They say confession is good for the soul. So here goes: For years, I didn’t do much cardio/conditioning. (Call it what you like. I just knew I didn’t like it.)
Sure, I hoisted heavy deadlifts. But I figured the wrong cardio would make me scrawny and weak. Plus, I had the not-so-repressed memories of “extra conditioning” workouts doled out as punishment for slacking at football practice.
And most of all? I claimed: “I don’t have time.”
But here’s the dagger: I was “fake” in shape. While lifting itself is great, you can’t claim to be in-shape or athletic if you’re sucking wind walking from the car to the gym. Just as endurance athletes need well-planned strength training, the iron- inclined lifter needs a healthy dose of conditioning.
The best bet? Rather than slogging away on the treadmill, well-timed metabolic finishers.
Metabolic finishers are a fancy name for short-duration, high-intensity conditioning exercises done at the end of your workout. The perfect middle ground to getting your conditioning done without hating your life or living in the gym.
Explains why incorporating metabolic finishers is the best use of your time to get back into shape, lose stubborn fat, and build a lean, athletic body.
Gives you 9 of my favorite metabolic finishers to accelerate fat loss in as few as 10 minutes, two times per week, I pinkie swear.
The Real Reason Most of Us Skip Conditioning Workouts
You need conditioning and we all know it. Still, If I had to hedge my bets, “cardio” is the last factor you plan in your workouts.
And when you get busy at work or tired in the gym?
Cardio is the first thing you “skip.”
I’ve been there too. But here’s what you need to remember:
Your strength won’t tragically evaporate, leaving you weak and wimpy.
Conditioning won’t turn your precious muscle into pixie dust or transform you into a skinny-fat, sunken chest hard gainer.
If you do skip conditioning you’ll find …
(1) Your ability to recover from hard training stinks worse than a flaming pile of dog poop. Your work capacity is down, so it’s harder to recover from intense sets. As a result, your overall gym performance hits a plateau and you stop making progress.
(2) You’re out of shape and unhealthy. If you’re strong but find yourself gasping and out of breathe while or chasing your kids, it’s time to re-evaluate your workouts.
(3) Your athleticism is withering away. It’s great to be strong, fast, powerful, and muscular. But if you want to be the total package then you’ll need conditioning to build and sustain your skills.
(4) The last bit of belly fat hanging around your belly button? It’s still there and growing. Two to three metabolic finishers will accelerate your fat loss.
Now, I don’t mean to paint a lack of conditioning as the reason for feelings of impending doom. Rather it’s to highlight that it’s best to embrace conditioning as a tool to improve your performance in the gym. You’ll lose fat, improve your health, and have more energy.
Now, let’s get to it.
What are Metabolic Finishers?
Metabolic finishers are a fancy name for short-duration, high-intensity conditioning exercises done at the end of your workout.
Think of finishers like an all out, short duration sprint rather than yogging (more fun to say than jogging) for 20 minutes at the gym before calling it a day.
Metabolic finishers are total-body in nature, meaning you’ll be working large muscles during each exercise to maximize each finisher. The more muscle mass you work, the greater the cardiovascular demands and number of calories burned during the exercise. In other words, focus on big movements like squats and sprints to help you hit the conditioning hard.
Metabolic Finishers Shred Fat
Metabolic finishers are my favorite method to supercharge fat loss for two reasons:
1. They’re time efficient, helping you lose more fat in less time.
Due to the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC), your body keeps your heart rate and metabolism elevated far after near-maximal bouts of exercise. This means although a finisher takes 5-10 minutes, it may keep your body humming and eviscerating stubborn fat for 24 hours after exercise. If you’re overextended, busy, or hate “cardio,” then metabolic finishers will help you burn more fat in less time.
2. They’ll create hormonal adaptations to help you lose fat.
Hmm, sounds like science, eek. Let’s break it down.
Hormonal adaptations is a fancy way of saying these conditioning exercises will trigger the release of powerful fat burning hormones. Since finishers force you to do more work in less time – a concept called training density – you’ll get the oh-so-wonderful burning, “my legs feel like lead” feeling from built-up muscular fatigue and metabolic stress.
Studies have shown incomplete rest, metabolic stress, and muscular fatigue stimulates the release of growth hormone (GH), IGF-1, testosterone, and improve insulin sensitivity. These are the most important hormones for losing fat, having more energy, and building a strong, aesthetic-looking body.
