A “finisher” is simply a strength based cardio routine that you do at the end of your regular workout. Generally it’s going be H.I.I.T. oriented and makes a nice alternative to steady state boring cardio as well as burns more calories, does more for your overall body composition, and help build some stength in the process.
These aren’t meant to be done in replacement of a workout or your usual cardio session they are a nice little “extra” to help encourage fat loss and overall body composition changes that are positive. They won’t do any miracles but I’ve found they do help give you that extra edge that is often needed when getting down to lower body fat levels.
They’re also great for staying conditioned. As great as weight lifting is and as highly as I recommend strength training to everyone, by itself it’s not enough. You also need to include conditioning work to make sure you’re staying in decent cardiovascular shape as well. What use is it if you can tear a man in half but can’t run half a mile to catch him?
You can also do these on off days if you want to stay sharp. I encourage my clients and those I know to train as many days as possible. Overall most people (given a halfway decent diet and not staying up all night) are undertraining and would benefit from the added work. Fit these into your routine in whatever ways works for you.
Alright now let’s talk about the 3 best workout finishers for fat loss…
Finisher #1 – The Barbell Complex
This is one of my favorite exercise types and something that I picked up after reading a Dan John article over at T-nation. Barbell complexes were a training method pioneered by a man named Ivan Javorek and their purpose was to reduce training time while still getting a high intensity fat burning/muscle building workout. And they work great.
A barbell complex is a series of moves done back to back without any rest. So for example we’ll use a complex called “The Bear”. The Bear consists of a power clean, front squat, push press, back squat, and another push press all done back to back without putting the bar down. The entire complex is considered one rep. Generally this is done for 5 reps per set.
You can also do it where you do multiple reps of each exercise instead of a single rep for each exercise. I follow Dan John’s guidelines and have seen the best success with that. What you do is you choose six exercises that flow together. Meaning that you go from say a barbell row to a powerclean to an overhead press instead of say a barbell row to a back squat to a romanian deadlift because the bar would have to go back and forth over your head.
Essentially the bar should pass over your head twice during the entire complex. Once on the way back and once on the way forward. So you choose your six exercises that flow and then do 8 reps for each exercise for a total of 3 sets.
Here’s an example of Dan John’s Complex A:
Row – clean – front squat – overhead press – back squat – good morning each done for 8 reps. You can make up your own if you’d like but I’d suggest sticking with this for now. And also use a lighter weight than you think, these things are harder than they look.
Finisher #2 – The Tabata Protocol
“4 minutes…how hard could it be” I thought. You can do anything for four minutes right? My introduction to the Tabata protocol was a humbling experience to say the least. Tabata is a protocol that consists of doing 20 seconds of an exercise resting 10 and repeating that for 8 rounds which comes to 4 minutes total with only 2.6 minutes of that being actual work.
Don’t let the short time period and seemingly simple set up fool you, done properly Tabata is one of the most exhausting and tiring finisher there is. What you do is pick an exercise that involves a bit of body movement. Say front squats over barbell curls.
Personally I prefer to use a kettlebell as it fits really well with this protocol but many barbell and even some dumb bell exercises can work well too. I either do kettlebell swings, goblet squats, or kettlebell deadlifts. First time doing Tabata I chose a 35 lb kettlebell for swings and thought I was going to pass out at the end.
Alright I use the timer on my iphone for this but if you have someone who can callout the time it allows you to focus even more on getting the work done. Every round you want to shoot for getting 8 reps of whatever exercise it is that you are doing.
The first 20 seconds of every round you’re doing the exercise then resting for 10 seconds. And this is done for a total of eight rounds. I set my timer for 4 minutes and place it somewhere eye level so I can stay on time.
Don’t be decieved by the short time period, it’s much harder than you’d expect.
Finisher #3 – Sprints
Not much better than good old fashioned sprints. If you have a hill even better, but if you’re like me and live in a state that’s hill free then you can also get a sled, load it up with weights, and get running.
I’ve always done sprints by feel rather than according to a certain protocol. Meaning that I’ve always just ran until I was tired and then called it a night. Sometimes that was after eight sprints sometims that was after eighteen.
I train at home and have a wide open field in my backyard that I sprint in. I realize that not everyone may have access to a long empty field to sprint in so I’d recommend either piling the weight on a sled on finding a steep incline to run on to get the same effects.
Do them until you’re tired. Start on without a crazy incline or added weight and work up from there. Simple but effective.
Always remember you can’t outwork your fork. Meaning that without having your diet in order what you do in the gym isn’t going to be enough for you to lose weight. Combine the above workout finishers with a good diet and you’ll see the fat start to come off, slowly but surely as it’s meant to be.
Pick your favorite, pop it in at the end of your workout a couple times a week, and see what it does for you. You may find some work great but others just aren’t doable. A large part of fitness is experimenting and finding out what works for you.