We Love Fitness

how to use complex routines to build muscle

Clean
Corey Jenkins / Getty

About 20 years ago, strength and conditioning coaches began to search for better ways to warm up their athletes while minimizing the time in order to keep an efficient workout pace. They came up with the complex routine, where a single barbell or set of dumbbells would be used to perform several different exercises strung together to form a routine.

The word complex carries the direct dictionary meanings of "an interconnected whole that has many parts" and/or "difficult to perform, analyze, or solve." When loosely translated into gym speak, it means "Get ready for one intense workout."

Either way you cut it, if you load up on the weight, you can get into a whole new level of burn and build plenty of muscle in the process.

Getting Complex

A complex routine consists of several exercises strung together that form either segments of a bigger lift or completely autonomous exercises to get the entire body worked in a single period. In either case, you set one weight—either on the barbell or with dumbbells—and then set your rep scheme.

An example of the first complex scenario involves moving toward the clean and jerk. Beginning with the deadlift, you would then move to upright rows, push presses or jerks and finally to full reps of the clean and jerk. In other words, the clean and jerk lift is broken down and each segment of the lift is trained before the whole entire lift is executed.

In the second scenario, you may go with a more isolated approach like deadlifts, squats, bentover rows, shoulder presses, triceps extensions, biceps curls and then finish with push-ups to complete the package.

[RELATED1]

So what makes this so difficult? Exercises are circuited with no rest. That means as you are finishing off the last rep of an exercise you are already starting the next exercise in your list. In general, a complex will have anywhere from 4-6 exercises (but you can use more) for 8-20 reps each. In a complex, there is no rest between transitions, making the average complex set last for two excruciating minutes. Each complex routine is then completed for 2-4 more times.

The keys are to maintain form and technique and, of course, to complete the routine. This type of training requires serious discipline, and while youll see some benefits to your overall muscle mass, its your endurance, athleticism, and general strength that are pushed to the limits with this type of training.

Try any of the following complex routines for your workout today, completing the selected complex 4-6 times, performing 8-20 reps of each exercise. If strength is your main goal, aim for the heavier weight/lower reps side of things. If endurance and in-workout calorie expenditure is your goal, train with lighter weight and higher reps.

Workout Note: Remember, you will be selecting one weight to use for the entire complex, so choose a weight that allows you to complete at least your desired minimum number of reps for each move.

5-Exercise Complexes

Sets: 3-5
Reps: 8-20
Weight: Select a weight that you can handle in your selected rep range for each exercise in the complex.
Rest: Between exercises: none; Between complexes: 2-3 minutes

Complex 1

  • Romanian deadlift
  • Upright row
  • Hang clean
  • Thruster
  • Split jerk

Complex 2

  • Squat
  • Plyometric squat
  • Split-lunge jump
  • Split jerk
  • Clean to press

Complex 3

  • Upright row
  • Hang snatch
  • Shoulder press
  • Overhead squat
  • Hang snatch

Complex 4

  • Hang snatch
  • Upright row
  • Bent-over row
  • Thruster
  • Hang snatch

Complex 5

  • Romanian deadlift
  • Upright row
  • Hang clean
  • Thruster
  • Split jerk

[RELATED2]

6-Exercise Complex

Sets: 3-5
Reps: 8-20
Weight: Select a weight that you can handle in your selected rep range for each exercise in the complex.
Rest: Between exercises: none; Between complexes: 2-3 minutes

  • Arnold press
  • Stiff-legged deadlift
  • Bent-over row
  • Thruster
  • Squat
  • Stiff-legged deadlift

8-Exercise Complex

Sets: 3-5
Reps: 8-20
Weight: Select a weight that you can handle in your selected rep range for each exercise in the complex.
Rest: Between exercises: none; Between complexes: 2-3 minutes

  • Curl
  • Upright row
  • Bent-over row
  • Hang snatch
  • Shoulder press
  • Thruster
  • Upright row
  • Curl

9-Exercise Complex

Sets: 3-5
Reps: 8-20
Weight: Select a weight that you can handle in your selected rep range for each exercise in the complex.
Rest: Between exercises: none; Between complexes: 2-3 minutes

  • Arnold press
  • Stiff-legged deadlift
  • Bent-over row
  • Squat
  • Upright row
  • Hang snatch
  • Thruster
  • Bent-over row
  • Hang snatch
No


Home

 Articles & News
We Love Fitness - 2013