Barbell complexes are one of the best ways to improve conditioning, shred body fat and build up your lean muscle. Instead of using boring steady-state cardio on your conditioning days, you can easily substitute the barbell complex a few days per week. (This is in addition to your regular strength training.)
The great thing about barbell complexes is that they can be done quickly and with little equipment and space. Most of these sessions are done in 25-30 minutes maximum.
There are many ways to set up barbell complexes, but the key factor is that you get a full body training session using non-competing exercises. You want to make sure you’ve got a push movement, a pull movement and one or two dedicated lower body movements.
THE BEAR COMPLEX
The “Bear” is one of the most popular complexes. It’s simple in terms of technique, but it’s a high workload. The Bear Complex includes the following exercises:
• Power Clean
• Front Squat
• Push Press
• Back Squat
• Push Press
With these particular exercises, you can use a pretty heavy load—just make sure that you’re focused on the speed of the bar and perfect technique. That said, if you are a beginner, start off with a light weight (20 – 40 pounds) until you increase your strength and get comfortable with each exercise. If your conditioning is good, challenge yourself by increasing the weight each set. I like to add 5-10 pounds each set.
As with any complex, you can vary the repetitions and the total number of sets:
- A good starting point is 5-6 repetitions of each movement.
- Once you feel comfortable in the 5-6 repetition range, you can increase that to 8. That’s about as high as you want to go with this type of exercise; instead, focus on increasing the load on the bar.
- Aim for 3-5 sets, depending on your fitness level.
- Rest 2 minutes between each set.
For a demonstration of the Bear Complex, see my video.
SAMPLE TRAINING WEEK
Here’s what a training week would look like using complexes as your main method of conditioning:
Give the Bear Complex a try, and let me know how it goes for you.