How to Use Finishers for Serious Results
Workout finishers have been a popular addition to the training world in the last year and for good reason. Hear me out on this one. With the emergence of popular programs like Insanity, P90X, and CrossFit, the goal of every training session seems to be to absolutely crush the trainee. Some believe that the only sign of a good workout is whether or not the person is lying on the floor completely obliterated and covered in chalk with a picture quickly uploaded to Facebook with a caption about how “killer” the session was.
I’m all for a good, hard, training session, but these types of workouts repeated over and over without any progression or development of strength don't produce results for the average person looking to lose fat, get lean, and get stronger. We know that a certain percentage of that person’s training needs to be metabolic in nature, but how do we balance strength development and continue to get that person measurable results without injuring them or creating compensatory movement patterns? Enter the workout finisher.
As I mentioned above, this has become a popular topic in the last 12–18 months and here’s why. With workout finishers, you can take a typical strength training session, still get all the benefits, and then ramp it up a notch to increase fat loss and metabolic results. Workout finishers can vary with the implements that you use or the duration of each movement, but the goal is to go hard, fast, and get it done.
With my clients, we’ll typically train them for strength first using the following format:
- Knee or hip dominant lower body
- Upper body push
- Upper body pull
- Core or anti-rotation (1–2 exercises here)
- Kettlebell skills
The lower body movement may be bilateral or unilateral, depending on the day, and the upper body push and pull could be vertical or horizontal, again depending on the day.
After that strength circuit, we’ll move into a finisher. I like to make this no longer than five minutes, and if we have a group of people, their rest on certain exercises comes while others are working.
Here are some examples of workout finishers that can be done with or without equipment.
These bodyweight finishers can be done anywhere, anytime. Go hard and fast on these.
- Jump squat finisher: We perform 30 seconds of jump squats, unweighted, working on a fast power jump with a deep landing to absorb the shock. Then we have a 60-second recovery and repeat for another 1–2 sets. We never go past three sets on these.
- Burpee ladder: Perform ten burpees (with or without the push-up, depending on fitness level and the time you have) and then perform nine, eight, seven, and so on until you reach one. Rest as little as possible between sets.
Kettlebell finishers are one of my personal favorites. The full body recruitment of a kettlebell is a great way to tax the system and produce serious results. The goal with a kettlebell finisher is to use a weight slightly lighter than you would for the strength workout itself. That way you can crank up the speed and avoid putting the kettlebell down.
- Double kettlebell circuit: Grab two kettlebells of equal weight and perform five double swings followed by five double clean and presses and then five front squats. Finish with five push presses. Reset the kettlebells if needed and then complete four of each. Work all the way down to one rep of each exercise.
- One-arm circuit: Take one kettlebell of a challenging weight but one that you can work without putting it down. Perform five swings, snatches, clean and presses, and windmills on the right side and then repeat on the left. Put the kettlebell down briefly if you need to and then complete four, three, two, and one on each side.
The Prowler™ is an incredible training tool and one that my clients love to hate. It gives you a feeling that you can never experience with another piece of equipment, and it’s truly one of the best training finishers. People can really push the intensity even after a hard lower body session because of the lack of eccentric work on the Prowler®. It’s just all out work. Remember to go hard and fast on these. Here are a couple of my favorites:
- Prowler® suicides: If you’ve ever played basketball at any level, you know the suicide. Start at one line and sprint up to the first line and then back. Then sprint to the next line and back and the next one and back. Typically, you’ll do four total shuttles. Now try this with the Prowler®. Use a slightly lighter than normal weight (we typically do this with 25- or 45-pound plates on the Prowler® for our general clients) and crank it out. Make each section of the shuttle about 20–40 yards, depending on what you have for space. Two to three rounds of this is absolutely enough as you may feel a case of the Prowler® flu coming on.
- High to low shuttle: Choose a weight slightly heavier than what you used for the Prowler® suicides. Push the Prowler® with the high handles for 40–50 yards and then push it back with the low handles. Repeat the high to low one more time for a total of four reps. Rest and repeat for 2–3 more sets.
Battling ropes finishers:
Battling ropes are another incredible tool for finishers if you can get access to them. There’s a short learning curve, but even people with injuries can get a great metabolic workout from these (we’ve had clients with lower body injuries do these from the knees). Anywhere from 10–30 seconds of work on the ropes is awesome. If you have a large group of people and a few ropes, just set them up in groups so that their rest comes while others are working. We have three ropes, so we can typically put 3–4 people behind each rope. Here are a few combinations:
- Ten seconds of work, high tsunamis: Go all-out on this one, recruiting the legs and arms for a high tsunami. Make the ropes go as high as possible for a powerful set of ten seconds.
- Twenty seconds of work, ups/downs: Start the rope with alternating waves and drop to one knee. Then drop the second knee and get back up. Repeat this process with the legs as the ropes wave for twenty seconds.
Each of these sets should have 20–40 seconds of rest, depending on how many clients you have going. If you’re alone, you should go with a 1:2 work to rest ratio.
Give these workout finishers a try after any type of strength session for improved fat loss and overall conditioning. Clients should always walk out of your facility feeling better than when they arrived. Don’t get me wrong—a good, hard session is awesome, but we aren't looking to demolish people with every training session.