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There’s something deliciously satisfying about an exhausting sweat session that depletes that absolute last molecule of muscle glycogen and leaves you pleasantly puddle-like. OK, maybe we’re masochists, but there’s no better way to push the metabolic envelope and achieve that jelly-like state than with finishers.
Finishers are quick, high-intensity circuits formatted in true Tabata style: They last about four minutes and are designed to tap your short-term energy systems and fatigue a large amount of muscle mass in a short amount of time. This means mega calories burned, a surge of growth hormone released and a delightful boost in postworkout nirvana.
Finishers are best done at the end of a strength workout or cardio session when you have just a little left in your tank to burn before hitting the showers. The key with finishers — and any Tabata, really — is intensity. Those 20 seconds of work have to be done all-out, and you should be begging for those 10 seconds of rest. Obviously, your “all-out” is going to be different post-lift than it would have been at the beginning of the workout, but dig deep and you’ll find that last bit of fuel that needs to be incinerated.
Here are four finishers, each with different equipment and/or exercises. Choose the one that is most appropriate for your training protocol du jour. For example, if you trained heavy legs, select No. 1 or 2, or if it’s chest day, try No. 3 or 4. Note: Tabata finishers are no joke, especially if you’re doing them at their intended all-out intensity, and all athletes should have an adequate base of cardiovascular fitness as well as very good form before doing them.
So make your finisher selection and we’ll meet you in the puddle in four minutes.
Swing Shift (4 minutes)
Repeat eight times through.
Kettlebell Queen (4 minutes)
|20||Kettlebell Hang, Clean and Push|
Repeat four times through.
The Ups and Downs (4 minutes)
Repeat two times through.
Have A Ball (4.5 minutes)
|20||Ball Overhead Slam|
Repeat three times through.
Setup: Stand behind a kettlebell with your feet just wider than your shoulders and turned out slightly. Keep your spine neutral as you bend at the hips and grasp the kettlebell with both hands. Lock your shoulder blades down to activate your lats and core.
Move: Swing the kettlebell back between your thighs, keeping your back straight, then snap your hips forward to generate enough power to swing the kettlebell back through your legs and up in an arc in front of you to shoulder height or higher. Control the momentum of the kettlebell as it swings back down and through your thighs and repeat, using an even cadence.
Tip: Exhale forcefully as you snap your hips with each swing. This helps you maintain a stiff core and transfers the power through your body up to the kettlebell.
Setup: Stand with your feet just wider than your shoulders with about 10 degrees of outward rotation, back neutral, shoulders down, chin level.
Move: Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, then extend your knees and hips explosively, jumping into the air and swinging your arms down and back as you jump. Land softly, compress immediately into the next squat and then repeat.
Tip: Make this move more quad-intensive and cardiovascular by making the jumps shorter and quicker rather than going for height.
Kettlebell Hang Clean and Push Press
Setup: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width and turned out about 10 degrees. Grasp the kettlebell with one hand and pick it up off the ground, coming into the hang position: knees slightly bent, hips pushed back, spine straight, shoulders over your toes. The kettlebell should hang in front of you with your arm straight.
Move: Extend your knees and hips powerfully to pull the kettlebell straight upward along the front of your body. As it reaches chest height, rotate your wrist outward so that the kettlebell swings around your hand and catch it gently on your forearm in the “rack” position, wrist straight, elbow down. Dip down in a quarter-squat (not shown), then quickly extend your legs, hips and arm to push the kettlebell up until your arm is straight, shoulder firm.
Tip: A push press is not the same as a jerk, and your feet don’t leave the ground. Use your quarter-dip to generate some power, extending your legs quickly and squeezing your glutes as you come to full extension to help press the weight upward.
Setup: Get into a push-up position on your toes, hands underneath your shoulders, core braced and back neutral.
Move: Keeping your hips low, alternately drive your knees into your chest as quickly as you can, “running” underneath your body while maintaining form.
Tip: Don’t let the toe of your lead knee scrape or rest on the ground. Your whole leg should be in the air for maximum calorie — and abdominal — burn.
Setup: Start in an athletic ready position: knees slightly bent, eyes forward, spine neutral.
Move: Leap to the side, landing on your lead foot, bending your knee and bringing the other leg back behind you. Bring your arms across your body as you land, mirroring the leg behind you. Push off your lead foot, leap the other direction and continue, alternating sides.
Tip: Use your arms to get more drive, swinging them up and sideways to get a larger leap.
Upgrade: Place a Dynamax ball on the floor and do your skater jumps over it!
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides.
Move: Crouch and place your hands on the ground, then jump your feet back into plank. Immediately jump your feet back up to your hands, then extend your legs and hips and leap into the air, reaching your arms overhead.
Tip: As your energy wanes, you may begin to “worm,” undulating as you go down the floor then come back up instead of remaining solid. Slow your pace as you fatigue and focus on tightening your abs and exercising control rather than flailing through it.
Setup: Place a piece of tape about 5 to 8 feet above you on a concrete wall as a target. Face the wall, standing about 3 to 5 feet away, with a medicine ball held at chest height, elbows down.
Move: Squat down low, then extend your legs and hips explosively, throwing the ball up to hit your target. Catch the ball on the rebound and absorb the momentum by bending your arms and immediately descending into another squat. Continue, linking your reps together smoothly.
Tip: The lower you squat, the more upward power you generate and the less taxing it will be on your arms to toss the ball.
Ball Overhead Slam
Setup: Hold a medicine ball at chest height, feet shoulder-width apart and back neutral.
Move: Reach the ball up and overhead, then slam the ball down to the ground as hard as you can, following through by dropping into a half-squat and swinging your arms down. Immediately pick the ball up and repeat.
Tip: Focus on executing a powerful extension of your arms during the slam, and resist bending your arms and letting your triceps take over.
4 Minutes To Lean and Strong
Traditionally, a Tabata is 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times for a total of four minutes. This hits the immediate, short-term energy systems, which begin fatiguing about two minutes in. If you go longer, you’ll be forced to reduce your intensity in order to maintain that 20/10 pace.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however: Longer Tabatas tap into your aerobic system, building cardiovascular endurance. A recent study out of Southeastern Louisiana University found that three sets of four-minute Tabatas using kettlebell moves had a similar cardiovascular and metabolic response as repeated sprints on a stationary bike while also burning more calories than the bike protocol. And speaking of burn, a study done at the University of Wisconsin repeated a four-minute Tabata for four rounds, (with one minute of rest between sets) for a total of 20 minutes. Subjects burned up to 360 calories per workout — the equivalent of an intense 30-minute run!
So do you have to be a four-minute purist? Not necessarily. But we suggest trying traditional Tabatas first before shooting higher — it’ll be the longest four minutes of your life, guaranteed.