Metabolic Training

The 2020 I’ve lived so far has been far removed from the one I had planned. Business life, family life and exercise. Back in February I was on a plan to work on my pressing abilities focussing monthly on various forms of pressing. At the same time I had planned to continue to explore contextualising my traditional strength training with natural movement health, strength and fitness routines.

It’s now June and the more serious pressing program has been de-emphasised to reduce overall stress. Stress is a terrible burden that weighs down many ambitions. Not wanting to add physical stress onto emotional and mental stress, I reduced the more serious, heavy training to work on an easy strength program I was giving to gym clients. I must write about that one as it was full of surprises. Made me think again about ‘how hard is hard enough’ in strength training.

Heading into July now I feel more ready to tackle something. I’ve been following the more relaxed strength program and now favour something more metabolic. Something to make me work on my breathing; fitness if you will, maybe with a hint of hypertrophy and strength endurance.

If you spend time delving into the various metabolic programs you will find some commonalities. Namely how work to rest ratios are timed.

Time and time again you’ll find 30:30:30 routines. In fact, long time coach, Dan John has recently reinvigorated his 30 minutes of 30 secs work and 30 secs of rest routine with 5 movements. I’ve used similar in the past and miraculously in the past week, MovNat released their metabolic program. And yes, it too has elements of 30:30. Fancying something different and in the grain of my recent training, I have dived straight into the MovNat metabolic 8 week program. It allows for various equipment to be utilised. My kettlebells will not be gathering dust over the next 8 weeks!

I will document my progress over the next 8 weeks and all going well, I’ll have something presentable for my clients and MovNat head quarters too.

As a quick glimpse of todays routine, here’s a wee video for you.

It’s a simple looking routine. Each movement represents everyday activities. Lifting ‘stuff’, crawling both hand foot and inverted, getting up from the ground and the sprawl is a very common method of getting up from the floor. I’m not going to give the whole MovNat program away, just snippets here and there.

You might not have ambitions to be heavy hitter gym goer, world record deadlifter. You may and probably want to be a better operating version of yourself though. And this is where I believe natural movement style programs rules.

Fun, practical and relative.

And to be clear, this is not a follow along video with instructions. It’s a demonstration. Got it?

Why Getting Down to the Floor is So Important

I love questions in the gym or from peoples in the interweb facebook world. I even love the questions I can’t immediately answer. If I need to really think a subject matter through, I will and if I need to refer to a smarter associate, I will. I’m actually very lucky to be within a network of some of the smartest thinkers in the health and fitness world. Note the word ‘health’. The fitness world alone is awash with unnecessarily sweaty, nonsense – you know the ‘stuff’ you see on social media with all the pouting, posing, flexing, ‘look at me’ distractions. I’ll not even get into the exercise things that they share – that is a story for another time.

Talking of smart people, I am very blessed to be attending a weekend workshop with world renowned strength and conditioning coach Dan John. We’ll be spending the weekend covering some content from his latest book, 40 Years with a Whistle along with sections looking at the economics of strength training. Overall, it is going to an awesome weekend with gold nuggets of information bouncing off the walls. I will be sure to blog about the workshop next week when I’ve calmed down!

Dan John ties in nicely with todays post and a question I get often from new-comers to the gym.

‘Why do we get down to the floor so much during a training session’? 

Let’s read a few statistics, a somewhat scary tale of the current day for you.

  1. Deaths from falls are increasing by 3% per year, or 30% between 2007 and 2016. Link
  2. In Queensland, ambulance services attended near 60% of falls in private residences and 24% in nursing homes.
  3. In Australia, 30% of adults over 65 experience at least one fall per year.
  4. Falls account for 40% of injury-related deaths in Australia. Link
  5. The most common injuries involve hip, leg, arm, neck fractures, with hip injuries having the greatest impact on patients.

I’ll stop at 5 but for more information please do click on the last link above.

Whilst the falls alone are traumatic the post-fall life of a fall patient is greatly impacted by a reduction in willingness to partake in physical activity for fear of falling again. Even in younger patients, they too will most likely seize to exercise as much. This reduction of quality in life simply snow-balls the inactivity and allows frailty to set in, in turn increasing risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes. One study has shown that the two year survival rate of cancer survivors is greater than that of falls patients.

If you’re not seeing why we get to the floor and back up again often in a gym session, maybe you need to read the same statement from one of the worlds greatest strength and conditioning coaches.

‘It’s one of the strongest statements I have made in my career. I feel like no one is listening, but…please…do some work on getting to the ground and getting back up. Practice falling before you need to!’ Dan John

A bit more information from Dan perhaps?

So, how do we get to the floor? Well, we get down to the floor silly. Simply practicing the many methods of getting onto the floor and whilst down there we practice some purposeful trunk exercises. Any action that’s purposeful and mindful, repeated often will develop muscular and joint strength as well as developing the reactive or reflexive strength in the movements. If we’re stronger in practicing getting down to the floor, we will be more resilient if and when a slip or fall occurs.

For general strength and conditioning, we practice the following:

  • Lunges in all directions to get closer to the floor or onto the floor.
  • Squats in all shapes and forms to get closer to the floor.
  • Hip hinges both two legged and single legged to get closer to the floor or onto the floor.
  • The wonderful Turkish Get Up is another quite specific multi-planar movement that teaches the skill of getting to the floor and back up.
  • Single leg balance to assess and develop the ability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds. Test that yourself. If you struggle to balance for 10 seconds, there’s you next most important goal to work on.

