity work-outs are required over many minutes of play.

Fat loss can be evident due to the high-intensity nature of metabolic conditioning as metabolism is raised for a period of time post session.  Scientifically this is known as EPOC or Excess Post Oxygen Consumption, whereby the body has to pay back the debt so to speak of oxygen it has used in a short period of time.

Another benefit of Metabolic conditioning is the reduction of catabolic (break down) hormones in comparison to other methods of cardiovascular training such as long slow distance (LSD) or continuous training.  The ability to limit these hormones like cortisol and promote anabolic (build-up) hormone responses contributes to the ability to maintain or improve lean muscle mass through such high-intensity training methods.

In summary, metabolic conditioning is a great way to train clients to achieve superior results in areas of body composition and fitness of all three energy systems.  A sound base of fitness is required before participating in this method of training due to the high intensity, however, manipulation of the duration of work and rest periods and the intensity that is worked at can easily be done to ensure a wide range of clients can participate and indeed benefit from it.


For more information on short-sprint training click here and for information on improving conditioning  click here. VFA Learning offers multiple Sport and Fitness related career opportunities click here to see how to get qualified.