When Not to Use a Workout Finisher

Workout finishers are all of the rage these days. They are usually a high intensity set added in at the end of the workout for either a metabolic effect to improve fat loss or to improve your overall conditioning. I am a huge fan of adding these sorts of sets in as they provide an opportunity to really push my limits at the end of a tough workout and give it my all knowing it’s the last set of the day. There a certain sense of satisfaction earned after completing an intense finisher to cap off your workout

I love them so much that I include them in nearly every workout and have dedicated a weekly video series to showcase one of them each Friday. That doesn’t mean that I use them every single day, however, and there are definitely situations in which they are not necessary and could even do more harm than good.

The most obvious reason is due to injury. Now, unless I am completely sidelined, I am in the gym finding ways to train around my injury. Usually the workouts are scaled back or use a limited number of movements that feel okay. There is no reason under this circumstance to be adding in any high intensity work until you are sure you are recovered from the injury. Even then, erring on the side of caution and restraining from any challenging finishers your first week or two back can be a good idea to avoid aggravating anything.

Along those same lines, I don’t use finishers during deload weeks. Every 4-6 weeks I plan to back off my workouts in terms of volume and intensity to allow it to recover from the punishment I put it through the week’s prior. A lot of times this can be a week totally dedicated to bodyweight movements. Of course that doesn’t mean that the workouts are a complete cakewalk that week. I work hard, but I know that more is not better, especially during a deload week, when it comes to adding extra sets to the end of a workout.

On a normal day, when I have a finisher planned, determining whether or not to proceed with it is a bit of a tricky process. Knowing when to scale back a workout is an exercise in being able to recognize your body’s signals and differentiating between physical fatigue and mental hurdles. We’ve all had days where you “just don’t feel it.” Is that feeling physical or mental? Do you push through or stop?

I’ve had days where I’ve pushed through and had to stop the finisher mid-way due to safety or fatigue and days when the finisher was exactly what needed to be dialed up to cap off a great workout. Other days I’ve skipped and either felt guilty or knew it was the right decision based on how I felt later. It really is a fine line, but as you train more you become a little better at recognizing what side of the line to fall on.

The final reason to bail on a finisher is simply time. Sometimes the main workout, which is always the priority to complete, takes a little longer than planned. If I’ve got other things on the schedule to take care of that day, and I’ve finished the main work, then the finisher can get the axe. I hate it when that happens, but that’s life.

The good news is that the occurrences that cause me to skip a finisher are few and far between. They truly are my favorite part of the workout. If you’d like some finisher idea, check out my Friday “Fun”isher series here. Additionally here’s a collection of 30 finishers in ebook format. Enjoy!

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Single/Double Swing "Fun"isher
Swing and Burpee "Fun"isher

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