Rowing Machine Workout: More Muscle and Less Fat in Under 30 Minutes

This is Frank Underwood.

Frank is America’s most hated and loved fictional president of the United States.

Why am I talking about President Underwood in a fitness blog?

Well, if you can’t figure it out just go to a scene back in season 1 of “House of Cards.”

Frank Underwood is using a rowing machine.

Interesting seeing this machine being used in a popular drama series.

This is Jason Statham.

He looks nothing like Francis Underwood.

Underwood doesn’t look fit.

But it’s pretty obvious Jason Statham is fit.

And he probably knows how to use cardio to his advantage.

He’s quite athletic.

So why do I bring them up.

Before I answer that I have to point one thing out.

There’s two camps in fitness.

Those who do cardio.

And those who don’t.

For some reason there’s this belief that cardio isn’t necessary.

Or there’s this belief that cardio will make you lose muscle and get skinny.

If you’ve read previous articles on this site you’ll see examples of how cardio helps you maintain muscle.

In some instances you can gain muscle.

It all depends on how you use it.

Muscles Worked By Rowing

(That’s USA Rower Susan Francia)

I’ve seen rowers many times.

Especially in the Olympics.

I’ve seen the way the exercise works.

Grab two oars, hold them in your hands and start rowing.

Naturally, I used to think that the biceps did all the work.

But rowing is way more complicated than that.

It’s possibly one of the few total body cardio workouts around.

Done right it is similar to a power clean movement.

Check out the rowing motion.

  • Legs
  • Buttocks
  • Calves
  • Lower Back
  • Lats
  • Traps
  • Biceps
  • Abs

The entire body is getting a workout.

But lost in the motion is the idea that only the upper body is doing all the work.

The truth is it’s the opposite.

Done right, the legs and core do the majority of the work.

Your biceps are only there to finish the job.

How To Properly Row

First thing’s first.

In order to make a rowing workout effective you have to follow a series of steps.

Here are the steps:

  • Hold the bar with two hands
  • Start at knees bent position
  • Without leaning forward use your legs to push off
  • Once your legs are completely straight, lean back slightly
  • Now use the momentum to pull the bar into your upper ab area

That covers the first half of the exercise.

The motion of the exercise should be smooth and controlled.

Don’t jerk the handle and don’t rush through each step.

Now comes the 2nd part of the motion.

Going back to the starting point.

  • Once the bar touches the upper ab area, smoothly let the bar glide away from your body.
  • As the bar crosses above the thigh area let your upper body come back to an upright position.
  • The legs should be straight at this point, now bend at the knees and go back to the starting position.

Again, this should follow a controlled effortless motion.

The 2nd part of the motion should be slower than the first part of the motion.

It’s important to learn the proper way to do this exercise for the following reasons:

Doing this exercise incorrectly will lead to injury.

Not doing the exercise properly will screw up the benefits of rowing.

You’ll struggle with your rowing stamina and tap out too soon.

Choose Your Damper Setting Wisely

A big mistake most people make when using a rowing machine is underestimating how good of a cardio exercise it is.

One of the first things that people notice when trying out rowing is that it feels pretty easy.

Unlike sprints or a jog on a treadmill, if you’re out of shape you’ll tap out pretty fast.

A few minutes into a light jog and it’s possible to get winded.

On a rowing machine going for a few minutes can feel easier.

The first instinct is to make it harder by increasing the setting.

It’s also common for beginners, and even more experienced rowers, to not know that settings can be changed on a machine.

Look at a rowing machine and you’ll see that the front looks like a wheel.

On the “wheel” of the machine you’ll see a black round piece that can be adjusted.

That’s what’s called the “damper.”

The damper is basically the part of the machine that adds more friction to your rowing.

Naturally, you’d think that the higher the setting, creates a tougher and better cardio workout.

But the damper determines how much air flow enters the machine.

  • A higher damper setting (like a setting of 10) causes more air to enter the machine. The higher setting allows more air to enter the machine during the recovery period. More effort will then be required at the next stroke (Damper Setting 101).
  • A lower setting allows less air flow in the recovery phase of rowing.
Lower Damper Setting vs. High Damper Setting

If you’re just starting out it’s best to use lower damper settings.

A lower setting in the range of 3 to 5 will give you a better cardio workout.

If your goal is to focus more on strength goals, then a higher damper setting in the range of 7 to 10 is a better option.

However, a higher setting is recommended if you’ve been doing rowing for a while.

It’s important to learn to properly row and perfect the steps of a proper row.

A lower setting will also help you build stamina and keep you from gassing out too soon.

4 Benefits of Rowing Machine Workouts

#1 The first benefit to rowing is the overall athleticism involved in this workout.

Sure, you can get on a stationary bicycle.

You can use an elliptical if you want to burn some fat.

But rowing requires your entire body, including your core, to be engaged in the workout.

I’ve talked about the importance of making workouts as athletic as possible if you want to look fit.

#2  A second benefit is the combination of muscle building and cardio.

There’s few ways to combine both of these factors in one cardio workout.

Most cardio workouts have their limitations.

Some cardio workouts are mostly effective for just that- cardio.

Muscle building isn’t possible, as in the case of the elliptical.

A stationary bicycle can help you gain muscle in your lower body along with cardio.

But rowing will help you gain muscle from your calves and thighs to your traps and lats.

In fact, research in the Journal of Applied Physiology has shown that rowing, paired with strength training, helps maintain muscle, prevents atrophy in important muscle groups and helps improve cardiovascular health.

#3  A third benefit, which is popular, is the low impact of the exercise.

If you row the right way you won’t be busting your joints.

In fact, it’s pretty tough to mess up your joints.

Unlike sprinting and jogging which put strain on the knees, ankles and lower back, rowing doesn’t cause this problem.

Rowing is a smooth exercise that doesn’t impact your joints in any way.

#4 I’ll throw this as a fourth benefit- the meditative/zen like feeling of rowing.

One of the benefits I’ve  gotten from using a rowing machine is the peaceful yet focused feeling i get from it.

The repetitive motion of using my legs, core, arms and back in a controlled manner has a peaceful feeling.

The sound of air going into the machine, steady repetitive movement and staying in tune to your body and breathing keeps you focused throughout the exercise.

It’s hard for your mind to wander.

Rowing feels like meditation.

And i’m sure that rowing in the outdoors is even more meditative.

A Rowing Workout to Get Extra Lean

Getting ripped is not tough.

One of the best ways to do so is by using HIIT.

Rowing for distance works for burning fat.

But you can combine distance along with intervals to maximize fat burning while gaining muscle.

Here’s a way to combine the two.

  • Warm Up (10 minutes)
  • Set your damper to level 3.
  • Row for 10 minutes at an easy to moderate pace.
  • Stroke rate should be at an average of 20 during this phase.
  • Intervals (15 minutes)
  • Increase your stroke rate to 24 for the next 15 minutes.
  • Break your intervals by 2 minute intervals with one minute rest in between.
  • So it’ll look like this:
  • Rowing for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute

Finish by walking on a treadmill for 10 minutes at an easy pace to cool down.

Some training programs break up intervals by distance.

These work too but I find it tougher to follow distance intervals for beginners and even intermediate rowers.

