So I’ve been training consistently for just over two and a half years now and I’ve tried, failed and succeeded with a number of different techniques to take my training to the next level. One concept that I’ve used lately is the notion of finisher sets. Now, this technique is not for everyone and it isn’t a fix-all method to apply to any workout plan but I believe it to be an invaluable tool to use when you want to keep your level of work high.
To give you an idea of when to use this I want to briefly show you where the idea came from. On the one hand is strength training where your repetitions will be quite low and one technique to boost your workload are cluster sets. On the other hand are not just hypertrophy sets but extreme hypertrophy sets, as in between 8 and 50 repetitions. To increase your workload on the last set you might perform drop-sets or cheat reps to go beyond failure. So lets say that you have a workout that incorporates both or you switch between the rep schemes regularly, and ideally do more than 3 sets – this is where finisher sets come in to shine.
What I like to call feeler sets are when things go according to plan and you used a weight you could get to failure in all your previous sets. On your very last set, or last two if you have 6 or more sets, drop the weight down 1-3 levels and really focus on your form and contraction. Not only do you get a killer contraction from it but you allow yourself to check the ego at the door and really hone in on the technique. Often times we get sloppy towards the end but I like to keep myself in check by doing this.
Lets face it, sometimes you picked a weight that was too light and you have quite a bit of energy left in the tank. What you don’t want to do is to waste that last, precious set on taking it easy and just going through the motions. Increase the weight to something more challenging and crush that last set! Just remember the 80/20 rule – 80% of the set try to focus as much as you can on the form and for the last 20% bump out some cheat reps if you need to.
To show you just how useful this methodology can be, take for example the regime I’m on which is an 8×8 architecture. There are 9 exercises to challenge the entire body from head to toe and for each exercise you perform 8 set of 8 repetitions. Every single workout you will perform 72 sets. At least one of those sets you may select the wrong weight or simply feel a little stronger or weaker on that particular day.
If this helps even one person then this blog post has fulfilled its purpose – go forth and give it a go!