Effective finishers are a must for closing out your ferocious workouts sessions.
In fact, whether it be a paint job, a haircut, or even an ice cream sundae… there’s always that necessary final element which needs to be incorporated to give that much-needed pizzazz, or “finishing touch” so to speak.
Well, when it comes to training, including that finishing element can really ensure that you’ve provided every last bit of stimulus to the target muscle/s (and the extra pump is nice too).
So, we’ve decided to put together a list of 20 amazing finishers consisting of single movements and exercise combinations which are sure to top off your efforts…
Note: Great finishers are usually exercises which allow you to benefit from certain movements that incorporate different training modalities which are not a part of your main workout.
Only do one finisher of your choice following a workout for each muscle group.
1. Face Pull Superset W/ Overhead Trap Raise
To start off our list of simple and effective finishers, there are few exercises as fitting as the face pull.
Now, the typical upper body workout routine will incorporate a lot of pushing exercises, along with pulling movements too.
But, many routines do not involve nearly enough focus on the upper posterior chain muscles (back, rear delts) and the rotator cuff; which are most responsible for scapular retraction and external shoulder rotation.
And excessively poor posture whether training or otherwise (daily activities) can result in thoracic outlet syndrome which causes dangerous nerve and blood vessel compression.
So, that’s why it’s important to include exercises that will offset the potential for developing muscular imbalances and/or injuries.
Do this finisher after every single workout.
How to do the face pull…
- Attach a double-handle rope at the top of a cable pulley.
- Stand in front of the cable machine with a hip-width stance.
- Grip the rope with both hands using your four fingers so that your thumbs are free and your knuckles are pointed toward the ceiling.
- Pull the rope back behind your head and rotate your hands outward while keeping your upper arms parallel to the floor.
- Squeeze for 2 seconds to get a good contraction.
Do a set to failure and immediately transition into the overhead trap raise to failure…
How to do the overhead trap raise…
- Keep your elbows slightly bent, then raise your arms overhead and back while squeezing your traps and rotating your thumbs outward to target the posterior muscles. Do this until you reach failure.
Perform 3 sets of 10 reps for this exercise combination. Rest for about 45 seconds in between each superset.
2. Step-Ups Using Dumbbells Superset W/ Bodyweight Jump Squats
The step-up and jump squat are excellent exercises for improving lower body explosiveness, core stability, coordination, and balance; which are all very important, especially if you’re an athlete.
Plus, they work your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves as well.
And oftentimes, these types of movements are neglected. But that’s why we’ve included them as a finisher for your leg workouts.
How to do the step-up…
Use lighter dumbbells that will still be relatively challenging for 8-10 reps.
- Stand facing a flat bench while holding two dumbbells.
- Now, step up onto the bench with your left foot and immediately explode upward using your thighs to propel you upward until your foot just leaves the bench. You should still be standing on the bench after you land.
- Then, step down from the bench and repeat with the other leg.
- Do 8 reps for each leg.
Do one set one step-ups and then transition to the jump squat
How to do the jump squat…
- Take a hip-width stance, then squat down to parallel and make sure your shins are not too far forward over your feet while maintaining an upright posture.
- Perform one jump squat explosively so that the balls of your feet are the last to leave the ground.
- Land on the balls of your feet and perform another rep.
- Do 10 reps.
Repeat the superset starting again with the step-up.
Perform 3 rounds of this superset. Rest for about 45 seconds to a minute seconds in between each superset.
3. Adductor/Abductor Plank Superset Finisher
Most exercises are performed in a sagittal (forward and back) plane. But, these types of movements don’t work the hip abductors (moves the leg away from the body) and adductors (moves leg toward the midline of body) sufficiently.
So, we need to incorporate a few exercises that will take care of this and that’s where two variations of the side plank comes in handy…
Perform 3 sets of 15 reps for each exercise following your leg workout to effectively target these essential muscles. Rest for about 45 seconds in between each superset.
4. Overhead Cable Bicep Curl Superset W/ Negative Chin-Ups
The overhead cable curl is an excellent bicep exercise. And not only is it a good movement for building muscle, but the reason we’re including it as a finisher is because of how beneficial it is for developing and improving mind/muscle connection due to the pure focus on contraction.
