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Categories: Strength Training

Metabolic Workout That Burns a TON of Calories

By Marc Perry / November 30, 2017


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!

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39 Comments

  • Jilleen says:

    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!!!

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      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!

  • Barb says:

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

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Barb - Thank you for the comment!

  • Kris says:

    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?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @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.

  • Beeah says:

    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

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

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

  • Thomas says:

    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.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @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!

  • Eric says:

    Marc,

    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?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  • Brian@HookedOnFItness says:

    Great idea, I think I'll throw this into my routine and look at adding it to some of my clients that think they are hitting a plateau...

  • Dylan says:

    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?

    Thanks.

    • Kristin Rooke, CPT says:

      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

      • Dylan says:

        Thanks Kristin! much appreciated!

  • Dean says:

    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!

    Dean

  • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

    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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