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Gain Muscle and Burn Fat with Metabolic Resistance Training

Struggling to lose fat or build lean muscle without excessive fat gain?

Well then this article is for you…

After working with many advanced athletes, bodybuilders and lots of personal trainers, most of the time it’s not their diet holding them back.

In most cases, its the workouts! Yes, although diet is key and can be complex, most people are doing the basics just fine.. eating plenty of protein, “clean” food, keep calories in check etc.

However, to OPTIMIZE body composition, the training program must be on point.

For example, you may be dieting and dropping calories by 500 per day, which is average but also a noticeable amount. If you take calories much lower, you may lose muscle, crash your hormones and be weak / fatigued and always hungry [Rossow et al., 2013; Kistler et al., 2014; Chart et al., 2014]

So, what do you do? Well, you improve your training regime…

If you’ve seen the results from my 20 Week Mass Gainer, you may be wondering how people can add pounds of LEAN muscle, while staying healthy and KEEPING body fat down?

Well, here’s how…

Enter Metabolic Resistance Training

This method dates back to Arnold’s prime time, where he often promoted the agonist and antagonist workouts (opposing muscle groups, e.g. chest and back or bicep and triceps).

Before we start, here is a typical overview so were are on the same page.

Exercise 1a: Chest Exercise

Exercise 1b: Back Exercise

(no rest in-between, 90 second rest after. Perform 3 –  4 sets then move on)

Exercise 2a: Chest Exercise

Exercise 2b: Back Exercise

(no rest in-between, 90 second rest after. Perform 3 –  4 sets then move on)

Exercise 3a: Chest Exercise

Exercise 3b: Back Exercise

(no rest in-between, 90 second rest after. Perform 3 –  4 sets then move on)

Exercise 3a: Chest Exercise

Exercise 3b: Back Exercise

(no rest in-between, 90 second rest after. Perform 3 –  4 sets then move on)

So, it’s just like a normal weight lifting session BUT you are adding in a second exercise straight after the first one. This is basically doubling your workout!

For example, you may do bench press and go straight into a bent over row, rest for 90 seconds then repeat.
I’ve tested this method for several years and while it’s certainly not the only way to workout, it is one tool that can really help shred fat, improve fitness and build muscle! It has several key benefits over typical weight training (e.g. 1 set of 10 reps, rest 90 and repeat 3 – 4 times, then move onto the next exercise), which i’m going to highlight below.

Benefits of Metabolic Resistance Training

  • Time Efficient: It is WAY more time efficient, which, in this day and age, is key for long-term success [Robbins et al., 2010; Carregaro et al., 2013]. With this method, you can almost do 2 workouts in the time you would normally do one .Scattered_design2-500x300
  • Increased Volume: This is key as we know total workout volume (e.g. amount of sets / weight lifted / reps) is a key driver of muscle growth, strength gains and fat loss [Robbins et al., 2010; Carregaro et al., 2013]
  • Faster Gains: As more density and volume per session usually means faster gains all round.
  • Increase Training Frequency: It allows you to hit each m\
    uscle more often per week, rather than following a “bro split” or “typical split” where you only train a muscle once per week [Schoenfeld et al., 2015].
  • Increase Muscle Protein Synthesis: Again, training frequency is absolutely key to muscle growth; if you train a muscle more often then you give it multiple signals and reasons within a week to adapt (rather than 1) . This has been tested, with higher frequency plans being shown to stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis and cell signalling to a greater extent than training each muscle, once per week [MacDougall et al., 1995; Burd et al., 2009]
  • Increase Fat Burn: Greater fat burning within the session and after, which is key even if your main goal is a successful bulk [Schuenke et al., 2002;Børsheim & Bahr, 2003 . For bulking, most people gain fat too fast, meaning they become insulin resistant and have to jump on a diet [Wang et al., 2001; Tam et al., 2010]. This limits your window (amount of weeks) that you can be in a calorie surplus and grow lean mass
  • Lose Fat Quicker or Stay Lean, Bulk Longer: If your goal is fat loss then this a no brainer. You will achieve that goal quicker by increasing fat-burning hormones and increase the energy expenditure. If your goal is bulking then again, by burning more fat we can keep you close to your baseline or starting levels. This lets you bulk for longer and gain more muscle than yo-yo bulk / cuts which most people do.
  • Retain More Muscle When Dieting: We know that during fat loss, higher frequency and volume can help you retain muscle and burn mainly fat [Areta et al., 2014; Churchward-Venne et al., 2013] This is because you are providing your body with a constant stimulus at the muscle and signalling the body to make it stronger and more efficient and not to burn the muscle for fuel. Remember, our body is just trying to survive. In this sense, it will shift calories you do eat to repair the muscle and then burn off the body fat that you don’t need.
  • Improved Mitochondria Health: Mitochondria are the engine to your cells, they covert all the food we eat, stored carbohydrates and stored fat into usable energy. By doing these metabolic workouts we can improve the mitochondria health, which has been linked to increased fat loss, reduced cardiovascular (heart) disease, long-term health and fitness [Dai et al., 2012; Stiegler & Cunliffe, 2006; Toledo et al., 2007.]
  • Improved Fitness: As you may have experienced, these workouts are very metabolic and demand a large amount of oxygen and recovery between sets / blocks. In a sense, they are almost like High Intensity Intervals Training (HIIT) that provides a ton of health, fat loss, fitness and performance benefits.
  • Less Cardio: By performing this type of training you can drastically reduce the need for cardio, which allows you to convert more energy (and time) for building muscle and strength. Please note: I’m not saying cardio isn’t important and I still recommend it; however, if you dislike it then this type of training means you can do without it or with limited amounts.
  • Heart Health: While weight training has numerous benefits, cardio is always king for heart health [Pattyn et al., 2013]. However, this type of training helps you mind that middle ground … no, you’re not going to become a skinny marathon runner, but you will be healthier and fitter. This allows you to train harder and not be caught out gasping for breath mid-set.
  • Increase Metabolic Stress: Metabolic Stress is one of the 3 key mechanisms behind muscle growth [Schoenfeld, 2010]and plays a big role in my 20 Week Mass Workouts . This type of training provides a large whole body metabolic stimulus and can also cause extreme amounts of metabolic stress at the target muscle. Unlike most workouts which are a simple 5 – 10 rep sets with long rest periods, you can (and I often do) use this technique on the same muscle group, pairing 2 exercises back to back to maximise the growth and fat loss potential.