And as a result, you stimulate the muscle fibers more effectively and thoroughly with improved muscle contractions, leading to better muscle gains. In fact, research has proven how important it is to focus on a mind/muscle connection. (1)
Moreover, this improves the quality of other bicep exercises as well.
And as for the negative chin-ups which is the second exercise in the superset; you’ll be focusing on the eccentric portion of the movement which many exercises neglect.
How to do the overhead cable curl…
Since you’ve already completed your main workout, you’re going to use a relatively lightweight to where you can perform 15 reps and reach failure on the final rep.
- Set the single-grip pulleys at the highest notch on each side of the machine.
- Grab each handle and then stand in the middle.
- Walk forward so that you’re only slightly in front of the machine bars.
- Curl the weight by doing a double bicep pose, while using your pinkies to get a strong contraction.
- Hold for 2 seconds.
- Extend your arms back toward the pulley system.
Do 3 sets of 15 reps of the curl after your bicep workout.
How to do the negative chin-up…
- Jump up to the top position of the chin-up and fight to hold yourself up for as long as you can.
Rest 30-45 seconds in between each superset.
5. 21’s (Biceps)
21’s are a killer bicep finisher that’ll have you fighting for every last rep as the set progresses.
And this exercise involves doing 7 partial reps of barbell bicep curls using three different range of motions (bottom half, top half, and full reps).
Now, since both bicep heads (inner and outer) essentially perform the same function due to their attachment, you cannot really isolate a certain portion of the muscle. However, it is believed that we may be able to emphasize certain fibers by utilizing a certain range of motion and even hand position.
Not too mention, using a shorter range of motion can definitely improve strength during certain points of an exercise, while also allowing you to use heavier weight loads; which is important for inducing the necessary overload stimulus for hypertrophy. (2, 3)
But with 21’s you’ll be using a relatively lighter (not too light) weight than what you’d normally use to ensure you can complete the repetitions. But you still want to reach failure.
How to do 21’s…
The type of barbell you use does not matter as long as you can complete all 21 reps.
- Stand with feet hip-width distance apart and grip the barbell with hands shoulder-width distance apart.
- Tuck your elbows in your sides and look straight forward.
- Curl the bar from the bottom to the halfway point until your arms are 90-degrees for 7 reps.
- Now, curl the bar from the halfway point all the way to the top for 7 reps.
- Then, complete 7 full repetitions.
Do 2 sets to finish off your bicep workout. Rest 45 seconds between sets.
6. Bodyweight Bench Dip Superset W/ Tiger Push-Ups
The bench dip is one of the more common finishers but it’s also one of the best bodyweight tricep exercises considering it works all three heads of the muscle.
And then you have the tiger push-up which is the bodyweight equivalent to an extension type movement where the focus is more on the medial and long head of the triceps.
Combine the two after a brutal training session and, well… it’s going to be hard to top this one!
Now, with this exercise, you want to be especially careful to not place the shoulder in a dangerous position. And many people do the bench dip incorrectly which results in repetitive stress on the joints.
But to do it correctly keep these few points in mind…
- You don’t want to internally rotate your shoulders. And to ensure you’re not, your hands should be flat on the bench facing laterally away from your body.
- Always keep your shoulder blades retracted and lean back slightly to prevent the forward pressure on your shoulder joints.
- Do not let your shoulders move higher than your neck during the dip. Keep it in one stable position which will require more work from the triceps.
How to do the bench dip…
- For the bent-knee variation, keep your butt close to the bench and place both hands flat on it and pointed away as explained previously.
- Retract your scapula and lean slightly back.
- Perform the dip by lowering your torso down until your upper arms are just above parallel to the floor.
- Press up using only your triceps.
Rep out until you reach failure, rest 20 seconds and then move on to the tiger push-ups.
You can do the tiger push-ups on an elevated surface or on your knees if the standard push-up version is too difficult.
How to do the tiger push-up…
You’ve probably seen how a tiger crouches down place its paws in front and elbows close to its body. Well, it turns out that this is one of the best ways to provide a lot of stimulus to the triceps… as a human.
