I’m not a fan of traditional cardio. The idea of spending 30 minutes on a treadmill bores me and it frustrates me to think that some people rather use a treadmill, eliptical or stationary bike instead of…let’s say a real bike. If all you intend to do at the gym is sit your behind on a bike and pay $50 per month you’re better off splurging on a bike and taking it outdoors. I understand that when you’re new to exercise it is the least intimidating thing to do, but when we’re talking about goals and getting the most bang for your buck [time] it’s not the best choice. And the real problem with these machines is the fact that they’re positioned in front of television sets or you read magazines while sitting on them thus never truly exerting yourself. Some people come to the gym with the sole purpose of walking on the treadmill, why? You could have just gone for a walk in your neighborhood. See? Frustrating.
I will say that steady state cardio like jogging or running on a treadmill is good for helping you build a strong base of cardiovascular endurance and it will help you burn some fat [but will eat away at muscle too], but if you really want to torch fat, retain muscle and have some fun you’ll use Finishers!
A Finisher is an old school term for an exercise or group of exercises designed to end your regular workout or ‘finish’ you off so to speak. In fact, laying face down or on my back looking like a crime scene is a regular occurrence at the end of a finisher. Incorporating finishers is great for people [guys especially, but girls should use them also] who hate doing traditional cardio [like myself]. If you’re doing traditional strength training workouts adding finishers will get your heart rate up, will help you burn fat all while leaving your muscle intact.
Here are a few reasons why you should incorporate Finishers. *from T-Nation.com*
Cardiovascular benefit: If you’ve always hated cardio because you can’t help but associate it with — for lack of a better word — pussyfied exercises, finishers are the thing for you. Some guys just can’t hop on a Stairmaster, treadmill, or exercise bicycle and aredamned sure not going to join an aerobics class! Maybe they’re afraid that if they work out beside the skinny guy who reads the Wall Street Journal while sitting in his recumbent bike, their testosterone levels will plummet like stocks in Planet Hollywood. Finishers, as you’ll see, are a manly way of getting the heart rate rocking!
Novelty and shock: Since finishers are usually a new challenge, you will feel soreness in new areas. Because of the radically different loading perimeters and tensions placed on the muscles, most lifters will experience new growth.
Practical strength: Because finishers usually work the stabilizer muscles, you’ll soon notice an increase in overall usable strength. Some athletes today use too many machines in their training and fail to develop an overall athletic package of power and practical strength. Finishers provide you with “real world” power. Many of these exercises are used by the World’s Strongest Man competitors for just that reason.
Endurance: Athletes often miss the boat when it comes to endurance, too. There are many linemen in football that, while very strong, can’t perform to their fullest potential because they’re simply exhausted after a few plays! Finishers are a great way to boost endurance for sports. Consequently, I’ve noticed increased endurance come about very quickly in the athletes that I’ve trained.
Challenge: While there’s an infinite variety of exercises available to the weight trainer, many lifters stagnate or even quit simply because they’re bored. Finishers will give you a fresh way to liven up your training and challenge your body. As the saying goes, “The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”
My Fav Finishers
Battling Ropes- There are several different ways to do the battling ropes- alternate, double arm snaps, side to side, windmill style, with a squat or reverse lunge between reps, etc. Whatever ways haven’t been done yet will be invented, tested and tried by Me sometime in the near future; you can be sure of that. The benefit of this exercise is that it causes zero joint stress or soreness. This is huge! Because of this it can be done frequently and on days between heavy training sessions without fear of it interfering with your size or strength gains. This is also great for anyone with any kind of knee or other lower body injury.
Prowler Sprints- I say Prowler sprints and not “pushes” because when we load the Prowler up heavy I consider that strength work or strength endurance. For conditioning I like to keep it a little lighter and do a large volume of work with minimal rest periods, or until the legs are jelly and we look like rag dolls.
Sled Sprints- These can be done forward or backward and with a belt attached to your waist or by grabbing the handles. Again, if you do these heavy, I consider it strength or strength endurance. For more of a grueling conditioning workout I keep the sled light and recommend doing 40-100 yard sprints. If you have limited distance, just do more sets with less rest or take it outside.
Farmers Walks- This is one of those conditioning drills that can also be a great strength exercise as well. Load it up heavy and it will increase your grip strength and build and iron core and stability in your lower body like nothing else. In the process it will also improve your conditioning. That’s one way to do it- heavy for short distances. Or you can go lighter on it and walk longer and further. In between you could run sprints or push the Prowler and then grab the weights and go for another walk.
Band Resisted Sprints- This one is awesome if you have limited space. The lactic acid build up in the legs is enough to drop anyone to their knees after thirty seconds if it’s their first time doing this. Use two to three bands (average or strong, depending on the weight and strength of the athlete) and keep constant tension while using short, choppy steps. Be sure to use spotters in front in case someone slips or you have any mishaps with the bands. Always resist on the eccentric portion and then fire out as quickly as possible when you return to the start position. A spotter in the back is a good idea as well, just in case some takes a wrong step or misjudges something and gets slingshotted through the wall like Elmer Fudd. If you are not used to these, start with 15 seconds per set and work your way up to 30 or even 60 seconds. Rest only long enough for the lactic acid to clear and for you be able to perform the next set with good form.
Honorable mention: Hill sprints [I do these all the time in summer], burpees [there are a tone of variations to try], tire flips [if your gym has them].
Done right these exercises are intense no doubt about it. But done right they will leave you in a heap and feeling amazing! Grab your training partner and try one of these finishers after your next training session, no need to thank me.