We also have a great drill I call the Flamingo. This drill I developed to address multi-planar movements of the legs. Really, it’s just a tease for the legs, hips, ankles and trunk to maintain balance over a range of moves. Here’s a video I’ll share now.

In part two, I will share a video containing the other list of moves I mentioned above.

Action point?

Can you stand on one leg for 10 seconds?

Dan Johns ‘The Eagle’

The Eagle

Look, any workout called the Eagle is not necessarily worthy of attention… except when it’s the offspring of Dan Johns eagle eyed appreciation for simplicity (see what I did there? What a literary genius I am!)

Two exercises that alone are challenging to accomplish for 8 sets of roughly 20-30 seconds each are made even more warrior building when alternated for the same 8 sets – CONTINUOUSLY!

Correct, you interpreted that bold typed word precisely. Non-stop by another name but all the same, a gruelling combination of two simple moves. One a great loaded patterning movement and one, a grinding compounding lift.

8 Double Kettlebell Front Squats &  Farmers Walk for 20 meters X 8 rounds!!!

The beauty of these two lifts can be repeated with other combinations I’ll list later, but the combination of the squat and carry make for such a comprehensive training session. The metabolic thrust it’ll produce will make you want to raid the kitchen larder before raiding the kitchens of your nearest neighbours, once you’ve stopped crying of course when you finish it – if you actually finish it!

Your grip will strain like never before, leading to the necessity to find ideal ways to clean those bells to the shoulders every round. Breathing will become your nearest opponent after the kettlebells as you gasp and suck wind. If your head is in the right place you’ll soon discover that taking control of your breathing will make your time more bearable, but you’ll probably not be able to make time for the luxury of thought once you get through the 4th round.

Abezethibou1Sorry, I’m beginning to make the Eagle out to be a winged demon from hell. Abezethibou, actually a fallen angel, probably fell because he failed to finish the Eagle!!

Now look, feel free to go for it now and attempt to conquer the Eagle without prior preparation. However, how if we take the completed Eagle and reverse it to form a program to step us up to being able to conquer it?

Well, that’s my plan.

Quick recap. The Eagle is 8 rotations of non-stop 8 Front Squats with two 24kg kettlebells, followed by dropping them to ones side and carrying them for 20 metres before re-cleaning them to squat once more etc etc.

The biggest challenge in the Eagle is endurance, not really leg strength if you’re an accomplished kettlebell squatter and carries alone aren’t really that bad.

I’ll be putting together a program that will focus on playing with rest periods between sets, gradually reducing these and starting to group the super-sets together. It’s actually not a very difficult task of writing this but I’m sure if many others done it, to help make undertaking the complete Eagle without doing harm to oneself or those around us… trust me, no one wants to hear the kind of breathing this workout makes a trainee make, it’s just vile and offensive to the ear haha.

Anywho, to be continued on the program front.

Other pairs of patterning and grinds that could be carried out include:

  • Leopard crawls and pull up bar hangs
  • Goblet squats and Swings
  • Deadbugs and Single Leg Deadlifts
  • Push ups and rows (with the suspension rings or TRX)
  • Double kettlebell swings and Loaded Carries
  • Double kettlebell swings and Renegade Rows

The timing or rep protocols should be kept within 20 – 25 secs for each exercise.

Part 2 – The Program


The 40 Day Program – completed!

Back on the 24th January I committed to undertaking and completing the 40 Day Program (that I talk about here). I didn’t know quite what to expect and the program is very much a Paretos Law kind of program. A selection of exercises are followed with a minimal effective dose (no more than 10 total, accumulated reps), that address the linch-pins of physical training programs namely, a hip hinge, a squat, a push, a pull and an abdominal exercise.

As discussed in my first post, I chose the Single Leg Deadlift, the Double Kettlebell Front Squat, a Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press, a single arm Row and I gave myself a choice of an ab wheel or abdominal hollow. The latter two are very new me as I have chickened out of such effort for years. I was definitely one of those, “I work my abs fine during swings and squats”  kind of guys!

BU Press

The program flowed reasonably well. I managed to train 5 times a week and I used an auto-regulation progression. Days I felt less than good I completed shorter sets to achieve my 10 reps per exercise. Days when I felt like the incredible Hulk, I smashed out longer sets or moved up a weight.

The rules of this program are simple. Accumulate 10 reps, do not max out and leave some in the tank.

One hiccup occurred 10 sessions  in when I developed a random left knee pain that took a few days to subside. This naturally hindered squatting, so I just did a few kettlebell cleans in place as they didn’t cause any issues.

In my initial reading-up of the 40 Day Program I read that many followers reported hitting their bests in the lifts by session 20 – 25. I didn’t go out to prove or disprove this but sure enough, a peak did happen as early as session #15 when I hit a lifetime best in my double kettlebell front squat. Thereafter, not much magic happened until session #28 to #32 when PRs (personal bests) fell like stones before progress came to halt by the 40th session.


To sum up progress:

40 Day Program Progress

Interestingly, whilst I gained strength on these particular lifts, I additionally lost over 1kg without changing my diet. My guess is that the higher frequency of large moves had an impressionable impact on calorie expenditure.

So, in relish of the success of this simple program, I am planning on repeating it after following a block of higher effort training. The exercises will no doubt change a little as per needs.


My recommendation is to try this program if only to put lots of practice into the skills of some moves.. and you will probably get stronger too, just follow the rules. Really, what do have to lose over 8 weeks?

The rules, to repeat myself.

Accumulate 10 reps.

Do not max out

Leave some in the tank.

Oh, and if you are interested in having this program laid out for you, just get in touch.