Have you ever wondered what types of workouts burn the most calories? I can save you some time by telling you “Metabolic Workouts” are among the most efficient (and challenging) workouts to help burn the greatest number of calories in the least amount of time. Metabolic Workouts combine exercises that engage different muscle groups, or use different movement patterns with very little rest between sets.

I have to the right (with a summary below) an example of a Metabolic Workout that pairs upper body and lower body movements that is guaranteed to burn a TON of calories. If you’ve read my Efficient Strength Training 101 article series, this workout will help solidify what you’ve learned.

Be warned, this workout is NOT easy. In fact, if I try to shoot for under 10 reps for each exercise during this type of workout, I feel like my life force has been stripped from my body. I just get wiped out. The goal is not to deeply engage the muscle fibers for any particular muscle group, but to engage your entire musculoskeletal system, which helps elevate your metabolism for days.

While this workout is tough, it’s VERY effective and efficient. If you are in decent shape, I think it’s worth trying it out to see if you like this style of strength training, which works great for men and women:

Metabolic Workout Guidelines

Perform 2-3 Sets of each Superset (about 30-45 seconds rest between supersets), shoot for 10-15 reps. A superset pairs two different exercises that should be performed back to back with little, or no rest. Always warm up. For more detail, click the top right image of the report.

Metabolic Workout

Superset #1
Barbell Squat
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Superset #2
Standard Lunges
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Superset #3
Single Arm Dumbbell Row
V Up (lying flat on the ground keeping your legs straight, bring your legs off the ground 2 feet and simultaneously crunch up, arms extended, and touch your knees, then back down).

If you are doing this workout at home, just replace the barbell squat with dumbbell squats and you should be fine (dumbbells are at your sides when you squat down, keeping your back straight, head facing forward).

You can do this type of workout 2-3 times per week, and if you still have some energy, you can finish it off with some cardio. You can also try alternating between light/heavy days, where for one workout you shoot for 15 reps on each exercise (light day) then the other day you shoot for 10 reps (heavy day).

If you are brave enough to try this workout (and you are in good enough shape), let me know your thoughts!



  1. profile avatar
    rj Apr 30, 2010 - 20:24 #

    you know i have to try this right….

  2. profile avatar
    Mary May 02, 2010 - 10:41 #

    Burning calories in the least amount of time works for me. I am definitely up for the challenge.

  3. profile avatar
    rj May 08, 2010 - 11:38 #

    ok, i tried it yesterday and…made it except for the very last set! i needed energy to walk home after. whew! this i must do again.

  4. profile avatar
    Marc Perry May 08, 2010 - 15:30 #

    Hey RJ,
    Happy you tried out the workout. It’s tough. To make it even tougher, try adding drop sets after the last set of each exercise.

  5. profile avatar
    Brian May 28, 2010 - 18:46 #

    Personally I prefer supersets that work opposing muscle groups, so that one can rest while the other works. In contrast, 3 of the first 4 excercises work the front shoulder muscles. But variety is key, so I’ll give this a shot

  6. profile avatar
    Brian May 28, 2010 - 18:48 #

    Sorry, I misread the program – this one does work opposing muscle groups. My mistake!

  7. profile avatar
    Paul Jun 27, 2010 - 09:20 #

    Think I’ll give it a try, but what do you think about supersets in one muscle group For instance chest. Starting with flat bench. incline bench, flys resting 15 secs each.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Jun 27, 2010 - 13:03 #

      Hey Paul,
      I think this metabolic workout is worth a try just to see if it works for you. I personally prefer supersetting opposing muscle groups (i.e. chest/back, chest/bis etc.), although I occasionally superset upper body/lower body exercises like in this metabolic workout. I think the downside of this workout is that you don’t stimulate your muscle fibers intensely enough because the volume per muscle group is relatively low.

      Regarding same muscle group supersets (technically called compound sets), I’m a big fan, it’s just important to choose the right exercises and not burn yourself out too fast. For example, your legs in general are more resilient to supersets and recover quicker than say your chest. So I superset legs exercises all the time and the workouts are awesome. For chest supersets, my favorite is chest flyes (using the machine) supesetting with pushups. I do this at the end of the chest workout. Your chest will feel an amazing pump. I would suggest not using too much weight at all when doing upper body supersets and pairing a compound exercise with a single joint exercise. Higher rep, low weight. Another superset I love is military dumbbell press with lateral raises, great pump. If you do use these techniques, make sure to give those muscle groups plenty of rest because there will likely be trauma to the muscle fibers that need time to repair.

      Hope that answers your question!

  8. profile avatar
    buy kinect Oct 15, 2010 - 00:28 #


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    Can I use some of the information from this post right above if I provide a backlink back to your site?


  9. profile avatar
    autoversicherung Oct 18, 2010 - 04:44 #

    It took me a long time to search online, only your site open up the fully details, bookmarked and thanks again.

