Once upon a time, we did three days a week of weight training and an hour of cardio each of the other days. It was seven hours a week of hard work, but it got the job done. Then somehow, the time we had for fitness got sucked into projects at work, Project Runway episodes, and Facebook status updates. Unfortunately, the time we allowed for eating stayed the same, leading to bigger and bigger pants sizes.

Despite our lack of time and insatiable appetite for sweets, we all still want to look good. Instead of telling you that you’re out of luck, I’d like to suggest that metabolic resistance training just might be what you’re looking for. See, metabolic training is of a high enough intensity to burn lots of calories, but is easy enough that you don’t need a lot of rest between bouts of exercise. Picture it sitting somewhere between cardio and strength training.

Metabolic training is super-effective at burning calories because the bouts of exercise are very intense and the rests between sets are very short. This makes the muscles work extra hard during the session, and then asks the body’s metabolism to stay elevated for up to 30 hours after the training session. This effect doesn’t happen in typical weight training– there’s simply too much rest between sets. Also, in typical weight training, most people spend too much time on “isolation” exercises– moves that use only one or two muscle groups. Isolation exercise– curls, tricep kickbacks, pec dec, and the like– is useful only for building larger muscles, not for fat loss.

On the other end of the spectrum, let’s look at “cardio.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with going out and walking a few miles for exercise. But it’s not an efficient way to lose fat. Walking, you’re lucky to burn 400 calories in an hour. With metabolic training, you can burn that many calories in 20 minutes. And don’t forget, you’ll continue to slowly burn even more calories for hours afterward your metabolic session ends.

Expect your workout to be short, not easy. With metabolic workouts, we can effectively train for fat loss in fewer than two hours per week.

A Sample Workout

The most basic form of a metabolic workout is a timed, body-weight circuit. This one is nice to try at home, especially if you haven’t been getting a lot of exercise lately. That way, people won’t stare at you as you kneel on the floor gasping between exercises.

Set a timer, or put yourself in front of a clock with a second hand. You’re going to do each exercise steadily for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. After you’ve completed the whole circuit, rest 2 full minutes, then start again. If you felt the circuit was too easy, try to speed it up a bit, adding 2 to 3 reps per exercise your next time through. Complete 3 rounds, a total of about 20 minutes.

  1. Squats. Just body weight on these, but make sure you’re getting full range of motion.  Your backside should get within 12 to 15 inches of the ground each rep.
  2. Push-ups. Again, go for full range. If you can’t touch your chest to the ground each rep, put your hands on a bench or stair until your strength improves.
  3. Lunges. Alternate legs, lunging forward and kneeling down until your back knee nearly touches the ground. Keep the torso upright.
  4. Elbow planks. On toes and elbows, flat back.
  5. Jump Squats. Same as a regular squat, but jump at the top of the movement.

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