How to Create Metcon Workouts for Health

How to Create Metcon Workouts for Health

Around the world people are waking up to the importance of fitness and its relationship to general health.

However, the current fitness market falls short in reaching this goal when it pushes intense fitness, short-term fixes, and complex exercises that are far beyond the capabilities of most clients.

There is a need for a new type of training that both supports health and is fun for clients. Our answer is metcon workouts for health.

What are Metcon Workouts for Health?

The first step to designing metcon workouts for health is to understand the definition of a metcon, short for metabolic conditioning.

Breaking it down, metabolic suggests a change in metabolism from training. Increased blood flow, heart rate, ventilatory rate, and thermoregulation are examples of metabolic responses.

Conditioning suggests learning through the experience of training.

Putting it together, metabolic conditioning is work that creates a metabolic effect that the body learns and adapts from.

Next, what is health? Is it a six-pack, the ability to run a mile at a new pace, or being capable of living life to its utmost potential?

OPEX Fitness defines health as having great mental acuity, being prepared for your function, and being capable of living large and long. These three things look a little bit different for everyone.

Compared to the traditional metcon, an unsustainable workout that prioritizes intensity over intent, metcons for health drive metabolic adaptations that support the three pillars of health: mental acuity, function, and living large.

Mental Acuity

Mental acuity is the ability to have a clear mind and have enough energy for decision making and concentration. Metcons for health are performed at a sustainable pace that doesn’t cause post-workout brain fog and allows you to be sharp and focused outside the gym.

Being Prepared for Function

Being prepared for your function refers to the ability to meet the demands of daily life. Metcons for health support your clients’ function by building their muscle endurance and capacity, as well as supporting good energy rhythm.

Living Large and Long

Metcons for health support longevity by creating healthy patterns of movement, aerobic fitness, and behaviors that last a lifetime. They do not encourage overreaching and are designed to be within your client’s capabilities or just slightly outside, so that they don’t get burned out or injured in the process.

(Get 21 free Metcon for Health here.)

How do Metcon Workouts for Health Differ from Traditional Metcons?

Metcons for health are designed around six principles: 

  1. Start Slow
  2. Make it Sustainable
  3. Keep it Simple
  4. Basic Lifestyle Guidelines (BLGs)
  5. Don’t Forget Resistance
  6. Educate on Intentions

These principles are based on the idea that training for general health and fitness must differ from the athlete-centered model.

Clients that are training for health should not follow the same training as athletes. Athletes are pushing to reach the highest level of maximum physical potential, whereas general population clients are trying to extend the level of fitness they need to support the three pillars of health for as long as possible.

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When you look at these two types of training on a graph comparing maximal physical potential to time you will notice that the athlete peaks high and declines faster, as demanded by sport. On the other hand, health-focused clients should have a slower and wider peak. To achieve this, their training needs to be more sustainable and gradual.

To support health, metcons must be designed in a way that your client can express consistently for a long time into the future. For this to happen, they need to be aerobic.

(Free Course: Want to create workouts that promote longevity? Learn how in this free coaching course.)

The Principles of Metcons for Health

1) Start Slow

Start your clients with long and slow metcons. Think 15 to 60 minutes of steady power output. Ask your client to pick a pace that they feel they could maintain for four times the duration of the workout. It is better for the client to start slower and under-pace than to over-pace and get into threshold training.

It is possible to build to shorter, faster intervals over time as a client develops a robust aerobic system, so long as they can keep the intervals repeatable. However, you must understand what progression means for your client. Their goals may not require them to push the boundaries of sustainable aerobic power. Just because you have the tools for aerobic power progression does not mean you have to use them with every client.


30 Minute As Many Rounds as Possible @ sustained pace

400m Row

1200m Assault Bike

20m Crawl

Perform at a pace you could maintain for 90 minutes

2) Make it Sustainable

Keeping metcons aerobic means making sure that the power output is sustainable. This means the client should be able to finish the workout, take adequate rest, and repeat it at the same pace. It also means that the client should show consistent power output across the entire workout. A great way to ensure sustainability is to use intraset repeatability, measuring split times and making sure they are repeatable.


10x @sustainable pace

200m Ski Erg

10 Walking Lunges

  • Use a lap timer to show repeatability across all rounds

5x @sustainable pace

1 minute Burpee

1 minute Single Unders

  • Record scores to show repeatability across all rounds

 3) Keep it Simple 

Appropriate exercise selection is important to make sure that your clients get the correct response from their metcons. Keep the training simple at first and progress to more complex work overtime. Start with simple exercises including cyclical activities, bodyweight isometrics and carries. When the client demonstrates good muscle endurance on these activities, then you can start to increase the load and introduce eccentric and concentric activities.



