Complexes. Created by Istavn Javorek in the 70’s, a former Romanian weight lifting coach who later brought the concepts to the U.S.
Love and hate.
I relate the former to the latter. I love the results that the complexes get me and my athletes/clients, but I hate thinking about doing them and waiting to pick up the barbell before my set is about to begin. They are probably one of the toughest things you can do when it comes to training/conditioning. If you don’t agree with me then please try a set of this barbell complex with 115 lbs on the bar (you should also focus on speed of movement as well as form and get through it under 1:30 minutes). Go for 3 sets with a 90 second break:
– Deadlift x 10
– Bent Over Row x 10
– Clean x 10
– Push Press x 10
– Squat Jump x 10
– Alternating Reverse Lunges x 10
Ok, now take around 20 minutes to get yourself together, drink a post workout Surge recovery drink and try not to pass out. Maybe they got your attention?
Lately, complexes have started becoming “popular” again and you will see more written about them in the near future. The reason why you probably won’t see everyone doing them at your local gym though, is because they’re crazy hard and uncomfortable and that’s just not acceptable for most people (sarcasm intended). Most prefer the hamster wheel for 45-60 minutes of steady state cardio which includes a nice dose of muscle breakdwon and a spoon full of overuse injuries.
Fortunately there is not enough space for a human sized hamster wheel at Hocevar Performance, so we stick to things such as barbell, kettlebell and other complexes to get mutant conditioning
But let me back up a little bit first…..I might have jumped the gun without even explaining what complexes are. For those of you who don’t know what complexes are, I will try to make it as simple as possible to understand. You would choose two or more exercises using the same implement/tool and load (we can use just about anything, barbells, dumbells, kettlebells, cable’s, sandbags, etc….), then choose your number of repetitions, sets, and load. Then you would perform the exercises in a back to back fashion. Just as an example, if you chose to perform a barbell from squat into push press for 3 sets of 10, you would perform all 10 reps of your front squats and then immediately perform 10 push presses without putting the bar down. We usually do four or more exercises in a complex and we will change the repetitions depending on goal and load.
Some things you should stick to when doing the complexes:
- The exercises should follow a smooth transition pattern
- You cannot put down implement/tool until the whole set of the complex is over
- The load should be determined based on the weakest movement. For example, if your complex is made up of deadlifts, rows, snatches, overhead squats and lunges, you would choose a load that you could handle for your weakest lift (which in this case would be the overhead squat)
Enough with the instructions……
Here’s what we use the complexes for (and how) at Hocevar Performance:
– Meatbolic Conditioning and fat loss: This is what we primarily use the complexes for, creating a huge metabolic disturbance that is great for fat loss. It is also an incredible tool for anaerobic conditioning. For this we will use 8-12 reps per exercise and we will never go over 120 second break (usually 90 seconds or less).
– Muscle Building: Since complexes will make you stay under tension for long periods of time (many times over 60 seconds), they are also great for building muscle. We will stay within the 5-8 reps per exercise range here.
– Strength and Explosiveness: Even though you cannot load the complexes as much as you would the exercises by themselves, heavy complexes have had a significant impact on our athletes strength and power. We will go as low as 2-4 reps on these. To give you a better idea of how a heavy complex would look like check out what we did on Saturday using a 195 lb barbell (3 reps per exercise)…
So what part of the workout do we put the complex in?
Mostly we will put it after the lifting session or it will be done on the off days as your cardio strength training (replacing the regular cardio).
The great thing about complexes is the ease of progressions (load, time, speed, sets, reps) and the amount of tools you can use them with. We will change it up in different cycles and move from barbells to dumbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc. To get an idea you can check out some complex loaded kettlebell conditioning.
I hope that you’re using complexes in your training as I promise that you wil reap the benefits especially when it comes to conditioning and fat loss.
Let me know what type of complexes you use. If you don’t use them yet then finish of your next training session with three sets of the complex that is presented at the top of the post with a weight that is challenging for you. Let me know how it goes!