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Twenty years ago, we were concerned with our fat-burning zone. We thought the effectiveness of our workout was dictated by the heart-rate zone that we were aiming for.
It turns out, however, that endless hours spent slouched over a stationary bike or leaning over the stepper are not only terribly boring, but also not the best way to lean out, tone up and look sexy.
Quick Workouts, Quick Results
In recent years, research has shown that total energy expenditure (a.k.a. how many calories you burn) can be increased with short bouts of anaerobic exercise. This type of exercise is short and intense, and relies mostly on sources of energy other than oxygen – some examples are lifting heavy weights or sprinting across a soccer field. Researchers have found that when women participate in resistance training at higher intensities (with heavier weights and shorter breaks), they sizzle more calories postworkout!
So what does that mean for you? Steady-state exercise, such as 45 minutes on the elliptical trainer, does not torch as many calories as would a session of similar length spent lifting weights in a circuit. Since the total amount of calories you burn is what’s important (not the percentage that comes from fat), you should increase your exercise intensity with more-bang-for-your-buck routines – like the exciting finishers we’ve provided for you here.
Bring Up The Burn
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that, when compared to traditional straight-set workouts, exercises performed at a high intensity with short recovery periods (which these finishers prescribe), caused more calories to be burned during the workout, while also increasing the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which dictates how much energy your body uses after exercise in order to return to its preworkout state.
The Magic Method
A finisher is basically a circuit done at the end of a regular workout. These two finishers mesh body-weight, free-weight and band exercises to improve upper-body strength and definition. Add one (or both!) of these to your program when your metabolism needs a boost; the best part is, they can be tacked onto the end of any routine.
When doing your finisher sets, keep these points in mind:
- Choose one finisher and go through all four exercises as quickly as possible with correct form.
- Do not rest between exercises, except at the end (to ramp up the EPOC and burn more calories).
- Take a 30- to 60-second break after your first circuit before performing the second round.
Benefits Of Finishers:
- Better at burning calories compared to steady-state aerobic exercise for the same duration.
- Enhanced fat loss while developing strength; these ones target your upper body and core.
- Improved aerobic (fueled by oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen) fitness levels.
Finisher 1: Core Biceps, Delts
|Seal Jump||60 seconds||ALAP*|
|Incline-Bench Dumbbell Curl||8||ALAP*|
|Barbell Overhead Press||8||ALAP*|
|Walk-Out Plank||8||30–60 seconds|
Repeat the circuit once, staring with Seal jumps.
*ALAP = as little as possible.
Target Muscles: whole body
Set Up: Stand with your feet together and your arms extended in front of you; your palms should touch as shown.
Action: Jump, bringing your legs out to the sides as if doing a jumping jack. At the same time, move your arms out to the sides. Land with your body in a “star” position, then jump your legs and hands together; repeat.
Tip: make your reps explosive and speedy!
Incline-Bench Dumbbell Curl
Target Muscles: biceps brachii, brachialis
Set Up: Lie faceup on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward.
Action: Bend your elbows to curl the dumbbells. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top, then lower until your elbows are semi-straight. Repeat.
Barbell Overhead Press
Target Muscles: anterior and lateral deltoids, triceps brachii
Set Up: Hold a barbell, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart and your palms facing forward. Keep your elbows pointed down while maintaining neutral wrists.
Action: Press the bar overhead; your arms should finish beside your ears. Lower to chin level and repeat.
Target Muscles: scapular stabilizers, abdominals
Set Up: Stand tall with feet together, then squat down as shown.
Action: Walk your hands forward until they are in front of your shoulders. Carefully reverse, stand and repeat.
Tip: As you walk forward, brace your core and squeeze your glutes.
Finisher 2: Core, Triceps, Pecs and Back
|Mountain Climber||60 seconds||ALAP|
|Rolling Triceps Extension||8||ALAP|
|Push-Up Plus||Just Under Your Max||ALAP|
|Band Face-Pull||8||30–60 seconds|
Repeat the circuit once, staring with Mountain Climbers.
*ALAP = as little as possible.
Target Muscles: abdominals
Set Up: Start at the top of the push-up position. Keep your elbows locked, with your hands directly under your shoulders.
Action: Quickly alternate bringing one knee towards your chest, maintaining a neutral spine as you “climb.” Continue alternating for your entire set.
Tip: Your back should remain flat as you move your legs forward and back.
Rolling Triceps Extension
Target Muscles: triceps brachii
Set Up: Lie faceup on a bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand straight over your chest, with your palms facing each other.
Action: Without moving your upper arms, lower the weights towards your forehead. Roll your elbows behind your head in the bottom position, then reverse fluidly. Repeat.
Tip: You’ll press up rather than extend your elbows if the weight is too heavy.
Target Muscles: pectoralis major, triceps brachii, anterior deltoids, serratus anterior
Set Up: Get into push-up position, with your hands slightly turned out and roughly shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, and keep your legs and feet together.
Action: Bend your arms, keeping your elbows slightly tucked, to lower towards the floor. Extend your arms, then protract, or press your shoulder blades away from each other; it will look like you are slightly rounding your upper back. Repeat.
Tip: the rounding of your back is subtle, but you should feel it.
Target Muscles: rotator cuffs, posterior deltoids
Set Up: Anchor a band at a point higher than your height. Hold one end in each hand, with your palms down, facing the floor.
Action: Pull the band towards your face, leading with your thumbs. Flare your elbows out and rotate through your shoulders. Finish with your hands near your head. Extend your arms to return to the starting position, then repeat.
Tip: Don’t pull too low towards your chest because you will not externally rotate your shoulders, and you will lose the effect on the rotator cuff muscles.