How to Use Finishers in Workouts for Fat-loss and General Awesomeness: Kettlebell Complexes

Who doesn't love a searing burn in your muscles and lungs at the end of a workout? 

Enter the Finisher. 

Finishers are a short, intense exercise or group of exercises that usually leave trainees gasping, sweaty, red-faced, and generally pleased (after the fact) with themselves for accomplishing a tough feat. They're useful to up the caloric burn in a fat-loss plan, to add in (an)aerobic work to a strength plan, they can be used for fun (if you like these sorts of things), or all of the above.

The pitfall, however, is making them too intense or too long in duration. They shouldn't exceed ten minutes and certainly shouldn't detract from the main strength portion of your workout. I typically program a finisher be right around 5-8 minutes of work. I also avoid technically complicated lifts- for example olympic lifts, heavy deadlifts or squats- because fatigue will set in quickly and fatigue + technical skill = poop

I thought it might be fun to have a mini-series on different finisher styles and ideas to incorporate into your own workouts. Today's subject is the kettlebell complex

Complexes can be done with kettlebells, dumbbells, or barbells. The main objective is not to put down the weight until the complex is complete- a fairly challenging task by the end. Typically, complexes consist of 3-5 exercises, and 5-10 reps per exercise. The complex is complete once all the reps are done; then you rest. Shoot for 3-5 rounds of the complex.

A good rule of thumb for work:rest ratio is 1:2 or, if you're masochist, 1:1. So if it took you 1:30 to complete the complex you'll rest for 3 minutes before starting the next one. 

How do you choose your exercises? Alternate between lower body and upper body movements and use multi-joint exercises (exercises that use more than one joint, i.e. squats require both hip and knee involvement). 

Here's a sample complex:

Swing to goblet squat

1-arm bent over row

Alternating stepback lunge

2-arm overhead press

Annnnd, here's a short video demonstrating what it looks like when you put it all together. (For time's sake, I only performed 3 reps each).

There are two different was to perform a complex.

  1. Perform all the reps of each exercise before moving on to the next one, like I did in the video.
  2. Perform 1 rep of each exercise in order until the total number of reps are completed. Using our video example: 1 swing to squat, 1 row (R/L), 1 stepback lunge (R/L) and 1 press and continue like that until I completed 8 reps of everything.

Word of advice: use a weight that is suitable for your weakest movement in the complex. For me, that would be the overhead press. I can certainly swing more than I can press, however, if the goal is to use the same bell throughout, I want to tailor to my weakest lift. 

*Note* if there is a huge disparity between your weakest and strongest movement, it's ok to use two different weights, just switch as quickly as possible and make the weakest lift last or first so you have the least disruption to your flow.

Complexes are incredibly versatile and can be easily scaled to your skill and strength levels. They will definitely increase both muscular and aerobic endurance and burn fat too.

Throw in a complex or two during your training week and reap the benefits!