Throwback Thursday: How To Design Your Own Finishers to Get Lean For 2013

“I can’t wait for the holidays to be over and 2013 to get here. I’m going to get so lean I look like a God damn anatomy chart,” you thought to yourself countless times over the last month in order to ease the guilt while you ate cheesecake by the fistful. 


Well now that your New Year’s Day hangover has subsided, it’s finally time to get to work on that little lie resolution you’ve been swearing to yourself that you were going to keep while you’ve been using your mouth to literally define the term pie hole. It’s time to put your money where you’re mouth is, fat boy, and while it’s not easy, as Dan John likes to say, getting leaner is simple, and I’m going to show you how to construct your conditioning in order to do it.

First of all, if you eat like shit, you’re not going to get lean. I’m not going to rehash the nutritional side of things, as there are a lot of people more qualified than me to do that. I will simply tell you to lay off the booze, eat mostly plants and animals, and get enough sleep. If you want some more reading on simple nutritional guidelines, I’d suggest you check out Brendon Rearick’s article here.

What I want to do with this article is give a simple outline as to how to program your conditioning to get healthier and leaner, without fucking yourself up. With the prevalence of Crossfit and P90X and whatnot, a lot of people seem to think that death circuits until you puke are the only way to a physique like GSP’s.


A lot of these heavy duty, no rhyme or reason, and often unbalanced circuits tend to run most people into the ground and reinforce shitty movement. By having a quick reference chart to draw from, you will be able to put together your own intelligent and progressive conditioning routines that will help you make actual progress in 2013.

Over the last year , I’ve really changed my stance on “finishers,” when it comes to general population trainees. I use to  program specific progressions for conditioning so as to not stir up any overuse injuries. When it comes to competitive athletes, I still do in that their conditioning will vary by where they’re at in their training year and is more specific towards their chosen sport, but with the average person who wants to get healthier, leaner, and have a little fun while not allowing themselves to get stale, why not finish up a solid strength workout with 8-10 minutes of varied, hard interval work?

The trick is, these circuits should be repeatable, so you have measurable data to track and show whether you’re making improvements or not. For example, if you set the clock to 10 minutes and put together a 5 exercise circuit, you should be recording how many rounds you complete so that next time, you can try to get more. Another way is to use a heart rate monitor and see how it averages out over the circuit, how fast you recover, etc. Keeping records will help to motivate you, and also to monitor progress. While you won’t always improve in a perfectly linear fashion, you should still try to get better over time.

The chart below, which is by no means all encompassing, is how I tend to design my conditioning circuits. I prefer to start with a full body movement, followed by an upper body pull (before the person gets tired and tries to shrug everything), then a lower body movement, an upper body push, and finish with another full body exercise. (The full body columns at each end encompass the same movements, so you can use the ones from the right column at the beginning and vice versa.) Most of the exercises are bodyweight or use minimal equipment and load. I prefer these types of exercises for circuits as they are much safer as fatigue sets in, and you can get some really good volume of compound exercises in a short amount of time. That’s why your heart feels like it’s going to beat out of your chest and your muscles start blowing up like balloons.

When it comes to the time/reps/rounds/distance prescription, that’s where the fun part comes in. There are an infinite number of possibilities here, so have some fun with it. Maybe 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off, then on to the next exercise, or maybe sets of 10, then 9, and work down to 1. It’s up to you and how you feel that day.

Full Body * Upper Pull Lower Upper Push Full Body*
KB Swing Chin Up Split Squat Push Up Agility Ladders
MB Slam TRX Row Goblet Squat Feet Elevated Push Up Sled Drag
MB Chest Pass DB Row Lunge Scorpion Push Up Backwards Sled Drag
MB Side Toss Rope Row Reverse Lunge Bench Press Mountain Climber
Battling Ropes KB Row Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat DB Bench Press Jump Squat
Sled Push Plank Row Slideboard Lunge DB, KB, BB Overhead Press Sprint
Airdyne Sprint Side Plank Row TRX Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat DB Curl to Press Incline Treadmill Run

*colums are interchangeable

A simple circuit that I like to use is:

  1. 24 kg KB Swing :15 on/:45 off
  2. TRX Row :15/:45 off
  3. Split Squat :15 Left/:15 right/:45 off
  4. Fee Elevated Pushup :15/:45 off
  5. Heavy Sled Push x+/-15 yds
  6. rest 1 minute, then repeat 3-4 times, depending on how I feel.

As you can see, the options are really limitless. It’s just important to use a lot of compound and self limiting exercises. I see a lot of fitness professionals who will tell people to put together circuits where on the 3rd or 4th exercise, it calls for something like 12 chin ups. I know not everyone can do that, as it’s going to be pretty tough to get 12 if that’s the only exercise you’re doing, let alone when your lungs are burning and your grip is about to give out. That’s a quick way to do 1. shitty half chins, 2. get hurt, or 3. get a half ass workout in because you couldn’t do a portion of it and lost steam. That’s why the chart above works so well-you can adjust according to your abilities, and it’ll always end up balanced. Use the chart above to construct 6-10 minute conditioning circuits and do them after your strength work 3-4 times a week for the next month. You’ll be glad you did.

P.S If you enjoyed this piece, and think someone else might be able to benefit from it, feel free to share it on Facebook, Twitter, or just tell someone you know who wants to be more jacked and awesome.

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