No, not barbell complexes, but complexes.
The Russians had it right. Litvinov had it right. The weightlifters had it right. Finally, we are starting to get it right. Although, the former were using it to get their athletes more explosive, the latter can use it to lose fat, and get more explosive in the process.
What am I talking about?
Let me explain: complexes are simply pairing a heavy lifting exercise with a plyometric exercise of the same movement. For example: Bench pressing a heavy set of 5 reps, then immediately getting off the bench and doing 8 plyo-pushups. Squatting a heavy set of 3 reps then immediately doing 5 to 8 box jumps.
The premise is simple, yet the actual practice is both challenging and fun. “Fun” is important when it comes to working out.
I first fell in love with complexes in first year of University. My buddy (Marc) and I used to primarily do complexes. Whether it was a strength day, or simply a fatloss day with a bunch of complexes in a circuit, we got super lean, super explosive, and super strong. It was a blast.
I can remember getting super hungry after those workouts as well. They would totally drain me. When I was in the shower, all I could think about was eating after our workouts. We would then head straight for the restaurant on campus and use our meal cards to buy the tastiest Panini’s you’ve ever tried. We both loved those things. They would come toasted and packed with chicken, cheese, and veggies. One time, we went and ordered our Panini’s, and the Panini Machine (that’s what they call them, right?) wasn’t working. We wanted those sandwiches so bad that we ordered them cold, and took them back to my place to cook them on the George Foreman. I still crave those babies after some of my hardest workouts.
Here are some of my favourite variations of complexes:
This is Dan John’s baby. Here’s what you do: Do a big lowerbody lift (I personally like the trap bar deadlift). As soon as you lower your last rep, immediately start sprinting 20-30m, all while dragging a sled. It looks like so:
225lbs x 8 reps.
Sprint 20-30m with a sled harnessed to your back.
Rest and repeat.
I did this as a finisher once. I still don’t know if it was a good or bad idea. All I know is that it was frigging hard.
Push Day with Complexes
This is just a workout with a bunch of complexes. It’s easier just to show you with an example below:
1A: Squats x 5 reps, immediately followed by:
1B: Box Jumps x 5 reps, rest and repeat a couple of times.
2A: Bench Press x 5 reps, immediately followed by:
2B: Med Ball Push Throws x 5-8 reps, rest and repeat a couple of times.
This one of my favourite ways to program circuits. Nothing beats it. In all fairness, it beats you. Here’s an example workout:
Horizontal Pullups x 8 reps, immediately followed by:
Med Ball Slams x 8 reps, immediately followed by:
Trap Bar Deadlifts x 8 reps, immediately followed by:
Shuttle Runs x 20-30m, immediately followed by:
Weighted Pushups x 8 reps, immediately followed by:
Plyo-pushups x 8 reps.
Add in some airdyne sprints, bear crawls, battle rope, and/or your own guilty pleasure and you have a KILLER circuit.
Those are my 3 favourite variations of complexes. If fatloss is your goal, I’ve found that 8 reps of the lifting movement and 8 reps for upper body (5-8 reps for lower body) of the plyometric movement works best. If athleticism is your goal, I’ve found that 3-5 reps of the lifting movement and 5-8 reps for upper body (5 reps for lower body) of the plyometric movement works best.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Also, I hope that your Panini’s taste as good as mine did.