Metabolic Strength Training – Introduction
What are the benefits of metabolic strength training over 50?
Exercise is good for everybody’s body, and that’s especially true as you get older.
The aging process can rob you of muscle, strength, and fitness, increasing your risk of various chronic diseases and reducing your physical capacity.
Working out can slow and even reverse this decline, boosting your health and quality of life in the process.
You may even live longer.
Getting and staying in shape as you age requires a combination of strength and cardiovascular training.
Toss in some balance, flexibility, and mobility work, and you’re all set!
However, doing different types of workouts can be time-consuming, and such a multi-pronged approach to fitness may not be practical for everyone.
The good news is that you don’t have to do cardio and strength training separately, and these exercise modalities can be combined to save time and improve your results.
This type of workout is called metabolic strength training.
This article reveals what metabolic strength training is, and its benefits, plus provides you with a sample metabolic workout to try.
What is Metabolic Strength Training?
Metabolic strength training is nothing new.
In fact, it’s been around since the mid-20th century; only back then it was called circuit training.
Circuit training was developed by R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson in 1953 at the University of Leeds in England.¹
When you do a traditional strength training workout, you do a set of your chosen exercise and then rest anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
Once you are recovered, you do another set of the same movement.
After completing the required number of sets, you move on to your next exercise and continue in this fashion through your workout.
This approach to training is a great way to build muscle mass and strength but does very little for your cardiovascular fitness.
With metabolic strength training, you do one set of your first exercises, rest for a few seconds, and then do a set of your next exercise.
You continue down through your program doing one set of each movement and then take a longer rest after completing the last one.
You’ll then do 2-4 laps or circuits of the entire program.
Benefits of Metabolic Strength Training
Metabolic resistance training combines all benefits of cardio and strength training in a single workout.
Those benefits include:
With less time spent resting, you can get a lot of training done in far less time than a conventional strength training workout.
In addition, this type of training reduces the need to do additional cardio workouts.
For example, two to four 30-40 minute sessions per week should be sufficient for most people.
Increased muscular strength, power, and endurance
Lifting weights is good for every aspect of your muscular health and performance.
Muscle mass tends to decline with age, but training can help slow that decline or even reverse it.
Strength is your ability to generate force, while power is your ability to produce that force quickly.
Endurance means being able to keep on producing force for a long time.
Metabolic strength training can help improve all these muscular fitness components.
Improved cardiovascular fitness
Cardiovascular fitness refers to your ability to take in, transport, and utilize oxygen and refers to the condition of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system.
High cardiovascular fitness levels are intrinsically linked to improvements in cardiovascular health, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Because metabolic resistance training is a constant activity with very little rest, it affects your body much like cardio but without resorting to activities such as;
- assault bike,
- rock climbing, etc.
In other words, it’s a cardio workout in disguise!
Increased bone mass and health
Like muscles, bones tend to weaken with age.
Lifting weights puts pressure on your muscles which, in turn, stresses your bones.
Your bones respond by producing new bone cells and increasing bone density and mass.
This can help lower your risk of osteoporosis, which is a medical condition characterized by porous, weakened bones that are prone to fracture.
Regular strength training workouts can also enhance joint health, maintaining joint stability and mobility, which usually worsen with age.
It may also help reduce joint pain, which is common among older people.
Your metabolism is the number of calories you burn at rest.
It’s linked to your muscle mass and other biological functions.
Your metabolism tends to decline as you age, which is one of the causes of age-related weight gain.
Metabolic strength training can help preserve or even increase your resting metabolic rate so you burn more calories at rest.
This can help ward off the weight gain often associated with getting older.
Fat loss and weight control
Metabolic strength training can help you burn fat, lose weight, and stay lean in several ways.
Firstly, metabolic strength training burns a lot of calories per minute.
That’s because it uses a lot of muscle mass, elevates your heart rate, and is a fairly non-stop activity.
The actual number of calories burned per workout will depend on how long and how hard you work out for, but 600 per hour is not unreasonable.
Then, metabolic strength training also increases your metabolism after training.
This is because of the increased post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect, also known as after-burn.
This can add another 10-20% to your caloric expenditure.
