Generally considered to form part of metabolic conditioning or metcon training, a workout finisher can be used at the end of a conventional gym workout to deliver similar benefits to high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
A workout ‘finisher’ is usually a gruelling compound movement performed at the end of a workout, with both intensity and volume, to help boost your metabolism, stimulate additional adaptations and fully deplete your muscles and energy reserves.
This helps to build endurance, blast calories and promotes the release of a cascade of hormones that aid muscle repair and recovery and help to amplify the fat-loss process.
Implementing a finisher
Simply perform a single intense exercise, a combination of exercises or a metcon circuit at the end of your strength training session for 2-5 minutes.
A Tabata is a great protocol to structure your workout finisher. In 2012, Canadian researchers at the Queen’s University had a small group of college students perform as many repetitions as possible of a single exercise, including push-ups, for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest.
The individuals repeated this process eight times, in line with conventional Tabata protocols, for a total of four minutes. After executing the routine four days a week for a total of four weeks, the students in the Tabata group significantly increased aerobic capacity (VO2max) by 7-8% (as did the control aerobic exercise group) but they also increased their muscular endurance, measured as the maximum number of leg extensions, chest presses, push-ups, sit-ups, and back extensions they could perform. The control group, which ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes at 80% of VO2max, didn’t realise the same benefits.
Here’s why you should include finishers in your workout plan more often:
- Boosts fat loss: Your glycogen stores are low at the end of a training session, which makes it more likely that stored fat will fuel your efforts during the finisher.
- Ignites the afterburners: These intense exercises also place high metabolic demands on your body, both during the exercise to meet its immediate energy requirements, and after the finisher to restore homeostasis – the so-called after-burn effect. This elevated level of calorie consumption can last for up to 24 hours after your session has ended.
- Builds work capacity: Finishers help to build mental toughness and fatigue resistance (endurance) by pushing your boundaries in a depleted or partially fatigued state.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.