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Full-body workouts don’t have to all be light weight, calisthenics-style routines intended for general populations at trendy boutique gyms.
You can actually do an advanced-level, fast-tempo workout that hits all major muscle groups and build real muscle and strength, while also getting some in some anaerobic conditioning. All it takes is a barbell, a few weight plates, and a willingness to work.
We’re talking about a training technique called the complex. (In this case, a barbell complex, though complexes can also be done with dumbbells to achieve the same purpose.) Barbell complexes are nothing new; serious lifters have been doing them for decades, with the vaunted “Bear Complex” being the most often cited.
If you’re unfamiliar with complexes, you’re in for a treat. Below is a five-exercise barbell complex designed by longtime M&F contributor Jim Ryno, a personal trainer and owner of Iron House home gym design in Alpine, New Jersey. A few rounds of his complex (or five if you’re up for it) and you’ll have yourself one hell of a power-pack, strength-building workout.
A complex is multiple exercises performed in sequence with a single barbell, where the bar is not set down on the floor or a rack until a full set is over. Exercises programmed into a complex are intended to “flow” together, one rep of an exercise followed immediately by a rep of the next move.
Let’s take Ryno’s complex to illustrate how it works. The five exercises are as follows (all with the same barbell): Snatch-Grip Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, Bent-Over Row, Hang Clean, and Thruster (front squat + overhead press).
One “round” (or rep) of this complex is as follows:
Don’t rush through these reps. You should be doing your rep of each exercise at the same tempo as you normally would. Since you’ll be doing 5-10 complete reps per complex, each set will take a while – probably 2 minutes at least.
The below complex can be done a couple different ways – either as a relatively quick stand-alone workout, or in addition to other lifts.
“This type of workout is generally used as accessory work in strength training, a finisher at the end of a session or in place of conditioning,” says Ryno. “I like to refer to complex workouts as ‘strength-training cardio.’ The goal is to dial in good technique and move with seamless transition from one exercise to the next. A well-designed complex workout makes you stronger, boosts endurance, and forces you to be efficient. Due to the lighter load used, complexes also offer a chance to work on your technique.”
Barbell Complex Exercises:
Do 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps/rounds of the complex.