  • 20 minute AMRAP @ sustainable pace
  • 20m Farmers Carry
  • 30 second Front Plank
  • 15 calorie Assault Bike


  • 20 minute AMRAP @ sustainable pace
  • 5 Power Clean
  • 10 Bar Facing Burpee
  • 15 calorie Assault Bike

4) Basic Lifestyle Guidelines

Before we discuss metcon program design, it’s essential to educate yourself and your clients on the Basic Lifestyle Guidelines (BLGs). These are a set of eight behavior principles that are simple upon reading, but rarely mastered. They must be implemented to support any training program and more nuanced nutrition prescriptions.

The Basic Lifestyle Guidelines:

  1. There are 24 hours in a day; balance work and rest appropriately
  2. The earth spins, and the sun and moon correlate with our energy patterns; create a healthy circadian rhythm
  3. Understand your purpose
  4. Create healthy rhythms for water consumption, digestion, and blood flow
  5. Drink ½ of body weight in ounces per day of water 
  6. Easy aerobic work helps with recovery
  7. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day maintains a great circadian rhythm
  8. Digestion; Food is a 36-44-hour investment, sit down, chew your food, enjoy your food, set the phone aside and have a conversation

5) Don’t Forget Resistance

Metcons are a powerful tool to improve aerobic fitness, but make sure your clients are still performing great resistance training with the intent of gaining lean mass. This has a host of associated health benefits, including fat loss, bone density, insulin resistance, cardiovascular health and of course, strength.

A sample workout day may look as follows:

A1: Close Grip Bench Press; 8-10x3 @2010, 90 seconds rest

A2: Hip Thrust; 8-10x3 @30X3, 90 seconds rest

B1: Ring Row; 8-10x3 @3011, 90 seconds rest

B2: Back Squat; 8-10x3 @3010, 90 seconds rest

C: 15 minutes @ sustained pace (use lap timer to show intraset repeatability)

250 meters Ski Erg

20 Prisoner Walking Lunges 

3 Strict Pull-Ups

6) Educate on Intentions

High-intensity training is undeniably popular and it is common for clients to think harder is better when it comes to exercise. It is important to educate clients on the benefits of keeping their Metcons sustainable and how to use tools like intraset repeatability and pacing to help them learn how to do this.

Connect what they do in the gym with feeling great and their unique definition of a fulfilled life so that they can connect with the value of metcons for health. Education on exercise intent needs to happen in a one-on-one setting, where you can connect with them and use your consultation practices to get to the heart of their purpose.

Sample Metcon Workouts for Health

Client Lucy:

Sex: Female

Age: 38 years old

Occupation: Nurse

Training History: Yoga and spin class twice per week for the last year.

Goals: Have the energy for her long hospital shifts and the strength required for tasks like moving patients. Stop persistent back pain after a particularly intensive workday.

Coach’s Assessment Notes

The OPEX Move assessments revealed that isometric core strength is a priority for Lucy. She scored 43 seconds on her right-side plank and 41 seconds on the left. A passing score for the Move Level 1 assessment is 60 seconds.

Coach’s Design Intent

The workout is progressed by increasing the number of rounds and duration of the side plank each week while sustaining pace and mechanics.

Sustainability is demonstrated by scoring calories for each round and setting RPMs based on Lucy's ability.

Metcon 1

4 RFT @ sustained pace

2 minute Assault Bike for cal

20 second Side Plank, Left

20 second Side Plank, Right

100ft Goblet Carry

30 seconds Wall Sit

Metcon 2

5 RFT @ sustained pace 

2 minute Assault Bike for cal

25 second Side Plank, Left

25 second Side Plank, Right

100ft Goblet Carry

30 second Wall Sit

Metcon 3

6 RFT @ sustained pace

2 minute Assault Bike for cal

30 second Side Plank, Left

30 seconds Side Plank, Right

100ft Goblet Carry

30 second Wall Sit

Why Metcons for Health?

Every person is unique and requires a different type of training to meet their goals. What a 35-year-old mother of two needs to support her daily life is vastly different from what the 23-year-old functional fitness enthusiast needs to look good and find a date.

So why should they train in the same manner?

The answer is they shouldn’t.

Great fitness coaches understand this and believe the best training program is the one made specifically for that client.

For the last 20 years, OPEX Fitness has been educating coaches on how to create these programs. The OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) is an industry-leading course that details our method of individual design, preparing coaches for a successful career in the fitness industry.

Interested? Download the free curriculum guide today to discover the topics that you can learn in CCP. 


Fitness Assessments for New Clients