Exactly one year before sitting down to write this, I was the leanest I’ve ever been. I was also in New York City making final preparations for my first photo shoot—and I mean photo shoot. It was the real deal, my first professional shoot. And because it was my first of several photo and video shoots I had on the books that summer, I took my preparatory fat loss very seriously.
After all, I’d be using these photos and videos for years to come. I wanted to look my best. And I did.
Like I said, it was the leanest I’ve ever been. Fun fact: I’ve actually been accused of taking steroids because of that photo. Which, considering the hardest drug I’ve ever had is caffeine, always makes me laugh.
No, I wasn’t on roids before the photo shoot. I wasn’t following any sort of special training secret. There weren’t any nutrition tricks. And I wasn’t popping some sort of magic pill that helped me lose all of the fat.
Special secrets, weird tricks, and magic pills won’t get results. Ruthlessly executing the basics will.
And that’s all I really did. I bet big on the basics and cashed out with a massive victory.
Here Are the Basics of Fat Loss
In order to lose fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume. When calories out are greater than calories in, you’re in what’s called a caloric deficit and your body relies on stored energy (read: body fat) to get the necessary calories.
A caloric deficit is the keystone of fat loss.
Without a caloric deficit, your fat loss programming falls apart. Luckily, creating that deficit is simple. You’ve got two major options:
Usually, the best results come from doing a bit of both. If fat loss is your main goal, you want to do everything you can to burn more calories than you consume. As long as you have a big enough deficit and give it enough time, you’ll lose fat. Yay.
But not all physical activity was created equal.
The Afterburn Effect: Burning Extra Calories All Day Long
You’ll burn more calories jumping rope for 10 minutes than you will taking a 10-minute walk. Some things simply burn more calories than others. From a fat-loss perspective, these exercises are more effective. Burning more calories means losing more fat.
The most effective fat-loss exercises burn calories both during your workout and up to 36 hours after the fact.
That means that instead of just burning fat at the gym, you’ll even burn fat in you sleep. It’s because of what’s called the afterburn effect, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).
When we exercise, our heart and lungs work in tandem to deliver the necessary oxygen to our working muscles. The harder we work out, the harder they’ll have to work. When we train hard enough, the body can’t keep up with our oxygen needs and we go into what’s called oxygen debt.
After the workout ends, our bodies have to keep working in order to pay back that oxygen debt. This excess post-exercise oxygen consumption is a good thing. It’s the afterburn effect. It burns extra calories—even at rest. And it’s great for fat loss.
The data shows that EPOC or the afterburn effect can leave you burning extra calories for up to 36 hours after your workout. Shed fat for a day and a half? Who wouldn’t want that in their program?
Enter Finishers for Fat Loss
The best exercises for EPOC are short bursts of intense activity. Sprints, for example, will yield a much higher afterburn effect than jogging. Intensity is the key.
Finishers are a perfect way to take advantage of hyper-effective high-intensity training.
You can easily tack a finisher onto the end of any workout to reap a massive fat-loss benefit. Finishers were a critical component of how I got as lean as I did a year ago. But I’m not the only one that’s seen amazing results from finishers. I also use them in my coaching programs…
Time and time again, finishers take fat loss to the next level.
It’s your turn…
Here Are Four of My Favorite Finishers for Fat Loss
1. Kettlebell Swing EMOM Finisher
EMOM stands for every minute on the minute. That means that at the top of every minute you’ll dive into a new set. The faster you do your reps, the more rest you’ll get. But never sacrifice form for speed.
You can do EMOM finishers with any exercise, but my favorite is the kettlebell swing.
Try 8–10 reps every minute on the minute for 10 total minutes (10 sets) as a finisher on leg day:
F1. Kettlebell Swings x 10 EMOM
2. Weighted Carry Complex Finisher
Weighted carries are one of my favorite exercises. Period. They can be tailored to help you shed fat, gain lean mass, or even build strength. They also make for great finishers.
Grab a couple kettlebells or dumbbells and toss this finisher onto the end of your next total-body workout:
F1. Overhead Press x 5
F2. Overhead Weighted Carry (as far as possible)
F3. Front Squat x 5
F4. Front-Loaded Weighted Carry (as far as possible)
F5. Bent-Over Row x 5
F6. Farmer’s Walk (as far as possible)
Complete each exercise as a continuous circuit. Rest only after finishing the farmer’s walks at the end of each round and complete 2–5 total rounds.
3. Crawling and Renegade Row Finisher
Crawling is one of my favorite ab exercises. Another great one? Renegade rows. Putting both together for an upper body finisher? A little diabolical. Also incredibly effective. Try this finisher after your next upper-body workout:
Complete five total rounds as quickly as possible. Rest as much as you have to but only as much as you need.
4. Descending Ladder Bodyweight Finisher
Finishers don’t need weights to be effective. This bodyweight finisher should be a go-to if you’re not at the gym. Descending ladders are really simple. You’ll decrease your reps each set until you reach zero. Your goal is to finish the ladder as quickly as possible:
F1. Push Ups x 10 (decreasing by one each set)
F2. Bat-Wing Sit Ups x 10 (decreasing by one each set)
Finish all 10 sets of the descending ladder quickly. Keep impeccable form and rest minimally.