Beyond Intermediate Rowers

However, if you want to follow a more challenging interval plan you can do it in the following way.

Warm up by doing 10 minutes of rowing at a moderate pace.

Follow the warm up with the following:

  • 500 meters of rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 750 meters of rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 1000 meters of rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 750 meters rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 500 meters rowing
  • 1 minute rest

Finish by walking on a treadmill at an easy 10 minute pace.

Try including some rowing into your workouts 2 or 3 times per week.

Add rowing at the end of strength training workout day.

Or do it on a cardio day.

There you have it.

Rowing is a great way to switch things.

By doing rowing as a cardio workout, you’ll find it providing many benefits.

You won’t have to worry about getting skinny.

Quite the opposite.

Rowing is an excellent way to build your back, traps, strengthen you core and get strong legs.

Combined with strength training you’ll see how athletic you’ll look.

Try it out.

Comment below and let me know what you think of rowing workouts.

To your fitness,

Sam- Look Like An Athlete

Krainski, Hastings, Heinicke, Romain, Pacini, Snell, … & Levine, (2014). The effect of rowing ergometry and resistive exercise on skeletal muscle structure and function during bed rest. Journal of Applied Physiology, jap-00803.

A Sprinter Style Workout For Maximum Muscle Gains And A Lean Body

sprinters workout

Picture yourself running at full speed.

Arms pumping, legs kicking, going fast for ten seconds.

Your lungs are burning and as soon as it began it ends.

You stand at the end the track feeling exhausted but your body doesn’t show it.

In fact, your body looks more lean and muscular than the people watching you.

Now take a step back.


That’s not you.

You’re the spectator.

You are in awe of what sprinters look like.

But what does it take to look like that?

Let’s think about it for a second…

What are these guys and ladies doing to stay so lean and stay muscular.

  1. Do short bursts of cardio
  2. Avoid long cardio

If you look at short distance runners, those who run in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters range you see some of the most muscular athletes around.

We can also lump NFL running backs and wide receivers in this category.

Guys who run for short and intense burst of time.

And even though you’ve seen plenty of guys do this on TV you still avoid doing any form of cardio.

I get it.

You’re afraid you’ll lose your muscle gains.

You’ll look like Screech from Saved By The Bell.

Or at least that’s what you’ve been told in countless bodybuilding forums and by meatheads the world over.


Cardio is necessary if you want to look lean.

Unless you’re already the skinniest guy within a 100 mile radius you should be doing cardio.

Benefits Of Cardio

Heart Health: What good is it having a strong set of muscles if you’re going to run out of breath after all why are you going to risk having a weak heart with a short life span?

Supplying Oxygen:  When you lift two things happen.  You breath at a faster rate and your heart rate quickens which means your body will require more oxygen.  Now if you aren’t breathing and processing that oxygen as effectively as you need to your workout will suck.  That’s right, if you want to have stronger muscles the best way is to develop stronger and more efficient lungs.

Muscle Building: This is where most of us get confused.  Many times you hear the words cardio and a panic ensues.  Don’t fret.  Cardio is very important for muscle building.  Yes, your workouts will improve and you’ll develop stamina and conditioning but let’s not kid ourselves, we want to gain muscle.  Well, cardio workouts will help develop slow twitch muscle if you do long form cardio.  Slow twitch muscle fibers aren’t really the type that you’re looking for if you want to look muscular…  however, if you do cardio the right way, by doing intervals, you will see an increase in fast twitch muscle fibers, in other words you’ll have strong muscles.  This is what you see in sprinters.

Fat Burning:  Do cardio and you will burn fat. True? Not quite.  There is such a thing as the chubby aerobics instructor or the not totally slim guy who runs 5 miles every other day.  Yes, cardio will help you burn fat but it is important to do so in a way that is strategic yet effective.  Again, if you look at lean athletes you will see them doing interval training, combined with slow to moderate cardio.  Add strength training and you’ll be looking like the next Olympic track star.

Long Form Cardio Versus Short Intense Intense Intervals

So there’s always the fear that by doing any form of cardio will lead to a loss in muscle mass.

Here’s the deal.

Unless you run marathon sessions on a regular basis you really have nothing to fear.

Marathon running and any long distance type cardio will have you looking skinny if you choose to do this long term.  Unless you decide to run several miles every day, run for more than 30 minutes straight nearly every single day, believe me you don’t have to worry about it.

However, if you want to look more like a sprinter and less like the winner of Survivor, then you have to do your cardio in a way that is higher in intensity and not time consuming.

Unlike a professional sprinter, you don’t have hours to train.

So the goal is to maximize your workouts using a fraction of the time while gaining muscle and keeping the fat demons away.

If we break down a typical sprinter’s routine you will find that these athletes train mostly with short distances.  It is common to see these athletes training at distances ranging from 10 meters to 300 meters.

The difference in distance will vary on whether they are training for speed endurance (60 meters and above) or simply working on starting line speed (10 meters to 50 meters).  Different days are dedicated to either one of these two types of drills.

However along with these drills, which can take up to an hour, we have to take into account warm up drills as well as technique and body mechanics.

Here is an example of a sprinter routine:

Along with doing these drills there’s also strength training/ weight training usually on the same day.

Unless you’re a college level athlete or professional athlete or have several hours to spare, have enough rest time and have your nutrition in check you won’t have a problem at all.  If you’re just a regular guy or lady with either work, school or family responsibilities then you can’t train at this level.

Not to worry.

You can be a muscle building and fat burning machine by using your time wisely and working with the right types of exercises and drills in a fraction of the time.

A Sprinter Routine For Non-Athletes

If you’re reading this chances are you are a regular guy or lady.

You have a busy life but at the same time you are dedicated to working out.

So your time is precious.

You only have so many minutes and not hours to dedicate to your training.


We are going to keep our workouts short in typical Look Like An Athlete fashion.

The focus on the workouts will be specifically on speed endurance.

It doesn’t matter how fast you can run.

It doesn’t matter if you run faster with each session.

All you need to focus on is intensity and making the sessions as brief as possible.

So we can eliminate working on how fast we take off from the starting line or working on mechanics.

The only things we need to work on are warming up properly and doing a series of drills that will fire up the fast twitch muscles.

Your sprinting schedule will consist of anywhere between 1 to 2 sessions per week.  Ideally you want to start with one session and work up to two sessions after a couple of weeks.

I like to start off conservatively in order to avoid burnout.

Start With A Warmup

I’ve previously talked about doing dynamic warm ups.  You can do the same types of warm up exercises prior to starting sprints.

A quick warm up can go like this:

Jumping Jacks (30 seconds)

Bodyweight Squats (10 reps)

Bodyweight Lunges (5 per leg)

Mountain Climbers (15 to 30 seconds)

Do this drill without resting in between exercises.

Next jog one lap (400 meters) or jog for 60 to 90 seconds.

The Drills

Ok, we’ve covered prepping the body for action.

Time to break it down with some drills.

Day 1

100 meter sprints; 6 to 10 sets

Rest for 60 seconds between sets

Sprint speed should be at 80 to 90 percent of your maximum effort

Day 2

Pyramid Drills

100 meter sprint, 200 meter sprint, 300 meter sprint

Repeat one more time

Rest 90 seconds between sets

Spring speed will be at 80 to 90 percent of maximum effort

Treadmill Sprints

If you are going to choose a treadmill make sure to apply the same principles.
Keep the sprints short and fast.

