Complexes

COMPLEXES

Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT)— performing a series of resistance exercises one after the other with minimal rest periods—is a powerful tool for fat loss.  It allows you to keep your heart rate high—burning more calories—while building muscle and increasing your metabolism.

But while MRT training may take less time than traditional weight routines or steady-state cardio sessions, these workouts can be logistically challenging when you’re short on time or lacking the necessary space.

That’s where complexes come in.

What is a Complex

A complex is a sequence of exercises performed back-to-back using a single piece of equipment, in a single area, with no rest between exercises, no changing weights, and no letting go of the equipment.

Complexes remove the space and equipment obstacles you can encounter with MRT training; eliminate the rest periods between exercises; and condense the entire workout to less than 15 minutes.  And, thanks to the uptick in overall training volume, are one of the most effective ways to drastically and rapidly shed body fat and build muscle.

Rules of the Road

Exercises

  • Chose compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, rows, presses, and cleans over isolation exercises like biceps curls, triceps kickbacks, leg extensions, or shoulder raises.
  • Alternate between sets of upper and lower body exercises in order to minimize local fatigue.
  • Sequence exercises to allow for the smoothest transition possible; minimizing the need to change hand position.
  • Put exercises that are technically demanding early in the complex

Weights

  • Choose a weight that will challenge your weakest exercise. In other words, you can probably back squat much more than you can shoulder press, so choose a weight based on what you can handle for the shoulder press.

Reps, Sets, and Rest Periods

  • If you’re a beginner, stay with a single rep scheme; usually 6-10 reps per exercise.
  • If you have a lot of experience under the bar, you can experiment with varying the number of reps you perform from exercise to exercise. Use lower reps for the more challenging exercises and higher reps for the less challenging ones.  For example, you might do 6 reps on a bent row or shoulder press followed by 10 reps of a front squat or deadlift.
  • Depending on what else you’re doing that day, aim for 3-5 sets per complex.
  • The amount of time you rest between exercises plays a major role in the overall intensity of the workout. 90 seconds tends to be the sweet spot, although you could adjust that up to 2 minutes or down to 1 minute depending on your recovery ability.
Sample Complexes

Barbell Complex

Dumbbell Complex

A Word of Caution

If all the benefits of complexes seem too good to be true, here, let me offer a word of caution.

The same qualities that make complexes an effective training tool can also make performing them a potentially very painful experience.

Complexes—which usually last between 60-90 seconds—require your body to rapidly mobilize and distribute a massive amount of energy, pushing capacity to near system limits.

To do this, your body breaks down stored sugar in the blood and muscle tissues into a smaller molecule called lactate.  This process—called anaerobic glycolysis—creates a number of metabolic byproducts that alter the pH levels in the muscle cells.  If you’ve ever lifted a weight until failure, especially at a high rep range, this is the burning feeling you get deep in the muscle at the end of the set.

COMPLEXES

Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT)— performing a series of resistance exercises one after the other with minimal rest periods—is a powerful tool for fat loss.  It allows you to keep your heart rate high—burning more calories—while building muscle and increasing your metabolism.

But while MRT training may take less time than traditional weight routines or steady-state cardio sessions, these workouts can be logistically challenging when you’re short on time or lacking the necessary space.

That’s where complexes come in.

What is a Complex

A complex is a sequence of exercises performed back-to-back using a single piece of equipment, in a single area, with no rest between exercises, no changing weights, and no letting go of the equipment.

Complexes remove the space and equipment obstacles you can encounter with MRT training; eliminate the rest periods between exercises; and condense the entire workout to less than 15 minutes.  And, thanks to the uptick in overall training volume, are one of the most effective ways to drastically and rapidly shed body fat and build muscle.

Rules of the Road

Exercises

  • Chose compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, rows, presses, and cleans over isolation exercises like biceps curls, triceps kickbacks, leg extensions, or shoulder raises.
  • Alternate between sets of upper and lower body exercises in order to minimize local fatigue.
  • Sequence exercises to allow for the smoothest transition possible; minimizing the need to change hand position.
  • Put exercises that are technically demanding early in the complex

Weights

  • Choose a weight that will challenge your weakest exercise. In other words, you can probably back squat much more than you can shoulder press, so choose a weight based on what you can handle for the shoulder press.

Reps, Sets, and Rest Periods

  • If you’re a beginner, stay with a single rep scheme; usually 6-10 reps per exercise.
  • If you have a lot of experience under the bar, you can experiment with varying the number of reps you perform from exercise to exercise. Use lower reps for the more challenging exercises and higher reps for the less challenging ones.  For example, you might do 6 reps on a bent row or shoulder press followed by 10 reps of a front squat or deadlift.
  • Depending on what else you’re doing that day, aim for 3-5 sets per complex.
  • The amount of time you rest between exercises plays a major role in the overall intensity of the workout. 90 seconds tends to be the sweet spot, although you could adjust that up to 2 minutes or down to 1 minute depending on your recovery ability.
Sample Complexes

Barbell Complex

Dumbbell Complex

A Word of Caution

If all the benefits of complexes seem too good to be true, here, let me offer a word of caution.

The same qualities that make complexes an effective training tool can also make performing them a potentially very painful experience.

Complexes—which usually last between 60-90 seconds—require your body to rapidly mobilize and distribute a massive amount of energy, pushing capacity to near system limits.

To do this, your body breaks down stored sugar in the blood and muscle tissues into a smaller molecule called lactate.  This process—called anaerobic glycolysis—creates a number of metabolic byproducts that alter the pH levels in the muscle cells.  If you’ve ever lifted a weight until failure, especially at a high rep range, this is the burning feeling you get deep in the muscle at the end of the set.

2017-12-05T14:39:16+00:00

About the Author:

mm
Adam Vogel is the founder of Pure Performance Training. He is a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through the International Sports Science Association, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a certified Functional Movement Screening Specialist (FMS), and Level 1 (KBC) Kettlebell Instructor.