Finishers are a great way to make sure that your workouts are as productive as possible. A finisher is basically a short challenge that you “bolt-on” to the end of your regular workout to increase training intensity and volume.
Adding a finisher to your workouts will ensure that you fully fatigue any muscle fibers that might have been left untrained. They also promote a stronger pump, flooding your muscles with freshly oxygenated blood.
While there is nothing wrong with designing your own end-of-workout finishers, we’ve done the hard work for you and created eight finishers for you to try – one per major muscle group.
So, the next time you get to the end of a workout and feel like you’ve still got some gas in the tank, use one of these finishers to bring your training to a more satisfactory, productive conclusion.
- The Best Workout Finishers for Every Muscle Group
- 1. Chest Finisher – Smith machine push-up ladder
- 2. Back Finisher – Three-ways to failure pull-ups
- 3. Shoulder Finisher – Dumbbell giant set
- 4. Leg Finisher (quadriceps)– Leg extensions to failure plus short-step walking lunges
- 5. Legs Finisher (glutes and hamstrings) – Glute bridge, Kettlebell swing, Pull-through triset
- 6. Calf Finisher – Standing calf raise 21s plus ankle jump superset
- 7. Biceps Finisher – 100 reps of barbell curls
- 8. Triceps Finisher – Underhand/overhand triceps pushdown superset
- Bonus – Full-body farmer’s walk and push-up finisher
- Workout Finishers – Wrapping Up
The Best Workout Finishers for Every Muscle Group
Push your muscles to their limit with these tried and tested workout finishers. We’ve got one for every body part!
1. Chest Finisher – Smith machine push-up ladder
Pump up your pecs and triceps with this simple but brutally chest finisher. All you need is a Smith machine and about ten minutes. This finisher starts hard and gets easier, but fatigue levels also increase as you work through all the levels. It’s a killer!
How to do it:
- Set the bar on a Smith machine to the lowest level. Rest your hands on the bar using a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip and walk your feet back into the push-up position. Brace your abs.
- Do ten good push-ups.
- Next, move the bar up one level and do another ten reps.
- Continue moving the bar upward set by set until you are pumped and unable to continue.
- Too easy? Do 12 or more reps per “rung” or wear a weighted vest. Alternatively, you can rest a moment and repeat the ladder once or twice more.
2. Back Finisher – Three-ways to failure pull-ups
This finisher is designed to fully exhaust all the muscle fibers in your back and biceps. It involves training to three different levels of failure – concentric, eccentric, and isometric. If you don’t feel pumped after this, you may need to see your doctor because there MUST be something wrong with your circularity system!
How to do it:
- Hold an overhead bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Hang with your arms straight and feet clear of the floor. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
- Bend your elbows and pull your chin up and over the bar. Descend under control and repeat. Continue until you cannot do any more reps, i.e., muscular failure.
- Next, use your legs to help you climb up and then lower yourself down under control. Climb back up and repeat. Continue until you are unable to control your descent.
- Finally, lock your arms off so they’re bent to around 90-degrees. Hold this position for as long as you can.
- That’s one set – rest 1-2 minutes and repeat for 2-3 sets.
- You can also do this finisher with supinated chin-ups or neutral grip pull-ups if preferred.
3. Shoulder Finisher – Dumbbell giant set
Hitting all three deltoid heads (anterior, medial, posterior), this finisher will leave your shoulders pumped and burning. It combines four dumbbell shoulder exercises and puts them into a sequence called a giant set.
Do each exercise in turn with little or no rest between each one. Be warned, this finisher HURTS, so use light to moderate weights.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Starting with your dumbbells by your side, raise your arms up and out until they’re parallel to the floor (lateral raise). Lower your arms and repeat until failure.
- Next, lift your arms forward and up to shoulder height (front raise). Lower your arms and repeat to failure.
- Then, curl the weights up to your shoulders. From here, press them up and overhead and lower them back to your shoulders (shoulder press). Repeat to failure.
- Finally, lower the dumbbells to your thighs. Bend your elbows and pull the weights up the front of your body to your chest (upright row). Lower the dumbbells and repeat to failure.
- That’s one giant set – rest 1-2 minutes and repeat for 2-3 sets.
4. Leg Finisher (quadriceps)– Leg extensions to failure plus short-step walking lunges
The measure of a good leg workout is not being able to walk afterward! This drop set/superset finisher will leave your poor old quads shaking, burning, and pumped like never before. Expect some severe post-workout muscle soreness after this one!
How to do it:
- Adjust the leg extension machine so that, when you sit on it, your knees are in line with the lever arm pivot point. Select a moderately heavy weight and rep out to failure. Make sure you fully extend your legs at the top of each rep and lower the weight under control.
- On reaching failure, reduce the weight by 10-15% and rep out to failure again.
- Repeat this sequence twice more to total three drop sets.
- Next, get off the machine and, with or without dumbbells, stand with your feet together. Then, take a small step forward, bend your legs, and lower your rearmost knee down to within an inch of the floor.
- Step forward and into another lunge, taking care to keep your steps short to emphasize your quadriceps.
- Continue alternating legs until you are unable to continue.
