So, What's a CrossFit Metcon Workout All About?
Sport & Activity
Find out what's included in a metcon workout before your next WOD.
Whether you're new to CrossFit or brushing up on the basics, you may be curious to learn what a metcon workout is all about. Below, learn what a CrossFit metcon workout is and how it can benefit your training.
What's a CrossFit Metcon Workout?
Metcon refers to metabolic conditioning. The body has different metabolic pathways that produce energy. Metcon training is anything that increases the efficiency of those pathways, commonly referred to as energy systems.
"Our bodies have three major systems for producing energy at any given time", said Connor Derrickson, NSCA-certified personal trainer and Future performance coach. "Each system has a different purpose. For example, the phosphagen system enables short, powerful bursts of effort, like sprints. Meanwhile, the glycolytic system provides energy for middle-of-the-road efforts that last between ten and sixty seconds. Last, the oxidative system supports longer endeavours like running a 10K".
A metcon workout will engage one of the three metabolic pathways. The exercises you undertake for the workout will depend on which of the energy systems you're trying to improve. Folks looking to improve their overall fitness levels should try to engage each of these systems in their training.
What's the difference between a metcon workout and HIIT?
Typically, when people talk about the metcon CrossFit workout, they're thinking of routines dealing with the glycolytic system. Those workouts combine aspects of both cardio and strength training with circuits of different exercises completed for time. Many high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and tabata workouts fall under this category, but in general the definition of metcon is much broader. For instance, barbell lifts that engage the phosphagen system would be considered a metcon workout. An endurance run that engages the oxidative system is a metcon workout, too.
What are the benefits of metcon workouts in CrossFit?
Below are some of the reasons you might want to give metcon CrossFit training a try.
- Variety: There are many different kinds of exercises that fall under the umbrella of metcon training. This means that you can have a lot of variety in your workouts. Most metcon workouts focus on compound movements such as squats, hinges and carries, among others. The order, intensity and weight, however, can always be switched up. Also, depending on the energy system you are working on, the workout could be three minutes or it could be 30. There are loads of different options. Some popular metcon CrossFit workouts include Betty (five rounds of push presses and box jumps for time) and EMOM (a set number of exercise performed every minute on the minute).
- Conditioning: According to Greg Pattman, CrossFit-certified level 3 trainer, metcon training is one of the best ways to improve your overall conditioning by combining both strength and cardio.
"Metcon training engages different energy systems and can utilise a lot of different movements", Pattman said. "We're never going to compete with elite marathoners. We're never going to compete with elite powerlifters or gymnasts. But we do use a lot of the movements that those specialties use, and CrossFit, in general, creates well-rounded athletes with great overall conditioning in both strength and endurance".
- Simplicity: A metcon workout doesn't need to be complicated. You can complete the workouts with little to no equipment. Think 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups and 100 air squats for time. You can run through the workouts in a short period or push your limits with something longer. The metcon workout can be adapted to your needs and fitness level, too.
- Fun: The variety metcon training offers, coupled with the combined elements of strength and cardio, make for gym sessions that are more fun than your typical workouts. CrossFit gyms also offer a sense of community with their classes and training, giving you more motivation to go to the gym. A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found working out in a group lowers stress by 26 percent and significantly improves overall quality of life.
- A big calorie burn: Metcon workouts can result in a big calorie burn, if that's what you're going for. The workouts increase excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, otherwise known as EPOC. EPOC refers to the elevated rate of your metabolism after you've completed an exercise session.
An increased consumption of oxygen is required to help the body restore and return to its pre-exercise state. According to a 2000 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, metcon workouts allow for "modest but prolonged elevations of post-exercise metabolic rate and possibly fat oxidation". This means you'll still burn calories—and fat—after you've completed your workout.
To sum things up:
The metcon CrossFit workout is an umbrella term for exercises that engage your metabolic pathways. That can look like a variety of different exercises from weightlifting to endurance runs, but it most often refers to circuit training that combines elements of both strength work and cardio. Metcon CrossFit workouts offer gym-goers variety in their workouts and the potential for a big calorie burn.
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Words by Graham Isador