Understanding complexes

Now complexes, a series of exercises done back to back without resting, are nothing new, they have been around for some time. If you want some examples, a simple Google search will provide access to hundreds, but understanding why and how to use them to fit your goal can make all the difference.

You can adapt pretty much any complex to suit sour goals by simply changing the way you perform them, but here are a two simple rules that I like to follow.

  1. For strength and technique I would suggest keeping the reps low, giving yourself plenty of rest and trying to lift as heavy as possible, in good form of course.
  1. For fat loss and conditioning, we can get after a bit more volume. Just make sure that the work rate is consistent, I like timed sets, aiming to keep the number of rounds performed constant throughout.

I use complexes a lot in my training, so here is a bit more insight into how I do it.

Strength and technique

As an Olympic weightlifter I use complexes early in my training phases to work on my areas of weakness. I assess my technique on a particular lift and find my weak link, which I then address in the complex. If I notice that I am shifting my weight to my toes too early in the jerk for example, I will add in a pause at the bottom of the dip to correct this.

It is also a great way to improve conditioning and add some muscle in the right areas getting me ready for some heavier lifting later down the line. I place these at the front of the session when I am fresh and keep the reps a little lower and make sure that I get enough rest between sets. This way I can ensure the quality of the reps is high. I like to do these for multiple sets and I would push the weight in these, aiming to set a new PB for the complex.

It’s all about getting stronger after all.

A simple one for improving my Jerk would be:

1x Power Clean

2x Front Squat

3x Pause Jerk

With any complex you will always be testing the weakest link.

So in the complex above the jerk is going to be the limiting factor. If you wanted to work on your second pull in the clean you may change it to:

3x Hang Pull

2x Clean

1x Jerk

A simple change but now we are working on a different element of the lift.

Fat Loss and conditioning

For those of you who are looking for a quick way to get into shape you should consider adding complexes to the end of your workout, for a brutal finisher.

I like to use these with a set weight, not too heavy relatively speaking, and go for time. Again, I always look to improve from my last workout. So if I completed 5 rounds in 10 minutes last time I’m trying to get 6 the next time.

Continual improvement is a key element of any training program.

I will give you a couple of different examples here:

Dan John KB Complex

2x Clean

1x Press

3x Front Squat

Now this looks pretty simple on paper but get the weight right and this is brutal. I tend to use my 5rep max for the press as this will be most people’s limiting factor and this seems to work pretty well for most. I like to use timed sets for this one, as many rounds as possible in 15 -20mins for example.

Give it a try and see if you can do it without swearing.

Trebor Complex

4x Bent Over Row

3x Deadlift

2x Power Clean

1x Thruster

Again, depending on technique, overhead strength will probably be the limiting factor here so your 5 rep max on the push press will serve as a good marker for this one, but we are all different and this is a particularly tough complex, so air on the side of caution.

You could also go for time on this one as well if you a wanted but another option is to perform one round on the minute for 10-15mins, which is not much fun, but highly effective.

Modified Jarovek DB Complex

1x Deadlift

2x Bent Over Row

1x Clean

1x Squat

1x Press

1x Burpee

This is a little more complicated but it gets you, its very tough, and you don’t need much weight – a set of 15kg dumbells will challenge the strongest of you.

I like using timed sets for this one, performing as many rounds in 90secs, resting for 90secs, before repeating.  This is a tough one, so don’t set too much of ambitious target here on your first attempt and aim to remain consistent in how many rounds you get each time. 5-6 rounds should serve as a good finisher, 10 rounds is a workout in itself.

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