The Complete Metabolic Workout + 7 Exercises For Your Next Session

Metabolic workouts are designed to provide a time-efficient workout compared to regular strength training workouts.

Most metabolic workouts combine cardio and strength exercises for a fat-blasting, muscle-building, efficient training session.

In this guide, we will discuss what a metabolic workout is, the benefits of metabolic workouts, and step-by-step instructions for the best metabolic workout exercises to give you the boost you need to reach your fitness and body composition goals.

We will cover the following: 

  • What Is a Metabolic Workout?
  • What are the Benefits of Metabolic Workouts?
  • How to Do a Metabolic Workout
  • 7 Of The Best Metabolic Exercises 

Let’s dive in! 

A clapping push-up.

What Is a Metabolic Workout?

A metabolic workout is a type of exercise intended to raise your heart rate, increase the number of calories that you burn, and boost your metabolic rate after the workout is over for bigger gains in cardiovascular fitness, strength, and fat loss.

Metabolic workouts are also sometimes referred to as metabolic conditioning workouts or met con workouts.

Much like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, metabolic conditioning workouts combine high-intensity and moderate-intensity exercise cycled together to help keep your heart rate elevated while allowing you to get enough relative recovery to maximize your strength and energy output for the high-intensity exercises.

However, not all HIIT workouts are necessarily metabolic workouts.

Most metabolic workouts, or metabolic renewal workouts as they are sometimes referred to, are performed in a circuit training fashion so that you perform one exercise and then move on to the next station or movement.

Group metabolic conditioning workouts will have the entire group exercising at the same time but at different stations for a given length of time, such as 30 to 45 seconds.

High knees.

After that interval, everyone will rotate to the next station with little to no break in between movements.

You can also perform met-con workouts on your own and just cycle through a round of different metabolic exercises or perform supersets of metabolic exercises alternating back-and-forth between two movements several times before moving on to another set.

In order to create the intensity necessary to boost your heart rate and metabolism, the best metabolic workouts usually focus primarily on compound exercises, which are multi-joint movements that involve numerous muscle groups working together simultaneously. 

This increases calorie burn because a greater percentage of your total muscle mass is engaged at one time. 

Most advanced metabolic renewal workouts also include plyometrics, which are explosive exercises such as jump training movements, as well as some dynamic bursts of high-intensity cardio to spike your heart rate and energy expenditure.

When metabolic workouts include resistance training exercises, such as step-ups, thrusters, and kettlebell swings, you will get not only the cardiorespiratory and fat-burning benefits of standard HIIT workouts but also the muscle-building benefits of traditional strength training exercises.

Plus, studies suggest that high-intensity resistance training (HIRT)—which is generally the style used in the best metabolic training workouts—causes a more significant increase in resting energy expenditure and a decrease in respiratory exchange ratio after the workout than traditional strength training. 

A kettlebell swing.

What are the Benefits Of Metabolic Workouts?

Before you introduce any type of exercise training into your fitness routine, it is helpful to understand the purpose of the type of workout or exercise and the potential benefits. 

This will not only help provide motivation to take on physically and mentally demanding exercise but will also help ensure that you are doing the right type of fitness training for your own personal fitness goals, ability level, and training needs.

Here are some of the top metabolic workout benefits:

  • Building muscle
  • Increasing full-body functional strength
  • Increasing power and speed
  • Providing a time-efficient form of exercise training
  • Increasing aerobic fitness and anaerobic fitness
  • Increasing post-workout caloric expenditure (elevating your metabolic rate after your workout, termed post-exercise excess oxygen consumption (EPOC)), which can increase your total fat burn and help you lose more weight
A kettlebell swing.

How to Do a Metabolic Workout

Due to the high-intensity nature of effective metabolic workouts, most metabolic workouts are only about 20 minutes long. A beginner metabolic workout may even be as short as 10 to 15 minutes.

Therefore, even though you will certainly be challenged from a cardiovascular, muscular, and mental standpoint during an effective metabolic workout, metabolic training is a great option for days when you have limited time to exercise. 

The time efficiency aspect of metabolic workouts allows you to derive equivalent benefits of a more time-intensive strength training workout or moderate-intensity steady-state cardio or circuit training session.

7 Of The Best Metabolic Exercises 

There is no single list of the best metabolic exercises or best metabolic workout exercises.

Rather, a variety of compound exercises can be integrated into a great full-body metabolic workout.

Choosing the best exercises to perform in your own metabolic workouts is mainly a matter of considering your current fitness level, training goals, available exercise equipment, and overall fitness routine.

Here are some of the best metabolic workout exercises to try for your next met-con workout:

#1: Burpees

Burpees are a go-to challenging metabolic training exercise that combines a squat, full push-up, and vertical jump seamlessly sequences together.