Sprint at a speed that is 80 to 90 percent of your maximum effort.
Sprint for 20 to 30 seconds
Rest for 60 to 90 seconds
Repeat 6 to 10 times

A bit over a year ago I was sidelined from lifting any weights for close to 5 months.

Thanks to a pickup game of basketball I wound up with mallet finger in my pinky.

Basically, I tore the tendons and I wound up with a crooked finger all thanks to a basketball banging the tip of my pinky on a quick pass.

Even though I didn’t need surgery I still had to wear a splint in order to keep my finger straight 24 hours a day.

Under doctor’s orders I was not allowed to grip heavy objects.

So other than doing pushups and some lower body exercises I was out of commission from most strength training.

If you’re used to training 4 or 5 days a week and then having to eliminate lifting entirely for months is nerve wracking.

My first thought was that I would lose muscle, end up skinny and all my effort would go down the drain.

Well I had to do some form of training in order to stay in shape.

Luckily I have been a fan of interval training for a long time and despite my injury doing an activity like sprinting was still fine.

Over the course of these 5 months I lost very little muscle and definition.

I didn’t lose weight and my legs continued to gain muscle all thanks to sprinting.

Strength Training

So now that we have covered the sprinting portion of the workout we need to cover the strength training portion.

In other articles I have written here I’ve talked about the benefits of doing Olympic movements in order to build a lean and muscular body.

If you want to come as close as possible to looking like an athlete and especially if you want to look like a sprinter then doing Olympic movements will be important.

(Here’s Usain Bolt showing some Barbell Hang Cleans)

For maximum results try and find a way to blend these types of exercises along with bodyweight movements.

Here is a sample workout

Day 1 & 4 (Lower Body)

Power Clean (4 sets of 5)

Front Squat (3 sets of 6 to 8)

Deadlift (3 sets of 5)

Leg Raises (for the right way to do this exercise read here)

Upper Body Day 2 & 5

Bench Press (4 sets of 6 to 8 reps)

Chin Ups (4 sets of 6 to 8 reps)

Shoulder Press (3 sets of 6 to 8 reps)

Biceps Curls (2 to 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps)

Day 3 & 5 Rest

In order to achieve a very athletic body it is best to give enough focus to the upper body muscle groups as well as the lower body.

Although it is fine to blend upper and lower body workouts on the same day I would recommend splitting them into separate days.

Do your sprints after your strength training for added benefits of fat burning and to boost HGH.

Final Thoughts

In order to get the most out of this type of training make sure to combine both strength training and interval training.  Sprinters, and nearly all athletes, combine both types in order to have highly athletic bodies.  If you do the same you will get results that will have you looking like a sprinter as well.

NFL Running Back Workout

nfl running back football workout

Right now the NFL season is in full swing.

The timing seemed right so I decided to write something that will

help you get a body like an NFL Running Back.

Guys in shoulder pads and helmets playing a game of inches.

Each member of a team uses every muscle and fiber in their bodies to win.

Blood, sweat and tears is what these guys are willing to give up.

And as we look at these guys it is clear that they are packed with muscle and strength.

But each man on a football team has their role to play.

You have your Linemen, Kickers, your Tight Ends, Wide Receivers, Quarterback and Running Backs.

Of all these guys the ones who stand out the most for their athleticism and impressive physiques are Running Backs.

So how do these guys do it?

I mean running backs have solid muscle, are ripped and strong and have explosiveness few athletes possess.

Well, quite simply it’s a matter of working on explosiveness and developing your fast twitch muscles the right way.

You’ve heard advice before on how to develop fast twitch muscle-

You focus on power movements like deadlifts, bench presses and squats, blast your reps and go home.

NFL Workout Routine

In fact, if you focus on big compound movements chances are you will have a solid foundation for building a stronger body but also for developing lean muscle.

Let’s look at a way you can start today if you are interested in having a body like a Running Back.

Choose 3 to 4 exercises consisting mostly of compound movements.

So for upper body work you can choose exercises like Shoulder Presses, Bench Presses and Pull Ups and Rows.

If you are doing a lower body movements your priority would be Squats, Deadlifts and Olympic movements like Power Clean and Clean & Jerk.

Along with compound exercises the best thing to do is include exercises that stimulate those fast twitch muscles.

Try to include athletic movements like Hurdles and Box Jumps.

Simple enough.

So let’s look at examples of workouts that include these compound movements.

We will look at both an upper body example and a lower body example.

Upper Body Workout

Bench Press (4 sets of 6 to 10 reps)

Push Press or Military Press (3 sets of 6 to 10 reps)

Pull Ups (3 sets of 6 to 10 reps)

Curl (3 sets of 6 to 8 reps)

Take rest periods of 60 seconds between sets

Lower Body Workout

Box Jumps (3 sets of 5)

Barbell Squat (5 sets of 5)

Deadlift (3 sets of 5)

Leg Raises (2 sets of 8 to 10)

Take rest periods of 60 seconds between sets

Now if we break it down you will see that an athletic workout does not split the body into individual muscle groups.

In other words, you won’t see an athlete like an NFL Running Back working on Chest one day, Back another day or something along those lines.

The goal is to train the body and not only the individual parts.

Sure, you can train the upper and lower body together but there is a fine line and you have to be careful not to overtrain.

An effective approach is to avoid overtraining by training upper body and lower body on separate days.

Rest periods can and should be short at one minute tops.

By keeping rest periods short it not only helps with developing muscle, but also works with conditioning.

Avoid Gaining Fat While Gaining Muscle

So what ends up happening when you try to put on muscle?

You gain size (if you use the right number of sets and reps) but you won’t look too ripped unless your body fat stays low or develop the type of conditioning that you see in an athlete.

Let’s look at football players in an NFL Combine.

If you haven’t seen a combine before, it is basically a day dedicated specifically to testing out new recruits speed and strength as they prepare to get drafted by football teams (that’s American Football).

You see young guys running through cones, throwing and catching passes and testing their strength on bench presses and other power movements.

What do they all have in common?

They’re fast, explosive, athletic, and they are seriously jacked.

They have low body fat.

Sure they did it by lifting some weights and doing some drills but there is one more thing they did to get that way…

See although lifting weights is very important to put on muscle, the only way you are going to get lean is by including CONDITIONING in your workouts.

No, don’t worry; conditioning is not about jogging for an hour.

Conditioning is all about doing short bursts of activity to get your heart rate up without having to do cardio.

These athletes spend hours in a gym and on a football field doing sprints, jumping and doing other drills along with their weight training.

You won’t see them on a treadmill going straight for 30 minutes or an hour.

You won’t see them running miles and miles on the track.

Instead they break up their drills in short bursts of intervals.

You can train in the same manner but honestly, you and I don’t have time for that.  Unless you want to spend half a day on this like the pros do…

So what is there to do?

Easy, combine your strength training and your conditioning in one single workout.

