I think I just heard a bunch of air get sucked out of the room!
Last week I posed the question –
“Where does MetCon fit in to the 4 Phases of Productive
In fact, you might’ve been surprised that MetCon wasn’t a phase
all by itself.
What I’m about to propose to you will shock you:
In many cases, there is no need for MetCon.
In fact, I will even go so far as to say that in some cases, it’s
That’s right –
MetCon can take you FURTHER away from your goals.
Now before you get all up in arms and call the conditioning police
or the powers that be (whoever they are), let me tell you WHY
doing Swings and Snatches and complexes and all that jive can
actually break you.
Then, I’ll show you where you can stick it.
The MetCon that is.
Wait… That just doesn’t sound right, does it?
I mean – where in the 4 Phases your MetCon should go.
Phew… That sounds better.
(Almost dug myself a hole there methinks…)
When MetCon Is BAD
MetCon – short for “Metabolic Conditioning” – intended to
specifically train one of the three metabolic pathways (pathways
your body has to create and use energy) – is all the rage these
There are complete “systems” out there (“systems” is in quotes
because I use that term loosely) that are heavily biased by
And there are other programs out there, kettlebell included,
that are dominated by MetCon.
Really, what most people are saying when they say “MetCon”
Or some form of aerobically biased exercise.
Which is fine.
It has it’s place.
At the back of the line.
Let me explain…
Most MetCon is designed to get your heart rate pumping, you
sweating and breathing hard, so you can “blast fat.”
And it does work.
But for the “over 40” crowd who’ve been sitting on their
butts at work the better part of their lives, MetCon will break
(Them = You, in case you’re not picking up what I’m throwing
The keys to making MetCon work are to move faster than normal,
do more work in less time than normal, and to rest less than
And, more often than not, today’s MetCon uses large, whole
body exercises, that actually require some skill – exercises like
Swings, Snatches, Front Squats, Push Presses, to name a few.
So, if you have a low skill threshold on these exercises, which
most people do, you have no business trying to use them to
meet MetCon criteria.
I mean, sure, you can try, but it’s a GREAT recipe for INJURY.
There are two reasons why:
1) Your technique isn’t solidified yet.
You don’t have the pre-requisite number of reps under your
belt to make your technique second nature, which you need to
be able to do, so you can set your mind on other things during
your workouts – like managing fatigue.
2) Movement dysfunctions / compensations.
Yeah, these ugly buggers raise their ugly heads again.
We already know you need to take care of these before you
go on a fat loss program, because of the high volume, high
density nature of traditional kettlebell fat loss programs.
The same exact reason is true for MetCon –
The easiest way to get hurt and sabotage your short term
and [maybe] long term results is to lift heavier weights faster
and under fatigue when you’re body isn’t ready for it.
Imagine for a second that you are a drag racer – one of those
guys who races a dragster down a quarter mile stretch.
Do you think that speed makes it easier or harder to control
that car over that quarter mile?
Imagine how hard it would be to steer that thing at 180 miles
per hour if the front end was out of alignment.
Chances are better than good you’d steer that thing into the
wall and end up in a fiery ball of flamed out wreckage.
Compare that to driving your current car at 30 mph with your
alignment out. Sure, you might notice the steering wheel
pulling to the right, but it’s relatively easy to control until
you get to the mechanics.
MetCon + Movement Compensations = Injury
I know that may be hard to believe, so let’s take a quick look
outside the kettlebell world into something you may have tried –
something that may have even driven you to the kettlebell –
People’s natural instinct or default thought process when
they want to “get in shape” –
Did you know that at any given time, 70% of runners are
injured / working through/around an injury? (O’Toole, 1992.)
7 out of every 10.
THAT is a VERY BIG number.
Wait – it gets even “better.”
In a study done on 200 recreational half-marathoners, 90% of
them experienced one or more injuries in a 12-month period.
(Ellapen, et al, 2013.)
9 OUT OF 10!
Wait – you’re not a runner or are currently not running – you’re
using kettlebells – why am I pointing out running and again,
what has this to do with you?
