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Kick-Start Your Weight Loss With Metabolic Conditioning

Metabolic conditioning is an often used but little understood term that gets thrown around in the fitness industry. While metabolic conditioning is a real practice that can aid in weight loss, it unfortunately also gets used as a buzz word to sell products and services – usually from vendors who don’t understand what it actually is. 

Metabolic conditioning is a method of exercise that is specifically designed to maximize the efficiency of particular energy systems with minimum input. Put simply, the goal is to optimize your weight loss with low-impact exercise. This is especially helpful for patients with physical impairments, those recovering from surgery, etc.

What metabolic conditioning looks like varies greatly depending on the individual. It can be as simple as interval exercises or involve complex circuits of specific workouts. While research has shown that metabolic conditioning works, it is clear that you need to structure workouts carefully to gain real benefits. 

The Basics of Metabolic Conditioning

When it comes down to it, metabolic conditioning is any form of exercise that increases the efficiency of any energy system. (We know, pretty general.) But it’s important for every fitness goal, whether you are trying to improve your mile time, get more out of your cycling classes, or build muscle and burn fat.

After all, as your body’s energy pathways become better at producing ATP, buffering out nasty metabolic byproducts (which your muscles don’t want), and recovering, the more your body can do. 

High-intensity interval workouts — alternating between periods of all-out effort and lower-intensity rest — are one way to improve metabolic efficiency over time. But other ways include circuit workouts and supersets, or mixing a couple of exercises that work for different muscle groups and then resting.

Planning Your Metabolic Conditioning Routine

Rather than focusing solely on the intensity of the circuit, take into account the rest periods between working bouts. If your goal is to enhance the intermediate system, it’s important that you allow enough time to recover between sets (two to three minutes). Repeating the exercise bout any sooner runs the risk of lowering the intensity and turning the workout into an aerobic session. To get the most out of your metabolic conditioning workout, use total-body exercises with moderate loads that still allow you to use the proper form.

The best routine for you depends primarily on your goals and current fitness level. After all, different metabolic conditioning methods train different energy systems, and that depends on work-to-rest ratios. Don’t worry, we’ll explain.

If you sprint for 10 seconds and then rest for two minutes (120 seconds) before repeating, that’s a 1:12 work-to-rest ratio. It’s going to primarily train your powerful, fast-acting (but quickly depleting) phosphagen system.

Consider if you cycle between performing squat thrusters for 30 seconds and medicine ball slams for 30 seconds. Then you rest for five minutes (300 seconds) — this results in a 1:5 work-to-rest ratio.

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How Physical Therapy Helps with Metabolic Conditioning

Physical therapists aren’t just for injury and surgery recovery! Our physical therapists can also help you work smarter, not harder, to reach your goal weight. Here are a few ways they can help you lose weight. 

  • Successful exercise: So many patients we work with have failed at exercise in the past. You kill yourself at the gym, only to see the scale stay the same. That’s because the general belief is that the harder you work, the more weight you lose. This is not true. We can teach you how to work smarter, not harder, to reach your weight loss goals.
  • Work less and lose more: Our therapists use heart rate monitors to measure when you are in the optimal zone for losing weight. Then we give you exercises that keep you in this zone so that you burn fat during your workout and when you are at rest.

This optimal zone typically requires less exertion than you would think and doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted at the end of your workout but energized. We continue to monitor your optimal heart rate zone as you increase your stamina and lose weight so we can adjust your workout as your body changes.

On top of these, our physical therapists also utilize multiple tools to help with weight loss:

  • Online exercise tracker: We can assign exercises, communicate with you when you aren’t in the clinic, and track your progress together on our online web app.
  • At-home videos: Our online videos, housed in our web app, are always available so you can be sure you’re doing the right exercises at home.
  • AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill: Through patented NASA technology, this treadmill can remove up to 80% of your body weight so you can… 
    • Walk or run without discomfort or pain
    • Burn more calories by going further or faster than you normally can
    • Train without injuries
    • Feel the joy of walking or running without the painful impact on your joints

Remember, metabolic conditioning can be helpful in losing weight but it is a very precise method of working out that requires a lot of planning. If you have questions about your metabolic conditioning routine, hit a snag in your weight loss, or start feeling more than just “workout pain,” be sure to consult your physical therapist!

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