A Dainty Diary of Lifting

Metabolic Finisher Workouts


I am so clueless when it comes to the gym. I just let other people discuss the intricacies of programming and all the latest trendy training techniques. All I want to do is show up and lift. Mark Rippetoe says squat 3×5 and add 5lbs every time? I can do that. I have a shitty bench? I’ll just go see a coach and do exactly what he tells me. So far this approach is working wonders and it’s pretty easy for me.

But when I met Curd, one of the first things he ever said to me was, “You can be strong and do cardio.” I responded with, “Blasphemy.” Or at least I tried to. Since I was in the middle of being forced to do something vaguely resembling cardio, it mostly came out as huffing and puffing. Dude, I just wanted to improve my bench and I did not sign up for this.

I may be good at following instructions, but not when they include cardio. Cardio sucks and I’m fat because as awful as it is to be the fattest person in the room, doing cardio is worse. Except that when I struggled to valsalva properly while benching some measly little weight, Curd conveniently appeared from nowhere and to say, “Look, it’s your conditioning that’s holding your bench back right now.”

Now, I am not fooled in the least: “conditioning” is just a trendy term for improving aerobic capacity and endurance… also known as cardio. And I’m wise to the fact that Curd runs a gym with the word “conditioning” in the name so he may be biased. But even I am forced to admit that I should do more cardio since I get winded after 50 jumping jacks, which makes my ability to deadlift twice my bodyweight slightly less impressive. And there is my neverending quest to lose weight, which certainly wouldn’t be hampered by running a few extra laps. That doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy it, though.

No, instead I’m going to spend the next weeks, months, and even years contemplating the fact that I should do some running or biking or swimming or whatever other things constitute “conditioning”. At least, that was my plan until Sunday morning, when I was lurking around on fitocracy and I saw someone had done one of Alwyn Cosgrove’s metabolic finishers. The light went on. Bingo.

If there’s any cardio worth doing, it’s HIIT. Some people who are way smarter than me agree and if you want to know more, you should google it. But I just do as I’m told, so I haven’t googled it. Anyway, it works: do some HIIT at the end of your workout and then throw up. BAM! You’re conditioned! And let’s sweeten the deal by taking weight training and disguise it as cardio. GENIUS!

Not only do these workouts relieve my number one complaint against cardio which is the fact that endurance exercise is boring and I have the attention span of a fruit fly, but they  also solves another one of dilemmas. I’ve been seeing a lot of progress on Texas Method, but I get annoyed with the light day in the middle of the week because I never feel as though I’ve pushed myself hard enough. I’ll just throw in some conditioning and then bask in that wobbly leg feeling.

Anyway, if you haven’t caught on yet, “Metabolic finishers” is a thing invented by Alwyn Cosgrove. I think he wrote a book where he called them “Afterburners” which is the lamest name ever and doesn’t do justice to the fact these babies will kick your ass. Here are five of my favourites:

Four-Minute Bodyweight Tabata Complex

This bodyweight routine from T-nation is similar to the first metabolic finisher that I ever attempted – Lou Schuler’s Bodyweight Matrix from the New Rules of Lifting for Women. I remember lying in the locker room at the end for a full 10 minutes before I could muster the strength to walk home.

“Perform 2 cycles of each of the following exercises back to back for 20 seconds of activity and 10 seconds rest:

•  Speed Squats
•  Burpees
•  Mountain Climbers
•  Speed Skips (in place)

This will total four minutes.

100 Reps for Time

The idea here is simple: pick a full-body lift and do 100 reps with a weight you would normally use for 20 reps. I have tried to do with with KB swings and failed. Turkish get-ups would be another exercise that would be brutal for 100 reps. You will probably need to take a break or two in here, but the goal is to improve each time.

An Alwyn Cosgrove example

Pick a load that is about 80% of your 10RM. Perform as many reps as possible at a constant tempo for 60 seconds and try to perform as many repetitions with as good form as possible. Rest for 15-30 seconds and perform another exercise.

Kettlebell swings, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds
Push-ups/burpees, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds
Prowler push, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds

Repeat for five rounds for a 12-minute finisher.

I will vouch for the prowler as one of the best/wort things that can done to feel gassed. Seriously, load up the sled and feel the burn. Just try not to yak. I don’t have a sled at my local Y, but I do plate pushes on a towel and achieve the same result.

Another Alwyn Cosgrove example, this time with a barbell

What kind of powerlifter would I be if I didn’t do some conditioning with a loaded bar? A weak one, obviously. So for this protocol the instructions are almost the same as the previous example but with the following moves:

Barbell reverse lunge, left leg, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds
Barbell reverse lunge, right leg, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds
Barbell push press, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds

Repeat three times for a 12-minute routine.

Medicine Throw Ball Complex

This protocol includes ball slams which are currently my favourite thing ever. If you want an exercise that will release all of your repressed aggression, then look no further. As agonizing as this complex is, it ends on a high note. And it works your arms, which are a part of my body that I often neglect.

Standing at a short distance from a solid wall, perform the following exercises, back-to-back, explosively:

8x Squat Push Throws
16x Overhead Throws w/step (alternate legs)
16x Rotary throws (alternate sides)
8x Overhead Floor Slams

Perform 4-5 sets. Rest 90 seconds – 2 minutes between sets



2 thoughts on “Metabolic Finisher Workouts

  1. So, how do you add these into your program? The same day as you lift, or the day after? (they do tabata invertals at the spinning classes at the Y, makes it more tolerable for sure)

    • I’m doing TM now, so I do these at the end of my light day to make my workout feel like it counted for something.

      Tabata = brutal. Brutal.

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