I’m always looking for ways to change up my training and lately I’ve fallen in love with barbell complexes. It’s a type of circuit training in the sense that you move quickly from one exercise to another. What makes it unique is the fact you never put the bar down until you’ve completed the complex. They are downright brutal, and it’s awesome!
Complexes are an excellent way to build muscle, burn fat, and boost conditioning. If done correctly they’re a great way to push your limits in a safe manner. It’s also a good way to work on technique since complexes require lighter weights than what you’re used to in your strength sessions. Not to mention they are an awesome substitute for deload work because they allow you to train harder without the extra stress on your joints.
Laws of the Complexes:
- While performing complexes you will be limited to the heaviest weight you can use while performing your weakest lift. Do not choose an exercise that requires significantly less weight in comparison to the other lifts.
- Form always matters. Just because the weight is lighter doesn’t mean you should aim to lift as quickly as possible. Use this opportunity to really focus on performing the lifts with the best form possible.
- Time doesn’t dictate progress. Yes, some training methods require the lifter to maintain weight while progressively increasing speed with better time indicating improvement. However, with complexes the goal is to increase the weight.
- Put the hardest exercises first. The most technically demanding exercises such as Olympic lifts should be performed first, while you’re fresh.
- Focus on full body or lower body complexes. I tried an upper body complex before, and they just don’t transition well.
- Alternate between upper and lower body while performing full body complexes. By doing so, you give your lower body a chance to rest while performing the upper body lifts, and vice versa.
- Try to make it flow. Structure your routine in a way that makes it easy to transition from one move to the next.
When I perform barbell complexes I typically choose 6 exercises and begin with 6 reps each. I then rest for 60 seconds and move on to round two where I perform 5 reps, then 4,3,2,1. I try to decrease my rest periods as I move closer to that 1 rep.
You do not have to use this rep scheme, you could always complete 10 reps for one exercise, then 5 for another and keep the reps consistent as you complete 3-5 rounds. Whatever works and challenges you the most while keeping your goals in mind.
Example Full Body Complexes:
- Front Squat
- Bent Row
- Romanian Deadlift
- Push Press
- Back Squat
- Squat Press
- Single-Arm Linear Jammers
- Landmine 180’s
- Single-Arm Bent-Over Rows
- Hang clean
- Reverse Lunge with front squat grip
- High pull
- Stiff Legged Deadlift
- Sumo Squat
- Calf Raise
I forgot to mention that complexes highly challenge grip strength, so if you’re not used to holding the bar for this long, get ready to feel your forearms burn!
Try complexes, but don’t forget the puke bucket 🙂