Because metabolic strength training builds muscle mass, it can help you lose weight by increasing your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn at rest.
A higher metabolic rate will help lower the risk of weight gain.
Finally, metabolic strength training increases insulin sensitivity, so the food you eat is more likely to be directed toward your muscles and liver and away from your fat cells.
Like so many bodily functions, insulin sensitivity often decreases with age.
All in all, and combined with a sensible diet, metabolic strength training can help you get and stay lean.
Being lean lowers your risk of many chronic diseases, including diabetes and some cancers.
Metabolic Strength Training Drawbacks
While metabolic strength training is mostly safe and effective, there are a couple of drawbacks to consider:
Not suitable for deconditioned beginners
The reason that metabolic strength training workouts are so effective is that they are hard and squeeze a lot of exercise into a short time.
As such, you need to be fit enough to do them.
Attempting a metabolic strength training workout when you are out of shape will be unpleasant at best and could even be dangerous.
Not the best way to build maximal fitness or strength
Doing cardio and strength training simultaneously means that you won’t optimize either of these workout methods; there will always be a compromise.
That’s not a problem if you are an exercise generalist training for basic health and fitness.
But, if you have aspirations of getting as fit or as strong as possible, your results will be compromised.
For a metabolic strength training workout to be effective, you must move quickly from one exercise to the next.
Unplanned breaks between exercises will reduce the effectiveness of your workouts.
As such, this type of training may be impractical in some commercial gyms, especially during peak operating hours.
Also, if you do this type of workout at home, you’ll need to choose exercises that take no more than a few seconds to set up, and changing weights may be problematic.
Ways around this include using bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, and using fixed-weight dumbbells or kettlebells.
You should also set up your exercises in advance, so you can transition from one to the next without delay.
Metabolic Strength Training Exercises and Programming
For a metabolic strength training workout to be effective, it needs to be designed correctly, and that starts with choosing the right exercises.
Generally speaking, your metabolic strength workout should be built around multijoint or compound exercises.
These big-bang movements burn more calories, increase your heart rate, and build more muscle than single-joint isolation exercises.
Exercises that are particularly suitable for metabolic strength training include:
- Leg presses
- Bench presses
- Bent-over rows
- Shoulder presses
In terms of reps, medium to high reps work best, e.g., 12-30.
Higher reps increase your heart rate more than low reps, and providing you take your sets close to failure, will still build muscle mass and strength.
Finally, when putting your exercises into a program, you must consider the order of the movements.
You need to avoid doing similar exercises back to back, as doing so will tire you out faster and reduce the effectiveness of your workout.
For example, push-ups, bench presses, and shoulder presses would be a poor choice.
Instead, use something like a push-legs-pull ordering.
This avoids overloading one particular muscle group and, instead, spreads the demands of the workout around your body.
Sample Metabolic Strength Training Workout
You now have all the information you need to create your own metabolic strength training workouts.
But, to save you the bother, we’ve written one for you.
Do this workout 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days, e.g., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
However, before you begin, warm with a few minutes of easy cardio followed by dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises for all your major muscles and joints.
Feel free to use different exercises than those listed below.
However, you should use similar movements to ensure you keep the program balanced and effective, e.g., leg presses instead of squats are fine, but biceps curls instead of squats are not.
Stay true to the spirit of the workout!
Metabolic Strength Training Workout – Copyright HashiMashi.com
Metabolic Strength Training for Over 50 – Wrapping Up
Aging is unavoidable, but there is a lot you can do to age more slowly.
Exercise and a healthy diet, combined with adequate sleep and minimizing stress, can have a significant impact on how quickly you age and even help you live not only longer but better.
Metabolic strength training is one form of exercise that can help you maintain fitness and strength over 50.
Is it the best workout?
For some, it will be, but for others, it isn’t.
Metabolic strength training is intense, and while it is definitely time-efficient, it probably won’t be fun or sociable.
It’s also not really suitable for unfit exercisers or raw beginners.
However, metabolic strength training could be a great workout option if you enjoy a challenge and want to spend less time in the gym.
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¹ Circuit Training Brief Overview – Len Kravitz, Ph.D., University of New Mexico