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What Is Metabolic Stress?

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How can you train for it?

Professionals define MS as one of the three primary ways to trigger muscle growth. But we must confess that Metabolic Stress is not our favorite form of training as we prefer mechanical tension in the form of progressive overload. You know keep life simple, just go to the gym, do heavy squats, deadlifts, and other compound movements, and keep increasing your weight.

But the only problem is we humans can’t keep increasing our weight forever. Not that we would want to either.

So it is critical for you to understand that all three methods of eliciting hypertrophy plus knowing how to train for them, will not only get you better gains but also increase your will to keep training for longer.

In MS we do specific training programs so as to increase the blood flow to the cells. No wonder, then that it is also referred to as “pump” training.  It makes your muscles more vascular. And your muscles feel and look like they are going to explode!

But what the hell does metabolism have to do with all this?

Let’s go back to basics then. First, you must understand what metabolism is and how it applies to your body.

Metabolism is defined as life-sustaining chemical reactions. All the chemical interactions that take place in your body to keep you breathing, to keep your heart beating, down to you waking up every single day is your metabolism. If this process stops. So do you. Chemicals that apply to muscle growth are actually hormones.

There are four kinds of growth hormones.

  • Testosterone
  • IGF-1
  • Insulin
  • And mTOR
  • Though according to us mTOR is an enzyme.

To increase the amount and utilization of hormones, and enzymes well as nutritional intake, the oxygen you breathe is the crux of metabolic stress training. So you train to maximize your blood flow.

You are basically stressing your muscle in such a way that metabolites in your body increase. Which leads to swelling which leads to that pumped-up look!

So If You Are Into Bodybuilding You Need To Do Metabolic Stress Training With Higher Volumes And Shorter Rest Periods!

But some trainers pitch metabolic stress training as high-volume and lightweight. It does make sense if you think about it because you can then do lots of sets and reps which will get your blood pumping more, and using lighter weights is going to allow you to do more volume.

But unfortunately, that is not true! We believe that it means “limiting the rest between your sets”.

Types Of Metabolic Stress Training You Should Be Doing!

Time Under Tension

A training method that basically focuses on lengthening the time your muscle is under load. Plus it requires super slow reps. The idea is to fatigue type 1 muscle fibers, which will activate type 2 muscle fibers, and then to fatigue type 2 muscle fibers as well.


Super – the setting is the practice of moving from one exercise to the next with absolutely no rest in between. This is the most popular way of increasing metabolic stress on muscles. By increasing time under tension, it increases the blood flow!

Drop Sets

This practice involves training an exercise to failure. It then removes a certain amount of resistance.  And then quickly trains the muscles to fail again. This is repeated many times. The result is great because the volume increases and the muscles get fatigued to the maximum.

Occlusion Training

This training method involves wrapping bands around your limbs or body so as to occlude blood from exiting the muscles we are targeting. We can also call it blood flow restriction training. And hey you need to know that it actually does not restrict blood flow to your muscles!

But does metabolic stress training really work?

The answer is that it gives you more options in your bodybuilding training. Metabolic stress just gives you a whole new way to actualize your gains.

So, it’s clear that metabolic stress training does, in fact, lead to muscle increases. And, as we have already discussed, the main ways to increase metabolic stress are by increasing the load and decreasing the rest time.

The four training methods we recommended above do exactly that.

Also, various studies have been carried out to prove that specifically decreasing rest between sets does have benefits over traditional progressive overload sets.


There were 26 male participants assigned to either a no-rest (NR) group or a with-rest (WR) group.  Both groups were made to perform the same resistance regimen. The only difference was that the WR group rested 30 seconds midway between each set of their exercises in order to limit the metabolic stress.

Researchers noted that the No Rest (NR) group had significant increases in all critical levels. From lactate to growth hormones to epinephrine, and norepinephrine while the WR group did not.

And, yes, as we’ve discussed in the past, studies clearly show that heavy-weight low-rep routines are extremely effective for increasing strength and muscle.

However, there is actually some pretty interesting research that shows what happens when you drop the weight a bit but also decrease the rest period.

STUDY TWO compared the effects under the following parameters:

  • 70% 1RM over 10-12 reps with a 1-minute rest (metabolic stress)
  • 90% 1RM over 3-5 reps with a 3-minute rest (traditional progressive overload)

It was clearly observed that there was a great increase in lactate, growth hormone, and cortisol for the metabolic stress group.

Research also shows that the reduction of rest intervals is essential for increasing blood lactate and growth hormone production due to the fact that it specifically reduces recovery time. In other words, it’s “stressing” the muscle.

Now, is this likely to increase muscle growth over just lifting heavy and incorporating longer rest periods?  No, not necessarily.  In fact, we’ve already discussed how longer rest periods of 3-5 minutes have been shown to be superior for muscle and strength gains.  At least, in some studies.

On top of that, simply increasing growth hormone and other growth factors such as testosterone does not actually mean better gains.

So, if you are using metabolic stress training to increase those things it doesn’t pump out the way you planned!

However, it’s clear that lowering the rest period and specifically focusing on metabolic stress does increase certain growth factors and that this can certainly trigger hypertrophy.

So, if you’ve reached a point in your training where progressive overload just is not working anymore, metabolic stress can certainly prove effective for continuing the gains.

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