It’s Not All About Pain: 5 Metabolic Workout Myths

Metabolic training is fast, furious, and effective. But are these 'metabolic workouts' all they’re cracked up to be? Here are five things you should keep in mind before starting.

You probably have a friend who looks amazing thanks to an intense workout plan—whether he used series of follow-along DVDs, signed up for boot camp classes, or joined a trendy hard-core fitness group. And that's not surprising. Work hard, and you'll see results. Rocket science, right?

But just because something works doesn't mean it's your best option. Or even that it's a good option at all. These intense workout plans all include a type of training called "metabolic training." Its goal is, in short, to increase your metabolism. That means you'll burn fat not only during your workout, but at work, in your car, even while you're sleeping.

How does it work? In a typical metabolic-style workout, you'll do resistance exercises at a fast pace, usually with some short rest periods between each move. For example, you'll perform squats continuously for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, do pushups for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat that cycle for a total of four minutes.

Only four minutes? That's right—metabolic workouts are fast. That's part of their appeal. In a study from Azusa Pacific University, subjects who did a 4-minute routine similar to the one above burned 63 calories during the workout and an additional 297 calories afterward.

There's a reason this type of training is so popular right now: It works. If you want to lose body fat, it's the best type of exercise you can do. But metabolic training is a relatively new arrival to the fitness mainstream. And as any first-gen iPhone user knows, it takes a while to work out the kinks.

So with the help from the country's leading metabolic training experts, we've busted the top 5 metabolic training myths.

Myth 1 /// Endless Jumping Exercises are Great for Fat Loss!

OK, jumping exercises are great for fat loss. "But they're terrible for your joints," says B.J. Gaddour, C.S.C.S., the creator of the Speed Shred DVD series. "Take a look at the testimonials for some of the intense workout plans. You see people with bands around their knees from knee injuries."

Instead of jumping on and off a box with your feet together, try this: Jump onto a 12- to 20-inch box with both feet. Then step off the box one foot at a time.

"This gives you all the power and fat-loss benefits of a jumping exercise without destroying your joints," Gaddour says.

Myth 2 /// You Should Feel Exhausted at the End of Every Workout

Go hard or go home? Hardly. "We've begun to value how 'extreme' a program is more than the results it can produce," says Martin Rooney, C.S.C.S., author of Warrior Cardio.

"But if you're so sore you can't move for days, you can't train and you've damaged your body in a way that makes it more difficult to recover." When you're done, it should feel like you could do one more set or go for a couple more minutes. Leave some gas in your tank.

Myth 3 /// You Need to Work Out Every Day if You're Serious About Losing Weight

"You don't get any results from training," says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., owner of Results Fitness in San Clarita, California.

"You need training plus recovery to get results." Avoid exercising more than two days in a row. "Two days on, one day off seems to be the perfect recovery for most people," Cosgrove says.

Myth 4 /// The Faster the Move, the Better

A metabolic exercise doesn't have to make you out of breath to be effective, Gaddour says. Why? Resistance training is a great way to increase your metabolism. One study found that the metabolic boost from a full-body weightlifting session lasted for 72 hours.

A must-try move: The hip hinge and row. "It works nearly every pulling muscle in your body, particularly your hips and shoulders, which are the most metabolically active tissues you have," Gaddour says.

Watch the video below to see how to perform this slow, controlled metabolic exercise.

Myth 5 /// Technical Exercises are Good Additions to a Hard Workout

Some popular programs call for high repetitions of technical exercises like cleans, snatches, and overhead squats—even when you're exhausted. The problem: "With these exercises, your form will fail before you ever get a metabolic response," Cosgrove says. That's why Cosgrove likes what he calls self-limiting exercises. These are exercises that, once you're fatigued, you simply can't do anymore.

Take a pushup. After a certain number of pushups, you won't be able to raise your body off the floor. Basically, they're hard to mess up. Planks, pull-ups, and bottoms-up kettlebell presses are other examples.