The term "finisher" might bring back memories of Mortal Kombat and Sub Zero freezing opponents solid before punching their heads into tiny ice cubes, but in reality it's just a short, intense effort at the end of a training session.
Finishers are often framed as a great way to build work capacity and torch fat. While that's not untrue, one of the lesser known benefits of well-designed finishers are their ability to help build muscle.
A strategically designed finisher will provide all three of the mechanisms for muscular hypertrophy: mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscular damage to particular muscle groups.
People often make two big mistakes when doing finishers:
- They don't use exercises with enough loading. This basically leads to a glorified step aerobics session. Or...
- The movements chosen are too complex or loaded too heavily. The quality goes out the window as the heart rate goes up. When too much fatigue sets in, reps get ugly, range of motion decreases, and things go south.
You can avoid those drawbacks with these four finishers. They're made up of movements that are low on the complexity side, but pack a big punch since you'll likely be able to handle substantial weights for an extended duration. This systemic stress will challenge your lungs and give you the stimulus needed to build more muscle.
1. Goblet Squat + Goblet Carry + Goblet Squat
Grab a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell and knock out 10 goblet squats. Without putting it down, walk with it in the goblet position for 40-60 yards, then finish with 10 more goblet squats. Let your heart stop beating out of your chest, rinse, and repeat 2-3 times.
Not only does this punish the legs, but with each round taking 75-90 seconds, the upper back and abs get torched from the duration of the hold. Not a challenge? Increase the weight on the next round.
2. Dips + Goblet Squat Countdown
Using a dumbbell that's half your bodyweight, do 10 goblet squats, then 10 bodyweight dips. Then 9 of each, then 8, and continue down to 1. Rest when needed but keep it to a minimum. When you start a set, try to complete all of the required reps.
Holding the dumbbell in the goblet position becomes increasingly challenging as the fatigue in the triceps accumulates from the dips. This adds up to a lot of work (55 reps each of dips and goblet squats) in a relatively short amount of time, with constant stress on the triceps throughout, making it a solid choice if getting bigger arms is on your to-do list.
3. Goblet Squat + Hammer Fist Battling Ropes
Set a timer for 10 minutes. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell that you can hit 12-15 goblet squats with. Do 10 goblet squats and 20 seconds of hard rope waves. Work to get as many rounds in as possible. Your biceps, legs, lungs, and forearms will all be equally smoked.
Be sure to keep the speed on the ropes going on each round. As fatigue sets in, you're going to want to slow it down and just keep it moving. Take rest as necessary so you can keep the output level cranked up.
4. Chin-Up + Goblet Squat Countdown
Using a dumbbell that's half your bodyweight, do 10 goblet squats, then 10 chin-ups. Then 9 of each, then 8, and continue down to 1. Again, rest when needed but keep it to a minimum. When you start a set, try to complete all of the required reps.
Use Finishers Wisely
While finishers are a great exclamation point at the end of a workout, be frugal in how often you use them.
Remember, this is a finisher. It's done after the meat and potatoes of your strength training, so don't get carried away with the "more is better" approach. When you push the envelope, you need extra recovery or you're likely to see your performance impacted negatively in subsequent workouts.
Think about adding one of these finishers in your last workout before a few days off, at the end of a training block, or at the very least, put an extra emphasis on sleep and recovery after doing one of these.