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CindySays: MRT is intense -- and gets results

By Cindy Boggs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,

Can you explain the fitness term "metabolic training"? I am pretty clear about aerobic training and strength training, but this is throwing me. Is this really a specific kind of workout or is just a fancy word for strength training? -- Karin

Dear Karin,

Great question. If you are frequenting fitness centers across America, no doubt you've witnessed metabolic resistance training (MRT) in action. However, you may not have recognized how different it actually is.

Typically, we categorize workouts in two ways: strength or cardio training. We know that strength focuses on large muscles groups using fewer repetitions (12 to 15) with heavier weights. Cardio is widely understood to target the heart and lungs and its goal is to strengthen the cardio-respiratory system by going at a slower pace (low intensity) for an extended period of time.

The new fitness darling

Not too long ago, interval training was thought to be the most efficient way to burn calories and lose fat. Alternating short bouts of high-intensity activity with longer bouts of lower-intensity activity was in fashion. But, just like fashion, interval training is becoming a fleeting fad because metabolic training has come into vogue by those who want to look oh so fabulous in their skinny jeans.

MRT is here to stay

Baby Boomers who've made a habit of running before or after work are waking up with fragile hips and sore knees. No surprise when you consider 1 mile of running equals about 1,500 foot strikes at two to four times one's bodyweight. And worse, the body is so accustomed to it, it barely blinks an eye. This means it does little to increase metabolism and will continue to burn calories at a snail's pace.

In our hectic world, we want everything fast -- and MRT satisfies that craving. This is why boot camps are attracting attention and loads of clients these days. Celebrities as well as your next-door neighbor are taking advantage of this super-efficient training regimen to boost metabolism and keep the fat-burning furnace running on high for another 24 to 48 hours.

What does MRT look like?

This type of workout is high-intensity anaerobic exercise that leaves you breathless. Think about exercises that use large muscle groups. Free weights and/or body weight fuels this challenging training. If you are completing a MRT session and you are not breathing hard and sweating, something is wrong. You should be lifting heavy and resting as little as possible between sets. Insufficient recovery is what sets this workout apart and must be present or it is not MRT.

This training is built around supersets or circuits using compound exercises -- exercises requiring a maximum amount of energy because multiple joints are involved. Your heart rate will be elevated and your recovery time between sets would be limited, therefore accomplishing strength and cardio simultaneously.

If you are truly challenging the heart, lungs and musculature in one workout, it is not always going to be pleasant. But if you are up for the test, it will certainly be results-oriented. Obviously, this is not an ideal choice for a beginner, but it can be modified to suit both the intermediate and advanced exerciser.

Common MRT exercises are:

  • Squat with a press.
  • Push-ups and shoulder press.
  • Deadlifts and pull-ups.
  • Sprints.
  • Planks, bridges and roll-outs.
  • Kettle bell work.
  • Calorie consumption

    MRT tops the charts in total calories burned, typically about 400 to 500 calories per 30 minutes. The beauty of this type of training, though, is your metabolism keeps running high for up to 48 hours, which is the real calorie liquidator. If you are involved or want to be involved in this type of high-intensity training, consult a qualified trainer. They can quickly modify a class situation to particular needs or limitations and should incorporate a generous amount of mobility exercises both in the warm-up and final stretch.

    Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or email cindysays@aol.com. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," at www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.


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