The easiest way to do this is by doing the following:

–              Do strength training using Power Movements or Compound Movements

–              Follow up your workouts immediately with Finishers

Finishers are exercises you do at the end of your strength training

workout in a series of intervals like:

–              Sprints

–              Kettlebell swings

–              Jump rope

–              Mountain climbers

I personally recommend choosing one of these finishers and split your intervals with 30 seconds of    activity followed by 30 seconds of rest and repeat for 10 minutes.

That’s it.

You do your strength training for no longer than 45 minutes and throw in your Finishers for 10 minutes.

Presto.  You’re done.

It’s crazy what 10 minutes of conditioning do at the end of your workout.

You end up looking leaner and you start looking more like one of those ripped NFL players.

To your fitness,

Sam- Look Like An Athlete

The Skinny Guy Cardio Workout

cardio for skinny guys‘Hey man I’m trying to gain weight, but not fat you know. I’m trying to add muscle.”

“Well, you have put on a bit of mass.  What’s your goal now?”

“I’m trying to add about 10 pounds of muscle and stay at single digit fat.”

“How much do you weigh?”

“About 150… 155 on a good week.”

“Really? Man, you look a bit heavier than that.  I guess it’s the height and your lean muscle which fools me.”

The trainer continues…

“What’s your routine like right now?”

“Dude begins to lay out his training split in detail.”

“Sounds pretty solid.  How about your diet?”

Dude lays out his diet in as much detail as possible.

“Yeah, that’s pretty good too so far.  I can’t see why you’re struggling to add mass.  What about cardio?”

“Oh right, yeah I do about 3 days, 20 to 30 minutes each session of intervals after my strength training.”

“Aha! There’s your mistake!”

The year was 2005 and the skinny guy was none other than ME.

I had done all the research that was available at the time.

Looked through magazines.

Read every article that was written in the last 5 years.

I desperately wanted to build mass.

I wanted to enjoy the benefits of cardio for my heart and at the same time have ripped abs.

That’s all I wanted.

Was that too much to ask?

If you’re an ectomorph, i.e. SKINNY DUDE like me, yes it is too much to ask.

Having a high metabolism is blessing and a curse.

I still have an easy time keeping the fat demons away from me.

Give me some food, any food, in just about any quantity and it won’t create a dent in my diet, or a spare tire.  Well, all within reason.  I can’t live on a diet of cheesecake and expect to look lean year round.

In that sense I am genetically blessed.  However, when it comes to gaining mass it can be the biggest uphill battle.

Should Skinny Guys Do Cardio

I often get this question asked either in my inbox or even at the gym.

If you can relate to being a true Ectomorph and are a skinny dude who simply struggles to add mass then cardio should not be your priority.

Let’s say you are a true ectomorph, have a body fat in the single digits or barely over 10 percent and you can’t gain any mass.  Switch your priorities.

Your priority should be on the strength training part and hitting the weights using compound movements.

Skip cardio for a bit.

Don’t bother with running on a treadmill or a track.

Going for a jog is definitely a No-No for skinny guys with very little muscle mass and low body fat.

Unless you want to keep your gains from kicking in just do the same you’ve been doing so far.

By doing cardio as well as strength training you will be burning more calories.  The last thing an ectomorph who is trying to add mass needs is a calorie deficit.

Create a calorie deficit and you will start losing weight.

Have a surplus and your gains should come.

They may come slowly for some but you will definitely not lose weight.

Let’s say that after a couple of months you have managed to gain some significant muscle gains.

You eat healthy and want to avoid the dreaded fat to creep up on you.

What do you do?

A great alternative to using traditional cardio is doing low impact cardio.

Walking is a great example of this.

It is easy to do, doesn’t mess with your joints the way running does and you are basically using every major muscle group.

It doesn’t sound glamorous or exciting.

I mean what athlete is known for his or her walking skills?

I don’t know of any but it is the easiest thing to do.

For most people in the modern world, between sitting at home watching T.V., driving in our cars and sitting at a desk we rarely get to move around and walk.

You could and technically should walk on a daily basis and you won’t have to worry about losing muscle.  Chances are you will continue gaining muscle and not add on fat if you are keeping your eating habits healthy.

Jump Rope Workouts and More Athletic Type Training

(Here’s Bloom To Fit on the jump rope)

Let’s say you are looking for something a bit more challenging.

I know most of you are looking for something more athletic.

One exercise I recommend for skinny guys (and even those who aren’t skinny) are jump rope workouts.

Jumping rope has always been a must do routine in the boxing world.

Doing jump rope workouts are an easy and effective way to:

  • Build stronger calves
  • Strengthen the ankles
  • Create natural muscle tension in your shoulders
  • Engage the core/ ab muscles
  • Burn fat
  • Boost HGH
  • Build cardio stamina

For a boxer one of the best ways to build their stamina is by doing jump rope drills.  By combining their drills in short yet intense intervals, this helps them work on their foot speed and their ability to last short bursts of intensity in the ring.

Here is an example of a jump rope drill you can do:

  • Grab a jump rope and a timer
  • Set that timer to 30 second intervals
  • Jump rope for moderate to intense activity for 30 seconds
  • Rest for 30 seconds
  • Repeat

Perform drills for a total of 15 to 20 minutes

You can ideally perform these drills after completing a strength training session.  You can also jump rope on rest days from strength training however, I would recommend not doing high intensity intervals on those days.  Simply get your heart rate up, work on your athleticism and save some for your next training session.

Training with jump ropes is ideal for any level of fitness.  If you are a beginner or more advanced level you can do these types of drills.

If you are an ectomorph or skinny guy this type of training and workout is one I highly recommend if you are looking for something that will help you keep your body fat down all while building your conditioning and developing muscle in your lower body.

How Much Cardio Is Too Much For Building Muscle

So back in 2005 I was training with high intensity sprints 3 to 4 days a week on top of doing weights.

Although this seemed like a great idea at the time, a personal trainer showed me that this was not the best approach for me if I wanted to gain mass.

As an ectomorph training 3 plus days for 20 to 30 minutes of sprints on a treadmill was simply too taxing on my body and sending my already high metabolism into overdrive.  A better approach for me would have been training with sprint intervals for 2 days per week at the most.

Working on conditioning as well as strength training is very important if you want to achieve an athletic physique.

For an ectomorph who is just starting to train it is best to lay off on cardio.  However, for anyone who has been training for more than a few months it is always a good idea to work on conditioning at some level.

I do want to point out that for ectomorphs it is always a good idea to keep an eye on how our bodies react to cardio work. 

Although cardio is a great tool for fat burning, when done right it can help develop muscle as well.

This is where most of us mess up.

We either do too much cardio, such as my 3 to 4 day interval training, or simply do steady state cardio which is something to avoid at all costs.

One thing I didn’t mention earlier is that when I first began going to the gym, which is now over a 10 years ago, I would jog as many as 5 days per week and lift weights 4 days per week.

Big mistake.

I dropped from an already skinny 145 pounds down to a measly 135 pounds.  The weight just melted off in 3 months.  Even I knew this was not a good thing.

ectomorph body type

That’s how fast my metabolism was working and the results were not good.  I looked more like “The Machinist” than “The Dark Knight.”

As any ectomorph can attest we have high metabolic rates and going out for a long jog keeps us skinny.

Training With High Intensity Intervals

In order to build muscle while working on our conditioning one of the best ways is to add explosive intervals done in short sequences.

