Q | What is a “finisher” and how can I use it to maximize my workouts?
A | A workout finisher, also known as a “metcon” — short for metabolic-conditioning session — is a timed interval circuit tacked on to the end of any training session to elicit a cardio or fat-burning effect. It’s generally short (no more than 10 minutes), sweaty, and relatively straightforward.
“People hear the term ‘metcon’ or ‘finisher’ and they think, ‘That sounds complicated and weird,’” says Pittsburgh-based trainer Janelle Pica, RKC II, SFG, NASM-CPT. “But really, all you’re doing is spurts of intense activity for a set amount of time.”
The goal is to hit near-maximal effort (80 to 90 percent), and allow enough recovery time between rounds so you can go again. You want to keep your heart rate elevated without feeling like you’re going to collapse.
Pica suggests doing a finisher up to three times a week, beginning with a conservative duration (five minutes is a safe starting point).
When it comes to exercise selection, there are no limits beyond your own skill and fitness level. Make sure to choose movements you’re comfortable performing at a lower intensity before ramping up your effort. And no matter what movements you choose, basic training rules apply: Prioritize form and avoid pain.
Kettlebell Workout Finishers
Certified personal trainer Janelle Pica recommends the following finishers, featuring intervals of the two-handed kettlebell swing.
For a five-minute circuit, start with a fairly easy weight. Pica suggests 12 to 16 kg (26.5 to 35.3 lbs.) for men and 8 to 12 kg (17.6 to 26.5 lbs.) for women.
• Beginner: Swing for 20 seconds. Rest for 40 seconds. Repeat five times.
• Intermediate: Swing for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat five times.
• Advanced: Ramp it up to 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off, or if you can swing it (no pun intended), 1 minute on, 30 seconds off. Repeat five times.
Work up to more advanced versions and additional rounds as you get stronger. Presuming you include a challenging finisher three times a week, Pica says you’ll see a noticeable difference in your strength and endurance within a month.
This article originally appeared as part of “Expert Answers” in the January/February 2016 issue of Experience Life. To order a back issue, call 800-897-4056 (press option 3 when prompted). To get all the articles from each issue of Experience Life, subscribe online at ELmag.com/subscribe.