“What’s for dessert?”
As a kid, I can remember going over to friends houses and being amazed that they could have as much dessert as they wanted, after both lunch AND dinner. My 9 year old mind was officially blown. Now, as my mom will probably read this, there is probably a degree of revisionist history here, but the fact remains the “dessert” in our house was a rationed portion, of 3 Fig Newtons, or if we were really lucky, 3 Oreos or Chips Ahoy cookies, and we most certainly did NOT have that option twice a day. We were often encouraged to consume as much fruit as we would like for dessert, and while I blame my mom for my insatiable sweet tooth and fixation on dessert itself, she was probably onto something. In a society where we are always focused on what is “next”, sometimes we lose the value in the micro nutrient dense, wholesome food that is right in front of us. We have everything we need in that meal. We have protein, fibrous veggies, carbs, fruit, protein, and healthy fat. Anything else is just “extra”, but by focusing on that little something “else” we could be losing focus on what really matters, and that is the nutrition provided in THAT meal. If we could all learn to derive more value, more enjoyment, and place a higher emphasis on that meal, then we would all be in a better place.
So what in the hell does this have to do with working out? Well, at Metabolic, we occasionally incorporate “finishers” after our sessions are over. Finishers are aimed to provide a little “extra” calorie burn, muscle fatigue, and can help bring people together at the end of a tough workout. They are not mandatory, and should solely SUPPLEMENT the workout. As my own fitness philosophy has developed and become more refined over the years, I find myself doing less and less of them, and I thought I would address that through this article.
When you shouldn’t incorporate “finishers”
- When you “save” a little has in the tank for the finisher. This is similar to “saving room for dessert”. In doing so, you are essentially depriving yourself of the sweet potatoes, salmon, and veggies that make up your workout, and replacing them with some frozen yogurt. Is there value in the frozen yogurt? Sure, but at what cost? A lack of focus and intensity on what actually matters, the primary meal, which is the workout itself. I would MUCH rather see more green veggies eaten, more intensity put into the primary movements of the main workout, than a sub par effort there, in anticipation of “what’s next.”
- When that time spent is best doing something else that can help you become a more well rounded human being. Recently I have finally acknowledged that a TON of our clients have extreme mobility issues and limitations. Notice I used the word “acknowledged” and not “realized”. I have always known it, but felt pressured to provide the largest calorie burn I possibly could in the shortest period of time possible. As a fitness professional, this is just straight up irresponsible, there is no other way to put it. Since we have incorporated more mobility work, has the “time” we have to do a killer finisher at times been altered? Yes, 100%. Do you need to do a “killer” finisher, or do you need to even train for a certain period of time, to get a fantastic workout? No, you do not. Are you better off being, strong, mobile, lean, and fit, and being ALL of those things, or are you better off sacrificing some of those fitness qualities at the expense of something else. I think you know that answer.
- When you find yourself placing a premium on “quantity” over “quality”. This one is probably the biggest culprit out there for me. You need to EARN your dessert by finishing your meal, and getting every last little bit of nutrition out of it that you possibly can. If you stopped early, started late, left a bunch of reps on the table, that shows me, as a coach, that you are conserving energy in anticipation of what is to come, and that is a major mistake.It means that you have shifted your focus from “how” to “how much”, and that is a one way ticket to poor results, a stagnation in the achievement of your goals, and, even worse, an increased potential for injury. Pour your heart and soul into your main course, make improvements as you can, and make sure to always value the quality of work over the quantity of work for an enriched fitness experience that lasts a lifetime.
So, with all this said, do finishers suck? Should you never do them? I will flip that on you, does dessert suck? No, dessert is AWESOME…especially German Chocolate Cake. But would dessert be special if you had it ALL the time? If you came to EXPECT it? That cake tastes way sweeter when you earn it, and when you can’t always have it, so let’s treat our finishers the same way. With that said, I am human after all, so here is a way to get the most out of finishers in the gym:
- When you can honestly say you gave everything you had to give during the workout, but would like to hit a little extra work on a targeted area. Honestly, this is the best way to view finishers. They “dust off” any muscle groups that you want to prioritize without taking away from the main workout of each day. Be honest with yourself though, and make sure you really did earn the right to do that finisher.
- When you need a mental challenge. Sometimes it is just good to see what we have inside of us, to see what we are made of, and to go through that with a group of motivated people. EMOM Burpees of 8/10/12 for 8:00 always accomplishes this nicely! Again, you shouldn’t need a mental challenge every single day, as Metabolic Training sessions are extremely challenging in and of themselves, but you get my point, sometimes a finisher is just a good “gut check”.
So what if your group doesn’t do a finisher, but you would like to do one? Don’t worry, here are my top 3 all time favorites!
- EMOM. Love EMOM for its simplicity. Every minute on the minute pick a movement, and you can either do it for time (I recommend :20-:40) or reps (I recommend 5-10), and using proper form, hit it for 5-10 minutes.
- Ladders: Pick a movement and do it for 1 rep. Choose a non competing movement and do it for 1 rep. Climb up the ladder until you hit 5-10 “rungs”. Or if you are really wanting to push the envelope, you can go by “2’s”. An example here would be Pushups paired with Goblet Squats.
- AMRAP: Pick 2 non competing movements and get to work, using a rep count that leaves “2-3” reps “in the tank” on each movement. As an example, Sandbag Hip Thrust with a 3 Second Hold with Burpees, each movement done for 10 reps, get through as many cycles as possible in 10:00.
So there you have it! Do you ALWAYS need to dessert? No. Should you place an emphasis on a micronutrient dense “meal”? Absolutely. But what fun is that? Hopefully after reading this you have a new appreciation for how to apply finishers to your own workouts