And the movement itself is pretty equivalent to a skull crusher…
- Get into a plank position so that your forearms are holding you up and place your hands flat on the floor.
- Now, push yourself up into a push-up position by flexing your triceps and extending your elbows.
Do as many reps as you can.
Perform this superset 3 times. Rest 30-45 seconds in between each superset.
7. Tricep Rope Pushdown Drop Set Burnout
The rope pushdown is a very effective exercise for targeting all heads of the tricep muscle and a burnout set is one of the best ways to leave your tris pumped and fully stimulated.
How to do the tricep pushdown…
- Stand in front of the cable machine, then place one foot in front of the other.
- Grip the rope with both hands.
- Stand straight, tuck your elbows, and press the rope down by flexing your triceps.
- Hold for 2 seconds.
- As you come up stop when your forearms are parallel to the floor.
Start with a challenging weight for a 15 rep max, then continue to drop the stack by two plates each time you’ve reached failure. Do only one set.
8. Farmer’s Carry/ Reverse Barbell Curl/ Dead Hang (Brutal Forearm Finisher)
Grip strength and forearm development are two essential components of physical performance. And few exercises can top the ones chosen for this brutal finisher.
The farmer’s walk will test your grip and posture, the reverse curl will work your brachialis muscles, and the dead hang will be the finishing touch that really has you questioning whether or not it was a good idea to include it.
Now, the wrist flexors will obviously be activated during any gripping exercises.
So, with that being said, we have one powerful forearm combination here which makes for a phenomenal, but very intense finisher.
Here are the exercise instructions…
- Pick up moderately heavy dumbbells which will allow you to walk comfortably.
- Keep your chest up and back straight.
- Walk for 1 minute straight and place them down on the ground.
Do one set and move on to the next exercise.
- Grab a relatively light (about 40% of your one-rep max) fixed barbell using a pronated (overhand) grip so that your hands are shoulder-width apart from each other.
- Tuck your elbows.
- Perform 20 reverse curls.
Do one set and move on to the next exercise.
- Hang from a bar so that your feet are raised off the ground.
- Hold this position for as long as you can then drop back down.
Do this finisher cycle twice. You can rest for 30-45 seconds in between each cycle.
9. Alternating Push-Up (Mechanical Drop set)
The alternating push-up is an excellent unilateral (affecting one side at a time) movement which allows you to place more stress and weight on each pec muscle, and it also allows to get maximum adduction (movement toward the midline of the body) of the arms for an optimal chest contraction.
Now, this exercise will also target the triceps and shoulders quite well aside from the chest muscles but it’s also a great core movement due to its unilateral nature.
But it’s an awesome finisher due to the continued maximum contraction following the main chest exercises. Plus, you can just focus on performing as many reps as you can which is great for training muscular endurance.
But the twist on this movement is that you’re going to start on the floor, rep out until failure, and then transition to a bench, wall, or elevated surface where you’ll continue to squeeze out any reps left in you.
So, you’re implementing a mechanical drop set by taking advantage of the ability to do more reps from an elevated surface simply by manipulating the angle.
How to do the alternating push-up mechanical drop set…
- Get into a standard push-up position so that your body is straight with your butt slightly lifted. Spread your feet out a little wider than a standard push-up and keep your elbows tucked in slightly. Your form should be similar to the bench press.
- Unshrug your shoulders, retract your scapula and tighten your glutes.
- Now, lower yourself down to a few inches from the floor and pause for 2 seconds. Keep your head completely straight.
- As you push yourself back up, simply turn your torso toward your left arm and contract the same side pec muscle.
- Lower yourself back down and this time as you come back up, turn your torso to the right and contract the same side pec.
- When you reach failure, prop yourself up on a bench or use a wall to perform additional reps until you reach failure.
Do 3 sets to failure following your chest workout. Rest 30 seconds in between each set.
These form instructions will ensure you perform the push-ups in a safe and effective manner.
10. 75-Rep Bench Press Burnout
After a heavy chest workout, a 75-rep burnout is beneficial for continuing to stimulate your chest fibers to the absolute core (and you’ll definitely be sore the next day).
