I love to try new things, and had heard a little about Metabolic Conditioning training before, but didn’t really know what it was. Turns out it’s something I love! Just goes to show, you’ve got to keep trying new things and always pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

As a part of the Fitness First #changeforthebest campaign, I had the chance to do a one-on-one personal training session with PT Manager at Fitness First Bond Street, Michael McSevney. Hailing from Glasgow, Michael is not only heading up the 45+ PTs at Bond Street, but also is a MMA Fighter, certified Level 1 Pro Mai MMA coach and assistant MMA coach on the Wimp2Warrior TV show. So really, it was a privilege to get to train with such an industry expert and pro!

Unfortunately (and luckily) I couldn’t do upper body work as I was dealing with some muscular issues in my neck. So that meant boxing was out. Which quite frankly was perfectly fine by me, as I’m incredibly uncoordinated and seem to just giggle when I put on boxing gloves (very girly of me I know, I’m working on it).

Naturally, if the upper body is out, then you’ve only got the legs left. As you would probably know if you read anything I write, I love training legs, so this ended up suiting me perfectly fine too! However, this method of training legs was definitely a bit out of my comfort zone – it was not something I would have felt that confident trying without a personal trainer to guide me through it and ensure my technique was correct. I hadn’t ever really used Kettlebells before, nor had I done Zercher squats.

Michael was nothing short of fantastic to introduce both of these to me. Although I was trying new equipment and a different method, I felt confident enough throughout the session to push myself a little bit too. He gave great tips throughout, correcting my technique along the way and also making sure I wasn’t putting any strain on my neck muscles. I’m looking forward to doing some more PT sessions with him too.

We also did some great dynamic warm up moves which essentially mimicked what we were going to do in the session, but without the load. I’m pretty bad at warming up, but this really made a different to my mobility and it’s something I’m going to start incorporating into my training program.

In fact, I loved it so much, that I’ve already spoken to my coach George Saragas and we are switching up my program to this style! So there you go, trying new things is always a beneficial way to keep growing yourself. Whether you end up loving or hating it, you’ll never know if you don’t try.

I want you to try something new too. So mini competition time!

Win a Personal Training session with Michael McSevney at Fitness First Bond Street, Sydney.

  1. All you need to do is enter your details in the form below to become a subscriber to the ZOMT weekly or monthly newsletter and so I can contact you if you win!
  2. Comment something new on this post that you are going to try in your health, fitness or nutrition.
Plus, putting your details in the form below and you will be emailed the leg training program that Michael took me through – it’s a fun one!


(See Terms & Conditions at end of post)


Mick on the far left, with the Wimp2Warrior team.

ZOMT: Let’s start off with your preferred training method – Metabolic Conditioning (MC). What is it exactly?

Michael McSevney: Metabolic conditioning is a term that has become very popular in the fitness world recently. It is also known by a number of other names such as metcon (simply a shortened version of METabolic CONditioning), HIIT (high intensity interval training), and circuit training to name but a few.
Some people like to call it ‘Crossfit’ but this isn’t entirely accurate. While some metabolic conditioning workouts are featured in Crossfit programming, not all Crossfit workouts are metabolic conditioning workouts.

Metabolic Conditioning is the training of the body’s energy pathways to work more efficiently and effectively. Our body does not create energy, it simply liberates energy from one source and makes it available in a form that our body can use.

Ultimately metabolic conditioning workouts are workouts which feature short high intensity work periods followed by periods of rest/active recovery. The exercises, intensity and work to rest ratios are all dictated by the desired training outcomes and the fitness levels of the individual performing the workout.

Z: Talk to me about how MC activates the 3 major energy systems in the body? It’s training aerobic and anaerobic correct?

MM: Yes, that is correct. First, let’s take a very quick and simplified look at those energy systems.
The body uses the Adenosine tri phosphate – phosphocreatine (ATP-PC) system first. Our muscles are loaded with ATP at a cellular level and this is what allows the muscles to work. The ATP runs out very quickly and the phosphocreatine (PC) recharges it. The ATP-PC system is good for about 10 seconds of work.

Once the PC runs out our body starts on the next way it can recharge ATP and this system is known as glycolysis.

Basically, our body starts to use glucose in the form of glycogen to recharge the ATP. This is a 10 step process, but ultimately it isn’t that efficient, approximately only 5% of the potential energy in glucose and glycogen is converted to ATP, with the rest becoming pyruvic acid. This pyruvic acid can later become lactate, the nasty substance that makes our muscles burn.