    – Kris

  10. profile avatar
    nikki Mar 03, 2011 - 12:47 #

    I tried it, and I was gasping for air on the 2nd superset. I did 5kg dumbbells on each hand, and I can only do 2 sets of the 2nd while the others were completed in 3 sets. it was a good sweat. very efficient workout! I will do this until I can do all 3 sets with little rest in between.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Mar 03, 2011 - 17:18 #

      @nikki – impressive you gave this workout a try! Usually about midway through my lips turn white and I swear I will never do another heavy full body workout again! Kudos to you for wanting to improve your fitness and thanks for the comment. Best of luck with this workout.

  11. profile avatar
    Jim Williams Dec 11, 2011 - 11:13 #

    Should you do cardion in between sets of weight training?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Dec 13, 2011 - 14:30 #

      @Jim Williams – That’s a great question. The answer depends on another question, which is “what is your goal?”. If your goal is to build strength, or build muscle, I would recommend against doing cardio in between strength training exercises. For a great article discussing cardio and weights together in a workout, read this: https://www.builtlean.com/2011/11/07/cardio-before-or-after-weights/.

  12. profile avatar
    Joseph Feb 16, 2012 - 17:09 #

    Wow! I just found this last night, so I thought what the heck I’ll give it a shot. I only could make it through two supersets with 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Superset 1 Barbell squat/ incline bench dumbbell #2 lunges/ 1 arm dumbbell row. Just enough rest b/t sets to grab weights for other exercise. I took abou 2-3 minutes b/t each superset. I was gasped after last set. Small break then did bicep and tricep. Small break then did treadmill intervals for 16 minutes. I was blasted at the end. I have only been working out for about 3 months. I really liked it so I think I’ll keep going to I can get that 3rd superset! Thanks for the information,

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Feb 16, 2012 - 19:22 #

      @Joseph – You are a brave soul for trying this workout. Happy you enjoyed it!

  13. profile avatar
    Norm Apr 10, 2012 - 22:38 #

    I did a bit of a variation of this. Prior to doing the workout I did the following calesthetics as a warmup–10 burpees, 20 jumping jacks, 20 high knees, 10 jump squats, and 15 sit ups done as fast as possible–45 seconds rest, and then repeat for five complete cycles. The woirkout was as follows
    Superset 1–Barbell squat–chinups to failure
    Superset 2–Lunges with dumbbells–dips on a dip station
    Superset 3–inverted rows–regular pushups to failure
    I did 3 repeats of each superset with 30 seconds rest between each. It was pretty intenase–brought out the masochist ime–lol. My post workout protein shake never tasted so good.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Apr 15, 2012 - 22:59 #

      @Norm – Wow, that’s really intense. It takes a lot of guts to hit this workout hard. Per my previous comment I left for you on the afterburn article, be sure you are recovering as hard as you are training (i.e. foam rolling, hydration, sleep, stretching).

  14. profile avatar
    lena Apr 19, 2012 - 20:19 #

    Hey Marc –
    I’m just starting to workout in the last couple of months. My main focus right now is to build muscle so i can hit my goal weight (45 down, 85 to go). What would you recommend as starting weights for a beginner like me. i’ve been doing various supersets with 5/8lb dbs, are these to light?

    Also, for the light/heavy days do you still do a rest day or just back to back days?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Apr 23, 2012 - 10:06 #

      Hi Lena, if I’m not mistaken, you are trying to lose another 85lb? If that’s the case, I wouldn’t try to focus on building muscle, but losing fat without losing muscle. For more information, check out my free get lean guide, which you can sign up for at the top right hand side of the page.

  15. profile avatar
    Leah May 04, 2012 - 14:02 #

    Hi Marc,
    I just finished your sample MRT workout. My face is red, I’m sweaty, and I’m definitely winded, but not dying. It was a good, quick workout. I have been working out for years and its so nice to throw something like this in the mix. Thanks!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 07, 2012 - 13:14 #

      Awesome,Leah! Happy you enjoyed the workout.

  16. profile avatar
    Jilleen May 16, 2012 - 17:52 #

    I just tried out your workout today, and it is my first go at any type of circuit/strength training (I have been just doing straight weights and cardio, and was getting bored, as you can imagine). I did 2 sets of the first superset, then went on to the next superset (doing two sets of each), untill I finished all 3, then I went back and started from the beginning, doing two sets of each superset and moving on to the next. I repeated the whole thing 3 times. I started with light weights during the first “round”, since it was my first time with this type of workout. I upped the weights for the second time through, and then upped it on the third, and that was pretty tough. Now that I read it more carefully, I think you’re supposed to do each subset 2-3 times, then move on to the next, and I don’t think you repeat the whole thing, or do you? I have never had my knuckles hurt on my hand, so that’s saying something! How many calories do you burn, on average, of doing this for a half hour? Thanks for the new workout, I really liked it!!!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 18, 2012 - 09:46 #

      Jilleen – Happy you tried this workout out. Yes, the idea is to do one pair of exercises for 3 sets, then move on to the next. You certainly can do it as one giant circuit if you like, but it’s a different type of workout and also VERY hard! In terms of calorie burn, that’s dependent on your body size, muscle mass, intensity of the workout etc. My best guess is you won’t be able to burn many more calories any other way. I tell people not too worry about calorie burn because it really doesn’t matter specifically what the number is, just workout hard!

