Metabolic Finishers Do’s and Don’ts

Earlier this week, I was training a long time client.  As we approached his third circuit, he realized there wasn’t a workout finisher at the end of his program.  “This whole workout is a finisher”, he said.  Then I responded with “Revealed your opinion is” in a Yoda voice.

Revealed your opinion is on finishers

Training with me is good times.

Anyway, he asked me the perfect question – “When do you incorporate finishers and when are they not needed?”.  I’ve answered that question dozens of times and it really depends on your program.

But let’s dig a little deeper.  Let’s figure this thing out so you can have an amazing 7 weeks before Memorial Day without getting burned out and using finishers when they are really not necessary.  I will probably touch on this at the TT Summit, too.  See you there?  I better.

First, you need an understanding of what exactly is a metabolic workout finisher.  And by clicking on the pretty blue words before this, you will gain that understanding…. or “understanding you will gain… yes, mmmm hhhmmm”.

Enough Yoda.

A good rule of thumb is – you use a workout finisher at the end of a strength or metabolic resistance training session.

Yeah, Mikey, But What is Metabolic Resistance Training?

Awesome question imaginary friend that asked that – I will explain that in a full post and thanks for the idea.  In the meantime,  here is a quick explanation.  Metabolic resistance training is using big, compound movements in a non-competing manner with relatively short rest periods.  In other words, doing bicep curls and crunches is not MRT, however a circuit like this is:

1A) Barbell Lunge (8/side)

1B) Pull-ups (2 reps short of failure)

1C) DB Chest Press (12)

That would be the beginning of a MRT workout.  However, you can even use two moves as a metabolic resistance training workout.  So here’s some bonus info – if you only have 10 minutes or so to work out – you can still get the benefits.  If you do a superset of Deadlifts and DB Chest Presses (as many supersets as possible in 10 minutes), you’ve accomplished a MRT workout in just 10 minutes.

You’re welcome.Metabolic Resistance Training

Metabolic resistance training has been around for a while.  Awesome coaches like Craig Ballantyne and Alwyn Cosgrove have been using these workouts with their clients for years, but the coined term is hitting the industry hard lately.

Now that we have a glimpse of what MRT is about, let’s talk about when you can use finishers and when they are really not necessary.

When Finishers Compliment Your Program

If you just put up a solid strength session (typically in the rep range of 6-12 for the most part), than using a finisher at the end of this workout would be beneficial.  You would get the benefits and afterburn of strength training, while getting the benefits of using a finisher to increase your conditioning and bonus fat loss.

So, if you have a circuit of DB Rows, Lunges, Chest Presses (and maybe a little core work), you can plug in a finisher for increased fat burning after your main session.

So, you’re looking at this:


Strength training (the bread and butter of your program)

Metabolic Workout Finisher

That’s when it’s ideal.  Let’s look at an example:

1A) Barbell Bulgarian Squat (8/side)

1B) Pull-ups (2 reps short of failure)

1C) DB Chest Press (10)

Rest one minute and repeat two more times

2A) DB Romanian Deadlift (12)

2B) X-Body Mountain Climber (12/side)

2C) Barbell Military Press (8)

Rest one minute and repeat two more times


Do the following superset 4 times, resting for 20 seconds between supersets

Burpees (8)

KB/DB Swings (20)

fat burning exercises

I like this graphic a lot. It's cool. Therefore, you'll see it a lot.

Sniff, sniff… that’s your fat burning.  Mmmmm, roasted flab.

When Finishers Aren’t Really Necessary

If your program requires a lot of conditioning, than using a finisher isn’t really necessary.  Your nervous system wouldn’t be able to take it and you could find yourself burned out… just like that cool graphic to the left.

For example, let’s say your program looks like this:

1A) Jumping Lunges (10/side)

1B) Chin-ups (12)

1C) Pushups (1 rep short of failure)

1D) Total Body Extensions (20)

1E) Spiderman Climb (15/side)

1F) Shuttle Run (30 secs)

That program requires a lot of conditioning, and a finisher isn’t really necessary.  The finisher is pretty much “blended” into the program itself.

Make sense?