The point at which this system runs out of steam is often referred to as our anaerobic threshold.
Both the ATP-PC system and glycolysis occur anaerobically, or without oxygen.

While these systems are great for short, high intensity activities where we need immediate energy, they are limited in the fact they cannot sustain prolonged periods of work.

Next the aerobic system kicks in. The aerobic system, using oxygen, has the ability to break down fat, protein and carbohydrate molecules in a part of our cells called the mitochondria. During the multiple stages of chemical reactions that cause the breakdown of these molecules, energy is released which can fuel the regeneration of the ATP. Due to the time taken for these breakdowns the energy is not instantly available, hence why our anaerobic systems are so important for instant work capacity.

So how does this physiology all relate to a metabolic conditioning workout you ask?

Well due to the nature of exercises in a typical MC workout, multi muscle/multi joint movements, weighted movements or explosive movements our bodies must be able to produce the necessary force required straight away (anaerobic systems) but it must be able to continue to produce such forces and speeds for the duration of the work period, which depending on the length, may go beyond the anerobic and into the aerobic system.

Z: How does MC benefit us in relation to fitness and strength?

MM: The great thing about our body is it will adapt to whatever stimulus we give it. The more we challenge it, the more efficient it will become in that given task. This is the basic principle of adaptation.
So as we discussed in the previous question, MC workouts push us to our anaerobic threshold. Our bodies work on the premise of ‘use it or lose it’ so by pushing ourselves to that anaerobic threshold our body is better able to deal with being there and can work for longer before reaching that point next time.
Due to the nature of the movements used in MC workouts and the relatively short work periods, you can design MC workouts using loads that will improve strength also.

Michael-McSeveney-MMA-3Z: What about fat loss? Is MC effective for that too?

MM: Absolutely!

So if we skip back a couple of questions to the part about the aerobic system coming into play, there is another important part to what happens there.

Typically, ‘aerobic exercise’ is thought of as that long duration, steady state type activity (think jogging, cycling, countless hours spent on the cross trainer at the gym). In this format the aerobic system can continue for long periods without too much discomfort to the individual, as long as the intensity remains low.

When the intensity increases however, the aerobic system will reach a point where it cannot sustain the required energy production necessary for the intensity of work. This is known as the maximal oxygen uptake, or maxVO2.

Due to the typically short work periods in a metabolic conditioning workout, the aerobic system doesn’t have time to get up to full energy production, so we generally don’t reach maxVO2, but the aerobic system does come into play in a big way during recovery.

When you are in your rest period your aerobic system is working like crazy to replenish the ATP supplies that your body used up via the anaerobic pathways during the workout. This is known as excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC for short.

You’ll know it as that feeling of several minutes heavy breathing after you finished the sled drives in our workout.

Basically your body is sucking in oxygen to generate ATP from fuel (fat) to replenish the anaerobic systems.

EPOC is based on two factors: the fitness level of the individual and the intensity of the exercise. The lower the fitness levels and the higher the intensity, the greater the EPOC. During EPOC we burn more calories than we would at rest, so with high intensity exercise followed by active recovery, the caloric expenditure can approximate the same level as the amount burned on a long run in a much shorter workout time.

The best bit? The EPOC effect can last up to 48 hours after your workout. This means that potentially, 2 days after your training session, you could still be experiencing a higher than normal calorie burn.

Z: The MC legs sess you took me through was awesome and heaps of fun trying something new! It was quite intense and taxing on the body, are there limitations for duration and/or frequency with this style of training?

MM: First up let me say that I do not try to push MC training on everyone whom I train. It is just one of many tools that we have available to us as trainers. If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.

If MC type training is a suitable tool for a client with regards to their abilities and their goals, then it is absolutely something I will use. As you experienced it can be quite taxing, so as with any type of training it is important that your workouts are properly programmed and periodised so that your body can adequately recover and adapt, ready to push a little harder next time.

If you try to go all out every workout, right from the beginning, trust me, your body won’t put up with it for long before something gives.

Z: You’re an MMA fighter yourself and are a coach on the TV show Wimp 2 Warrior. Is MC the training style you use for the W2W participants?

MM: MMA by its very nature requires metabolic conditioning – periods of high intensity work with the ability to keep going for the full round. There are no ‘time outs’ in the middle of a round, you back off for just a second and that may be all your opponent needs to take advantage and win. Much of the fitness comes from specific drilling and sparring, but we also incorporate conditioning sessions. These follow MC protocols, with the exercises often being movements specific to the sport.

