Cut yourself some slack when you’re getting back into the swing of things after the holidays. It doesn’t matter if you gained a few pounds. Maybe you upped your caloric intake and indulged in lower-quality foods, meaning you’re likely retaining some water. A return to your typical habits will restore equilibrium. But if you want to speed things along, a metabolic conditioning workout is just the ticket to reversing those effects. It’s chock-full of compound exercises to get your heart rate up (and keep it up for most of your workout).
To be clear, compound exercises comprise large, multi-joint movements that train several muscles at the same time for every rep you do. That means you’ll burn more calories and increase your metabolic demand so you’ll continue to burn at a greater capacity well after your workouts are complete.
How to Add a Metabolic Conditioning Workout to Your Regimen
This workout is evergreen and versatile. You can use it more than once weekly, and insert it into a training program that may involve heavier lifting on its other days. This strikes the balance between bodyweight training and lighter loads, so the complement is perfect. Don’t repeat this workout more than 3 times per week, and look to make minor progressions from week to week, primarily in the form of reduced rest and secondarily in the form of increased weight where applicable.
- 4-Point Squat: Assume a shoulder-width stance, and squat down low, while reaching down for your ankles on the insides of your shoes. Use your elbows to pry your knees open wide for an adductor stretch while you’re at it. Then, reach up above your head with straight arms, one at a time. From this position, stand up from the squat. Repeat for 2 sets of 6 slow reps. Rest for 30 seconds between sets.
- Spiderman Walk: Take a large lunging stride toward the floor. It’s okay to plant the trailing knee on the floor. Place both hands on the ground, to the inside of the leading foot. Push your hips toward the floor for a groin stretch, then slowly twist your torso while raising one arm directly toward the ceiling. Plant the hand back down and repeat with the other arm, twisting the other way. That’s one rep. Perform 5 reps.
- Shoulder Dislocates: Hold a broomstick, dowel, or band at arms’ length with the widest overhand grip you can. Starting at waist level and keeping straight elbows, circle the stick up and over the head, so it finishes at waist level behind you. Again, keeping straight elbows, return the same way to your starting position. Getting back to your starting position counts as 1 rep. Perform 10 reps.
The Best Metabolic Conditioning Workout for a Total-Body Burn
Part 1: Barbell Complex
Directions: A complex comprises a series of movements all performed in succession with the same piece of equipment and no rest. One exercise “flows” into the next for an assigned number of reps. Complexes can be as many or as few exercises in a row, with two being the bare minimum. Be sure to choose a weight that’s strong enough for the weakest movement in the complex. As mentioned earlier, this is a metabolic training tool, meaning the time you spend under tension will be enough to keep your heart rate up for a long time after your set finishes.
Perform 4 rounds of the following complex, resting 2 minutes between rounds.
- A1. Barbell Romanian Deadlift x 8 reps: Holding a bar with an overhand shoulder-width, grip, perform a classic deadlift by keeping the spine straight and descending with the bar tracking close to your body. Keep a very soft bend in the knees, and go as low as your mid shin—or to where you feel tension in your hamstrings. Squeeze the glutes and return to the starting position.
- A2. Barbell Mid-Grip Bentover Row x 8 reps: With hands on the same place on the bar, remain in the bottom position of your final deadlift rep, then row the bar to your ribcage by squeezing the shoulder blades together and pulling with your elbows. Avoid shrugging the shoulders up high. Keep them depressed so your neck stays long.
- A3. Barbell Front Squat x 6 reps: After your final row rep, clean the bar up to shoulder level, and hold it across your collarbone with elbows as high as you can get them. It’s okay if the bar rests in the finger tips rather than the palms of your hands. Select a comfortable foot position and squat down by spreading your knees, keeping torso vertical as you lower your hips. Return to the start position by driving through the full foot, squeezing your glutes.
- A4. Barbell Overhead Press x 6 reps: At the top of your final front squat, close your grip around the barbell and drop elbows so they’re facing the floor. Remain tight through your core and glutes, then press the bar up above your head as you exhale. Remember to keep the bar traveling in a straight line; aim for your nose (you won’t hit it). Once the bar clears your head, get under it by making sure ears are in line with the upper arms when the weight is overhead. Lower the weight slowly and repeat.
Perform the following two exercises as a superset for 4 rounds, resting 90 seconds between rounds.
- B1. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge x 20 reps: Stand holding a pair of dumbbells like suitcases, then lunge back, aiming for the knee of the trailing leg to finish one inch off the ground. Keep the heel of the front leg on the floor as you maintain a tall spine. Try to avoid leaning too far forward. Return to the standing position and switch legs. Complete 10 reps per leg.
- B2. Single-Arm Burpee x 8 reps per arm: A classic burpee is performed by planting both hands on the floor, performing a pushup, hopping into a squat position, then performing a full vertical jump. To keep things safer yet more challenging, plant one hand down to the floor. Hop out with your legs and hold a single-arm plank for a second count. Skip the pushup, hop back in, and stand tall. Don’t jump. Repeat all 8 reps on one arm, or alternate between arms.
Perform these following exercises as a superset for 3 rounds, resting 90 seconds between rounds.
- C1. Plate Transfer Plank x 3 reps: Assume a classic plank position on elbows, with three to five individual weights (2.5- or 5-pound plates work best) stacked beside one of your elbows. Starting with the arm farthest away, reach across and stack the weights one at a time to the other side. Once they’ve all made it across, reach across with the first arm and stack them back where they started. That’s 1 rep. Perform 3 reps. Make sure you don’t rotate or twist the body when moving the plates. The point is to keep the plank looking as though both arms are down on the ground at all times
- C2. Bear Stance Shoulder Taps x 8 reps per arm: Instead of a full pushup plank, a bear stance asks for you to assume more of a table top position on all fours. Keep a flat spine, and lift the knees off the ground by 2 inches, so they’re hovering. The only points of contact with the floor should be your hands and toes. When in position, slowly reach up with one hand and touch the opposite shoulder. Repeat with the other hand. Once you’ve completed 16 total touches, you’ve finished 1 set.