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Class Review: Metabolic Conditioning at Reformation Fitness

Class Review: Metabolic Conditioning at Reformation Fitness

Monday, March 10, 2014 - 6:01am

SteelBell workout at Reformation Fitness. Photo from the Reformation Fitness Facebook page.

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Last week, I dropped in to Reformation Fitness to take a class they refer to as ‘MetCon.’ If you aren’t familiar with Metabolic Conditioning, here is a good definition. The short version? MetCon = the higher the intensity, the more fat you burn before and after your workout, and the fitter and stronger you become. This is why burpees, while loathsome, work so well.

As a group fitness instructor, I’ve learned that fitting a good routine into a 40-minute class can be hard--after all, I used to teach a 30-minute class based on the theory of metabolic conditioning. After subtracting time for a warm-up and cool-down, you’re left with even less time to effectively kick your patrons’ butts. It can be tempting to just throw high intensity exercise after high intensity exercise at your class repeatedly for 30 minutes in order to get them sweating, red-faced, breathing hard, and working their muscles to the maximum potential. “20 BURPEES-GO! 40 PUSH-UPS-GO! 20 SQUAT JUMPS-GO! DO PUSH UPS UNTIL YOU CAN’T MOVE-GO!”

Ivan’s Metabolic Conditioning class at Reformation Fitness was nothing of the sort, which is a very good thing.

Read our Featured Trainer interview with Ivan.

The class started off with a classic warm-up--jumping jacks, inch worm, knee push-ups--all exercises that were straightforward, got my heart pumping, and gave me a full body warm-up.

We then moved into 4 short circuits, each having 3 exercises. Ivan did a great job of mixing it up, ensuring that each circuit included a movement that targeted different areas of the body. Exercises ranged from Steel Bell swings (the same as Kettle Bell swings except replacing the Kettle Bell with a Steel Bell) to a lateral Bear Crawl to new exercises I had never heard of before but will add into my own workouts.

Two new exercises I learned:

  • The Lateral Monkey: In this exercise, we started with our hands on the Steel Bell, which was placed on the ground, hopped our legs to the left and then touched our hands out in front of our legs. You then return to the central starting position and repeat on the right side. This, as with all the other exercises, continued for 30 seconds.

  • The Plow Push: Once again, we started with our hands on the Steel Bell, arms extended and our body in plank position. Without bending our elbows, we had to push down and jump our hands out to the side.

When speaking to Ivan about this exercise after class, he told me that the great thing about the plow push is that, in addition to kicking your butt, it has a functional purpose as well. When people do push ups or hold a plank, they typically let their stomach drop, their shoulders hunch, and they fail to keep a flat back with broad shoulders. This is because they tend to rely on their arms only in order to execute the push-ups or complete the plank. With the plow push, however, you need to actively engage every muscle in your core, chest, and upper back in order to be able to move your arms outward without bending your elbows and engaging your biceps and triceps.

After we completed two rounds of the first four circuits, we took a quick water break and then completed two more circuits with four exercises each. Following these circuits, our final task of the night was one big circuit. The steel bells were set down in a line in the middle of the room and we split our group in half--each group starting on opposite sides of the room. At Ivan’s cue, we crab-walked to the steel bells, tapped one with our foot, crab-walked back, and completed 5 push ups. At this point in the night, my arms were jelly, and each push up felt like I was trying to push a Hummer up a San Francisco hill. We crab-walked once more, and then half the class did ‘low jacks’ (jumping jacks while in a squat position) while the other half of the class did pull-ups on the TRX pull-up bars. We switched places, repeated again, and then promptly collapsed onto the floor to catch our breath and stretch it out.

My favorite aspects of the class:

Reformation’s motto is Small Classes, Better Results, and I truly enjoyed the small group training aspect. This atmosphere allowed for Ivan to interact directly with each of the 7 people in class, from individual encouragement such as “Come on, Abby*, don’t stop now--you just killed those goblet squats, I can tell you’re strong enough” to giving me assistance when I was struggling to pull my chin up and over the TRX pull-up bar. 

This class uses minimum equipment, and the equipment we did use was unique and applicable to many different exercises. The two pieces of equipment used in this class were the SteelBell  and the TRX pull up bar. While both of these pieces of equipment are unique and were new to me, the exercises we did with them could very easily be done without the equipment or with another piece of equipment, such as a kettle bell, dumbbell, or sandbag. This is a plus, as many of us do not have a plethora of exercise equipment at our daily disposal.

Thank you, Reformation Fitness and Ivan, for reminding me what Metabolic Conditioning and high intensity workouts are all about. I will return to conquer my nemesis--the TRX pull-up bar.

About the Author

Abby Wolfe has a MPH degree with a focus on Physical Activity in Public Health from George Washington University. She is currently working as a Reporting and Evaluation Manager at LiveHealthier in Bethesda, MD, as well as an Editorial Intern for The Daily Muse. You can follow her adventures through DC on Twitter (@shmabbywolfe) or Instagram (shmab).