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Make the Most of Gym Time

Posted Mar 06 2013 8:00am

You grab some more water, chat with somebody, look at your watch (again), or simply sit on the bench press until you get enough mojo to lift the dumbbells for one more set. Then you finish one or two reps short of your usual number, or do your usual 10 and stop even if you do not feel a muscle burn. You worked hard enough, right? You don’t need to push yourself anymore.

This is a problem for many exercisers: wasted gym time. You are already there to workout so make the most of it.

This is where two workout types come into play: fillers and finishers. These mini-routines take advantage of rest periods as well as help push yourself to maximize your efforts.

Fillers: Satisfying a Need

So exactly what are workout “fillers?” “They are basically activities that can be added into any training regimen performed between sets,” says Jay Cardiello, CSCS, CPT, and Certified Sports Nutritionist of cardiellofitness.com.

But if you are already exercising, what type of activities should you add and why are they important? These are lower intensity active recovery, or corrective exercise drills you throw in during longer rest periods—typically 1 to 2 minutes or longer—between sets or exercises,” says B.J. Gaddour, CSCS CEO of StreamFIT.com.

Some examples include foam rolling, stretching, and mobility/activation work. “These drills are key for accelerating recovery from high-intensity exercise, bulletproofing the joints, and promoting longevity,” says Gaddour.

Fillers, as the name implies, should fill a physical need and usually supports your overall exercise program. For example, if you lack of core stabilization weave in planks and bridges in between your regular routine.

However, make sure these moves non-competitive and low-intensity, so they don’t impair recovery for the next exercise, says Gaddour. If you do a set of deadlifts and squats in which you heavily compromised your abdominals, hips, and low back muscles then do not pick core exercises as your next filler move. This may actually impair the strength moves due to muscle fatigue and thus increase your risk of injury.

Fillers Workouts

Some exercise fillers for most common areas that experts recommend include:

-        For Shoulder Joint Mobility (between bench press, for instance): stand against the wall and slide your hands up and down as if you were performing a shoulder press.

-        For Spinal Decompression: (between squats, lunges, deadlifts, or any exercise that heavily loads the spine): Hang from a pull-up bar or any other stable overhead support system for 5 to 10 deep breaths or 30 to 60 seconds. This decompresses your spine, re-hydrates the discs between your vertebrae, and lengthens the entire body. Be sure to pack your shoulders into your sockets and keep a slight bend in the elbows (keep your shoulders away from your ears). The only time you should not use this as a filler is if you do grip-intensive exercises before or after, such as deadlifts, rows, or any pull-up variation. In that case, try some inversion work by performing handstands against a wall for the same time frame, suggests Gaddour.

-        For Hip Mobility: (between dead lifts/squats): go into a lunge position with your back knee on the ground. Place both hands inside your front foot and rotate clockwise and counter clock wise with your hip, says Cardiello.

Finishers: Empty the Tank  

On the opposite side of the spectrum, exercise finishers will make you squeeze your muscles to fatigue.

In fitness jargon, workout finishers are a metabolic tornado. They will make the muscles work almost until failure—the point in which the muscle cannot produce sufficient force to control the external load. This means that after you already worked out a muscle, you end the routine with fast pace move that targets the same muscles. For instance, if you worked the chest and back the finisher workout is a combination of fast pace push-ups and/or pulls until you reach the point of fatigue.

“These are short, high-intensity mini-workouts—typically 10 minutes or less and usually 3 to 5 minutes in length—that emphasize a targeted body zone like abs, arms, legs, butt, or shoulders or hit the whole body,” explains Gaddour. “Though the intensity is high, the rest periods are also kept short to get as much done as possible in the shortest period of time.”

The benefits are plentiful. They provide greater muscle fiber activation, which creates a hormonal cascade effect, such as growth hormone, insulin growth factors, testosterone, adrenaline etc., that will increase metabolism, improve fat burn, and promote greater muscle leanness and strength.

“If hitting a targeted body zone, finishers are great for bringing up lagging body part or strengthening weaker movement patterns,” says Gaddour.

However, always be mindful about the fatigue element. Since you perform this at the end of your workout, you may experience impaired balance and abnormal performance of some exercises, which may increase the risk of injury.

Perform them carefully and begin with the lowest range of reps and sets at first. And take your time. Maintain proper form and do not perform this type of workout more than twice a week. To maximize its boundaries and avoid overtraining, you should not end every workout with a finisher routine. Remember, they are met to shock the body, so you need your body to gradually get used to its effect.

Three Workout Finishers

Perform any of these workouts at the end of your exercise routine according to the muscles you have worked out. (For example, if you work the legs then select the leg finisher workout to burn out these muscles).

1. Lower Body workout finisher (by Cardiello)

Towel Slides: After a heavy squat routine, get into a traditional pushup position with both feet fully extended and toes resting on a towel. You must be on a hard slick, non-carpeted surface.  Then drive your knees under your hips. Retract and repeat as many times as possible in 30 seconds. Perform 3 to 4 sets.

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2. Upper Body workout finisher ( by Gaddour)

Select an upper body pushing move (like dips or push-ups) and an upper body pulling move (like rows or pull-ups). Perform 6 reps of the push and then 6 reps of the pull. That completes one round. Perform maximum rounds within 5 to 10 minutes.

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3.     Total Body workout finisher (by Gaddour )

Perform kettlebell swings for 20 seconds then rest 10 seconds. Perform 8 total cycles for four total minutes.

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4.     Cardio workout finisher ( by Gaddour)

Perform 40 seconds of burpees then rest 20 seconds. That completes one round. Perform up to 10 total rounds. If you can do at least 10 burpees every round, choose a more challenging burpee your next session (such as the one shown in the pictures below).

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