  17. profile avatar
    Barb Jun 23, 2012 - 21:45 #

    Awesome, well-written, informative report! I can’t wait to try this specific workout. Thank you!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 28, 2012 - 11:06 #

      @Barb – Thank you for the comment!

  18. profile avatar
    Kris Jul 27, 2012 - 14:10 #

    Hi Marc,

    I just found your site. Some great stuff! I have been lifting for many years,and I am one of those crazy intense people like Norm 🙂 Still pudgy and trying to lose weight though (metabolism issues grr. Stumping dietitians even) and fishing around for information.

    Anyhow, my one question is with a lot of these full body workouts is they appear to neglect calves (some plans include jump squats). What am I missing? Are they getting worked somewhere in there?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Aug 02, 2012 - 18:12 #

      @Kris – That’s a great question. If something is plyometric and involves the legs, it should work the calves. In addition, walking lunges and lunges work the calves and squats require calf strength, but are not worked directly. So in sum, a full body workout does not necessarily have to work calves directly, but if you include any running, jumping rope, or other plyometric exercises, or lunging exercises, your calves should get a workout as well. Check out this Metabolic Conditioning Circuit.

  19. profile avatar
    Beeah Aug 19, 2012 - 06:13 #

    Hi Marc…I usually workout 6 days per week, if I’m doing this 3 x per week what should I be doing on the remaining days ??I I plan on doing a cardio finisher at the end of these super supersets…my goal is to continue to slim down which I’ve been doing good at so far (lost 20#)… but I want to have more muscle definition

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Aug 23, 2012 - 09:33 #

      @Beeah – It’s really up to you. You can consider doing interval training workouts on opposite days. Just be careful not to overtrain!

  20. profile avatar
    Thomas Aug 27, 2012 - 22:14 #

    Hi Marc,

    I have let my workout go to the back burner big time, I have fallen out of shape and ballooned up. I’d like to get back in shape and am considering this workout. I am 5’8 and weigh almost 235. I am stocky and have always carried most of my weight in my belly and chest. I can still run a comfortable 10-11 minute mile and have started to do so about 3 days a week. I generally do about 1.75 in 18 minutes to warm up and some light weights. I also hike 2 times a week. Roughly .75 miles at a pretty fair incline. Any advice to help get the burn going. I monitor my heart rate while working out, an have found decent results. I have a wedding coming up around thanksgiving and am dedicated to being in great shape. Any feedback is appreciated.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Sep 05, 2012 - 14:22 #

      @thomas – you sound like a good candidate for a structured fitness program to help you get in better shape. Of course, I’m biased, but my BuiltLean Program is worth a look. In addition, in terms of fat loss, keep in mind diet is roughly 80% of the equation. Good luck!

  21. profile avatar
    Eric Sep 12, 2012 - 08:47 #


    I completed the workout this morning for the first time. Definetly a love/hate workout. Any rules of thumb on amount of weight used? Also is there a way to modify it to be completely done at home. I don’t have a bench. Last question is this workout three times a week combined w proper diet enough to get down to single digit body fat?


  22. profile avatar
    Dylan Nov 15, 2016 - 08:53 #

    Can I just clarify – Is it 2-3 Sets of Superset 1 before moving onto Superset 2? Or
    1 set of Superset 1 then 1 of Superset 2 and 1 of Superset 3 and repeat 2-3 times?


    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Rooke, CPT Nov 15, 2016 - 11:47 #

      Great question, Dylan! In this workout, you’re supposed to do 2-3 sets of Superset #1, then 2-3 sets of Superset #2, and finally 2-3 sets of Superset #3. Treat the workout like 3 mini-circuits. Hope that helps!

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

      1. profile avatar
        Dylan Nov 24, 2016 - 02:26 #

        Thanks Kristin! much appreciated!

  23. profile avatar
    Dean Dec 11, 2016 - 04:59 #

    Hi Marc.

    Great website and workout sounds interesting.

    I was curious if you thought it too much to add Metabolic conditioning after this workout, or HIIT. Do you think it is too much in one day?

    On my 3 other days, I tend to do 30-40 min runs at about 430 to 5 min km. ONe day completely off (just walking and stretching).

    Thanks very much!


  24. profile avatar
    Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Dec 12, 2016 - 19:40 #

    Hey Dean – if you are doing a lot of running, I personally don’t think it’s necessary to do any more cardio after. Focus on building more strength. But if you really want to get the extra burn, you are absolutely welcome to add metabolic conditioning as while this workout is tough, it’s not a lot of volume. Also, we have since changed our workout structure to “strength circuits” which we will be teaching you more about in the coming months

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