Metabolic Finishers Build Endurance
I think we’d both agree we feel best when we have plenty of energy and endurance. Amiright?
High-density training like the metabolic finishers improve your work capacity. This might not sound sexy at the onset, but consider the following:
Better recovery between sets. You’ll more efficiently clear metabolites after weight lifting sets, allowing you to lift more weight for fewer reps, and continue doing so, longer. In other words…a greater work capacity improves your ability to train harder for gaining size and strength. Thus, even if your only motivation for training is getting as big as a house and as strong as an ox….you need metabolic finishers.
Sports specific endurance. Most sports require quick bursts of all-out intense action, like jumping for a basketball and sprinting down court. Periods of low (or no) intense movement follow. By using conditioning workouts you train your body to use the energy systems needed to improve at your sport whether you’re a weekend warrior or high-level athlete.
You’ll sleep better. Well, according to this article titled Exercise Effects on Sleep Physiology,high-intensity exercise reveals robust and consistent data. The meta-analyses summarizing chronic exercise effects reveal significantly shorter sleep onset latency, time awake after sleep onset, and significantly longer total sleep time.
Here’s where most people run into issues– their ability and drive to train exceed their recoverability. Because they lack the work capacity to recover, their training tolerance doesn’t allow them to handle heavier weights and more volume.
This is like a new lifter training for speed and power without having a base of strength.
It. Won’t. Work.
You need a general level of endurance to recover fast and handle greater workloads, even if your primary focus is building muscle or getting stronger.
Metabolic Finisher Exercises
Okay, let’s get down to the exercises. I’ve added a number of tools so no matter your gym situation, you’ll have options to lose fat, boost energy, and take your conditioning to the next level.
Let’s keep it simple. Sprinting gets you jacked and is a key skill in nearly any sport. But not every gym has turf and not every neighborhood has an open field. Which leads us to hill sprints and treadmill sprints.
Since most folks stop sprinting after they’ve stopped playing a sport, your chance of tweaking a hammy are pretty high. Hill sprints reduce your chance of injury while eviscerating fat and building incredible hamstrings and glutes. Since you’re running up a hill, you’ll have a shorter footfall, which reduces joint stress. Plus, the incline prevents you from over-striding and tweaking a hamstring.
Perform a 5-10 minute dynamic warm-up before jumping into hill sprints with some light running, lunges, squats, and high knees.
Set a timer for 10-20 minutes. Run up the hill, flex like Rocky at the top, and walk back down. Rinse and repeat until the timer is done. Don’t make it too complicated.
Treadmill sprints allow you to train in nearly every gym environment. I recommend putting your treadmill at a slight incline before doing one of the following programs:
Run two days per week on a treadmill or hill. After a warm-up and some speed drills, perform this drill for ten minutes.
Week 1: Sprint 10 seconds, rest 50
Week 2: Sprint 11 seconds, rest 49
Week 3: Sprint 12 seconds, rest 48
Week 4: Sprint 13 seconds, rest 47
Week 5: Sprint 14 seconds, rest 46
Week 6: Sprint 15 seconds, rest 45
Week 1: Sprint 20 seconds, rest 40
Week 2: Sprint 22 seconds, rest 38
Week 3: Sprint 24 seconds, rest 36
Week 4: Sprint 26 seconds, rest 34
Week 5: Sprint 28 seconds, rest 32
Week 6: Sprint 30 seconds, rest 30
Remember, all these must end at the 10-minute mark. Increase your speed before jacking up the incline to preserve technique.
Jump Rope Conditioning
The jump rope allows you to get creative as a conditioning tool. Because it’s low impact with low stress on the joints it’s a fantastic addition to Power Primer workouts as a metabolic finisher. The neural demands are light enough that it won’t overly fatigue the nervous system and hinder training results with big-bang exercises like deadlifts.
As a stand-alone conditioning implement Double-Unders and the Runnin’ Man are my two go-to conditioning drills with each being performed twice per week, with at least 48 hours between workouts.
Death by Double Under
Like it sounds—whip the jump rope two times in a row with one singular jump. Work up to sets of 10 and use an interchangeable rope like Crossrope. Rest 30-60 seconds and continue on for 10-15 minutes or until your lungs and calves explode, your choice. As your skills increase, increase the weight of the rope to continue making progress.
