A few months ago I started a series on my YouTube channel called “Quickies.” The Quickie Series is essentially a compilation of short metabolic workouts””whether you want to call them finishers, circuits, or complexes, it really doesn’t matter. Regardless of the name, they all have one thing in common: they’re short and efficient.
Now, I’m sure I don’t have to convince intelligent and innovative trainers of the value of metabolic resistance training, complexes, and timed circuits””we know these methods are completely legit and will provide our clients with incredible results. But our clients have been taught, through years of unfortunate social programming, that more is better. It’s our responsibility to inform and educate, and that’s the exact reason I created the Quickie Series.
I started this series after hearing constant complaints from busy friends about their lack of exercise and how negatively it was affecting their lifestyles. Between friends that were working full time and attending grad school at night, and friends who were busy raising children, they were all finding it difficult to allot the time necessary for exercise. So I posited, what if I made it so easy to workout, that the very idea of not working out seemed absurd? What if I gave them permission to take just 5 or 10 minutes per day to exercise, would they do it? And further more, would these quickie workouts eventually inspire them to allot more time to exercise?
The quickies, as you can imagine, proved successful for several reasons.
1. it got them started with a minimal fitness regimen that was better than no activity at all.
2. They were able to physically experience the benefits of exercise, they prioritized workouts amidst busy schedules, and gradually began to build in more time for fitness.
3. It helped people learn to give themselves a break when life gets hectic, without forsaking movement altogether.
And while you certainly wouldn’t train a client for just 5-10 minutes, the concept remains the same: fast, intense, effective metabolic workouts are unbelievably beneficial for clients and trainers alike for a host of reasons.
30 minute, supercharged workouts will help your clients burn fat and build strength with a significantly shorter time commitment. Does this mean that they aren’t working as hard, or that they aren’t getting the most bang for their buck? Quite the opposite, actually. Short metabolic training sessions require intense output with minimal rest, which means that even though the workout might only last 30 minutes, they’ll probably work twice as hard than if it lasted 60. There won’t be any time for chit chat, lollygagging, or stalling. Everything will be meticulously timed and your client will be 100% focused on the task at hand.
Because they have to work so hard in a condensed workout, the client also feels as though they’re getting a better workout. They finish their sessions feeling sufficiently smoked, which keeps them showing up to training sessions motivated and ready to sweat.
Because the workouts are shorter, they’ll greatly increase the likelihood of client compliancy and consistency. For one, with a reduced time commitment, clients can stay on track more easily without feeling like they’re only successful if they workout for an hour or more. Giving clients the option for shorter sessions allows for busy clients to stay on task, which in turn keeps them training with you more regularly.
Secondly, the mental aspect of compliancy is aided through the use of short metabolic workouts by decreasing the mental energy involved with contemplating exercise. When a client thinks, “it’s only half an hour” they’ll be more likely to show up, session after session.
Obviously shorter sessions will cost the client fewer dollars, which is of course advantageous for them. But the cost of the sessions themselves isn’t the only financial incentive of shorter sessions. When the initial investment is lower, it naturally creates a lower barrier of entry, allowing for more justification of the expense. Meaning, that when clients contemplate personal training, they’ll be able to rationalize the cost for shorter sessions vs. longer sessions””as long as they’re aware of the fact that shorter doesn’t necessarily mean less valuable.
[Editors Note: Even though each client pays less, your hourly fee will often go up. One client might pay $60/hr but two clients might pay $35/30 minutes meaning that you get an extra $10 for the same hour of work]
And because this eases the financial burden of the client, it increases the chances that they’ll train more often and stay on your schedule. Plus, taking on clients for shorter sessions means that trainers can take on more clients, making maximum use of their time. It’s a win/win for both trainer and client. But, in order to truly offer effective 30 minute sessions, you’ll need to design fantastic workouts””which is why I’m sharing with you some tips on how to create efficient metabolic workouts.
