Complexes: Painful, Efficient & Badass

5 06 2013


I recently created a fat loss training program for a friend of mine and suggested that he finish his workouts with some interval work of his choice: either cardio intervals or weight training intervals, otherwise known as complexes. Although he is already proficient with bike intervals, earlier today he brought to my attention that I had failed to thoroughly explain how to perform complexes, which prompted me to find an article to explain this for him. The article I found was so solid that I decided I needed to share it with my readers. The article was published back in 2009, so this really isn’t breakthrough stuff, but if your goal is fat loss, you should pay close attention and read Screw Cardio! Four Complexes for a Shredded Physique. And yes, I’m a big fan of the title.

Complexes in a nutshell?

A complex is where you pick up a barbell (or a set of dumbbells, or a plate, or any kind of weight at all really), perform several reps of an exercise with it, then move right into another exercise, then another, and another, and maybe one or two more. Then you see black spots, get all ripped ‘n shit, and bang swimsuit models.

What are the benefits of complexes?

  • Increase training volume
  • Boost strength endurance
  • Increase caloric expenditure and melt body fat
  • Take advantage of the EPOC effect (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption)
  • Increase work capacity and overall conditioning
  • Not risk losing any muscle
  • Not be bored out of you skull like the giggling guinea pigs over in the cardio area

When do you use complexes?

  • As a replacement for boring-ass cardio during fat loss phases
  • As a conditioning tool for sports
  • As an off-day “bonus” workout if you just feel like going to the gym when you’re not scheduled to (OCD, anyone?)

    Actually, you should finish your set after you puke.

    Actually, you should finish your set after you puke.

  • As part of an unloading/deloading week.

What exercises can be used in complexes?

The idea is to stick to compound movements (ie, avoid isolation movements). The list includes (but isn’t limited to): Squat, front squat, overhead squat, deadlift, straight-leg deadlift, bentover row, power clean, hang clean, good morning, lunge, reverse lunge, push press, military press, floor press. So pick 5 to 8 of these, rock out 6ish reps of each consecutively, take 60-90 seconds rest, and do it another 3 times.

How much weight should you use for a complex?

For beginners, doing these without weight could be a challenge. Start slow- you should use a weight that you can handle- but the idea is to use a weight that makes it VERY difficult to perform 4 straight, painfully-gruelling sets- by the last set, you probably shouldn’t be able to walk.  It’s a game of trial and error, but be ambitious.

These sound awful, why would anyone do these?

Because some people actually want results.

For more detailed information, and for a structured outline of 4 different complexes accompanied by video, check out the article.

That’s all for today! Do some complexes, curse my name, and then thank me later.