Use a very lightweight that is around 20% of your one-rep max and take a few seconds to rest as you get closer to 75 reps. Do one set only.
11. Seated Cable Row 100-Rep Drop set
The seated cable row is a very effective exercise that will essentially work all muscles of the back. And since it’s performed on a cable machine, you can easily and effectively perform one huge 100-rep drop set.
Now, it’s best to have a partner which will make this exercise easier on you but it’s not at all required.
How to do the seated row drop set…
- Do your first set using the heaviest weight possible to where you’ll reach failure at about 10 reps.
- Then have your partner drop the stack 3 plated down and rep out until failure.
- Continue this pattern until you’ve performed 100 reps.
You’ll only do one brutal set with a few seconds rest in between if needed, as you make your way closer to 100 reps.
12. Barbell Ladder Shrug Finisher
No back workout would be complete without including a powerful trap exercise to finish things off.
And the shrug has been used for a long time to build mass and strength in this area of the upper posterior chain.
Now, you definitely don’t want to use too much weight on this finisher because you’ll have a rough time completing all of the reps. And more often than not, you’ll feel the trapezius muscles working better when using a weight you can handle without having to cheat your reps.
How to do the barbell ladder shrug…
Use less than half of the weight you’d usually shrug with for reps (around 30% of your one-rep max) since you’ll be doing 55 reps altogether.
- Take a hip-width stance and grip the barbell with hands about shoulder-width distance apart.
- Perform one rep by shrugging your shoulders up and back, then hold for two seconds.
- Perform two reps and holds for two seconds.
- Perform three reps and hold for two seconds.
- Continue this pattern until you’ve performed ten reps.
You can take a few seconds to gather yourself near the final few reps because it can be pretty difficult to go all the way straight through without stopping (unless you’re just a beast of course).
13. Cable Delt Raise Trifecta
What better way to finish off your shoulder workout than with a cable trifecta consisting of front, side and reverse delt raises.
This trifecta will work the front, lateral, and rear heads of your shoulders; which all need sufficient stimulus to grow.
Important form tips:
If we were using dumbbells, the range of motion would be different. But the beauty of using cables is that you’ll always have a constant tension placed on the muscle.
- So, when you’re in the starting position of the standing cable shoulder raise where your arm is relaxed by your side and you’re holding the single-grip handle; simple walk forward until you feel a slight stretch in your shoulder muscle.
- Your arm should slightly behind your body in a pre-stretched position.
- For the rear delt raise, you want to be in a bent-over position, and your elbow should move behind you for optimal muscle contraction.
The trifecta will look like the following…
Do one set of each exercise and then circle back around to repeat this sequence. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps for each exercise.
You can rest for 20 seconds or so after completing 3 sets of each exercise before another round.
Whole-Body/Kinetic Chain Function
14. Full-Body Finisher
An effective full-body workout is a lot on its own, but it’s in our best interest to include additional training modalities which will allow for the entire body to move together as one.
This is necessary for improving the movement and function of the entire kinetic chain for general everyday activities, sports, and overall health.
Now, you can either do this finisher following a full-body workout, or you can do it after any workout.
And a significant benefit of stimulating your muscles more frequently is that recent science has shown superior muscle growth potential compared to infrequent training regimes. (6)
So, here are the exercises for the full-body finisher and you’ll simply perform 2 sets of each exercise…
- Inverted row (As many reps as possible)
- Standard push-up (As many reps as possible)
- Wall-sits (Place your back against a wall with your knees bent at 90 degrees and hold this position for at least one minute – one minute 30 seconds, increasing the time as you become better at the movement).
- Weighted stability ball crunch (perform the exercise for 1 minute straight)
Rest 1 minute before attempting the second set.
One thing that these exercises have in common is that they’re closed kinetic-chain movements since the feet are planted and no limb is moving freely to execute any part of a movement.
Closed chain exercises recruit more muscle fibers overall and they promote better joint stabilization. Not too mention the movement has many benefits for real-life activities.. (7)
Core (abs and obliques) Finishers
15. Hanging Leg Raise Combo
Hanging core exercises are a must if you want maximum core development due to the stabilization required and resistance from the weight of the legs.
