Tip: Metabolic Conditioning for Muscleheads

Lose fat and preserve your muscle mass with this fast, challenging workout finisher.

The Dilemma

You want to drop some body fat, but you also want to maintain muscle mass and maybe even build a little more. Oh, and you also hate boring steady-state cardio. What do you do?

Well, for muscle mass to be maintained and/or built, stress needs to be applied in a specific way to create a training stimulus that causes adaptation. There's no way around it; you have to train at a high enough intensity for this to happen. And that kind of intensity can't be maintained with longer duration cardio. It just doesn't "tell" the body to hang on to muscle.

This is a minimal space, minimal equipment workout that will keep your furnace burning all day long. It's a series of compound exercises targeting pretty much every major muscle group and movement pattern. Use this as a workout finisher to keep your conditioning up and body composition under control.

You'll string together these exercises for five sets:

  • Push-Up
  • Bentover Dumbbell Row
  • RDL High Pull
  • Power Curl
  • Thruster
  • Lunge Exchange, 6-8 reps per leg

Select a set of dumbbells that add up to around 25-30% of your bodyweight to start, but the weakest movement in the complex will dictate how heavy you should go. In the case of this complex, the thruster will be the most challenging since it's near the end. (By set four, those 40's start to feel like 80's.)

Your goal is to do 8 reps per exercise with 60 second rest intervals between sets for five sets. Every week, drop 10 seconds from the rest intervals until you can hang with only 30 seconds of rest between sets.

You'll notice that I perform the power curls with a slight "cheat" or hip hinge movement. Why? The point of these kind of complexes is to incorporate as many muscle groups as possible. By performing this exercise from the hips and in an explosive way, it turns the bicep curl into a more powerful movement that incorporates the posterior chain in a similar way you'll get in a "partial" kettlebell swing.

Pieter van der Linde is the cofounder and operator of Endorphin Junkies, a personal training studio and online coaching business, operating since 2002. He has over 22 years of personal training and coaching experience in performance and sport-specific training. Pieter currently competes as an IFBB pro bodybuilder. Follow Pieter van der Linde on Facebook