Winter can make one feel they haven’t worked up enough sweat, even after a tough workout. So, it is always a good idea to turning that feeling of “not having done enough” into motivation for an extra 10 minutes at the end of a workout. The practice of ‘finishers’ has been around for some time, but for the next few months of cooler weather, you should definitely give it a go.
“Finishers encourage you to really exhaust your muscles, which is where serious results are found, both for gains and fat loss. Each finisher session is typically kept short (between 2-10 minutes), and a combination of high intensity cardio and resistance movements,” writes fitness coach and kettlebell expert Eric Leija on his Ericleija.com.
The best part about a finisher is that there is no order to it, apart from the fact that you will be doing it at the end of a workout. You can choose the exercise, the format, the duration, and the intensity depending on how you are feeling in that moment. Keeping a higher expectation will make your body work harder but it cannot come at the cost of form.
Some people do specific finishers depending on the muscle-groups they are exercising that day, and some do it for stamina and explosiveness. The benefits are many and there are some popular finishers that you can choose from as well. While any ab finisher and tabatas and other HIIT circuits are also finishers, here are some other formulas you can apply to them.
The Pyramid/Descending Ladder: Choose one or more exercises and start the first set with 10 reps, before resting for a short period and doing another set of nine reps, and so on until you hit one rep on the last set. It is also a great way to combine an exercise which works a small muscle group, with a compound bodyweight move. These would include calf-raises and squats, done one after the other, before resting a bit and continuing. This is an easily achievable finisher that can be further fine-tuned.
Sprint intervals: This can be both a great beginner, as well as a great finisher. Run for 30 seconds at a high speed on a treadmill, or on a track, and take a minute’s rest before running again for another 30 seconds. I use this extensively as my cardio method and the key lies in reducing rest rather than increasing the amount of time sprinting. Sprint intervals have amazing benefits, as I discussed in an earlier piece in Lounge titled HIIT or SIT: Which of these popular fitness trends is best suited for you?
The Mechanical Dropset: This is made up of three shoulder exercises—the lateral raise, the front raise, and the overhead press—done for 10-15 reps with light weights one after the other, while resting for 60-90 seconds between sets.
“The first rep of the overhead press will feel weird and awful but stick with it, as it gets better with subsequent reps. This type of finisher utilizes what’s known as a mechanical dropset—rather than reducing the weight, you change the movement to put you at more of a mechanical advantage (the front raise is more mechanically advantageous than the lateral raise, and the overhead press is more advantageous than the front raise),” states a Men’s Journal article titled 25 Brutal Workout Finishers For Rapid Fat Loss And Building Muscle. Another trio of exercises that can be done is the incline chest press, followed by the flat bench and the decline.
The Time Trial: Set a timer for five minutes, choose an exercise of your choice, and do it for as many reps as possible, with as much rest as you need inbetween. Note down the total reps, and try to beat them the next time you do the trial with the same exercise.
Down the rack: Extremely popular on arms day, the down-the-rack is mainly a bicep finisher, where there is no rest between the sets. The key is to start at the point of the dumbbell rack where the higher weights are kept, and keep moving to the lower end of the rack after failing in each weight.
Here’s an example: Start with a weight with which you can do 4-6 reps, and keep adding 2-3 reps to the set every time you move on to a lighter weight. You can try the same with other exercises as well, but it’s one of the best finishers out there, so try it you must.
The 100: Same as a time trial, but this time the goal is in reps-form instead of minutes. Take as much as you want to finish 100 reps of a particular exercise and then work towards reducing the time taken in subsequent attempts.
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator, podcaster and writer.