5. Legs Finisher (glutes and hamstrings) – Glute bridge, Kettlebell swing, Pull-through triset
This finisher is a great way to challenge your posterior chain and make sure you wring every last bit of energy from your glutes and hamstrings. It starts easily enough but soon gets tougher. Drag an exercise mat and kettlebell over to a low cable machine to save time between exercise changeovers.
How to do it:
- To do glute bridges, lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Pushing down through your heels, lift your hips up toward the ceiling, pause for 1-2 seconds, and then lower your butt back to the floor. Repeat 15-20 times.
- For kettlebell swings, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold a kettlebell in front of your hips. Hinge forward, lower the weight between your knees, and then swing the weight up to shoulder height. Lower the weight and repeat for 15-20 reps
- Finally, to do cable pull-throughs, stand astride a low cable machine with your back to the pulley. Grab the handle with both hands, push your hips back and lean forward until your hands travel behind your knees. Drive your hips forward and stand back up, locking your knees and tensing your glutes as you reach the top of your rep. Hinge forward again and repeat for 15-20 reps.
6. Calf Finisher – Standing calf raise 21s plus ankle jump superset
A lot of lifters struggle to build big, hard calves. While this could be genetic, it could also be due to a lack of imagination when it comes to program design. This finisher should pump up your calves and trigger a new phase of growth. Do two to four sets of the following exercise pairing at the end of your usual calf workout.
How to do it:
- Load up the standing calf raise machine with plenty of weight. Place your shoulders under the pads and your feet on the footrests. Stand with your legs straight, and core braced. Rise up onto your tiptoes. This is your starting position.
- Lower your heels halfway down, and then push back up onto your tiptoes. Repeat seven times.
- Next, lower your heels down as far as you can. Then, push up halfway and descend again. Continue for seven reps.
- Then, do seven full-range reps, pausing at the top of each one for 1-2 seconds.
- Step off the calf raise machine and stand with your legs straight and feet together. Using your arms for extra momentum, jump up and down using your ankles more than your knees to emphasize your calves. Do 20-30 reps or until you are unable to continue.
7. Biceps Finisher – 100 reps of barbell curls
This finisher is as simple as it is brutal. Just grab an empty 45-pound Olympic barbell and pump out 100 reps as quickly as you can. Expect a serious forearm and biceps pump after this one. You may even see your biceps vein emerging! Make this finisher harder by using blood flow restriction cuffs.
How to do it:
- Hold an empty Olympic barbell with a shoulder-width, underhand grip. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, arms straight, and core braced.
- Without using your legs or back to lift the weight, bend your arms and curl the bar up to your shoulders. Lower the bar to arms’ length and repeat. Continue to failure, keeping track of the number of reps performed.
- Rest 15-20 seconds and then rep out again.
- Continue repping and resting until you’ve done all 100 reps.
8. Triceps Finisher – Underhand/overhand triceps pushdown superset
This finisher pairs underhand and overhand pushdowns to hammer your triceps into submission. Switching hand positions provides a brief rest and also means that you’ll be working your triceps from a slightly different angle.
Maximal muscle fiber recruitment and a skin-busting pump! Make this finisher harder by using blood flow restriction cuffs. Do two to four sets of the following exercise pairing.
How to do it:
- Attach a straight bar to an overhead pulley machine. Hold the bar with an underhand grip and pull your elbows down and into your sides.
- Keeping your torso upright, extend your arms and press the bar down to your thighs. Keep your upper arms close to your sides.
- Bend your arms and repeat to failure.
- Next, moving quickly between positions, hold the bar with an overhand grip.
- Keeping your torso upright, extend your arms and press the bar down to your thighs. Keep your upper arms close to your sides. Bend your arms and repeat to failure.
- Rest a moment, and then repeat the pairing 2-3 more times.
Bonus – Full-body farmer’s walk and push-up finisher
This finisher works almost every major muscle group and Qdelivers a beneficial cardio workout, too. You can do it with dumbbells or kettlebells, but it’s more comfortable with a trap or hex bar. Load up with about 50% of your body weight to make this finisher sufficiently challenging.
How to do it:
- Drop down and pump out ten perfect push-ups. Make sure you lower your chest all the way to the floor and fully extend your arms.
- Next, pick up your dumbbells, kettlebells, or trap bar and walk 20 yards.
- Set the bar down and do nine push-ups.
- Pick up the weights and walk back to your start point.
- Set the bar down and do eight push-ups.
- Continue alternating between farmer’s walks and push-ups until you reach one rep.
- Not challenging enough? Do ten sets of ten push-ups instead of a descending 10-1 ladder.
Workout Finishers – Wrapping Up
While you don’t need to use finishers in your workouts, if you want to build muscle fast, get a great pump, improve your conditioning, or develop mental toughness, they can definitely help.
A good finisher should challenge your body and mind and make you question your ability to complete it. After all, if it was easy, it’d be pointless. The whole idea of finishers is to push you beyond your normal limits.
That said, because finishers take so much out of your body, you’ll need to pay extra attention to rest and recovery if you use them regularly. If you don’t, there is a real risk of becoming overtrained.
So, use finishers, but don’t abuse them. Otherwise, you could find yourself regressing between workouts instead of progressing.