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Benefits of Rep-Based Metabolic Workouts

Rep-based training is basically as the name suggests – training that involves using a particular rep range as the client goes about each exercise and set. They might work towards a target of 10 reps, 15 reps, or 20 reps, depending on the particular protocol that is being used.

For instance, with traditional hypertrophy-based training which is employed in a large number of bodybuilding programs, they will be utilizing a rep range of around 8-12 reps for each exercise. When doing rep counted sets for metabolic training, the trainer often is taking the rep ranges higher, into the 10-20 rep range or beyond with their clients.

When using rep-based schemes, the trainer still sets up the overall workout much the same way as they would be setting up the timed interval workouts. The only difference is that now, rather than timing everything, they are simply looking at the total reps being performed.

The Benefits from Rep-Based Metabolic Workouts

The first good benefit is the fact that rep-based protocols are easier for the client to monitor while their workout is taking place. If using timed-based workouts, unless there is a large timer with seconds counting down the time, the client does not really know exactly where they are in the interval until the buzzer sounds. With rep-based workouts, they can count as they do their reps, this issue is resolved. This allows both the trainer and the client to better gauge their performance.

Another occasion one may find that rep-based workouts are beneficial, is when they have timed challenges. Do not get confused and think we are talking about timed intervals, as that is not what this is. Timed challenges are instead challenges that are performed where the client aims to reach a certain rep range by a particular period of time. For example, the client might be striving to reach 300 reps total for the entire workout and do this in the fastest time possible. That would be a great example of how to structure a metabolic workout that still uses the rep-based scheme, yet incorporates time into the mix. Then at each successive session, the client would attempt to reduce the total time to completion of those reps.

This set-up is an excellent option when working in group fitness settings, as it tends to bring out the competitive instinct in people.

Finally, the last benefit of rep-based training is that it can be easier for some clients to gauge how much weight to lift when using rep ranges as opposed to timed intervals.

If, for example, they know they can lift 50 pounds for 6 reps, chances are good they can lift 40 pounds for 8-12 reps. Therefore, if the trainer is trying to get them to move from one rep range to the next seamlessly, this can be slightly easier for them to do.

Having seen some of the benefits to using rep-based workouts, let’s go over the top five rep-based metabolic workout programming designs that can be used.

Top 5 Rep-Based Metabolic Workouts

Like any metabolic setup being used, remember that all the same factors discussed before will come into play. This means taking a client’s skill level, preferences, exercise history, and other activities performed into account. As a trainer, you will notice many similarities between the workouts listed below and the ones discussed in the last chapter. Please note that they can be performed using timed intervals or rep intervals instead.

1. Density Circuits

The first way to structure a metabolic rep workout is with density circuits. This could be done using an AMRAP set-up, which here means ‘as many reps as possible. This is the timed reps protocol noted above and works very well to add a challenge to any workout set-up.

Alternatively, you can also use an AMSAP, ‘as many sets as possible,’ structure, having the client do so many reps per set.

Both of these add more volume to their workout session, training their body to tolerate this higher volume, despite fatigue. The end result is they perform far better on their straight sets later on, and also experience a great increase in their resting metabolic rate.


The next way of structuring the workout is an “every minute on the minute” set-up, which again, is similar to how the previous one was done using time only but this time, you are using reps.

With this protocol, the client will need to perform ‘x’ number of reps every single minute and once those reps are done, they can then rest until the next minute time period comes up.

This is a relatively easy practice to use when doing group training and when you want to also be doing rep-based intervals rather than time-based intervals. Here again, everyone will be able to go at their own pace because each minute restarts. Some people may finish earlier and have more time to rest than others, but the group still stays together.

3. Complex Workouts

Complex workouts are a great metabolic training principle that are incredibly intense and will definitely help your clients reach the next level in their training protocol.

A complex can be described as a series of exercises (for example barbell-based exercises) where one exercise is performed after the next exercise without stopping or putting the bar down between exercises.

So for example, the complex might be barbell shoulder press, barbell rows, and barbell walking lunges. The client would perform “X” number of barbell shoulder presses, then immediately go the “X: number of barbell rows.  The bar would not be put down between the transitions. From there, they’d immediately move into ‘X’ number of barbell walking lunges and finally, once those were completed, the bar would be placed on the ground and rest would be taken.  This style of workout earns top marks for improving muscular and mental endurance because they must keep squeezing the bar and holding that tension the entire time.

This may not seem like that big of a deal, but after trying a few complexes, either yourself or having your clients try them, it’ll become very clear to you just how challenging these moves are.

Complexes are also great for giving the client an entire full-body workout in a minimal amount of time. The overall nature of this lends well to utilizing compound exercises, so in three to seven different exercises, the client can be hitting all the main areas of the body as needed.

These are also excellent options for those who are training with minimal equipment. Because they would be using just a single barbell (or sometimes a kettlebell if preferred), they will only need that equipment and open space. For clients who are looking for home workouts, these can be ideal.

4. 300 Workouts

Next on the list of types of rep-based metabolic workouts that can be done, is the 300 workout protocol. This is one of my signature circuit training workouts and this is where the trainee will perform 10 exercises stacked one after another with no rest in between. Each exercise is performed for 10 reps and once the entire 10 exercise circuit is completed, rest is taken for 1-2 minutes before it’s repeated a second and third time.

At the end of the workout, the trainee will have performed 300 reps total, making this a very high volume and intensive workout protocol.

Occasionally giving clients high volume workouts is a great way to help train their CNS to tolerate this greater level of stimulus and help build mental toughness and resiliency. This will then only help them later on when doing shorter workouts of a lower volume level.

5. Finisher Circuits

Finally, this last of the metabolic training circuits involve rep ranges that can be utilized as finisher circuits. These are one of my favorite ways to finish off the main workout, so think of them as an add-on to whatever the client is already doing. These finishers will last only 3-10 minutes in length but help kick the intensity level up a notch, thus delivering better overall results.

The goal of the finisher is to help push the trainee to the final state of fatigue, helping them cross both a physical and mental barrier that they would not have crossed without this. An example of a finisher rep-based protocol is my Alpha 200 circuit, which consists of 4 exercise circuits that are performed for 50 reps each exercise, one after another for no rest in between. I find this usually takes about 10 minutes for a client to finish and will be a killer way to end any workout routine.

There are many different ways that a trainer can set up and structure their finishers. Don’t think that it has to be done in this manner. Get creative and see what you can come up with.

Getting Started

Remember that as a trainer you can also always alternate between timed interval training and rep-based training over the course of the workout sessions with a given client. This would help add more variety to their workout and both keep their body responding as well as keeping them mentally engaged in the workouts at hand.

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