finisher better workout

Is a “Finisher” the Key to a Better Workout?

According to this trainer, yes.

By: Noah Lehava

Here’s one thing that rings true: If you’re going to haul yourself all the way to the gym, you want your workout to be worth it. In terms of strength training—aka a weight-focused circuit—the real gains, according to trainers, lie in the final minutes. Just when you think you’ve finished your sets, your trainer throws in that last cardio hit (read: hell). It’s what they love to call the “finisher,” and there are a few reasons why it’s the key to an effective workout. Jennifer Lau, Nike Master Trainer and owner of Fit Squad in Toronto, explains why she uses it in her training programs.

A “finisher” in the literal sense is a short and intense exercise (or series of exercises) to complete at the end of a workout to test your mental toughness—you think you’ve finished your workout, but it’s one more thing to push your body to the point of being finished. This helps burn extra calories, tests your mental strength, and makes you sweat even more. For example, at the completion of a strength workout (weight-focused circuit), a “finisher” could be one minute of high-intensity exercise, such as squat jumps.


What is a finisher?

“A finisher in the literal sense is a short and intense exercise (or series of exercises) to complete at the end of a workout,” Lau explains. Think one minute of squat jumps, or completing a 500 m row as fast as you can. Bottom line: You’re pushing through your comfort zone.


Why do you do it at the end of a strength workout?

Lau says it’s important to add a high-intensity interval “at the end of a weight-training workout for maximum effectiveness, versus executing one at the start of one.” High-intensity intervals require a big energy output, and strength training takes focus. She says doing it at the end “ensures your glycogen levels are not depleted heading into your strength workout.”


What are the benefits?

There’s this little phenomenon called post-exercise oxygen consumption that occurs when you do an intense exercise. It uses up your stored energy and creates more damage to your working muscles (a good thing!), so when your body is in restoration and repair mode it uses up all that extra energy you have stuck in your cells.

You’ll feel like you’ve worked out. Strength training doesn’t have the same cardiovascular strain as a high-intensity workout does, so when you tack on some heart-pumping move, you’ll feel like you’ve done the work. It’s a mental play, but it works. “It will build mental toughness,” Lau adds, “because as the name would suggest, you should feel completely ‘done’ after it.”


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