| The Power Athlete Metabolic Circuit – 50 Years in the Making

Author / Christopher McQuilkin

10 - 12 minute read

Power Athlete Nation, we’ve got six really big weeks ahead of us on Field Strong and you all are in for a real treat with the Power Athlete Metabolic Circuit cycle.

This circuit has roots deep in the early days of strength and conditioning in the 70’s at University of Nebraska. Through tons and tons of opportunities to be applied to field sport athletes in collegiate programs, this circuit style training is the stuff of legends. The circuit met the likes of the Cal Bears and John Welbourn, a young offensive lineman so psyched up by the thought of performance he threw his inhibitions to the wind. And now who’s going to be there to catch them?

Grab that butterfly net and catch a little S&C history lesson as we take yog down memory lane and get warmed up for the Power Athlete Metabolic Circuit.

Husker Power

The “Nebraska Circuit”, “Husker Power Circuit”, or the OG, “Survivor Circuit” goes by many names. Odds are if you played a college sport with a strength program, you experienced this in one form or another. The development of this program dates back to 1969/’70 through Coach Boyd Epley putting Dr. Bill Kraemer through what was called the Survivor Circuit, where an individual had 20 seconds to do 10 repetitions and 10 seconds to rest before the next set or exercise. Kraemer felt like there was something to the circuit. 15 years after researching and tweaking he helped develop the Nebraska Circuits.

Through Kramers research he found through manipulating exercise selections, order, load, and rest between sets he could affect the neuroendocrine responses and metabolic adaptations. In regards to rest time he found that there was a greater growth hormone release when rest times were at 1 minute compared to 10 seconds and 3 minutes.

By far my favorite component of this circuit’s history, Epley’s willingness to make his athlete wait until at least year 2 in the program to perform it. Reason being, this insured proper lifting technique in the circuit AND upped the athlete’s effort. Freshman took notice of more advanced lifters doing the circuit and built up a want to do it. Epley thought by making them wait one to two years insured greater effort when the time came to attack the metabolic circuit with the intensity in-ten-cities.

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Nebraska Circuit Order

Station #1: Squat or Leg Press
Station #2: Bench Press or Chest Press
Station #3: Lat Pull Down or Chin Assist
Station #4: Leg Curl
Station #5: Shoulder Press
Station #6: Low Row
Station #7: Leg Extension
Station #8 Triceps Pushdown
Station #9 Arm Curl

Nebraska Circuit Loading

The training week looked something like this:

Monday: Explosive
Tuesday: Metabolic Circuit (Light)
Thursday: Explosive
Friday: Metabolic Circuit (Heavy)

Week 1: 1 set of 10 reps done two days per week.
Week 2: 2 sets of 10 reps at each station before moving to the next station.
Week 3: 3 sets of 10 reps at each station before moving to the next station.
Week 4: Add weight
Week 5: Add weight
Week 6: Add weight

If the athlete cannot complete all 3 sets of 10 repetitions on any exercise then do not increase the weight the following week.

Rest Period

Allow only 60 seconds of rest when moving from one exercise to the next exercise. Recall, there is a greater serum growth hormone release when utilizing a 1 minute rest as compared to 3 minutes rest. Aim to complete all 10 reps in 20 seconds. Boyd’s one exception is the squat; a heavy set of 10 will normally take longer than 20 seconds. Allow as much time as needed to do a set of ten on the squat, then allow 60 seconds rest.

Power Athlete Metabolic Circuit

Here we are 50 years since the first metabolic circuit was applied at Nebraska and nearly 25 years since Welbourn first experienced this style of training in college. Similar to advancements in great inventions like the automobile, flight, and the 80’s action film, this program has evolved to optimize human performance.

Power Athlete Metabolic Circuit cycle rearranged and added some movements to focus on the goal of the Field Strong program, enhance your athleticism.

Similar to Epley’s athletes, you will need to put your ego aside and start conservatively to avoid “psychological overtraining”. Mondays and Thursdays you’ll be explosive with jumps and Oly lift variations then Tuesdays and Fridays you will smash the metabolic circuit laid out below. If you are not focused on Olympic lifting, we encourage all athletes try out the movement substitution tool on TrainHeroic and select a barbell movement to load up and move fast on Mondays and Thursdays.

Those that start the PAMC too heavy get smashed and can’t complete the workouts and therefore, do not reap the benefits. My advice, start small, and build momentum following the loading outlined below. The cycle progresses weekly, culminating in a final ‘heavy weight’ fist fight.

You are adults, so be smart.

