The fitness industry is full of fat loss trends, and it’s impossible to ignore the variety of gimmicks, gizmos and fitness cultures that pop up every year especially around January. The likes of many don’t last long, whilst some do stand the test of time.Take resistance-training circuits for example, we’ve now got classes and workouts with every name under the sun using the same form of training in a variety of ways. When done correctly they’re an excellent tool for fat loss and conditioning.
I wrote a two-part article for Myprotein.com nearly 4 years ago on Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) (see here for Part 1 and Part 2). I spoke about the ‘original’ technique, but today you’re getting the updated and upgraded method having spent time perfecting MRT even further.
MRT is the big daddy of circuit training methods, and one of my favourite ways to help athletes and clients shed fat in a relatively short period of time, like before a photo shoot or beach holiday. I’ll be giving you a few sample workouts at the bottom of this article too, so plenty to take-home with you.
What is Metabolic Resistance Training?
MRT is simply circuit training with progressive weights in a way that challenges you metabolically. It has structure and purpose and that’s why it can produce fast changes in body composition.
It’s also super easy for someone like me to progress or regress an exercise at any point, like you would do in a typical weight’s workout. There’s no random dog poop training here!
You execute 5-6 exercises in sequence with minimal rest using the same resistance device, for example the same barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell and so on. For practical purposes the weight remains the same throughout, but as you’ll see further on there’s a right way to do this.
With the ‘original’ MRT you typically see the reps remain the same throughout, although in this upgraded version you’ll be varying the repetitions based on the exercise. This helps to accommodate for the same resistance being used and works to better apply an appropriate load to each movement.
The exercise order is key also, considering this can be a high metabolic-stress technique it’s wise to choose your exercise order carefully. More on how to do this further down.
With MRT done correctly and always with impeccable technique, your workouts will require less space, less equipment and less time. It’s a winning combo of time-saving fat loss and conditioning.
Here’s an example of an MRT barbell complex, ignore the weight and the reps as it’s just for demo purposes, but notice the flow.
Why does MRT work for fat loss?
• MRT puts a very high demand on to the anaerobic energy systems (both ATP-PC and Glycolytic). Using these energy systems for repeated bouts of exercise is associated with growth hormone release and activating lipolysis, a.k.a fat loss.
• MRT causes a lot of excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), and because of this your resting metabolic rate will spike and continue to burn energy even after the workout is over. This is sometimes known as the ‘afterburn’ effect.
• MRT is a form of resistance exercise, so by using a routine of progressive overload you’re developing stronger bone, connective and muscle tissue. Since muscle is metabolically active tissue this means EVEN MORE fat loss.
• Traditional forms of cardio exercise can promote unwanted muscle break-drown, especially when in a caloric deficit. This is due to activation of certain biochemical processes (namely the AMPK pathway). MRT on the other hand will have a muscle ‘sparring’ effect.
• When the average person loses body fat, they will typically lose muscle with it, having an effect of their natural ability to burn fat (just ask former Biggest Loser contestants!). MRT promotes fat loss and conditioning not just now, but in the future too.
The Maverick Laws of MRT
There are a few key rules when designing a good MRT program. If you do a quick google search, you’ll find a few different routines and a variety of ways to do them. But as previously stated why settle for average fat loss methods when we can do better!? So these are Mavericks laws.
Law 1: When arranging exercises, “high skill” exercises should come first.
Exercises should be performed in a descending order from the most technically demanding to the least demanding whenever possible. You should ideally try and place the most technical exercises towards the start where fatigue is lowest. The complexity will depend on your movement capabilities also, and how ‘complex’ it is to you.
As an example, an Olympic lift variation is more complex than a front squat, which is more complex than a bent-over row or a lunge.
Placing every exercise in order of complexity is not always possible however when we try and follow the rest of the rules. But always start each circuit with the most complex, and for the rest if it doesn’t work in the order you’ve put it in then don’t think twice about scrapping it and trying a different order.
Law 2: Use a Non-competing exercise order whenever possible
Non-competing exercises are those that don’t rely on the same muscles. The benefit of this protocol is simple. While one group is working the others are resting. Given that complexes work with a series of muscle groups at once, don’t get too hung up on specifics here.
Generally, try to alternate a pushing exercise with a pulling exercise, or an upper body movement with a lower body one. Simples.
Law 3: Don’t select a weight heavier than the 10 Rep Max on your weakest exercise
Complexes should be relatively short. The entire draw is that they’re brutal but brief. By imposing a 10RM weight limit based on your weakest exercise in a circuit, you ensure that you will never go above 6-8 reps, which allows form to stay tight and effort to remain high.
Law 4: Set repetition ‘ranges’ rather than specific repetition goals
There seems to be an unwritten rule in circuit training that every exercise needs to be done for the same amount of reps or for the same time limit. Apart from your instructor being lazy, what’s the point!? Instead you should set repetition ranges (e.g., 8-10) versus specific reps (e.g., 9) to provide a suitable challenge for EVERY exercise in your circuit.
By sticking with the same weight throughout it only makes sense that the repetitions have some flexibility anyway.
Law 5: The weight may be put down, but ideally no longer than 15 seconds between exercises
You can bash out each exercise having never let the weight touch the floor the entire time. Or you can put it down and reset every time. It makes no real difference, although if grip is an issue or your technique gets sloppy then a 15-second reset could be a good thing.
Law 6: Test and try!
1) SELECT your exercises based on the above rules, making sure that you’re using no more than your 10 rep-max for your weakest exercise.
2) Next, TEST the absolute maximum reps you’re able to achieve with the same weight on each exercise.
3) PROGRAM your reps for each exercise based on your test. Pick a target that leaves a little in the tank. If my max reps were a 10 out of 10 for effort, then I want to pick around a 5 or 6 out of 10. Remember, this method is about being brutal but brief, so keep your weight high and reps low.
4) TRY the routine out for yourself, and if it flows well, it’s challenging you to the right level, and above all excites you to perform (in a sadistic way) you’ve got it.
Roundup & Sample Workouts
There are so many fitness trends and the industry can often make things confusing, especially when it comes to training methods for fat loss. Resistance-circuit training in all its forms is here to stay, but MRT rules them all…… now let’s just wait until someone whacks a trademark on MRT and makes it a franchise (you saw it here first 😉). CLICK HERE TO ACCESS A MAVERICK MRT ROUTINES DOWNLOAD
For personalised and 1:1 online programming click here to learn more about The Fitness Maverick Online Coaching program.
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Also known as “The Fitness Maverick”, Gareth specializes in smarter training techniques to get you strong and looking great naked year round!