Get in Shape Fast with Metabolic Workouts

STACK Expert Justin Croce offers six methods of structuring metabolic training workouts.

Metabolic training has caught on like gangbusters, and for good reason. It saves time, builds muscle and burns fat. Interval training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and burst training all fall under the umbrella of metabolic training. Ever heard of CrossFit? Yep, it's a type of metabolic training, as well.

With metabolic workouts, instead of dragging yourself around the gym for hours and resting several minutes between sets, you stay active for a relatively short but very intense workout session. Metabolic workouts are an excellent option if you're pressed for time or want to break up the monotony of training. Here are six methods you can use to perform them:

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With pyramids, you perform a sequence of exercises in which the reps first increase and then decrease. Building a pyramid workout isn't difficult if you use simple exercises like Push-Ups and Bodyweight Squats.

My favorite pyramid workout requires only a single kettlebell (twenty-five pounds for men and 15  for women to start). I call this "The Man Maker." Notice how the rep scheme increases by 2.

  • Kettlebell Goblet Squats: 2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,14,12,10,8,6,4,2
  • Kettlebell Swings: 2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,14,12,10,8,6,4,2
  • Push-Ups: 2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,14,12,10,8,6,4,2

Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM)

With EMOMs, you choose a duration for your workout; it could be 20 minutes or 60. Next, grab a stopwatch. Every time the clock hits a new minute, perform a series of exercises.

Rule of thumb when making EMOM workouts: Don't stack up so many exercises that they take a full minute to complete, or you will not have enough time for rest.

My personal EMOM workout is the "The Nashville." Every minute on the minute for 20 minutes, perform the following (men 135 pounds, women 95 pounds):

  • 3 Barbell Deadlifts
  • 4 Burpees with Chest-to-Floor Push-Ups
  • 5 Box Jumps

Training for Time

With training for time, you choose a desired number of exercises, a desired number of reps for each exercise, and a designated amount of time to complete each round of exercises.

Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.

  • 5 Pull-Ups
  • 10 Box Jumps
  • 10 Lunges each leg
  • 10 Push-Ups

Training for Reps

Similar to training for time, but the goal is to complete a specific number of reps of each exercise. To challenge yourself, complete all of the reps for one exercise prior to moving onto the next.

Try to finish this workout within 20 minutes:

  • 50 Bodyweight Squats
  • 50 Sit-Ups
  • 50 Pull-Ups (assisted or bodyweight)
  • 50 Push-Ups
  • 50 Walking Lunges each leg

Partner "One-Upping"

There's no better motivator than a partner ... except a partner and a competitor. One-upping give you both. Think of the hoops game "HORSE." You take turns shooting, and if you make the shot, your opponent has to make the same shot from the same spot on the court.

Use the same scheme with exercises—any variety of exercises and reps. Try the following:

  • Partner A performs 5 Barbell Deadlifts (135 pounds)
  • Partner B performs 6 Barbell Deadlifts (135 pounds)
  • Etc., adding a rep each round until one partner wins

Another method of one-upping: designate a fixed number of reps but keep increasing the weight until one partner cannot match the other.


Last, we have the 100s. I feared that putting it at the beginning of the article would scare people from reading further. It is the king of metabolic training, requiring mental fortitude and physical commitment.

The goal is simple: reach 100 reps.

Choose one exercise, keep the weight consistent and continue until you hit 100 reps. It could be three minutes or it could be 30. But I guarantee by the end of the workout, you will be absolutely wiped out.

For another variation, try this Farmer's Walk Metabolic Complex.

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