Here are some benefits of doing short athletic intervals:

  • Build muscle in our lower body
  • Helps with developing muscle in the upper body
  • Boosts HGH
  • Burn fat without sacrificing muscle gains
  • Provide cardio benefits without looking skinny
  • Helps you build an athletic physique

Rather than doing long running or jogging for 30 minutes straight the best way to train is by doing intervals in short periods of 20 to 60 seconds of activity followed by a rest period long enough to recover.

For example you can sprint for 30 seconds and rest for 30 to 90 seconds and repeat this sequence anywhere from 5 to 10 times.

Examples of Athletic Interval Training:

  • Sprints
  • Hill Sprints
  • Sled Push
  • Sled Pull

These types of exercises not only help with conditioning but also build core strength and help build stronger leg muscles.

Along with the core there is muscle development in the following areas:

  • Core/ Abs
  • Legs and Lower body
  • Upper Body, including arms, chest, back and shoulders

How Often Should You Do Cardio

how much cardio is too much

Athletes such as NFL players, Rugby athletes, MMA and UFC athletes use these types of conditioning workouts to get an edge.  Rather than risk losing muscle you can add on muscle and improve conditioning at the same time.

For best results work with these types of exercises anywhere from 1 to 2 times per week.

Keep your sessions short, explosive and intense.

Coupled with your strength training there is no way you can go wrong.

Final things to keep in mind

If you are a beginner or desperately need to add muscle, simply wait on doing cardio until you have been training a few months.

Once you have put on a bit of muscle mass begin to introduce cardio into your training sessions.

Make sure you keep your conditioning sessions in intervals and ditch jogging or long running sessions.

However, walking is highly encouraged for any level of strength training, even for ectomorphs.

Examples of intervals can range from jump rope training to sprints, hill sprints, sled pushes and sled pulls.

Short burst intervals are ideal even for an ectomorph and highly recommended if you have been training for more than a few months.

Training with intervals will help you develop a muscular body all around but don’t overdo it.  Stick with 1 to 2 sessions of this type of conditioning and you will be safe.

There you have it.

Make sure you hit “Like,” “Tweet” this article if you enjoyed it and drop a comment below.

Dynamic Warm Up Exercises: Prepare Your Body For Battle and Avoid Injury With Athletic Drills

I have a confession to make.

I don’t warm up before a workout.

Let me make a correction.  I sometimes warm up before my training.  I am not consistent with this part of my training and I really need to get my act together.

There I said it.  I’m guessing many of you don’t warm up either.  And I’m not talking about some stretching before you start lifting weights.  I’m talking about stuff that gets your CNS (Central Nervous System) fired up.

For a long time I have had this old school approach to training and warming up.  I remember reading Jack Lalanne’s opinions on this a long time ago.

Jack Lalanne:  “15 minutes to warm up? Does a lion warm up when he’s hungry? ‘Uh oh, here comes an antelope. Better warm up.’ No! He just goes out there and eats the sucker.”

I read that and thought, heck that’s good enough for me.

Now if you don’t know Jack Lalanne he was a beast in fitness.  Lived until the age of 96 and was a fitness eccentric.

I admire the man and have since I was a kid.  I also have to give him credit for something else and that is he had a gifted physique and health.

I have followed his approach for a long time but I just can’t do it anymore.

I have to face my limitations.  As much as I would like to be a lion or more like Jack and attack the weights immediately I can’t do it.  I am only setting myself up for injury or lousy workouts

If you are like me you are jumping in to your workouts and you give it a go.  Lift the weights, build up momentum and you are done.

Or maybe you start off with some off hand stretching.  You grab your ankle, pull it behind you and hold it for a few seconds.  Stretch.

Grab your arm, hold it over your head, pull it slightly behind your back and then across your chest.  Another stretch.

Some call that a warm up.  But it isn’t.  That is just simple static stretching and if you do it before a workout it won’t help you avoid injury or the quality of your training.

Or maybe you get on the treadmill and jog for a few minutes and get your temperature elevated this way.

That works at getting your temperature up, get a bit of a sweat on but does that help you prepare for attacking the weights the way you want?

Preparing the CNS

In order to help the body work to its potential you need to get your muscles prepared for battle and not only the muscle fibers but your entire Central Nervous System (CNS).

The muscles, nerve endings, neurons and basically all the system that is in charge of activating your body, from your brain to your spinal cord.

Like any machine (yes, your body is a machine), your body needs to prepare before it can work to maximum efficiency.

If we are going to work with weights in a manner that is explosive, then the best way is to prepare the body for what is to come with an equally athletic warm up and not a slow jog or simple stretching.

Dynamic Stretching Warm Up

Rather than doing simple stretches where you pull your arms or legs to feel muscles pulling try exercises that require your body to stretch and move.

Here are some examples:

Bodyweight Lunges:  You can do walking lunges but it is best to keep it simple and just lunge forward with one leg, hold the lunge position and come back up.  Switch legs and do the same movement.

Shoulder Dislocations:  This is an excellent exercise to loosen up the shoulder area and helps it protect it from injury.

Forward Leg Swings: Start in a standing position and with one leg slightly behind.  Kick the leg that is slightly behind in a forward motion and swing it up to waist level.  This will get the hips and hamstrings loosened up for any lower body workout.  Repeat several times for each leg.

Arm Circles:  Move your arms in wide circles first going forward and then backwards.

Hip Circles:  Stand with your feet at close to shoulder width and move your hips in circles.

Cherry Pickers:  If you remember this exercise from your middle school physical education class you may recall it as a silly movement.  Well, this will stretch your lower back, hamstrings and even your upper body.  Stand with feet shoulder width apart and with your hands reach down and touch the floor.  First touch the floor slightly in front of you, then slightly closer to you and finally the space between your legs, come back up and place your hands on your waist.  Repeat.

Hand Walkouts:  Stand with feet shoulder width apart and place your hands on the floor.  Proceed to walk with your hands and leave your feet firmly planted on the ground.  Walk your hands as far as possible going forward and then walk them back to your starting position.

Superman Exercise:  Get on the floor face down and on your stomach.  Begin by starting flat and then elevate both your arms and legs off the floor a couple of inches at the same time.  Hold the position for 3 seconds and come back down and rest for 3 seconds.  That is one repetition.

Dynamic Warm Up Examples

Now let’s move on to dynamic warm up exercises as these work in great combination with dynamic stretches.

The following dynamic movements will help the muscle fibers with upcoming activity.

Here are some examples:

Jumping Jacks:  Yeah, jumping jacks are a good way to warm up.  Do some for anywhere between 20 and 30 reps.

Overhead Bodyweight Squats:  This exercise can also be done as traditional bodyweight squats but doing it this way will only work the lower body.  Raise your hands above your head as if reaching for the sky and hold this position as you do bodyweight squats.  You will feel the muscles in your back and shoulders working together along with the lower body. Ten reps will work just fine.

Burpees:  You can do it with or without a push up as you please.  As a warm up you can leave a push up out of the movement and without a jump as well.  Do 10 reps in a warm up.

Mountain Climbers:  This movement will work the core and the entire body.  Get in a push up position and move as in a running motion making sure you drive your knees up. 30 seconds of this exercise are good to include in a drill for your warm ups.

