Fitness vocab: metabolic conditioning

Follow certain work and rest periods to train each system.

Consider this Furthermore series further education for fitness. Here, we help define the terms that all athletes should know.

TERM: Metabolic conditioning

DEFINITION: Also called metcon, metabolic conditioning improves how well your body stores and delivers energy through three separate metabolic systems: phosphagen, glycolytic, and oxidative. While the three systems are always working together, each has unique roles.

The phosphagen system produces ATP for high-intensity activities. “This is the energy we use for a sprint to the bus or a 40-yard dash,” explains Alex Zimmerman, CSCS, LA-based director of Equinox’s Tier X program. It supplies energy quickly, but it putters out fast—in 10 seconds or less.

The glycolytic system kicks in once the phosphagen system loses steam, using carbohydrates to produce energy for intense, but longer-duration exercises such as a 400-meter dash, he says. Glycolysis can supply the body with energy for one to three minutes.

After that, the body uses all its carb stores. That’s when you start using fat for fuel through the oxidative (or aerobic) system, which breaks down triglycerides to keep the body moving for hours, like in a marathon or triathlon.

You need to activate each metabolic system to improve its conditioning and your overall performance. Take a MetCon3 class to tax all three systems at once, or activate each one in isolation by following the workout plans below.

Do Olympic lifts such as the clean and snatch, plyometric movements like squat jumps, or sprints of 50 yards or less. Work for 5 to 10 seconds at 90 to 100 percent of your max power, rest for at least 60 seconds, and repeat.

Perform run or bike sprints, or circuit-style strength training. Work for 15 seconds to 3 minutes at 30 to 90 percent of your max power, rest for at least 45 seconds (the longer you work, the longer you will need to rest between bouts), and repeat.

Jog, swim, bike, or do another form of cardio for 3 or more minutes at 20 to 30 percent of your max power. Your work-to-rest ratio should be between one-to-one and one-to-three. After rest, repeat.
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Maximize your post-workout calorie burn.

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