The perfect example is Craig Ballantyne’s MRT workout from May of 2011 (one of the toughest, yet effective workouts I’ve used myself as well as my clients).  That metabolic resistance training program is laid out like this (although, you can play with the days to fit your schedule… simply take a day off after 2 days):

Day 1 Metabolic Resistance Training (you could add a finisher after this workout)

Day 2 Metabolic Conditioning (no finisher necessary – you’ll be toast)

Day 3 – off day

Day 4 – Metabolic Resistance Training (you could add a finisher after this workout)

Day 5 – Metabolic Conditioning (no finisher necessary)

Days 6 and 7 – off day

Hopefully, this clears the confusion on when and when not to use finishers.

One final note – (only because I’ve been asked this) – you also shouldn’t perform a finisher after interval training.  I’ll be politically incorrect here and say that if you have enough gas in the tank to do a finisher after interval training, than your interval training didn’t have the right intensity.

What is the right intensity for interval training Mikey?

Thanks imaginary friend that asked me that.  That’s a good future post.  Thanks for the idea.  Let’s call you Irene.  Thanks Irene.

metabolic finishers

This is a really big chicken talking to a bunch of little chickens. It came up in Google when I plugged in "story time". This is a long caption.

So, let’s gather in a big circle boys and girls.

When is it a good time to use workout finishers in your program?

Answer – After a strength training or metabolic resistance training session.

When can you skip a finisher?

Answer – when your program already has plenty of conditioning or after intervals.

Awesome.  Nice work.

Finish this week strong, and go nail your workout today,

Mikey, CTT

Leave A Reply (22 comments so far)

  1. Jasmine
    12 years ago

    Okay, so maybe this is a silly question, but with all the different terms out there, it could be hard not to get confused or a new trainer….would circuit training be considered the same as metabolic resistance training? Personally, I usually do 5 supersets (of 2 exercises each) and then end with some sort of cardio for 20 minutes, but would like to do a finisher instead…too much or just right???


    And a thanks for the new blog as wel. Love it and love all the info I have learned from you. Its great!!!

    • Mikey
      12 years ago

      Thanks Jasmine – appreciate the feedback.

      You actually have it just right. You could replace the 20 minutes of cardio with a finisher. You got it!

      • Jasmine
        12 years ago

        Awesome! Thank you!!!!

  2. Frank A
    12 years ago

    Definitely NOT a Friday the 13th spoof! lol Thanks for the info. Many little nuggets to develop a workout from too. 😉

    • Mikey
      12 years ago

      You are the man Frank! More cool stuff coming, too.

  3. lisa
    12 years ago

    as always, thanks for sharing! as a follow up to the first post, what is the difference between circuit training and metabolic resistance training??

    • Mikey
      12 years ago

      Happy to spread the word Lisa. Circuit training is metabolic resistance training, if they use compound movements and are non competing. For example a circuit of Squats, Rows and Pushups is MRT. But a circuit of Tricep Pushdowns, Tricep Extensions and Barbell Curls is just an arm circuit. I hope that makes sense.

      • lisa
        12 years ago

        your explanation makes perfect sense. so – now that i understand the correlation, i realize that i’m confused about something else–the difference between metabolic resistance training (in the sample workout above you included pull-ups) versus metabolic conditioning (in the sample above you mention chin-ups). and interval training isn’t mentioned in the workout plan above. is that considered metabolic conditioning? too many questions?!?! enjoy the weekend~

        • Mikey
          12 years ago

          That’s why I created this blog – to help with stuff like this 🙂 MRT and MCT can be the same thing, but MCT is typically higher range stuff. It’s like doing “cardio”, but much better. MRT can also be high rep moves, but I like to use heavier ranges for MRT (6-12 reps). So, I write my programs like this:

          Metabolic Resistance Training
          Metabolic Conditioning
          Metabolic Finishers

          Intervals would be considered metabolic conditioning – this where you can replace intervals with finishers. Great questions – I hope this helps.

          • lisa
            12 years ago

            thanks–again–for the reply. i feel fortunate to have found your blog. there are many, many out there but i really appreciate how REAL you are, your “story” and, most importantly, the sense of humor you have in presenting it all. thanks so much for doing this!

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  5. Adrian
    12 years ago

    Another great post Mike. Clear, concise and entertaining to boot! Keep it coming mate…

    • Mikey
      12 years ago

      Thanks man! I appreciate it. I’m a big believer in putting in a splash of sarcasm and humor in my articles. Fitness doesn’t have to be boring 🙂

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