Don’t mistake fast reps for “intensity”, when looking for a metabolic response (getting fitter).

We’ve all seen it (and probably done it)

People wanting to get a good HIIT/ conditioning workout in, so they start throwing weights or jumping around like a mad-man, doing everything as fast as they can with no regard for form or quality.

But when we strip back what the aim of a metabolic conditioning workouts is, this actually makes no sense.

The desired outcome of a metabolic conditioning (METCON/ HIIT) workout is to create a stimulus within the body that requires the body to become more metabolically efficient, whilst increasing total training volume.

By metabolically efficient we are referring to the the metabolic pathways your body uses for energy, including aerobic, anaerobic and ATP/PC, as well as looking to improve central nervous system (CNS) and muscular fatigue thresholds (or the ability to produce force at different intensities for longer period of time and therefore being “fitter”.

Being “fitter” is defined by increasing your work capacity or completing more work in less time, using a given unit of measurement.

In order to target this response, we should breakdown the variables which can influence metabolic conditioning.

  • Time under tension (TUT): the amount of time you spend under load. In order to produce a more “intense” workout, this TUT should be slower, not faster. However, there can be an argument for faster reps allowing for more total reps which leads into

  • Total training volume (TTV): the amount of reps x sets x force production. Whilst this should be higher to elicit a greater response, there will be an interplay between TTV and TUT.

  • Range of motion: the bio-mechanical range of motion you move through. This can be varied for both intensifying the workout as well as functional adaptations of being more supple.

  • Rest periods: time between sets/ rounds. Depending on which variable you’re trying to target (strength vs metabolic) should determine your rest periods.

  • Tempo: the speed at which you move a given load. Which will directly affect your TUT and TTV

  • Intensity: (% of 1 Rep max as a strength protocol or RPE in metabolic protocols)

The word intensity has become somewhat of a buzzword over the last decade, with people referring to how “intense” a session was without much understanding of what actually happened in the session.

Relative intensity will involve all of the above components and can all be varied to elicit a number of responses.

Relating back to the headline of the article, “Don’t mistake fast reps for “intensity”, when looking for a metabolic response (getting fitter)” we want you to understand that sometimes moving faster is not the answer and that you should focus on altering one/many of the above variables to see a change in outcome and fitness levels.

Take the time to understand your goals and create a stimulus which will lead to the adaptation you’re looking for.