5 Tips on Creating Short Metabolic Training Sessions
There are several ways to accomplish effective metabolic workouts in a limited amount of time, from circuits to complexes to density sessions. You can even set a timer for 30 minutes, and just aim to accomplish as much work as possible within that timeframe. However, there are a few things I’d like you to keep in mind to ensure safety, efficiency, and effectiveness.
1. Include all the movement patterns
In order to truly benefit from short metabolic training sessions, you’ll want to ensure that your clients are hitting all the movement patterns. The easiest way to do this is to pick 5 exercises: a push, a pull, a hinge, a squat, and a dynamic full-body movement. Arrange them so that the client goes back and forth between upper body and lower body movements, and ends the circuit with a dynamic movement. So, an example of a circuit would be:
2. Pick exercises the client can perform well
The only way for a short metabolic circuit to be truly effective is for the client to be able to perform the exercises with some level of mastery. You don’t want to include an exercise in a metabolic circuit that a client hasn’t practiced, as they will have difficulty performing the circuit with any level of intensity. This means that metabolic workouts are not the time to introduce new movements that your client isn’t already familiar with.
Make sure your client is well versed in all of the exercises you choose so that they can easily go from one exercise to the next, and can really work as hard as possible in a short period of time.
3. Favor movements that can be easily replaced
Because the circuits are performed so quickly, you don’t want to end up in a situation where you have to wait for a piece of equipment. Let’s say you’re using a bench for dumbbell bench presses, and you move on to the next exercise in the circuit. Upon return to the bench press, your bench is being used, but you don’t have time to wait to work in, because the rest periods are so short. Solution: switch to floor presses or push-ups.
Plus, you want to be able to adjust on the fly if the client has difficulty performing any of the movements. Let’s say you’re doing kettlebell swings and your client suddenly complains of back pain, perhaps due to fatigue. Solution: switch to kettlebell deadlifts or even a squat jump. Basically, make sure that all of the exercises you choose can be easily replaced or substituted.
4. Enforce short rest periods
There are two major factors that play into the value and effectiveness of metabolic workouts: high intensity effort combined with very little rest. The moment you start stretching rest periods into 1-2 minutes, you begin to miss out on what truly makes these workouts beneficial. Remember, the workouts are shorter than traditional sessions but only because you’re expected to work twice as hard in order to take advantage of time.
I will typically suggest 15-20 seconds of rest in between exercises, and 60-90 seconds in between rounds of circuits. You can even opt to do a complex, which results in zero rest between exercises, and allows you to make absurdly efficient use of time. In order to enforce rest periods, you’ll need to either keep a very close eye on your watch or use an interval timer””you don’t want your client getting too comfortable in between movements. You’ve got to be strict and keep them on point throughout the workout.
If your client is truly having a hard time taking short rest periods, it’s possible that the exercises themselves or the load used is too difficult.
5. Design the circuit based on proximity of equipment
The only way to make a fast session work is to have a well-designed and thoughtful set-up. If you have to walk across the gym or into a different room in the middle of a circuit, it will impeded the necessary short rest periods and impact the general flow of the circuit.
You’ll want to design your circuit in a way that allows you to stay in the same general area for the duration of the circuit. So, for example, if the battling ropes aren’t anywhere near the squat rack, you wouldn’t want to put a barbell squat and a battling rope into the same circuit. This is why circuits work especially well with kettlebells, as you can transport them and use them for a variety of exercises.
When putting together metabolic circuits for your clients, keep the layout of your gym in mind in order to account for proximity of equipment and ease of transition.
By following these simple tips, you’ll be able to design incredibly effective metabolic training sessions. By simply convincing clients of the benefit of shorter sessions (thereby increasing your client load capability) you’ll be able to help more people in the long run. You’ll have the opportunity to work with more clients, and perhaps even help people who would not have otherwise been able to commit to training.
Remember, the more people whose lives you touch through fitness, the greater an impact you can have on the lives of others as well as the industry. And after all, isn’t that what training clients is all about?