Alright, you have just finished a tough strength training session. Good work! Now, what exactly should you do now in order to maximize your results? Should you immediately chug a shake? Perhaps do some cardio? Or walk over to the yoga room to check out the ladies in downward dog?
I’m sure most of you have tried at least one of the above options, and I can certainly see some validity to each of them. But if you really want to maximize your training results, the end of your strength work is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself one last time. And the BEST way to accomplish that is with the use of a good finisher.
A finisher consists of one or more movements performed at the end of a workout, designed to challenge you both physically and mentally. The result of this is increased work capacity, improved ability to perform when fatigued and superior mental toughness.
These qualities will benefit you in the following ways:
Increased work capacity- This refers to the body’s ability to produce work. Every athlete and non-athlete can benefit from improved work capacity. With greater work capacity, you can perform more work without overtraining. If you were learning a skill (i.e. Muay Thai, BJJ, Olympic Weightlifting, etc) increasing your work capacity would be imperative, because in order to get good at a skill, you need to practice a lot without overtraining.
Also, the better your work capacity, the better your recovery will be in between sets. This results in better workouts with better results, since you’ll be training in a fresher state due to your improved recovery abilities.
Improved ability to perform when fatigued– I don’t care what kind of shape you’re in, you will get fatigued at some point. If you’re an athlete, the negative effects of fatigue are obvious. But even if you just like to train, being able to perform while fatigued is important. I have witnessed exercise form breakdown many times due to fatigue. This often results in an injury that could have easily been avoided if the trainee had been conditioned better.
Superior mental toughness– Mental toughness is a totally neglected aspect of training nowadays. In fact, unless you train MMA or a similar discipline, you probably rarely work on improving your mental toughness. This, in my opinion, is a huge mistake.
Not enough can be said about mental toughness for a competitive athlete. But mental toughness is a great quality for anyone to possess. Your ability to train hard or endure any life situation greatly improves if you are more mentally tough. A good finisher can absolutely contribute to this rare and important quality.
In addition to the benefits listed above, a well programmed finisher can have a dramatic fat burning effect. Although this may not be your primary goal, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind burning some extra fat off your body!
Before I share with you some of my favorite finishers, I want to give you a few rules, just in case you decide to design your own finisher.
1) Don’t perform any finishers that leave you feeling skinny and weak, especially if size and strength gains are your primary goals. After your strength session, you should feel strong and your muscles should be full. I would steer clear from any finisher that drains everything out the muscles you have just trained.
2) A finisher should only last 5-10 minutes. If you can go any longer than that, your intensity is too low. In other words, if you can physically do your finisher for greater than 10 minutes, you are basically performing a cardio workout, not a finisher.
3) Keep the finisher’s effect on your recovery abilities in mind. For example, let’s say you just completed a lower body strength session and you chose a chain push up challenge as your finisher. Your upper body pressing muscles would be taxed from this particular finisher, and they would require some recovery.
Now let’s say that the following day you are scheduled to hit an upper body strength workout. The residual fatigue from the prior day’s finisher would compromise your ability to get the most out of your upper body strength work. In this example, the chain push up challenge was simply a poor choice in regards to timing and sequence.
1) Farmers Walk– This exercise makes a fantastic finisher. To do this movement, you can use several different types of implements. I recommend using either heavy dumbbells or preferably farmers walk handles designed specifically for this exercise.
Just grab the dumbbells or handles (one in each hand) and walk with them. Sets can be determined by distance or time.
In addition to the above mentioned benefits, the farmers walk also gives the forearms and traps a nice workout.
2) Sandbag Bear Hug Walks- To perform this movement, just bear hug a heavy sandbag (75 pounds or above) and start walking with it. Walk for a predetermined time (usually 5 minutes) and try to cover the greatest distance in that time. During your walk, if you can’t hold the bag any longer, drop it down, take a sec and reset your grip and continue.
The sandbag bear hug walk also trains your grip and your entire core thoroughly.
3) Sledgehammer swings– To do this finisher; you need a sledgehammer, a tire and some space to ensure safety. Smash the tire as hard as possible. Get as many contacts as you can in a predetermined amount of time. Be sure to get an equal amount of swings on both sides. I often prescribe 5 minutes for this exercise.
4) Heavy bag work– This is a great finisher. It is fun, effective, and if you pay attention to form, you can learn a skill while doing it. I like to do one or two 5 minute rounds. Throw combinations nonstop but do not get sloppy with your technique. Also, be sure to wrap your hands and wear bag gloves during this finisher.
Well, there are four of my favorite finishers! I strongly recommend you incorporate them into your routines. They are a great way to get the most out of your training.
Feel free to leave all your questions and comments in the comment section below.
Dedicated to your success,