To perform this total-body metabolic workout exercise:

  1. Begin standing and then move right into a bodyweight squat.
  2. When your thighs are parallel to the ground, drop your palms to the floor in front of your feet about shoulder-width apart while keeping your back straight and chest up.
  3. Press your weight to your hands and jump your feet back behind you so that you’re in a push-up position with your weight on your hands and toes.
  4. Perform one complete push-up by bending your elbows and lowering your chest until it hovers just above the floor.
  5. Press back up to complete the push-up.
  6. Load your weight into your hands so that you can jump your feet forward towards your hands so that your body is in a tuck position. Keep your back as straight as possible.
  7. Power through your hands and feet to explode up into a vertical jump, swinging your arms so that they are straight overhead with your fingers pointing towards the ceiling.
  8. As soon as you land from the vertical jump, bend your knees and allow your arms to swing back behind your body as you lower into a full squat to begin the cycle again.

#2: Medicine Ball Broad Jumps

This is an advanced strength exercise that helps build power and explosive strength. 

For this reason, it’s one of the best exercises for metabolic workouts because it actually trains both your central nervous system and your muscle fibers to generate a tremendous amount of force rapidly. This can be helpful for distance runners and sprinters alike.

Plus, by adding the medicine ball toss, you will transform a lower-body strength training exercise into a dynamic, full-body exercise that works your core, upper back, shoulders, and chest alongside all of the major muscles in your lower body.

This not only helps burn more calories, increase your heart rate, and ups the metabolic demands of this plyometric exercise, but it also helps develop better coordination and full body power, which is useful for athletes looking to improve running speed, jumping performance, and explosive power.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand holding an 8-12 pound (3-5 kg) medicine ball straight up overhead with your feet shoulder-width apart, chest up, and core engaged.
  2. Keeping both hands holding the medicine ball, drive it down toward the ground as you flex your hips and knees to prepare for the jump. 
  3. Explode off the balls of your feet to jump out as far as possible, thrusting your arms in front of your body and throwing the medicine ball ahead. Keep your trajectory at 45 degrees relative to the floor or less.
  4. Land softly with your knees bending to absorb the impact load of your body.

#3: Kettlebell Swings

Studies have found that the kettlebell swing exercise is a highly effective movement for improving functional strength and decreasing the risk of low back pain. It’s also a great exercise for metabolic workouts because it’s a dynamic, full-body exercise.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, gripping the horn of the bell, and your arms extended down in front of your body. 
  2. Press through your heels and snap your hips forward to drive the kettlebell upward until it’s roughly chest height with your arms fully extended in front of you.
  3. Control the kettlebell as it descends down and backward through the space between your legs.
  4. At the end of the arc of the swing, pop your hips forward again to drive the kettlebell back up.

#4: Slalom Jumps

Slalom jumps are a challenging bilateral lateral training jump that builds hip and glute strength in a dynamic and explosive way

In this way, adding this exercise to metabolic workouts helps build strength while increasing heart rate, a powerful one-two punch for boosting metabolic rate and cardiorespiratory fitness.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand upright with good posture and your feet side by side.
  2. Imagine a low hurdle going forward and back between your legs.
  3. Swing your arms to the left as you lean your weight to the left side, lowering your left hip.
  4. Thrust your arms and your body to the right, springing off of the feet to jump as far as you can to the right, cleaning the invisible hurdle.
  5. Bend your knees into a half squat to cushion the landing while your arms swing back behind your body to help decelerate your body.
  6. Continue jumping to the left and right as fast as you can.
  7. Try not to rest or stop between jumps.

#5: Step Ups

The weighted step-up is a great lower-body exercise for metabolic workouts because it strengthens the glutes, quads, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors, raising your heart rate while still being a low-impact exercise.

This is beneficial for those who want to reduce the risk of high-impact exercises while still reaping the calorie burn and metabolism-boosting nature of metabolic workouts over regular strength training workouts.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand facing a plyometric box holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides.
  2. Keeping your core tight, step up on the box with your right foot and then follow with the left.
  3. Step back down backward with your right foot first and then your left foot.
  4. Continue leading with the right foot for all of your reps, and then switch sides.

#6: Box Jumps

One of the best plyometric exercises for metabolic workouts is the box jump.

Here, you will progress a basic low-impact step-up into a bilateral powerful jump. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand about two feet behind a plyo box facing the box.
  2. Lower into a bodyweight squat while bringing your arms behind you instead of in front of your body as a counterweight.
  3. In one smooth movement, thrust your arms forward as you jump up from the squat and up on top of the box with both feet.
  4. Cushion your landing by bending your knees and allowing your arms to slowly trail back behind your body.
  5. Hop down or step down off of the box and repeat.

#7: Clapping Push-Ups

The plyometric push-up is a great metabolic exercise for the upper body and core.

Here are the steps:

  1. After lowering down for a normal push-up, press forcefully through your palms so that you propel your entire upper body off the floor while keeping your feet planted.
  2. Quickly clap your hands together under your chest and then quickly get them spaced back into position on the floor to catch your body on your landing.
  3. Move directly into the next rep by bending your elbows and lowering your chest toward the ground.

If you find that you love metabolic conditioning training, you might enjoy CrossFit workouts. Check out our guide to the best CrossFit exercises for beginners here.

A kettlebell squat.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.