Jumping Rope:  I would rather do this as a finisher but you can keep also substitute as a warm up exercise to get the body moving.  As opposed to a finisher which would be performed with high intensity, you can do this exercise at a moderate pace divided by intervals.  Five to ten minutes is enough if done as a standalone exercise.

Knee Tuck Jumps:  This is similar to a bodyweight jump squat, except the starting position is not from a deep squat.  Once you are up in the air the knees come up to waist level or higher and close to the chest if possible.  10 reps will get the body prepped for action.

These are some exercises you can include in your warm up and as you can see they are athletic.

However, the best way to maximize them is by putting them together as a combination.

Dynamic Stretching Drills (Warm Up)

Here is a series you can perform as your warm up next time you are ready to begin your training session.  It is a combination of dynamic stretches and dynamic warm up exercises.

1)      Jumping Jacks (20 repetitions)

2)      Overhead Bodyweight Squats (5 reps)

3)      Bodyweight Lunges (5 lunges per leg)

4)      Forward Leg Swings Leg Swings (5 leg swings per leg)

5)      Knee Tuck Jumps (5 jumps)

6)      Shoulder Dislocations (5 reps)

7)      Arm Circles (10 circles forward and 10 circles back)

8)      Cherry Pickers (10 reps)

9)      Mountain Climbers (do as many reps in 30 seconds)

10)   Superman Exercise (5 repetitions)

This is just a sample warm up and you can substitute some exercises and even change the order which they are performed.

This may seem like a workout in itself but that is the point.  This is like a mini workout or preparation for the real work that is to come.  It shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes but it will get your upper body as well as lower body activated.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, I have not been consistent with warming up.  The weeks and months that I have ever chosen to include drills in my training I have noticed better quality gym sessions.  Believe me, I will warm up without fail from now on.

The best thing to do is include some type of warm up to avoid injury and prepare your body for a productive session.  Maximize your workouts as much as possible and save your body the wear and tear that accumulates over time.

Remember, you are not Jack Lalanne, or an animal ready to hunt and kill its prey.  However, you can train smart, stay healthy and look like an athlete by training like one.

Functional Training Exercises: Gain Muscle And Explosiveness Through Highly Athletic Training

They’re big, they’re jacked, they are lean and so many guys wish they had a similar body.  When you watch a UFC or MMA fight it is hard not to admire the strength and level of fitness a lot of these guys have but the type of training is much different than what most guys do in a local gym.

Recently a reader of this blog contacted me and asked me how these guys get a physique that is not only fit from strength training but also have an incredible level of athleticism.

In order to understand how these athletes are able to stay lean without sacrificing mass we need to look at the way they train.

What Is Functional Training

Functional training originally was used in the medical field as a way to help patients who were on a path towards rehabilitation.  In order to help those who have suffered an injury or injuries that affect their every day performance a series of exercises are used in order to slowly help with recovery.  The goal is to bring an improvement in their ability to perform a task or tasks in their daily life.

Functional training in rehabilitation is different with each patient and is dependent on the type of injury that person may have had.  However, the exercises that are used are focused primarily on strengthening the muscle group which needs improvement.

In sports functional training is used by athletes of various levels, rookie, semi- professional and professional.

The purpose of functional training is to use workouts that will help with the performance of a specific sport.

Instead of focusing on one muscle group at a time as most gym goers do, the goal of functional training is to maximize explosiveness and performance by training as many muscle groups in one single movement or exercise.

The end goal of a functional exercise is to make a movement in a given sport easier and to lead to improvements in performance.

For example, a UFC fighter won’t dedicate an entire workout to working on arms by doing biceps curls and triceps extensions.  Instead, he will focus his workouts on exercises that will help him lift, hold and grapple an opponent.

An athlete like an NFL football player will focus his workouts not on the number of crunches he can do but rather on exercises that will help him on the field, with speed, agility, and with tackling other players.

Different Functional Training Exercises

Walk in to any given gym and you will find most guys going for exercises like bench presses, bicep curls, crunches, maybe some shoulder presses and lat pull downs.  These are all great exercises.  Some are excellent compound movements.  Other exercises are single joint movements and are not the best option if you want to gain muscle.

In order for an exercise to be considered functional we have to maximize its ability to work a multitude of muscle groups. A good example of this can be seen in Jason Ferruggia’s Uncaged program.

Here are some functional strength training exercises

Muscle Ups:  This is a combination of a pull up with dip all done in one motion.  It is an advanced movement and requires upper body strength.

Squats:  Any variation of a squat is a great option.  Whether you choose dumbbell squats, front squats, sumo squats, box squats, or any other variation is fine.  I am biased towards barbell squats but any variation will work according to what you feel comfortable with.

Squat Jumps:  I don’t see many guys trying them at the gym.  The few times I see anyone throwing them in their workouts I figure they have some type of sport background.  This exercise is one of my favorite finishers as it will help with keeping you lean and giving you a great workout on your legs and core.  Bonus tip: do a few sets after running some sprints for a great way to finish your cardio.

Deadlifts:  If you are serious about putting on muscle this is one the best exercises to include in your repertoire.  It may not be a favorite but it is one of the required exercises to master if you practice any sport.  There is some debate whether this is a leg exercise or back exercise but the truth is it works both muscle groups as well as your core and traps.  Once you master this exercise other activates in your daily life will become easier to do.

Lunges & Lunges with a Twist:  Lunges can be excellent functional exercises as it works the legs, buttocks and even your core.  However, if you want to maximize the work on your core simply hold some weight (medicine ball, dumbbell or kettlebell) and twist to one side as you lunge with one leg then twist to the other side as you do the next lunge.

Box Jumps:  This is a very athletic exercise and one that is used by practically any athlete in physical and explosive sports.  Choose a height that is comfortable to jump on for various repetitions.  A bench can easily substitute a box as your platform.

Tire Flips: Maybe you’ve seen guys flipping tires on YouTube or seen football players and MMA fighters use it as part of their training.  As strange as this exercise may look it is definitely a way of working on many muscle groups all the same time.  From working on your legs, buttocks, hips, arms, back and chest, it also makes for an excellent core workout.  Lifting an oversized wheel or tire is no easy task and although it may look like something fun to do, unfortunately most of us won’t find this equipment at a regular gym or in our backyard.

Power Cleans:  Olympic movements are one of the best ways to build functional strength.  Lifting a weight from the floor in a quick and explosive movement is one of the best ways to trigger fast twitch muscles.  This exercise gives you an amazing bang for your buck building athleticism, explosiveness and muscle building abilities as it works the lower body, back and arms.

Clean and Press:  The clean and press is similar as a power clean simply, finish the movement by pushing the weight over your head.  Keep the reps at no more than 5 per set and always pay attention to your form.

Push Press:  As an Olympic movement this is one of the easiest ones to practice.  Simply stand with a barbell at shoulder level and press up.  Use the strength of your legs to push the weight.  For anyone intimidated by power cleans and a clean and press you can start off with this exercise.  Shoulder presses are a good exercise but are limited to either as they work almost strictly on your shoulders and triceps.  The push press helps include the lower body muscles in a workout.