I point out running because it is the “ultimate” form of cardio /
So if injury rates are that high running, we can safely assume,
based on our deductive abilities, my dear Watson, that other
forms of MetCon will also produce injuries, albeit, and
thankfully, not as many.
And that of course begs our next question –
O MetCon, Where Art Thou?
Where do you put MetCon in your workouts then?
What’s the best place for them?
MetCon becomes “incidental.”
That was one of the beautiful things about the original RKC
(Russian Kettlebell Challenge training system) – MetCon – or
conditioning, was incidental.
Most workouts had a strong strength bias, but due to the
nature of the kettlebell exercises and their unique demands
on the body, your heart got pumping, your body got sweatin’,
and you got breathless from simply doing sets of 5 to 10
reps, depending on the exercise.
And, more importantly, some of these exercises fortified
your body – driving out weakness out of your body like
the imposter it is.
Unfortunately, since those early days, negative influences
from the mainstream fitness industry have infiltrated the
kettlebell community, like undercover Marxist agents pedaling
their godless lies, and have brainwashed us into thinking
that a “great workout” is one that leaves us lying in a pool
of our own sweat (or worse, vomit) –
And that the end goal is to “feel” like you had a “killer workout,”
getting you off track from your long term focus of getting a
leaner, stronger, healthier, more resilient body – essentially
turning back the clock and feeling young again.
“Sounds Overly Dramatic, Geoff. Where’s Your Proof?”
Here are two “case studies” for you:
CASE STUDY 1: Myself
I almost always use myself as a guinea pig for most of my
projects. (Almost always.)
Back in 2010, I was one hurtin’ unit.
Busted up pretty bad, I decided I had to make a serious change.
I did the only thing that made sense to me:
The opposite of everything I was doing at the time.
I quit lifting heavy on the barbell. (All barbell lifting actually.)
I quit lifting kettlebells.
Because I had “poisoned” my body over the previous 15
years by almost exclusively focusing on the posterior chain –
the backside of my body – to the exclusion of everything else.
So, I did the opposite.
I did nothing but bodyweight training – focusing on Phase 1
I did ZERO MetCon or cardio.
In fact, I avoided it like the plague.
Instead, I simply analyzed my body’s weak links, and then
aggressively eliminated them.
In the space of 16 months, by simply changing my workouts
and my eating habits, I dropped from around 210-215 pounds
down to a 20 year low of 192 pounds, all while enjoying
things like ice cream, pizza, cheesburgers, and fries.
CASE STUDY 2: Private Female Client, Age 50,
One of my female clients was struggling with some shoulder
injuries that just wouldn’t resolve.
Part of it was due to the fact that she was missing one of the
muscles in her neck – removed as part of cancer surgery.
So, we put her in a phase 1 program.
And there actually was MetCon involved in this one.
However, it was incidental – a result of the programming,
not the goal of the programming.
And the specific work that created the MetCon actually helped
her remove her movement compensations and reprogram her
body to get out of shoulder pain.
Here’s the punchline:
She lost 14 pounds in 30 days.
Think about that and let that sink in for a second…
Incidental MetCon as a result of making her body move
correctly while eliminating movement dysfunctions and
compensations and she lost 14 pounds in 30 days.
That’s basically one pound every two days!
When was the last time you saw results like that?
TO SUM UP…
MetCon is not necessary to include in your kettlebell
You can include it – but use it wisely.
There’s a time and a place for it.
And tomorrow, I’ll show you how and where you program
into your kettlebell workouts –
Which phase of your workouts it can go in along a structured,
long-term results focused program, that will get you where
you long to be.
So keep your eyes on your inbox.
1. O’Toole, M.L. (1992). Prevention and treatment of injuries
to runners. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 24(9),
2. Ellapen, T.J., Satyendra, S., Morris, J., & Van Heerden, H.J.
(2013). Common running musculoskeletal injuries among
recreational half-marathon runners in KwaZulu-Natal. South
African Journal of Sports Medicine , 25(2), 39-43.