What is MetCon?With the advent of Crossfit, training terminology has exploded – for better and worse. You’ll often hear buzzwords thrown around like stimulus or capacity without knowing quite what their true meanings are. “MetCon” is another of those terms thrown around quite a bit, but what does it actually mean? For starters, it is an abbreviation for “Metabolic Conditioning.” To understand what that really implies, let’s break it down into its two parts. Firstly, “Metabolic” refers to the 3 distinct energy pathways in which your body can produce energy for use in physical activity. These are the ways in which your body keeps the engine running, depending upon the requirements you place on it. Each of the three pathways is roughly tied to a time and intensity domain. Roughly speaking, lifting heavy weights requires one pathway, high intensity work requires another, and long duration, low intensity work another. To complicate matters, all 3 of them overlap one another. Secondly, conditioning simply refers to improving the efficiency of these pathways in order to increase work capacity. For lack of a better explanation, it simply means “Getting in Shape.” Put these together and you have a concept of improving the different ways a body responds to physical stress. Long story short – can you be strong at high heart rate?
What does a MetCon workout look like?A MetCon workout can take on many different shapes and sizes. For the sake of clarity, let’s use PLT4M’s approach to MetCon training through the “Pillar” workout as an example. Our Pillars are programmed using lightweight and bodyweight exercises, to be done for time or for reps. We aim to use compound movements, and large ranges of motion. The barbell thruster, for example, is a great tool. Using an empty barbell (at most!) we can work strength, mobility, and endurance all at once. Couple that with pull ups of any kind, plus some basic running intervals and you have an intense, full-body workout that challenges the athletes to move well even when tired.
What is the purpose?MetCon workouts, if programmed correctly, can be advantageous in a number of ways when training athletes. The benefits go far beyond sweat and hard work, so let’s drill down into the 3 most basic, beneficial results.
- Physiology – MetCons force athletes into conditioning the 3 metabolic energy pathways through body-weight (or lightweight) strength movements as opposed to traditional “cardio.” Total strength, power, size, or even mobility is great, but if an athlete cannot repeat dynamic, athletic movements with the same discipline over and over at high heart rate and general fatigue, their value on the field of competition diminishes as the game wears on.
- Mentality – One of the least touched upon parts of an athlete’s ability to compete is their mental toughness. Most young athletes are afraid of “the wall.” MetCon workouts are designed to push athletes to the point where they would normally quit. But, having teammates that rely on them, having the motivation of winning a workout, or the fear of losing one – this forces them to bear down and fight through the pain. Thus, we train that winning, “4th Quarter” mentality. Frankly, MetCons can help teach kids what it takes to win.
- Culture – Though hard to prove and quantify, one of the biggest goals of any off-season training program is to grow your team’s chemistry and culture. What do we mean? Weekly competition breeds accountability, buy-in, and drive. Soon you have kids pushing themselves and one another year-round. Other kids see the fun, the progress, and your team commitment grows. Over time, what you get is that energetic, rah-rah attitude even on a random Friday workout in April. When it becomes more than just working out, when kids are truly training for a purpose, training to win – that’s when you succeed as a team. This is our ultimate goal, and MetCon workouts can be a big part of this, perhaps even the biggest.