Jump Rope Training:  This is one exercise I probably wish I had tried a long time ago.  It is easy to dismiss this type of workout out of fear that you will look silly or simply because it looks too easy and lacking much of a challenge.  Don’t tell guys like Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather or any boxer that.  The jump rope is a fighter’s best friend as it helps them build stamina, athleticism, and core strength. It isn’t necessary to do fancy drills or crazy jumping with the rope, the best way to get the most out of jumping rope is by dividing your drills as intervals.  Simple 30 second intervals of skipping followed by 30 seconds of rest for a total of 10 intervals is a simple way to get a solid workout.

Farmer’s Walk:  If you’re from the city like me you probably haven’t had the chance to push a wheelbarrow but if you have seen someone carry a heavy load with one you will have noticed that it is not an easy thing to do.  If you don’t have access to a wheelbarrow just grab a pair of heavy dumbbells or kettlebells and walk with them for several yards.  This exercise may not look like it will give you functional strength but you will quickly find that it will give you strength and muscle that will help you carry heavier weight in the gym and in your daily life.  Along with building functional strength it will build muscle in your entire body, from your calves, legs, back, arms and shoulders.  Include this exercise a couple of times a week and you will develop traps like never before.

Sledge Hammer Training:  Guys that do either construction work or are lumberjacks know the benefits of using a swinging motion.  Over time your arms, shoulders, back and core develop amazing strength and muscular development.

Sled Pushes and Sled Pulls:  Sled training is a great way to get a total body workout and can take your conditioning to a new level.

Burpees:  This is definitely one of the best exercises around and the best part is you don’t need equipment.  If there is one bodyweight exercise that helps with conditioning and works your upper body and lower body it is definitely the burpees.  Throw this exercise at the end of you workouts as a finisher and you will see the results show in your body.

Mountain Climbers: This is a good choice to target your core.  It can also serve as a cardio and conditioning workout.

Kettlebell Swings:  Kettlebells are used by athletes as these can help with total body workouts.  You don’t need a heavy weight, simply swing the weight with one or two arms by using your hips to thrust the weight up.

Landmine Exercises:  A while back I talked about this specific type of exercises that can be included in your workouts.  All you need is a barbell and few plates to add weight.  Place the end of a barbell at a corner of two walls or place it in the whole of a weight plate.  You can get creative with this set up by holding the bar from the opposite end and either doing a push press with one arm, simply pushing the weight up for a shoulder workout, or doing some twisting exercises that will work on your core, legs, arms and shoulders.  Check out my article on this particular exercise here.

How to Incorporate These Exercises In Your Workouts

Many of these exercises look fun and challenging.  In order to make these exercises work to their potential it is important to know how to mix them the right way in any workout.

It may look tempting to try as many of these exercises the next time you step into a gym or maybe jump in and throw a set or two then move on to the next exercise.

The best thing to do is to choose anywhere between 2 to 4 of these exercises in one workout and work with anywhere between 3 to 5 sets.

As with any workouts you don’t want to perform these exercises on consecutive days.  I would also recommend allowing at least 24 hours rest between workouts.

Here are some examples on how you can use functional training.

Sample Workout 1

  • Power Clean (5 sets of 3-5 reps)
  • Front Squats (5 sets of 5 reps)
  • Deadlifts (5 sets of 5 reps)
  • Biceps Curls (2-3 sets of 6-8 reps)

*Rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets.

Sample Workout 2

  • Clean & Jerk (5 sets of 5)
  • Push Press (5 sets of 5)
  • Chin Ups (5 sets of 6 to 8 reps)
  • Triceps Pull Down (2-3 sets of 6 to 8)

*Rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets.

Sample Workout 3 (Conditioning)

  • Box Jumps
  • Burpees
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Farmers Walk

*Each set should consist of 30 seconds of activity followed by one minute rest

*Perform 3 to 4 sets

These are just some examples of functional training but you can find ways to get creative on your own.

You can follow something similar to what I have shown above on one or two days of your training and include a more traditional workout consisting of bench presses, shoulder presses, squats, etc, on another day or two of your workout schedule.

Functional Exercises as Finishers

Another approach you can take in order to make your physique more athletic is to use finishers at the end of a strength training session.

Exercises like the following make for excellent finishers:

  • Jump Rope
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Burpees
  • Sledge Hammer Workout
  • Mountain Climbers

Choose one exercise at the end of your workout and do sets of 30 seconds of activity followed by 30 seconds of rest.  Set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes and do each set until time is up.

You can also check out a program like Jason Ferruggia’s “Uncaged,” which combines functional exercises with traditional exercises for maximum results.

As you can see there are many ways to make your workouts more functional.  These techniques will help you get a body that will look more athletic and will also help you perform better in your daily life, all while gaining muscle and looking your best.

Metabolic Conditioning Workouts: A Surefire Way To Get Lean Using Short Intense Exercises

It’s not a secret.  You want a body that is lean and ripped.  You want to have a body that burns fat faster than an F-16 burns fuel all while keeping your hard earned muscles.  If you want to get all the benefits in one workout without having to suffer through boring cardio then get ready to try metabolic conditioning workouts.

Burning fat and gaining or keeping muscle is often looked at as an either/ or option.  You are told that you can only train for fat loss or you can train for muscle gain but you can’t combine the two.

Maybe this theory comes from aerobics instructors who swear that sweating to the oldies will leave you weighing as much as a leaf.  Maybe it comes from muscle heads that are afraid that getting on a treadmill will make them lose those 20 pounds they fought so hard for.

Well there is no need to worry.  If you want to keep those muscles all while having muscle definition like never before then you can take advantage by doing metabolic workouts.

What Are Metabolic Exercises?

If you want to look lean there is no other way around it.  You need to elevate your metabolic rate.  If you have a slow metabolism you will have a hard time looking lean.  Speed up your metabolism and you will have no problem keeping your fat levels low.

The best way to increase your metabolism is by doing exercises that elevate your heart rate.  This is the simple explanation.

So you will often hear advice like, “do 20 minutes of any activity and you will increase your metabolism.”

Well, although this is not bad advice, the goal should always be to make our exercises more efficient.  The goal in a metabolic workout is to burn calories and raise our metabolic rate not only during the activity but also long after the workout is over.

If you have done cardio for long periods of time and done ONLY cardio you have noticed by now just how difficult it is to create that lean body.  It is very difficult simply because you are increasing your metabolism for a short period of time.  Once the workout is over, so is the increase in your metabolism.

Strength Training For A Maximum Metabolic Effect

Simply doing strength training is also not enough to boost your metabolism.  Sure you will burn calories and you will gain muscle but you will not look as lean as you would like if you are not doing the right exercises.

For example, picture yourself doing 4 or 5 sets of biceps curls on a day you want to work on arms and then call it a day.

To many this sounds like a good enough workout.  In fact, I see it often, people going to the gym and doing exercises like triceps extensions, biceps curls, leg extensions or some other single joint movement.  However, if you want to have an athletic body you need to do more exercises that are compound movements and use various muscle groups.

When it comes to metabolic training, isolation exercises like biceps curls are not the types of exercises you will be doing.

Typical exercises that are compound movements include:

  • Bench Presses
  • Squats and its variations
  • Deadlifts
  • Leg Presses
  • Power Clean
  • Clean & Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Hang Pull
  • Hang High Pull
  • Hang Clean & Press
  • Lat Pull Downs

You can also do these exercises in their variations using kettlebells.

