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The Best Metabolic Exercises & Workouts for Women

Metabolic workouts are a type of training designed to build muscle, burn calories, and improve endurance in a shorter amount of time. They're a fast, efficient, and effective form of training, and are great for squeezing into a busy day.

Here, we explain what makes this exercise format so beneficial for women and give some example exercises you can build into your own metabolic workout.

What Is A Metabolic Workout?

Metabolic training, also known as metabolic conditioning (or MetCon), pairs high-intensity and moderate-intensity exercises with minimal periods of rest in a quick but high-intensity circuit.

During a metabolic workout, you'll move through a series of compound movements, often using weights like dumbbells or kettlebells to increase the intensity further. It's important to keep energy levels high throughout, which is why these workouts are short (usually around the 20 minute mark).

What Are The Benefits Of Metabolic Workouts For Women?

With so many styles of training, you may be wondering why you should give metabolic conditioning a try. Some of the benefits of MetCon workouts for women are:

  • Fat loss

    Due to the intensity of the movement in metabolic training, you'll experience a high calorie burn during a metabolic workout. When paired with a balanced diet, this can be a helpful approach to weight control as it can make it easier to stick to a calorie deficit.

  • After burn

    Metabolic training increases the efficiency of the body's metabolism (hence the name) and provides a long 'after-burn' effect. This means that your body continues to burn calories well after you finish working out, so you'll continue to benefit from your training session, even when your body is at rest.

  • Improved cardio capacity

    Although metabolic training doesn't include typical cardio movements such as running, swimming, or rowing, it's still a fantastic way to increase your VO2 max (which is your aerobic capacity). This means you'll be better at using oxygen for energy and power, which in turn will provide huge benefits across other types of sports and cardio activities.

  • Build strength and muscle

    It's no secret that as women age (particularly once they reach menopause), their bone strength will naturally start to decrease, increasing the risk of injury and osteoporosis. Exercising regularly is a fantastic way to improve muscle and bone strength and help decrease the risks that can come with age. Metabolic training, as a full body workout that exhausts a wide range of muscle groups, stimulates the release of the human growth hormone. This means it's a particularly good approach to boosting strength and fitness, particularly when paired with pure weight or resistance training.

  • Spend less time training

    Not everyone has the time, or wants to spend hours at the gym each week. Metabolic workouts can be done in as little as 20 minutes while still getting impressive results.

What Is The Difference Between HIIT Training And Metabolic Conditioning?

There are a lot of similarities between HIIT and metabolic workouts, and many HIIT workouts would fall into the metabolic category.

The main differences between the two is that metabolic workouts keep the rest period to a minimum (less than 20 seconds) while HIIT workouts can have longer rest or recovery periods, and metabolic workouts focus on compound movements while HIIT workouts can be any kind of exercise. MetCon workouts also typically use weights, while HIIT workouts are often bodyweight only, and can even be applied to cardio exercises like running or cycling.

Together, these differences mean that metabolic workouts can burn calories at a higher rate and preserve or build muscle mass more effectively than HIIT workouts.

Are Metabolic Workouts Effective For Women?

Metabolic workouts are an effective way to boost fitness, improve strength, torch calories, and keep your body strong and health. They provide a fast, efficient and challenging workout that you can easily fit around a hectic schedule, whether you're a busy mum trying to find time to exercise, or simply hoping to squeeze a fitness session into your lunch break.

Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Level Metabolic Workouts

There are a few ways to increase the challenge level of a metabolic workout over time, including increasing the difficulty of the exercises you do (by changing exercises, trying a more advanced version, or adding more weight), and changing the timings to increase the 'active' time.

You can see below how we'd recommend adjusting the timings of your workout to suit your fitness and ability levels.

  • Beginner level: 30 seconds of exercise, 15 seconds of rest, completing a circuit of between three to five exercises. Rest for 60 seconds before repeating for a total of three sets.

  • Intermediate Level: 45 seconds of exercise, 15 seconds of rest, completing a circuit of between three to five exercises. Rest for 60 seconds before repeating for a total of three sets.

  • Advanced Level: 60 seconds of exercise, 15 seconds of rest, completing a circuit of between three to five exercises. Rest for 60 seconds before repeating for a total of three sets.

5 Of The Best Metabolic Exercises For Women To Include In Your Workout

Almost any compound or full body strength exercise can be used as part of a metabolic workout, but if you need help thinking of ones to include, here are five to try:

  1. Kettlebell swings

    • Stand with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. Lower into a half-squat and pick up the kettlebell with both hands so your palms are facing your body.
    • Keep your core tight and a slight bend in your knees as you straighten your legs pushing from the heels and explode through the hips and swing the kettlebell to chest height.
    • As you swing the kettlebell down between your legs, return to the half-squat position. That's one rep.
  2. Squat jumps with dumbbells

    • Stand with feet hip-width apart, feet slightly turned out - you can start with your own body weight, or add a dumbbell to each hand for more of a challenge.
    • Perform a normal bodyweight squat, maintaining a tall spine and braced core.
    • As soon as your hips sink just below the knees, push your heels off the floor by jumping as high as you can, and land softly on your feet.
  3. Dumbbell step ups

    • Stand in front of a step or plyo box with your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core.
    • Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
    • Place your left foot onto the box and drive through this foot to push your body up and bring your right foot up to the platform.
    • As you push up, focus on squeezing your glutes and maintaining a tall spine. 
    • Return your right leg back to the floor. Focus on using your leg muscles to control the descent. 
    • You can alternate between legs or switch after you've finished reps.
  4. Dumbbell woodchoppers

    • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell with both hands.
    • Keeping your arms straight, rotate the dumbbell in a diagonally downward motion until your torso rotates to the opposite side and your hands are at knee height.
    • Hold for a few moments. Then slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat for one set and then repeat on the other side.
  5. Power jacks

    • Stand upright with hands by your sides and feet together and a dumbbell in each hand.
    • Jump your feet out to the side and swing your arms upwards, like a regular jumping jack.
    • At the same time, drop your hips and bend your knees so you drop into a squat position.
    • Push through the heels to jump back to starting position.

Become a PureGym member and you'll be able to make the most of our top-of-the-range equipment, weights and fitness spaces; perfect for shaping your own metabolic workout. Find a PureGym near you and get started today. You can also discover more female-focused articles, such as this core workout for women, over on our women's fitness hub.

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