Metabolic Resistance Training vs. Cardio Interval Training: Which Is Best for You?

your HIIT workout might not be what you think it is.

HIIT workouts.

You see them advertised everywhere. From fitness social media accounts to the posters and schedules at your neighborhood gym, HIIT (short for high-intensity interval training) is one of the biggest buzzwords in fitness.

However, the classes and fitness gurus touting HIIT can be misleading. HIIT workouts are technically part of a bigger fitness approach known as metabolic training.

Metabolic training (MT) is a hybrid of anaerobic strength training and aerobic cardio exercise. In a nutshell, effective MT training ignites your metabolism, allowing for a longer period of calorie burning. Essentially, your body's furnace is lit and on overdrive for up to 48 hours after the workout. The catch? The workout needs to be both intense and dense. Meaning you have to go all out and complete a high volume of work in a short period of time. An hour of weight training or a 30-minute jog around the park will not suffice.

MT training can be broken into two categories: Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) and Cardio Interval Training (CRT). The latter is better known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

MRT is the strength training component. In this style of training, you work through a series of strength-focused exercises (typically compound strength exercises) with very little rest between sets. You work intensely for 30-60 seconds before resting for 30 seconds or less. It's like circuit training on steroids.

A good example of an MRT workout would be 60 seconds of work for each below exercise with a 30-second rest between for a total of five rounds.

  • Burpees
  • Push-Ups
  • Squats
  • Pull-Ups
  • Forearm Plank

While the general public might view this MRT workout as a HIIT workout, that's technically incorrect.

CRT is the cardiovascular sibling. CRT consists of short, all-out bursts of a cardio-focused exercise (sprint, stairs, jump rope, etc). You go all out for 30-45 seconds in a burst of cardio, but then take one or more minutes to recover before repeating that short burst of cardio. This fits the actual definition of HIIT.

For a proper CRT workout, you could do the following:

  • 30-second sprint on the treadmill at a very high speed and incline followed by 1 minute of walking. Repeat the cycle for 5 rounds.

Both Metabolic Resistance Training workouts and Cardio Interval Training workouts offer an intense experience in a condensed timeframe. Both will torch fat and push you to the next level. And both will elevate your body's furnace, burning calories long after you've showered and crashed on the couch. But despite the fact both are advertised as such, only one (CRT) technically qualifies as HIIT training. So the next time your workout buddy suggests taking a HIIT course, double check on what type of workout experience they are aiming for.

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