PAMC Order

Station #1: Back Squat
Station #2: Bench Press
Station #3: Pull Up – Strict
Station #4: Full Glute Ham Raises
Station #5: Press
Station #6: Chin Ups
Station #7: Front Squat
Station #8: Parallel Bar Dips
Station #9: Barbell Bicep Curl

PAMC Loading

The training week looks something like this:

Monday: Explosive
Tuesday: Metabolic Circuit
Wednesday: Steady State and Iron Flex
Thursday: Explosive
Friday: Metabolic Circuit

Week 1:
24 minutes total | 2 sets | 10 reps | Tuesday Light :80 station | Friday Medium :80 station
Week 2:
24 minutes total | 2 sets | 10 reps | Tuesday Medium :80 station | Friday Medium :80 station
Week 3:
~36 minutes total | 3 sets | 10 reps | Tuesday Medium :80 Station | Friday Medium :60 Rest between sets
Week 4:

~36 minutes total | 3 sets | 10 reps | Tuesday Light :80 Station | Friday Heavy :60 Rest between sets
Week 5:
~36 minutes total | 3 sets | 10 reps | Tuesday Light :80 Station | Friday Heavy :60 Rest between sets
Week 6:
~36 minutes total | 3 sets | 10 reps | Tuesday Light :80 Station | Friday Heavy :60 Rest between sets

If the athlete cannot complete all 3 sets of 10 repetitions on any exercise then do not increase the weight the following Light, Medium, or Heavy session.

Rest Period

Notice two key terms above: Station and Rest.

On days Station is listed, this means you have 80 seconds to complete 10 total reps. The remainder of the 80 seconds after 10 reps is yours to rest and set up for your next set/movement.

On days Rest is listed, this means you will hit your 10 reps untimed and then take a full 60 seconds rest between each set. These will be heavy movements, so it might take you 30-40 second to bang out 10 reps. Just make sure you get at least 60 seconds between sets. On movements like the Pull Ups this applies as well. If it takes you 30 seconds to get your 10 reps, rest 60 seconds between sets. It would be great if you could keep the 80 second station time periods, but as this gets heavier it becomes less realistic, so adjust accordingly.

What is Field Strong?

If you’re new to Power Athlete, Field Strong is a ​performance based training program for field and court sport athletes, fighters and anyone who is looking to put​ pinnacle performance ​in front of anything else. John Welbourn, 10-Year NFL Veteran and Founder of Power Athlete, exposes members of Field Strong to the advanced training techniques that contributed to his career playing professional football.

Cycles are typically written in 6 week training blocks, with occasional 1 – 2 week “reload” weeks that offer loyal residents an optional deload from the training.

Do you like what you’re reading here? Thinking you want to take a run at Field Strong?

TRY FIELD STRONG NOW: 7 Day Risk Free Trial

Are you a Field Strong Athlete? How are you enjoying the program so far?

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PODCAST: PA Radio Ep 407 – Strength, Speed, & the Future of Sport w/ Dr Tim Suchomel
PODCAST: PA Radio Ep 411 – A Framework For Effective Cueing
BLOG: Field Strong Equipment Starter Kit by Carl Case
BLOG: The Bench Press: A J-Curve or Vertical Bar Path by John Welbourn
BLOG: Power Athlete Squat with a Staggered Stance by Tex McQuilkin

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Christopher McQuilkin

Book a consult with me regarding coaching, training, life, education... anything your heart desires. Click below:

Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.



  1. smush99 on November 5, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    “Mondays and Thursdays you’ll be explosive with jumps and Oly lift variations” so which stations are swapped out (like make the Front Squat a Power Clean…and the Press a Clean and Jerk)?

    Just checking for clarification.

    • Tex McQuilkin on November 5, 2020 at 7:16 pm

      No stations are swapped out. Only do the circuit on Tuesdays and Fridays. Do some form of explosive training like jumping or Oly lifting on Mondays and Thursdays.

      Give the full version of this program a try on our 2 week free trial linked up at the bottom of the article.

  2. […] NOW: The Power Athlete Metabolic Circuit – 50 Years in Making by Tex […]

  3. […] In this episode of PA Radio, The Crew breaks down the Power Athlete Metabolic Circuit, plus the historical past and advantages of this type of coaching. Our Field Strong program is starting this cycle with barely rearranged and actions added from Epley’s model to concentrate on the purpose of the Field Strong program, improve your athleticism. Listen in now and luxuriate in a 14 Day Risk Free Trial of the circuit linked within the weblog right here: https://powerathletehq.com/the-power-athlete-metabolic-circuit-50-years-in-the-making/ […]

  4. Lindsay on December 12, 2022 at 12:32 pm

    Would doing a French Contrast type workout on Monday/Thursday be appropriate? Also, with limited gym space and a team of about 20, is it ok to have athletes start at different stations of the PAMC, or is the order of exercises significant?

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