The Runnin’ Man
Run in place while skipping the rope. Not only will this improve your coordination, it’s a deceptively tough conditioning workout. Go for time and work up to 10-15 minutes of continuous “running.” The impact is far less than your traditional steady state cardio or plodding along on the treadmill.
500 Meter Row Test
The row is the great equalizer. Unlike running or biking, few people use a rower regularly. So baseline of efficiency is low, making this a great standard for testing total body endurance and mental toughness.
Despite its simplicity, these tests will make your legs quiver, forearms burn, and lungs scream for mercy.
What to do: Hop on the rower and turn the resistance all the way up. Warm-up with one sprint to 100 meters, resting about two minutes. Perform one all-out set to 500 meters as fast as possible.
Elite: 1:35 or under
Pro: 1:48 or under
Get to work, dude: 2:00 or over
Take too much pre-workout? Rest three minutes and do two or three sets.
P.S. I’m sorry.
Row As You Go
What to do: Hop on the rower and put the resistance on max. Row for 60 seconds at a moderate pace, then rest for a minute. Once the rest minute is up, alternate 30-second sprints with 30 second rest.
Resistance: 10 (or all the way up)
Work: 30-second sprint
Rest: 30 seconds complete rest
Duration: 12 Minutes. (13 with the warm-up.)
Sled Push-Pull Suicide
Load up a sled to the top with 25 lb plates and get to work. Set up five cones five yards apart, for 25 total yards.
You’ll push the sled forward five yards, drop your hips, and pull the sled back while staying low in a back-pedal.
Strip off a plate and jump right into the next set, going ten. You’ll repeat the process of stripping a plate every time you finish a leg.
What you get: The sled is an incredible tool for conditioning and adding training volume without destroying your recoverability. There is no eccentric stress on the sled, so you’re not limited by debilitating soreness despite a high workload.
This mental challenge of a test scorches your legs, lunges, and core. It’s a challenge any lifter.
The goal? Finish in 60-90 seconds. Rest five minutes and repeat… if you dare!
Bonus: 300 Meter Shuttle Repeats
“Gassers” are much beloved by hardass high school football coaches everywhere. The 300-meter shuttle is a classic football conditioning drill. This isn’t a speed test. These shuttles separate the men from the boys. The mentally weak and out of shape fail. The grinders succeed.
Most lifters are under-conditioned. Adding in old-fashioned shuttle runs is one of the best ways to eviscerate fat and build endurance.
The set-up: Set up markers approximately 50 yards apart. You’ll sprint back and forth for six total lengths (or three down and backs) for a total of 300 yards.
The Goal: Two 300-yard shuttle runs, with two minutes rest. Finish the first set in under 50 seconds and the second in under 55 seconds. If you don’t make the allotted time, do 100 punishment burpees. I’m kidding. Step up your conditioning.
Here’s a five-week plan:
Add two 300-meter shuttles twice per week. Start with four minutes rest between them, decreasing the rest by thirty seconds each week. By the fifth week, you’ll be leaner, faster, and in better shape.
Week One: 2×300 meter shuttle, rest 4:00
Week Two: 2×300 meter shuttle, rest 3:30
Week Three: 2×300 meter shuttle, rest 3:00
Week Four: 2×300 meter shuttle, rest 2:30
Re-Test: Week Five: 2×300 meter shuttle, rest 2:00
Remember, the primary goal with weight training is building muscle and strength. One key tenant of why the Bach Performance clients are so successful is keeping the goal the goal. Train hard for strength and performance. Dial-up conditioning AFTER weight training, on a separate day, or 4-6 hours after training.
How Often Should You Do Finishers?
How often you do a finisher is dependent on your recoverability and current goals. For most, I’d recommend a finisher twice per week after your weight training workouts.
For the week, 3-4 weight lifting workouts and 2 hard metabolic conditioning workouts is a great place to start. Beware…you’ll have a temporary decrease in performance in the gym. One step back for 7-10 days while your body acclimates will lead to huge leaps forward in terms of how much fat you lose and how well your performance increases in the gym.
You still need conditioning; especially if you want to lose fat, and even if you want to build muscle and strength.
And if you’re short on time, heavy on excuses, but need to get it done anyway?
Metabolic finishers are your best bet.
They’re the most time efficient and effective way to rapidly transform your body, improve work capacity, and take back your health. Before you head out, grab your Fat Blasting Finishers below. There are nearly a dozen options I didn’t mention in this article that only take 15 minutes or less.