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The Barbell Complex Program to Shed Fat: Part 1

Burn fat fast with these targeted complex routines.

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Forward Lunge
Edgar Artiga
Forward Lunge
Edgar Artiga

The most intricate program in the world won’t do jack for your physique if you approach it with half-assed intensity and focus. To improve your training efficiency and keep your intensity level high, select basic exercises that give you the highest return on investment in terms of muscle recruitment and efficiency of movement, and limit your rest time to keep your heart rate elevated and increase your fat-burning potential. Employing a barbell complex-training method will cover all of that.

Made popular by strength coaches Istvan Javorek and Dan John and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, a complex—done with one piece of equipment, usually a barbell, a dumbbell, or a kettlebell—is a style of circuit training where several exercises are performed in succession without resting. For example, you can perform eight reps of barbell rows, followed by eight front squats and eight overhead presses. Not only will this flood all your major muscles with nutrient-rich blood, but you’ll also be gasping for air.

Since you’re using only one piece of equipment, you won’t have to worry about another trainee interfering with your circuit. They’re also diverse: If you don’t have access to or don’t want to use a barbell, you can use dumbbells, sandbags, kettlebells, and medicine balls. Finally, complexes can be tailored toward different goals, since they’re more of a template for how to lift. Not sure where to start? No problem. In Part 1 of this two-part feature, we provide you with a road map for structuring your own complexes and then outline three to try depending on your training goals.

Create Your Complex Routine

Follow these simple rules to put together your own complex

1. DETERMINE YOUR GOAL

Figure out whether you want to focus on hypertrophy, strength, endurance, or athleticism. This will help you determine how many reps and the types of exercises you should do.

2. GET INTO THE FLOW

Be sure to arrange exercises in an order that allows a smooth flow from move to move. For example, the back squat flows nicely after an overhead press but not so much if it’s performed after a bentover row. For a full-body workout, include an upper-body push, an upper-body pull, a lower-body push or a lunge variation, and a lower-body pull. And be sure to order them wisely.

3. SELECT YOUR SET AND REP RANGE

A good place to start is 6–8 reps, but go higher (12–15) for endurance and lower (3–6) for strength. Start with 3–5 rounds, resting 90 seconds between.

4. BEGIN EACH COMPLEX WITH A NAKED BAR TO WARM UP

Add weight slowly to the bar until the weakest exercise feels challenging. Then begin your working sets. Leave your ego at the door: Complexes are about not how much you can lift but the consistent flow from exercise to exercise and total work performed in each workout.

5. PROGRESS SMART

Once you’re comfortable with your form and can stick to the 90-second rest interval more easily, add 5–10 pounds to the bar, 1–2 reps per exercise, or add 1–2 sets to each workout. Choose only one mode of progression every three to four weeks.

Directions

Complete 4-6 rounds. For complexes one and two, rest 90 seconds between rounds. For complex three, rest 60 seconds between rounds. 

Routine

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Complex 1

Hypertrophy Upper

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 17

Barbell Bent-Over Row

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
12
Rest
--
Exercise 2 of 17

Barbell Upright Row

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
12
Rest
--
Exercise 3 of 17

Barbell Overhead Press

Equipment
Sets
--
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 4 of 17

Barbell Biceps Curl

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 5 of 17

Close-Grip Barbell Pushup

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 6 of 17

Isometric Barbell Bentover Row

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
15 sec hold
Rest
--

Complex 2

Hypertrophy Lower

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 7 of 17

Barbell Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 8 of 17

Romanian Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
12
Rest
--
Exercise 9 of 17

Barbell Front Squat

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
--
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 10 of 17

Barbell Good Morning

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 11 of 17

Back Squat

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
--
Reps
12
Rest
--
Exercise 12 of 17

Barbell Reverse Lunge

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
--
Reps
8*
Rest
--
*Alternate legs and perform 8 reps per leg.

Complex 3

Full-body Endurance

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 13 of 17

Barbell Bent-Over Row

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
15
Rest
--
Exercise 14 of 17

Romanian Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
20
Rest
--
Exercise 16 of 17

Barbell Lunge

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
12*
Rest
--
*Per leg.
Exercise 17 of 17

Barbell Lateral Lunge

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
--
Reps
12*
Rest
--
*Alternate legs. Perform 12 reps per leg.
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