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It's been well established that the time tested multiple joint exercises (squats, deadlifts, presses, bench presses, rows & chin-ups) are what deliver the most bang for your training buck. Focusing on getting progressively stronger
on these movements over time should be priority number one. However, once you've given these big bang exercises the proper attention during your workouts, it's nice to step outside the rigidity of your routine, have some fun (in a maniacal kind of way) and end your workouts with a finisher.
Finishers serve a couple of purposes. First and foremost, they add much needed volume, and volume is essential to hypertrophy and building slabs of new muscle
. Secondly, you can use finishers to bring up a weak point or weak area. A good example of this is the band blast finisher I'll highlight later in this article: if you need to bring up your triceps, this is a sure-fire way to do so. Finally, finishers build a great deal of mental toughness and serve as an end of the workout "gut check."
We use a variety of finishers at our Live Fit Cincinnati training facility. Below you'll find six of our favorites, three for the upper body and three for your lower half. All of these should be done at the end of your workout after you've put in your time on the big bang barbell exercises.
Lower Body Finisher #1: Hell on Wheels
As the name implies, this is pure hell. It consists of alternating between a jump squat and a jump split squat. Trying to count reps with this protocol is tricky, so I prefer to do it for time. I'd recommend starting off with 2 sets of 20 seconds, and progressing by 10 seconds each week until you get to 40 seconds. At this point, decrease the sets back down to 30 seconds and add 1 set. Check it out below:
Lower Body Finisher #2: Super Legs
I can't take credit for this one, as coaches such as JC Santana and Vern Gambetta developed and tweaked it over the years. I have put my own little spin on it, though. "Super Legs" (and when you finish, you'll feel far from it) is great way to jack up the volume to your lower body workouts. Some of the best gains I've ever had in lower body strength and size consisted of one day of low-rep-set squats and one day of low-rep-set deadlifts followed by nothing other than the super legs circuit. The low rep squat and deads developed my strength, and the super legs circuit blew up my legs. Here is what the protocol calls for:
- 20 body weight squats
- 20 alternating reverse lunges (10 each leg)
- 20 split jump squats (10 each leg)
- 10 jump squats
- 20 sec. squat hold at 90 degrees
Initially, one of these circuits will be enough. Over time, the goal would be to work up to 3 circuits, with about 90 seconds of rest in between. Here is what it looks like live:
Lower Body Finisher #3: Walk This Way
With all due respect to Run DMC and Aerosmith, we named this finisher in the way we did because every one of our clients who does it has a certain way of walking afterwards. This looks deceptively simple, but, trust me, it's far from it.
Perform a forward lunge with your right leg and hold in an isometric position at the bottom (knee a few inches off the floor) for 10 seconds. Immediately perform 5 split squats with the right leg. Immediately lunge forward out of the hole with your left leg and hold for 10 seconds in the bottom again. Immediately perform 5 split squats with your left leg. Immediately come out of the hole and drop down into a parallel squat position and hold for 10 seconds. Immediately perform 5 body weight squats. Follow this up with 5 jump squats. Repeat this entire process 3 times without rest. One set will likely do the trick. Here's the whole protocol:
Upper Body Finisher #1: Dangerous Delts
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This is a nice way to polish off your shoulders at the end of an upper body workout or, if you are using a body part split, a shoulder specific workout. You'll need a set or 8-15 lb. dumbbells and 25-45 lb. plate depending on strength level and the level of fatigue you have from work done prior in the workout. The protocol looks like this:
- 8 DB Lateral Raises
- 8 Full Range Front Plate Raises
- 8 DB "In & Out's"
- 8 "Drivers"
- 8 Plate Pushes
At this point, you'd go back to the beginning and perform 6 reps of all the exercises, then, finally, 4 reps of each. The only rest you get is the time it takes to transition between exercises and pick up the plate or dumbbells. One cycle is all you'll need. You can progress from week to week by adding reps of weight. Here's the video (only the round of 8 is shown):
Upper Body Finisher #2: The Plank Punisher
Planks are a decent anterior core exercise, but they can be boring. The Plank Punisher solves this problem be adding in transitions and dynamic movement. This is probably the most hated finisher at our gym because it will leave your abs and shoulders screaming. Here is the protocol:
- 20 sec. standard front plank
- Without putting your knees down, walk up into a push up position and perform 6 push ups
- Without putting your knees down, walk back down into a plank and hold for 20 sec.
- Without putting your knees down, walk back up into a push up position and do 6 push-ups with a knee drive (see video)
- Without putting your knees down, walk back down into a plank position and hold for 20 sec.
- Without putting your knees down, walk back up into a push up position and do 6 push-ups with a cross body knee drive (see video)
You can progress this from week to week by adding time to your planks or reps to the push up variations. You can also add a set if you are feeling "froggy". Here is the video:
Upper Body Finisher #3: Band Blast
We just added this one to our finisher menu, and I gotta tell you the pump you get, especially in the triceps, is intense. You'll need a single resistance band attached to a chin-up bar. We use the monster bands from Rogue. For women, a 1/2 inch mini band usually suffices. For the men, we use 1 to 1 1/8 band. You can grip higher or lower on the bands or walk out further or closer to vary the resistance. We do 10-15 reps of all of the following exercises with no rest:
- Straight Arm Pulldowns
- Tricep Pressdowns
- Face Pulls
- Straight Arm Pulldowns
- Face Away Tricep Extensions
- Face Pulls
We usually rest a minute or two and do it again, or, alternatively, you can set a timer for 5 minutes and do as many rounds as you can in that time period. Here is what it looks like:
Do you have an exercise or a rotating set of exercises you like to do before you hit the showers? What 's your favorite and what is it intended to accomplish? Let us know in the comments field below!