GH Metabolic WO - Green

  • Increase Growth Hormone:  As this workout is so demanding for the whole body it creates massive spikes in Growth Hormone (GH). As we know GH plays a key role in cell repair, growth and fat loss – this can only be a good thing. Some studies have found this type of training with limited rest periods can increase GH release by 300% compared to typical weight training. Just see the graph below: (Goto et al., 2005).
  • Decrease Injury Risk / Joint Issues: This type of training may also help you decrease injury risk [Schoenfeld et al., 2014]. Firstly, you’re not going to be lifting heavy 3 rep max’s where injury is common. Further, your whole body and muscles will stay warm because of the continuous work, rather than your muscles become tighter and stiff between long rest periods or different movements. Finally, you are also going to improve technique and become better at the movement, as we are training more frequently with more reps / sets. Remember, practice makes perfect.
  • It Allows Dietary Freedom: More often than not people are on very boring and restricted diets. I see this a lot with new clients and people on my programs, especially females, who may be stuck on 1200 calories per day. By using these workouts you can crank your metabolism into “turbo” mode and burn double the amount of calories when compared to a typical session [Kirk et al., 2009]. For most, this allows for an immediate and drastic increase in calorie intake per day. For some people, I’ve moved them from a very restrictive 1500 calorie diet straight to 2000 per day simply by changing their workout routine and therefore altering energy expenditure. Regardless of who you are, if you love food, this lets you eat a lot more of it.

As you can see, there are numerous benefits and I could keep going!

Now, don’t get me wrong, nothing is perfect and there are always pros and cons.  Rather than following a set approach with every client, like most do, I understand when to use this and when not to. Below i’ve listed some of the potential negatives and highlight when this type of training may not actually be suited.

