How to design your own killer metcon workout

But wait, how do you make intense exercise even more intense? The answer: with metabolic conditioning (also known as MetCon), a broad category of exercise that includes HIIT workouts.

While HIIT has you working at above 80 percent effort for short bursts of time with specific rest intervals, MetCons are often performed at maximum sustained effort for longer periods, which can last for 20-plus minutes.

During HIIT, you’re typically working in rigid, fixed intervals (i.e. 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off), but with MetCons, you can work for a set amount of time, reps or sets, with rest periods that are just long enough to catch your breath or transition between exercises.

The result is an effective fat-burning and muscle-building workoutthat gets youbreathless and burning in no time flat.

“I like [MetCons] because they feel like a physical and mental test. And since they’re usually done for time, max reps, or max rounds, you’re working against the clock, which adds another fun element,” Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S., told

Donvanik is a trainer in Los Angeles who has worked with celebrity clients like Rumer Willis, Katie Holmes, and Jeremy Jordan and specializes in designing creative, effective MetCon workouts.

MetCons can be performed with bodyweight-only exercises, but many introduce resistance with moves like medicine ball throws and dumbbell thrusters to ensure you push your cardiovascular endurance and strength training in one quick, intense workout.

Build Your Own MetCon

Intrigued? You can check out this MetCon workout for action heroes to start - but it’s easy enough to create your own routine. When you take control, you get to pick the workout structure and exercises according to your fitness level, time, and the equipment you have handy.

Donavanik shared some advice for anyone who wants to take the plunge to build their own MetCon:

Step One - Decide how long your workout will be. MetCons are meant to be intense, so Donavanik suggests going no longer than 20 minutes, max.

Step Two - Pick twoto four exercises to cycle through. For a well-rounded routine, include one total-body exercise, one upper-body, one lower-body, and one cardio or core exercise. “Think big muscle groups, explosive movements, compound movements and strength,” Donavanik said.

Pick moves like deadlifts, wall balls, burpees, thrusters, push-ups, pull-ups, squats, kettlebell swings and box jumps - and save isolation moves like the biceps curls for your other workouts.

Step Three - Choose an AMRAP structure. Here, AMRAP can stand for, “As Many Reps As Possible,” or “As Many Rounds As Possible.” For example, you could do as many rounds of 10 burpees, 20 alternating weighted lunges and 30 v-ups as possible in 15 minutes. “It’s a relatively fun and easy way to track your current level and to see how you progress over time,” Donavanik advised.

Or, you could follow a more structured format: Perform as many burpees as possible in 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds, then do as many alternating weighted lunges as possible in 30 seconds, and so on for all three exercises until you’ve completed three or four rounds.

Step Four - Set your workout timer and go!

As you move through the workout, be sure to listen to your body. Push yourself, but stay smart - dial the intensity up or down according to how you feel. “Remember, at the end of the day, you’re only competing against yourself,” Donavanik said.

Not sure where to start? Try these sample routines from Donavanik. They scale up in difficulty, so don't just jump straight to Level 3 if you're just starting out with MetCons. As always, remember to work hard, but keep your workout within your abilities.

Level 1

5 rounds for time

10 Burpees20 Alternating Lunges30 V-Ups

Level 2

5 Rounds for time

10 Dumbbell Thrusters10 Pull-Ups10 Calorie Row

Level 3

15-minute AMRAP

10 Pull-Ups15 Dips20 Toes-to-Bar


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