Barbell and Kettlebell Complexes to Take Your Body to a New Level of Hardness and Conditioning

December 15, 2006 12:03 PM

If you've never heard of "complexes" before, the basic concept is that instead of repeating the same exercise for multiple reps to complete a "set", you sequence one rep of several different exercises right after one another and repeat the sequence several times to complete a "set". This type of training is excellent to work a huge amount of musculature in a short amount of time, and definitely takes your workouts to a whole new level of intensity. The conditioning aspect of this type of training is amazing, as you'll find yourself huffing and puffing after repeating a sequence a mere two or three times. If I had to venture a guess, I'd have to say that this type of training probably elicits a good growth hormone response as well, due to the large amount of full body work completed in a given time period. But that's just my guess.

I like to incorporate about 5 exercises into my complexes. Any more than that and you might start to forget what's next in the sequence. Here's an example of a killer barbell complex that really gets me fired up:

1.explosive high pull from floor;
2.barbell back to thighs, then hang clean;
3.barbell back to thighs, then bent over row;
4.barbell back to floor, then clean & jerk
5.barbell back to thighs, then finish with Romanian deadlift

Use a weight that you can still handle for your weakest lift of the bunch, but keep it heavy enough to challenge you. Try to repeat the sequence 2-3 times without resting. That's 1 set. You could progress over time on this routine by increasing the amount of times you repeat the sequence in each set, or by adding sets on subsequent workouts before eventually increasing the weight. For example, say you completed the above complex with 155-lbs for 3 sequences per set for 3 sets in today's workout. Next time you perform the workout, try to do 155 lbs for 3 sequences per set for 4 sets. Once you successfully complete 5 sets with 155, increase the weight 5 or 10 lbs next time, and drop back to 3 sets. This is a great way to make improvements over time, while cycling your training volume.

Now here's a kettlebell complex that really kicks my butt:

1.one arm swing
2.one arm snatch, keep the bell over head;
3.one arm overhead squat;
4.bell back down to bottom, then one arm split snatch;
5.bell back down to bottom, then one arm clean & press

As with the barbell complex, repeat the sequence (without rest) 2-3 times with each arm. That's one set?and one hell of a killer set at that! Try increasing from 3 to 4 to 5 sets on subsequent workouts with a given weight before increasing your sequence reps. If you're not drenched in sweat with your heart beating out of your chest after that complex, you either went too light, or you are a mutant freak!

I think a great strategy is to alternate barbell complexes on one day with kettlebell complexes on alternative training days. For example, you could do barbell complexes Monday, kettlebell complexes Wednesday, and back to barbell on Friday. Maybe hit some sprints and bodyweight drills on Saturday; then Monday would be kettlebell complexes, Wednesday would be barbells again, and Friday kettlebells. Give this program a try for a month or so (if you dare), and you will be one hardened individual!

Author bio:
Mike Geary is a nationally dual certified personal trainer, author of the book "The Truth about Six Pack Abs", and founder of http://truthaboutabs.com. Visit his website to receive several free bonuses including four of his secret hard body workout routines.