Bodyweight exercises that are compound movements include:

The Difference Between Compound Exercises And Metabolic Exercises

As I mentioned earlier, metabolic workouts will consist of using compound movements.  However, simply using compound movements does not make an exercise or a workout metabolic.  A workout becomes metabolic when the level of intensity is high.

Ever done a workout and you completed one set, then another with long rest periods?  You noticed that your heart rate increased for a short period of time but after a period of rest your heart rate came back to normal.  This type of workout lacked the metabolic element.

If you want to increase the intensity of a workout then one of the best ways is by making your rest periods short.

Metabolic Conditioning Training:  Two Perfect Approaches

There are various ways to increase your intensity in a workout.  Like I said above, the way you are going to elevate your heart rate is by taking shorter rest periods.  Here are 2 ways you can easily decrease your rest time in your next period

Circuit Training (First Approach)

This is possibly the easiest and perhaps classic method of using strength training with very little rest.  In circuit training you will use mostly compound movements and move from one exercise to the next.  A circuit is simply a series of exercises performed on after another until you reach the last exercise in the series.  Once you finish the circuit, you rest for one minute and do the circuit again in the same sequence.

For maximum effect a circuit should switch between an upper body exercise to a lower body exercise each time.  The rest time between the exercises should be very minimal anywhere between 0 seconds and 15 seconds.  In other words, the only rest period you should have is between the time you move from one exercise to the next.

Here is an example of a circuit training workout:

  • Bench Press (10-12 reps)
  • Squats (10-12 reps)
  • Pull Ups (10-12 reps)
  • Lunges (10-12 reps)
  • Shoulder Presses (10-12 reps)
  • Bodyweight Jump Squats (10-12 reps)

Move from one exercise to the next and once you complete the last exercise it is time to rest for one minute.  Repeat one or two more times.

This is a good way to work out if you are a beginner or really focused on burning fat.  You can combine this in a way that is extremely effective if you want to get lean but we will get to this technique a bit later.

Barbell Complexes (Second Approach)

A workout that also fits in the metabolic training category and is for intermediate and advance level individuals is a barbell complex workout.  This type of workout is a personal favorite of mine and is definitely more intense than circuit training.

In a barbell complex the exercises are done continuously without any rest between exercises.  The exercises are done with a barbell and you do not put down the barbell as you move from one exercise to the next.

  • Deadlift
  • Push Press
  • Squats
  • Hang Clean
  • Front Squat
  • Romanian Dead Lift

Do 6 to 8 repetitions for 4 sets

Once you complete the series outlined above rest for one minute and start again.

One series equals 1 set.

There are various ways of doing barbell complexes and many different combination of exercises you can do.  Each complex should be done using only compound movements.  Also, make sure that the weight is light as this is very difficult to perform from beginning to end.

Metabolic Conditioning: Boost Your Fat Burning While Keeping Your Muscle

So far we have looked at using metabolic workouts using either circuit training or barbell complexes.  Both types of workouts are very effective and are done without a cardio type exercise.

If you want to push your metabolic workouts with a focus on conditioning, then one way to do this is by throwing in some cardio type exercises in between your strength training exercises.

Rather than rest between exercises you can replace your rest periods with a cardio type exercise like the following:

  • Jump Rope
  • Shadow Boxing
  • Burpees
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Sprints
  • Running in place
  • Box Jumps

For example, let’s say you want to work on your upper body today.  You can split up a workout in the following way.

  • Bench Press (3 sets of 6 to 8 reps)
  • Jump Rope (30 seconds between each set)
  • Pull Ups or Chin Ups (3 sets of 8 to 10 reps)
  • Jump Rope (30 seconds between each set)
  • Military Press (3 sets of 6 to 8 reps)
  • Jump Rope (30 seconds between each set)

You won’t be resting between sets and instead you will be performing some form of activity to keep your heart rate elevated throughout the workout.

You can also switch the jump rope for any other type of cardio exercise like those mentioned above.

Also, rather than doing just a jump rope exercise you can switch exercises each set.  You can do jump ropes one set, jumping jacks the next, burpees the following set and so on.

You can also do a metabolic workout using dumbbells.  Just like a barbell complex simply do a series of compound exercises using just a dumbbell.

Here is Brad Gouthro of “Awaken The Abs Within” showing a complex using dumbbells.

Metabolic Cardio- An Advanced Way To Finish Off A Workout

Earlier I had discussed circuit training as a great way to make your workouts metabolic.  Although a strength training workout alone can take you a long way towards getting a lean body if you increase the intensity the right way, there is a way to make it even more effective.  By simply adding a twist to your typical cardio sessions you can make your workouts even more effective than ever before.

Your average cardio session usually consists of getting on a treadmill or going on a jog for 20 to 30 minutes.  In the past I have talked about the advantages of doing burst training and intervals to get an athletic body.

Well, there is a way to take your interval training, which is metabolic, to more advanced levels.

Interval training is broken up into bursts of brief levels of activity followed by short rest periods.  The intervals are done repeatedly for a period of time usually in the range of 10 to 20 minutes.  Interval training can be done on any cardio equipment: stationary bicycle, bicycle, treadmill, track, literally any type of cardio machine or even outdoors.

There are various ways to break up the intervals and rest periods.  Ideally you do not want to have long rest periods but they can be broken up in intervals of either 1:1, 1: 1.5 or 1:2

For example:

1:1 ratio

30 seconds active/ 30 seconds rest

1 minute active/ 1 minute rest

1: 1.5 ratios

30 seconds active/ 45 seconds rest

1 minute active/ 1 ½ minute rest

1: 2 ratios

30 seconds active/ 1 minute rest

1 minute active/ 2 minute rest

These are some examples of how interval training can be broken up when you do cardio.

Once you complete your intervals lasting anywhere between 10 minutes and 20 minutes then move into some bodyweight movements like those mentioned in the metabolic conditioning portion of this article.  These bodyweight exercises can be done for the next 5 to 10 minutes and should be done for bursts of 30 seconds of activity followed by rest periods of 30- 60 seconds.

Here is an example:

  • Warm up for 5 minutes with a light jog
  • Sprint for 60 seconds
  • Rest for 60 seconds
  • Sprint for 60 seconds
  • Rest for 60 seconds

Repeat this sequence until you reach the 20th minute.  So that is a 5 minute warm up followed by 15 minutes of intervals.

Follow up your intervals with either burpees, jump rope, jumping jacks, box jumps or bodyweight jump squats.


After completing your intervals you do the following.

  • 10 Bodyweight Jump Squats
  • Rest for 30 to 60 seconds

Repeat until you have done 4 to 5 sets of jump squats

This will take about 5 minutes.

Total time including intervals and bodyweight jump squats 25 minutes

You can do the same using a jump rope, burpees or jumping jacks depending on your preference.

This type of cardio training can be done on days you are not doing weights or on the same day.  If you are doing circuit training or any other form of strength training you can easily include this at the end as cardio to get a great metabolic effect.

Having a lean body while keeping your hard earned muscle is not as difficult as you may think.  By including metabolic conditioning workouts you can burn some fat while keeping and even gaining muscle.