Negatives of Metabolic Training

  • It Hurts: For most people, it’s like a 60 minute long interval training session. If you don’t like a challenge and don’t enjoy pushing yourself to extremes then you may not enjoy it. It’s far easier to crank 5 – 10 reps out and sit on your phone for 2 minutes. As always, it depends on your goals, priority and if you are willing to put in the work!
  • Performance May Decrease: At least when you start, your body is going to have a hard time retaining strength and peak power due to the onset of fatigue and stress on the central nervous system. This will decrease maximal performance, so, for power lifters or those who are only interested in maximal strength this type of training is probably not that well suited. However, for anyone who is more muscle mass, fitness and fat loss focused, this type of training will get a lot of easier and after some time, you should be able to remain at a similar output and strength while getting all the benefits discussed above. In fact, some studies have shown similar metabolic training does not cause strength loss, in fact some studies have shown it can be better [Myers et al., 2015]. As you can see, it depends on the individual and their fitness levels.
  • Your Fitness May Limit You: Linked with above, if you skip the cardio and have an average or poor fitness level you may find your breathing and CV system limit you at first. Again, this takes a few weeks to improve and then you will be good to go!
  • You May Burn Too Many Calories: While this is a positive thing for 99% of people, if you are a typical hard gainer who skips a meal and loses 10LBs you may actually cause too large a metabolic shift. If this is you, chances are you struggle to eat enough and get your calories in already, so, if adding in these workouts, you MUST adjust your calories to accommodate for the increased volume and calorie burn. If a hard gainer jumps to these without increasing and matching the energy demands of the workout they may under recover and fail to grow or adapt.
  • Your Going to Sweat, ALOT:  Finally, like i said this workout is extremely metabolic and demanding, chances are your going to sweat a ton – bring a towel!

Despite these negatives, I do think this training method is under appreciated and under utilized by most
people (probably because it’s hard as hell!).

For a bodybuilder, this type of training is perfect and many top bodybuilders use this technique. Take Arnold for example, he was a massive fan! Milos Šarčev  the pro IFFB bodybuilder has also become famous for using similar giant sets within his training

To counter these negatives I always stress that this is just a TOOL and plays a role in the overall program.

As you will see if you follow my work or are on one of my programs, I still use a lot of typical weight training sets, this way we achieve the best of BOTH worlds and maximize results!

Your Going to Get Stronger, Leaner & Add Muscle

Despite some of the potential negatives, if you are still reading this then you are probably a great fit for this type of training. If your a strength athlete / powerlifter then this sort of training may be a nice change and help you drop fat / improve fitness, but I wouldn’t recommend in long-term.

For everyone else who wants to add equal amounts of strength, while gaining muscle / toning, improving fitness or dropping large amounts of body fat this type of training is a perfect tool. I truly believe that if you have been doing a typical 4 exercise, 4 sets, 5- 12 rep, 60 – 120 second rest type workout then this will TRANSFORM your physique and results!

Why do I believe this?

Well, there are numerous reasons. Firstly, similar types of training has plenty of research supporting it’s use (see references at the end). Plus, this type of training makes a lot of sense from a physiological basis when studying the research into muscle growth and fat loss.

Although no study has tested these exact workouts as I created them to be unique, several studies have studied similar styles of training and show it to be extremely beneficial for both fat loss and muscle growth.

Furthermore, I’ve tested this type of training on myself and 100’s of clients and got amazing results. To an even greater extent, i’ve used this method in all my 20 Week Mass Periodized Workouts, which 1000’s of people have used for successful transformations! Get more info HERE.

Here’s just one recent transformation using these exact techniques..

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Summary

Again, it doesn’t mean you should only ever train like this. I still recommend normal weight training and more strength / performance based training at the same time, or used in a periodized model where you switch between this and normal weight training.

By periodizing and setting this type of training up into blocks with other more typical methods you can get the best of both worlds in the long-term. It also allows you to change and keep your body adapting, focusing on different mechanisms of hypertrophy or strength.

If you have only ever done typical weight training and want to focus on fat loss, fitness or muscle growth I highly recommend this type of training combined with some other longer rest, strength work.

If you want to see how I use these workouts for rapid physique transformations and get over 25 done-for-you and ready to roll training plans then check out the 20 Week Scientific Muscle Builder.

Remember, you will never know if you don’t try, and you’ve really got nothing to lose. Yes, you may be making good gains with your current training BUT, could you be making better? Probably! Don’t limit your potential and be narrow minded in believing you are on the most “superior” plan!

Give this type of training a go and see why thousands of my clients and fans swear by it!

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References

Marx, J. O., Ratamess, N. A., Nindl, B. C., Gotshalk, L. A., Volek, J. S., Dohi, K. E. I. I. C. H. I. R. O., … & Hakkinen, K. E. I. J. O. (2001). Low-volume circuit versus high-volume periodized resistance training in women. Medicine and science in sports and exercise33(4), 635-643.

Alcaraz PE, Perez-Gomez J, Chavarrias M, Blazevich AJ. Similarity in adaptations to high-resistance circuit vs. traditional strength training in resistance-trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Sep;25(9):2519-27.