Professional MMA fighters are among some of the fittest and best conditioned athletes in the world.

Z: What sort of nutrition protocol fits in with MC training?

MM: This really comes down to the overall goal of the individual, since MC and be used as a tool for fat loss, muscle gain or strength gain, the nutrition would fit accordingly with that.

Z: Lastly, please share your current fav recipe 🙂

MM: I love cooking with spices. The flavours and aromas are fantastic and can make the simplest of dishes really come alive.

I’ve recently discovered Dahl, the lentil based dish. It is incredibly simple to make, cheaper than it should be for something that tastes so good and is easy to cook in bulk.

As for sharing a recipe? Well, let me share instead some advice that I got from a good friend of mine who also happens to be a chef.

He said don’t worry about following a recipe with military precision (something I was guilty of doing). The recipe is just a guide. Enjoy the experience of cooking, trying, tasting and experimenting. You are cooking for YOU, not the person who wrote the recipe, so put your own twist on it. Make it yours.

So here is my challenge to your readers. Get online, look up a few different Dahl recipes, take a little from each and give it a go. You can add whatever you like, meat or no meat, whatever veggies you like, I love chilli, so mine is usually spicy. Go crazy and why not share with us your results. (Z: Try this dahl recipe to start off and then post your yummy dahl recipes on the ZOMT Facebook page!)

This is a red lentil, yellow split pea, peas + spinach dahl I made in 2012. I should make another one!

This is a red lentil, yellow split pea, peas + spinach dahl I made in 2012. I should make another one!


About Michael

Contact Michael at michael.mcsevney@gmail.com

Mike started his career by studying a Higher National Diploma in Sport and Exercise Science in Glasgow, Scotland and qualified in 2000. He cut his teeth in the industry for 2 years as a fitness instructor before undertaking the Les Mills Bodytrainer program and moving into full time Personal Training in 2002.
He then started his own full time PT business in 2004 in a Fitness First club in UK. He remained there until 2008, before moving to Sydney in December 2008 where he has since worked his way through the ranks and is currently PT Manager of Fitness First’s flagship club in Bond St in Sydney’s CBD. His education has continued through working along side the highly skilled and experienced teams of trainers he has met in each of the clubs he has worked in, as well as working alongside Rachel Guy of Athletic Fox in the Wimp 2 Warrior program.
Mick has been training in martial arts since the age of 15 in various forms. Starting with kickboxing he was soon introduced to other styles while training in Scotland at a club affiliated through Marc McFann. After moving to Australia in 2009 he soon met Wimp 2 Warrior founder Richie Cranny and continued his training under the Pro Mai MMA association.

ick is now a certified Level 1 Pro Mai MMA coach and is continuing to study under Richie Cranny. He has also undertaken FMA level 1 under Mark Buckley and completed numerous other vocational courses. Mike continues to train a small number of individuals privately.

This post is brought to you in partnership with Fitness First. The lovely prizes were kindly donated by them as a part of their new #changeforthebest campaign to inspire you to get healthy and fit in 2014.

Win a PT Session Competition Terms and Conditions:

  1. One entry per person allowed.
  2. To enter, simply comment on this post answering the question, “What are you going to try new in your health, fitness or nutrition?”
  3. You must be an official ZOMTEE by being subscribed for contacting purposes.
  4. This competition is open to entrants in Australia only, other than management, employees or contractors of the Promoter and other agencies, firms or companies associated with the Promotion (including suppliers of prize), and their immediate families (“Eligible Entrants”).
  5. The Promoter is Zoe Tattersall of ZOMT at www.zomt.com.au ABN (“Promoter”)
  6. There are one prize which will be given to one individuals – 1 x 45 minute personal training session with Michael McSevney at Fitness First Bond Street, Sydney.
  7. Competition opens 6:00am Tuesday 4th March 2014 AEST and closes 11:59pm Friday 29th March 2014 AEST. (“Promotion Period”)
  8. This competition is a game of skill and one winner will be based on the best comment on this post as judged by the ZOMT team, and notified by email and via a post on ZOMT on Sunday 31st March 2014. Chance plays no part in determining the winners.
  9. Comments must have a first and last name included, either within the comment or via the Disqus comment log in.
  10. To claim the prize, the winner must reply to the email acknowledging them as winner within 7 days. If the winner does not respond within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize.
  11. The Promoter and its associated agencies and companies will not be liable for any damage to or delay in transit of prizes.
  12. Prize is not transferable and cannot be taken as cash.