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Swerve Busy Bench Queues With The Barbell Complex

What is the barbell complex?

So you’ve heard of a superset, or even a tri-set, but when you’re short on time, lacking equipment and pushed for space, it’s time to get a little more complex.
A barbell complex is simply a series of movements, performed back to back, without rest – sounds simple huh? Unfortunately simple and easy are two completely different things. The minimal rest and high volume of this workout means that you get through a lot of work in a very short space of time. So don’t be surprised if you’re a sweaty heap on the floor by the end of the session.

Why use barbell complexes?

As if having fun throwing weights around wasn’t enough of a reason to give it a go, these exercises won’t just build muscle, they’ll take your fitness level to new heights and burn some serious calories. Not bad for a single piece of kit.
Barbell complexes are super versatile. They can be used as a finisher at the end of your regular strength workout or as a stand-alone fast paced conditioning circuit. These proven fat loss and conditioning workouts can be smashed out in 20 minutes and the exercises can be switched up, meaning you never do the same session twice. The only factor limiting what you can do in a complex is your imagination.

Don’t get too complex

Always be mindful of your grip strength and what you expect to be your weakest lift, as this will determine the load you chose. Set a weight that is manageable for each movement and maintain this throughout the complex, this will not only save time adding/removing weight plates, but the lack of rest will have you reaping the full cardiovascular benefits whilst your muscles are working overtime. As far as reps go, as we’re using the same weight for all exercises, the rep count will need to be adjusted according to the difficulty of the movement.

While stringing together a bunch of exercises sounds straightforward, just slapping together random exercises could lead to over training or worse, injury. The trick is to select successive exercises that target opposing muscle groups, generally following an upper/ lower body split.
When designing a complex it is also important to consider exercise order to avoid any awkward transitioning between movements. I would suggest placing the most challenging lifts at the start of the complex, as you can imagine performing the snatch in a fatigued state does not always end well! If you are a novice lifter I would suggest swapping the Olympic lifts for similar simpler movements, however if you are keen to learn how to perform them, I would advise you to seek out a professional S & C Coach.

Reps, sets, go!

There are so many ways to spin this. Here are a few good examples to get you started. And by “good” I mean get ready for the DOMS cause you’re going to hurt in the morning!

Perform the full complex then rest for 2-3 minutes. Repeat x5.

Complex 1: Easy

  • Bent over row x 8
  • Deadlift x 8
  • Romanian deadlift x 8
  • Push press x 6
  • Back squat x 8

Complex 2: Intermediate

  • Hang snatch x 3
  • Power clean x 6
  • Front squat x 6
  • Behind the neck press x 6
  • Alternate forward lunges x 6

Complex 3: Advanced

  • Snatch x 4
  • Hang clean x 6
  • Alternate reverse lunges x 6
  • Behind the neck press x 6
  • Overhead squat x 6

So next time the gym floor is swamped or you’re running short on time, you know the drill! Grab a barbell, elbow your way to a quiet corner and get lifting!

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