Physical Culture

Metabolic Adaption

Metabolic adaption.  What is it, how do you get it?  Conditioning means something different to everyone who competes in a sport, because the type of conditioning your after depends on  your activity of choice/necessity.

The adaptions necessary to be properly conditioned to run a marathon are completely different than the adaptions necessary to perform a one rep max at an Olympic lifting meet.  Both your strength training and  your anaerobic/aerobic energy systems should be tuned to the activity in question.  At the same time, there doesn’t need to necessarily be a clear delineation between strength practice and energy system practice, since in the real world one has to use both at the same time.  In other words, in most real world situations in which conditioning is a factor, you will need to be able to be strong in an exhausted state.

In Chapter 2 of the excellent book, Body By Science, author Doug McGuff, M.D.,  goes into some new research on metabolic adaption.  The studies outlined in this chapter state that the current paradigm of hours of conditioning work per week may be all wrong.  Dr. McGuff proposes that its the intensity of the stimulus, not the length of it that yields results, and that spending hours on end working towards your conditioning goals yields no greater advantage than working just once a week at an extremely intense pace.  The argument is that the heart and lungs know no difference between running/biking, or a high intensity set on the leg press machine.  The cardiovascular system recognizes only energy needs.  If  you are interested in more on this subject (and you should be) I recommend you pick up a copy of this book.

A brief but intense circuit that I enjoy adding to workouts for metabolic conditioning comes from Ross Enamait’s material.  The workout is called the Magic 50 and its brief, brutal, and effective.

The Magic 50

5 rounds with one minute rest between of

  • 5 Kettlebell/Dumbbell Swings per Arm
  • 5 Kettlebell/Dumbbell Snatches per Arm
  • 10 Burpees

Give that a shot.  Choose  your weight for the KB/DB appropriately for your goals.  For more of a purely anaerobic effect, go with a lighter weight for strength-endurance go with a heavier weight.  To increase intensity one can either increase the weight used, or decrease the rest taken in between rounds.  Another option would be to do this circuit “density” fashion, wherein you set a certain time limit, such as 20 minutes, and attempt to complete as many rounds of this circuit as possible within that time.

I believe short, intense conditioning sessions have immense carryover to other endeavors.  Even long distance running events can benefit from it.

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One thought on “Metabolic Adaption

  1. I agree whole-heartedly here Jerry. MetCons and AMRAP routines are a fantastic way to build muscular endurance, and strengthen aerobic and anaerobic pathways.

    Also, for muscular growth I love to add in some Heavy Hybrids ala Gant Grimes. Here’s an example:

    5 rounds:
    5 – 250# deadlifts
    5 – 95# thrusters
    scale weight as needed.

    Be Well,
    Maximillian Barry, CPT

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