Metabolic Circuits: training that boosts your metabolism? Wait, I thought ALL resistance training boosts your metabolism. Yes, that would be a logical point - well made.

Increasing lean muscle mass in general will get your body’s caloric furnace burning hotter, but just as there are training strategies for max strength, endurance strength, and joint mobility, there are preferred methods for increasing your metabolic advantage as well. Why not invest your time and energy in getting results quicker?

So, you thought circuit training was a waste of time? This metabolic method is not to be confused with the shiny iron merry-go-round of seated machines in the center of your local commercial gym. To engage in a true metabolic circuit, you must perform a series of exercises intensely, incorporating your entire body as a unit for best results. This doesn’t happen by moving from the curl machine to the Roman chair in between text messages and dirty jokes. Also notice I said “perform exercises intensely.” This gives you leeway to preserve your training identity while seeing how your conditioning stacks up under pressure. What does that mean to you? No worries about having to choke down moves that your current coordination or mobility won’t allow. You can string together a series of old favorites with subtle twists to start getting the effect.

Example: turn a seated row into a three-point dumbbell row. Start with your supportive hand on a stability ball instead of a firm surface. This demands much more core work, but you won’t feel like you’re entirely out of your element. Jumping around like a loon isn’t mandatory, so don’t embarrass your training partners.

What’s the effect? Oxygen Debt. The only debt that pays you back. You’ll know it when you feel it. It’s that wind-sucking feeling after you finish a hard and heavy 11 rep squat set on your 5 day (powerlifting “Jim” Rats know what I mean). It’s like you just ran a marathon in Chuck Taylors with a bar on your back. That’s oxygen debt, and if you want to burn fat and increase your metabolism, you need to feel that more often. This level of intensity is achieved by using the heaviest weight possible to finish a core-encompassing movement with proper form for the desired number of reps. Why? Body economics. You activate more muscle fibers per movement, per circuit. In turn, you skyrocket your heart rate and increase oxygen consumption.  This training butterfly effect keeps your body burning hotter and longer between sets AND later in the day. Voila, free caloric expenditure for your efforts.

Am I trying to tell you that rushing through high reps and low weight will get you shredded? No. I haven’t said anything of the sort. Just because you want to produce a more intense experience doesn’t give you the green light to skimp on the iron and chalk. The number one rule is intensity and the second is engaging the max number of muscle fibers for the movement/set. What better way is there to do this than to select a heavy weight and move it explosively?  Side note: it’s also okay to perform bodyweight movements if the level of difficulty is appropriate to your ability.

Any other added bonuses to met circuits?  Sure.

·        Conditioning

·        Core strength

·        Adding variety/creativity

·        More opportunity to train muscle groups from various angles to avoid injury, imbalance and/or mobility issues.

·        Reducing or eliminating cardio sessions

·        Incorporating hobby/sport related moves you normally wouldn’t perform or know how to include in your strength training sessions

·        Getting extra volume to weak zones or post-injury areas

·        Explore more training tools (kettlebells, bands, sandbags, tires, etc) without too much commitment or veering from your main training goal.

·        Glistening like an action figure while scoffing in the face of the No Grunting Policy. Okay, I made that one up, but it’s an appealing visual.

So, is this for you? If so, how do you get started? This style of training is for average to advanced ability levels. It’s accommodating and easy to modify toward either level with exercise selection and resistance. Getting started is easy. No need to throw your training log over your shoulder and start from scratch. No drastic change necessary. If your number one priority right now is strength, don’t forget it.  Keep your strength training first in the workout and be sure not to go metabolically insane when a max effort is in your near future. My suggestion is to pick a lighter or shorter training day and pick 2-3 circuits consisting of 4-5 moves that compliment it as well as engage the rest of your body - and get to work for 2-3 rounds each set.

Feel free to use my log as a cheat sheet for ideas.  I have a four day strength program grooving all with example circuits. Make sure you write the movements down first so you don’t stand around between sets, dimming your intensity. Have fun, recruit a friend and reap the rewards of getting into debt.

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250x (11) *15# PR

Second Movement
Front Squats *not shown in video

Circuit 1
Bulgarian Jump Lunges BWx8 each
1 Arm DB Row w/ hand on stability ball x15each
Long Step Fwd Lunge 15x15each
knee Pull In on Ball BWx20

Circuit 2
Crossover Step Up BWx15each
Renegade Row 20x20total
TRX Hamstring Curl BWx20
Lower Body Russian Twist BWx15each

Circuit 3
Jump Squats BWx15
Side Plank w/ leg lifts BWx15each
DB Swing Chops 15x15
Inchworm Kicks BWx10

*Each round 3x.

Juliet, a graduate in Phys Ed & Health Teacher’s Education is now a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Co Owner of The Training Studio in Morganville, NJ. Also certified Russian Kettlebell Instructor and Olympic Lifting Coach, Juliet works with a wide range of clients both men and women, from young teens, to figure competitors. She has competed in figure successfully on a National and World level in the INBF as well as competed in raw powerlifting in both AAU and WNPF in 123 & 132 weight class’ with best lifts: 205 Squat, 175 Bench and 300 Deadlift.

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