Most of us know by now that incorporating interval training into our workout routines can help us become stronger and faster, help bust through plateaus and shed unwanted pounds. Alternating periods of higher and lower intensity has also been touted as a great way to overcome the boredom of long, steady-state cardio sessions. That’s great, but what happens if even your interval training is starting to feel a little stale?
Enter the concept of the metabolic finisher, which is my absolute favorite way to end a workout. Metabolic finishers (or workout finishers, or afterburners, as they’re sometimes called) are a way of incorporating interval training into your workouts that includes a brief period of all-out exertion performed at – you guessed it – the end of your workout. By including this intense burst at the end of your routine, not only are you getting that last little bit of power out of your muscles before you finish for the day, but you’re also elevating your EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) levels, which means you can burn more calories long after you leave the gym.
The great thing about finishers is how versatile they are; they can be tailored to suit your goals, using the equipment (or lack thereof) that you have available. For example, a finisher for building muscle mass might include a combination of intense dumbbell or barbell exercises in order to “burn out” the muscles you’ve already worked that day. If it’s fat loss that you’re after, you can increase your calorie burn and replace your current cardio interval routine with a few rounds of plyometric exercises (although weights, medicine balls and the like can be used here as well). Keep it short and sweet – 5 to 10 minutes max is all that is recommended.
Below are two of my favorite combinations, but feel free to come up with your own (cheesy names are optional). The possibilities are endless!
Medicine Ball Meltdown: 20 overhead medicine ball slams, followed by 20 jump squats holding the ball, then 20 mountain climbers with hands on the ball. Repeat this sequence 3-5 times, only resting briefly between circuits.
Body Weight Blitz: 30 seconds of high knees, 30 seconds of pushups, 30 seconds of plank jacks, then 30 seconds of burpees. Repeat this sequence 3-5 times.
Important note: before including metabolic finishers into your workout, you should already be in good physical condition; due to the intensity, it is not recommended that beginners or those with any injuries attempt these without first consulting a physician. Even more advanced athletes should ease into this type of training – always allow at least 48 hours’ recovery time, being careful not to include finishers in every workout.