What's metcon and is it good for getting fit at home?

Should you try metcon in 2021 to get fit? We'll explain all the basics of metabolic conditioning

What's metcon
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Want to get fit for 2021? There are a number of ways to go about it. Depending on your fitness goal, you can start running or try HIIT workouts, or – if you are more adventurous – you can also try metcon. What's metcon what are metcon workouts good good for? We'll give you a few reasons to try metcon today.

You might have heard from metcon before: one of Nike's best workout shoes, the Nike Metcon 6, is named after this type of workout. But even if you know the name, you might not know what it stands for. 'Metcon' is short for 'metabolic conditioning' and it's very similar to 'high intensity interval training' – or 'HIIT' for short – in a sense that both elevate heart rate significantly during workouts.

Metcon is not new but it saw a huge surge in interest in recent years, thanks to CrossFit. CrossFit as a brand has been growing steadily over the years, albeit it has also been criticised, like, a lot. Nevertheless, CrossFit helped popularise metcon and made it more accessible to women and men alike (CrossFit has a 50-50 split in female/male participation, according to Rally Fitness).

what's metcon

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How is metcon different from other workouts?

As Healthline explains, "there are three pathways that fuel the body during exercise: the immediate, intermediate, and long-term energy pathways. Metabolic conditioning, or metcon, is based on exercise programs that make use of the immediate and intermediate energy pathways."

Running, cycling and other type of low- to moderate-intensity workouts use long-term energy pathways whereas HIIT and metcon uses immediate and/or intermediate energy pathways. Much like in the case of HIIT, it's not the type of workout but the timing and intensity of the workout that matters. Metcon uses air bikes, rowing machines, kettlebells and pull up bars within a single workout to crank up the intensity.

Nike Metcon 6 workout shoes | Was $130 | Now $110.97 | Save $19.03 at Nike

Nike Metcon 6 workout shoes | Was $130 | Now $110.97 | Save $19.03 at Nike
The Nike Metcon 6 is a slight update over the Metcon 5, which might not sound like much of a praise but the Metcon 5 was a very capable workout shoe so any update is great news. the Metcon 6 has a 'more breathable' upper than the 5 but otherwise, they are practically the same shoes.

What is a metcon workout look like?

A typical metcon workout includes a warm up, a 10-15 minute high intensity circuit training and a cool down/stretching session. There are a couple of CrossFit specific workout types too, such as these:

EMOM stands for 'every minute on the minute': this workout usually involves doing a certain amount of reps of an exercise, rest until the minute is up, then repeat, for 10-20 times. Typically, if athletes only perform one exercise in a workout, it's a compound exercise such as kettlebell swings or barbell snatches. 

AMRAP stands for 'as many reps as possible'. During AMRAP exercises, you are given a sequence of exercises and you need to perform them as many times as you can within the predetermined time frame. For example, you have 15 minutes to perform this sequence as many times as possible: 10 burpees. 20 air squats, 10 pike push ups and 10 sit ups.

Under Armour UA TriBase Reign 2 | Buy it for $120 directly from Under Armour

Under Armour UA TriBase Reign 2 | Buy it for $120 directly from Under Armour
The TriBase Reign 2 improves on the formula used in the original TriBase and provides even more traction, durability and stability than ever. The sole of the TriBase 2 is flexible yet stable, making it ideal for barbell snatches and box jumps alike. It has great heel support and a sock-like upper that hugs the rear of the foot. 

Is metcon same as HIIT?

Metcon is essentially a type of HIIT workout, so all metcon workouts are also HIIT workouts but not all HIIT workouts are metcon workouts.

Generally speaking, HIIT workouts focus on fat burning while metcon workouts tend to be more muscle-building oriented. This doesn't mean metcon workouts are only good for muscle building: Given the high-intensity nature of metcon, the body will tap into its energy reserves. CrossFitters usually use the barbells, kettlebells and the pull up bars to increase intensity and supercharge the muscle process. Medicine balls and plyo boxes are often used too.

what's metcon

(Image credit: Adidas)

Should you try metcon in 2021?

Doing metcon workouts is a great way to cram in some exercising into your day. Metcon can effectively burn fat and build muscle at the same time, although metcon can be very intense for people not used to working out. Following a metcon workout pattern, regardless of the intensity, is a good way to ease yourself into metcon. Later on, when you used to the schedule, you can add weighted vests and weights to up the workout game.

We wouldn't recommend metcon to people who struggle with obesity as it might put a lot of pressure on joints. For them, we recommend going on a healthy diet and brisk walking as a recreational activity, at least first. Once some of the weight is shifted and the heart is stronger, they can consider trying metcon.

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Get Fit for 2021!

This is part of T3's Fit for 2021 programme, which will be running throughout January. We aim to bring you tips on diet, lifestyle and exercise that will help you shape up for what is certain to be a difficult year. One thing we can guarantee: it WILL be better than last year. And hopefully we'll help you get the most out of it. 

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.