Metabolic Conditioning Workouts: 6 Week Progression

Metabolic Conditioning Workouts: 6 Week Progression

A 6 Week Metabolic Conditioning Workout Progression

Metabolic conditioning, or metcon for short, is often associated with intense workouts that leave participants completely metabolically exhausted and physically fatigued.

However, to safely perform metabolic conditioning it must be progressed over time. Going straight into max-effort environments without a proper build in conditioning and skillsets will ultimately lead to burnout for any individual. Metabolic conditioning needs to be strategically implemented to allow a client to learn and adapt through the experiences of their training. 

Teaching clients to manage their metcon pacing to create sustainable and repeatable efforts can be challenging for any coach. Despite the challenge, developing this self-awareness in clients is incredibly vital in developing maximum physical expression.

The biggest limitations for clients are: 

  1. Knowing how to extend their energy reserves to fight off fatigue in different environments 
  2. Muscle endurance fatigue – the point at which muscle contraction abilities begin to diminish
  3. Lack of exposure and volume accumulation in advanced skill sets 

To overcome these challenges, we teach coaches multiple ways they can program to develop their client’s pacing abilities. For this article, we will focus on a 6-week metabolic conditioning progression. 

PROGRESSING METCONS WITH TIME-DEPENDENT TRAINING

What is time-dependent training?

Time-dependent training is when a task(s) is performed for a certain period.

First, start with easier contractions and longer time domains at a slower tempo. Over time, work towards tougher contractions and shorter time domains at a faster cycle rate. 

Example Progression: 

Week 1: 20 minute clock – easy contractions + slower tempo

Week 2: 12 minute clock x 2 sets – easy contractions + slower tempo

Week 3: 9 minute x 2 sets – moderate contractions + moderate tempo

Week 4: 6 minute clock x 3 sets – moderate contractions + moderate tempo

Week 5: 3 minute clock x 4 sets – tough contractions + faster tempo

Week 6: 6 minute clock x 3 sets – tough contractions + faster tempo 

You must know what exercises a client can perform efficiently for metcon progressions to be effective. A client should be in constant motion for the entire time frame prescribed while staying under their muscle endurance threshold. 

Establishing contractions and exercise selection will be dictated based upon your initial assessment. An assessment will give you a starting point for working with a client, showing you what areas to prioritize and what is within their current capabilities. 

The example metcons below are generic and the exercises selected are in place for you to understand the progression in contractions and complexity. 

Week 1: Easy Contractions + Slower Tempo 

20 Minute Clock @ 70% sustained effort

20 Alternating Step-Ups 

10 Calorie Row 

10 Hand Release Push-Ups   

Coach’s Notes:

  • Ensure you move at a pace without taking any extended breaks
  • Focus on breathing and rhythm for each movement
  • Report times of each round 
  • What was your RPE for this session? 

Take the first metcon example above as a starting point. If a client can complete this at a sustained pace, it means they are making that specific workout aerobic.

To do this, measure their intraset repeatability, that is, the time it takes to complete each round within the workout. The results will reveal if the work completed challenged the aerobic system while staying under the muscle endurance threshold. 

You must also communicate with the client to gain insight into their experience during the training session. An effective tool is using a scale of measurement of rated perceived exertion (RPE). 

How did you feel on the final round of work on a scale from 1 to 10?

 (1 being very easy and 10 being max effort )

This method of measuring intensity is important to consider as the client’s program is progressed. Staying in a moderate range of 5-8 is optimal for aerobic work. 

Week 2: Easy Contractions + Slower Tempo

12 Minute Clock @ 75% sustained effort 

5 Push-Ups

30 Meter Farmer Carry @33% of body weight in each hand 

40 Single Unders 

Rest 6 Minutes 

x 2 Sets 

  • Move at an unbroken pace 
  • Focus on breathing and rhythm for each movement
  • Maintain the same rounds for both sets  
  • What was your RPE for this session? 
  • Intent needs to be slightly faster than the last week

Week 3: Moderate Contractions + Moderate Tempo

9 Minute Clock @ 80% sustained effort 

6 Burpees  

9 Russian Kettlebell Swings – loads you can complete in unbroken sets

12  Wall Balls – loads you can complete in unbroken sets

Rest 4 Minutes

x 2 Sets 

Coach’s Notes:

  • Ensure you move at a pace without taking any extended breaks
  • Focus on breathing and rhythm for each movement
  • Keep each round within 5 seconds of your first round
  • What was your RPE for this session? 
  • Intent needs to be slightly faster than the last week

Weeks 2 and 3 incorporate exercises that require more exertion due to the loaded movements and increase in overall pace. 

Week 4: Tough Contractions + Faster Tempo

6 Minute Clock @ 85% sustained effort 

6 Clapping Push-Ups 

8 Cleans @50% of 1RM 

10 Cal Assault Bike 

Rest 3 Minutes

x 3 Sets

Coach’s Notes:

  • Ensure you move at a pace without taking any extended breaks
  • Focus on breathing and rhythm for each movement
  • Partition cleans in manageable sets 
  • What was your RPE for this session? 
  • Intent needs to be slightly faster than the last week

Week 5: Tough Contractions + Faster Tempo

6 Minute Clock @ 85% sustained effort 

9 Deadlifts @ 50% of 1RM

6 Bar Facing Burpees   

9 Box Jump Step Downs 

Rest 3 Minutes

x 3 Sets

Coach’s Notes:

  • Ensure you move at a pace without taking any extended breaks
  • Focus on breathing and rhythm for each movement
  • Partition deadlifts in manageable sets 
  • What was your RPE for this session?
  • Intent needs to be slightly faster than the last week

Week 6: Tough Contractions + Faster Tempo

3 Minute Clock @ 85% sustained effort 

6 Thrusters @ 50% of 1RM

6 Toes to Bar 

6 Kipping Handstand Push-Ups

Rest 90 Seconds

x 3 Sets

Coach’s Notes:

  • Ensure you move at a pace without taking any extended breaks
  • Focus on breathing and rhythm for each movement
  • Partition movements in manageable sets 
  • What was your RPE for this session?
  • Intent needs to be slightly faster than the last week

Weeks 4 through 6 require higher skill, intent, and overall force production to complete. The rate of speed at which a client will need to move has also increased, creating a higher intensity environment. This will require a client to execute repeatable rounds as fatigue begins to rise. 

Using a progression scheme for your metcon prescriptions will keep your client in an environment to work, adapt, and progress. 

Patience is key. Some clients may need to stay with easy contractions and slower tempo for multiple weeks at a time, while others will adapt quickly and can take on new challenges at a faster rate.

In time a client will build enough contraction volume and experiences to have the ability to navigate through any conditions based on their capabilities. 

Learning to progress metabolic conditioning is a valuable tool for every coach, and the best workouts, exercises, and training tools to teach this need to be individualized. Start your education in personalized metabolic conditioning workouts in our free Coach’s Toolkit course.

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