Aniceto RR, Ritti-Dias RM, Scott CB, de Lima FFM, Pessôa dos Prazeres TM, do Prado WL. Acute Effects Of Different Weight Training Methods On Energy Expenditure In Trained Men. Rev Bras Med Esporte. 2013; 19(5/6): 181-185.

Myers TR, Schneider MG, Schmale MS, Hazell TJ. Whole-body aerobic resistance training circuit improves aerobic fitness and muscle strength in sedentary young females. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Jun;29(6):1592-600.

Kistler, B. M., Fitschen, P. J., Ranadive, S. M., Fernhall, B., & Wilund, K. R. (2014). Case study: Natural bodybuilding contest preparation. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism, 24(6).

Russel, et al. “Short bouts of high-intensity resistance-style training produce similar reductions in fasting blood glucose of diabetic offspring and controls.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2014).

Rossow, L. M., Fukuda, D. H., Fahs, C. A., Loenneke, J. P., & Stout, J. R. (2013). Natural bodybuilding competition preparation and recovery: a 12-month case study. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 8(5), 582-92.

Robbins, D. W., Young, W. B., & Behm, D. G. (2010). The effect of an upper-body agonist-antagonist resistance training protocol on volume load and efficiency. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(10), 2632-2640.

Carregaro, R., Cunha, R., Oliveira, C. G., Brown, L. E., & Bottaro, M. (2013). Muscle fatigue and metabolic responses following three different antagonist pre-load resistance exercises. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology,23(5), 1090-1096.

Schoenfeld, B. J., Ratamess, N. A., Peterson, M. D., Contreras, B., & Tiryaki-Sonmez, G. (2015). Influence of resistance training frequency on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 29(7), 1821-1829.

Burd, N. A., Tang, J. E., Moore, D. R., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Exercise training and protein metabolism: influences of contraction, protein intake, and sex-based differences. Journal of Applied Physiology, 106(5), 1692-1701.

Schuenke, M. D., Mikat, R. P., & McBride, J. M. (2002). Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 86(5), 411-417.

Børsheim, E., & Bahr, R. (2003). Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Medicine, 33(14), 1037-1060.

Wang, J., Obici, S., Morgan, K., Barzilai, N., Feng, Z., & Rossetti, L. (2001). Overfeeding rapidly induces leptin and insulin resistance. Diabetes, 50(12), 2786-2791.

Tam, C. S., Viardot, A., Clément, K., Tordjman, J., Tonks, K., Greenfield, J. R., … & Heilbronn, L. K. (2010). Short-term overfeeding may induce peripheral insulin resistance without altering subcutaneous adipose tissue macrophages in humans. Diabetes, 59(9), 2164-2170.

Areta, J. L., Burke, L. M., Camera, D. M., West, D. W., Crawshay, S., Moore, D. R., … & Coffey, V. G. (2014). Reduced resting skeletal muscle protein synthesis is rescued by resistance exercise and protein ingestion following short-term energy deficit. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 306(8), E989-E997.

Churchward-Venne, T. A., Murphy, C. H., Longland, T. M., & Phillips, S. M. (2013). Role of protein and amino acids in promoting lean mass accretion with resistance exercise and attenuating lean mass loss during energy deficit in humans. Amino Acids, 45(2), 231-240.

Toledo, F. G., Menshikova, E. V., Ritov, V. B., Azuma, K., Radikova, Z., DeLany, J., & Kelley, D. E. (2007). Effects of physical activity and weight loss on skeletal muscle mitochondria and relationship with glucose control in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes, 56(8), 2142-2147.

Stiegler, P., & Cunliffe, A. (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss.Sports medicine, 36(3), 239-262.

Dai, D. F., Rabinovitch, P. S., & Ungvari, Z. (2012). Mitochondria and cardiovascular aging. Circulation research, 110(8), 1109-1124.

Pattyn, N., Cornelissen, V. A., Eshghi, S. R. T., & Vanhees, L. (2013). The effect of exercise on the cardiovascular risk factors constituting the metabolic syndrome. Sports medicine, 43(2), 121-133.

Schoenfeld, B. J., Ratamess, N. A., Peterson, M. D., Contreras, B., Sonmez, G. T., & Alvar, B. A. (2014). Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(10), 2909-2918.

Kirk, E. P., Donnelly, J. E., Smith, B. K., Honas, J., LeCheminant, J. D., Bailey, B. W., … & Washburn, R. A. (2009). Minimal resistance training improves daily energy expenditure and fat oxidation. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 41(5), 1122.

About the author

Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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