And the benefits are a stronger core, improved stability, reduced risk of back injury, and better posture.
So, to train the core effectively, you need to incorporate a rotational movement to hit the obliques, along with a straight leg lift to hit the rectus abdominis, or abdominals.
There are many ways to do the leg raise but for this finisher, two exercises are all you need…
Perform one set of 10 reps for the hanging leg and hip raise, then immediately transition into the hanging windshield wiper and do as many reps as possible.
Avoid using momentum and swinging as this is dangerous for your back and it diverts the focus away from the target muscle/s.
Do 3 sets of this combo. Rest 30-45 seconds in between each superset.
16. Decline Medicine Ball Ab Exercise W/ Partner
Here’s a brutal core finisher that will really test your will-power. You’ll need a medicine ball, a decline bench, and a partner.
- Hop on a decline bench and secure your ankles under the foam rollers.
- Then, have your partner stand a few feet away from your feet with a medicine ball.
- Perform a sit-up and as up come up have your partner throw the medicine ball to you.
- Perform another rep holding the ball and throw it back as you come up. But this time, have your partner throw the ball back before you go back down.
- Continue until you reach failure.
Make sure to use as much of your core as possible for each rep.
Do 3 sets to failure and rest 30 seconds between each set.
17. Woodchop/ Pallof Press/ Wheel Rollout Core Trio
Here’s a brutal but extremely beneficial trio of exercises to finish off your workout.
The cable woodchop is a phenomenal oblique exercise due to the rotation, while the pallof press tests your core stability, and the wheel rollout will finish off your entire core.
But the real benefit here is the fact that the cables maintain a constant resistance against the core muscles.
Here are the three movements in the workout…
Complete one set of each exercise one after the other for 2 rounds. Rest 45 seconds in between each cycle.
Use a light-moderate weight which will allow you to maintain proper form.
18. Sprint Interval Training Finisher
You just killed it on leg day and now you’re ready to hit the showers… but wait! You’re missing the cherry on top… the sprints!
Sprints are a phenomenal exercise that not only increase your speed, but they build muscle and burn fat. Plus, sprints increase your aerobic capacity, improve power performance, and are effective at reducing the risk of noncommunicable disease when performed in an interval type fashion, according to research. (8, 9)
Now, if you’re overweight, walking at a fast pace is a better option at first to avoid the high impact on the joints. But, regardless of your weight, we want to keep the duration of sprints short to avoid injury and long term damage.
So, you’re going to do 5 rounds of sprints for a 20-second duration each time, followed by 3 minutes of brisk walking in between.
And it’s also important that you do not jog in between sprints as the duration of impact on the joints is not advised.
A track or field is a great place to perform these, or you can use a treadmill if you must.
19. Your Choice of Exercise Interval
Choose any cardio activity of your choice and do an interval with a 1:3 work to rest ratio (e.g. 20 seconds on/60 seconds off). Repeat seven times.
20. Battle Ropes (alternating)
There’s nothing easy about going to battle in any sense and the battle ropes are surely no different.
So, intensity is key here as we’re not just casually riding Santa’s sleigh…
A few tips for the battle ropes:
- Gripping too tight will wear you out pretty fast and it’s also not great for your wrist and elbow joints. So, take a firm but not overly tight grip.
- Not allowing for enough slack in the ropes will prevent you from using enough force during the movement, while also not allowing for a natural movement; which is stressful on the joints. Take a step into the ropes before you begin to ensure you have enough rope to work with.
- Remain upright with an athletic stance for the most optimal performance possibilities. Bending too far forward is also dangerous for the back and it’s not natural.
Perform 4 sets nonstop alternating both arms for 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
Here’s a sample video of how it’s done…
Phew… that was intense, as should your effort during these finishers be regardless of which ones you choose to incorporate at the end of your training sessions.
You can follow the set/rep and rest recommendations to ensure you’re getting the most out of the exercises. But exercise form is just as important to ensure you make pain and injury-free progress.