If you want to burn fat, without doing traditional cardio, then a barbell complex could be the way to go.
If torching fat, while building muscle, improving strength and having fun (all while being in and out of the gym in under 30 minutes) sounds good to you then read on to see how it’s done.
What is a Barbell Complex?
Invented by Istvan Javorek, who wanted to find an intense way of training which also saved time, a Barbell Complex is 4-8 different barbell exercises, repeated one after the other, without rest, all using the same weight.
So you might do 8 front squats, then 8 overhead presses, then 8 good mornings, then 8 Bent over Rows, all without putting the bar down or letting go, you only rest once you’ve completed all moves in the set.
Just like my example above the moves should transition easily into each other, for example, a front squat transitions well into a push press, which can easily become a good morning which can easily become a row.
Or alternatively, a Deadlift can become a Romanian Deadlift, which can be become a Bent over Row.
The point is it should be easy to go from one move to the next.
Why Use a Barbell Complex?
As I already mentioned a Barbell Complex is great for saving time.
With workouts taking anywhere from 15-30 minutes you can get through a full workout without spending hours in the gym.
The fast-paced nature and use of full-body compound and Olympic lifts also mean they’re great for torching calories and blasting fat.
Your heart will be well and truly pounding as you move through a complex, meaning you’ll also be able to get much greater cardio benefits, without actually having to stomp away on a treadmill or spend hours on the elliptical.
The fact you’re lifting weights also ensures your muscles are still getting a good workout.
The total volume lifted in a Barbell Complex is pretty impressive, for example lifting 100 pounds, 6 exercises, 6 reps each, repeated 5 times = 18000 pounds.
Lifting that kind of volume clearly has a positive impact on your strength endurance and conditioning.
What You Need to Know
As with any new workout routine or resistance exercises in general there are always important factors to consider beforehand and this is no different.
As fun as it sounds, you can’t just jump head-on into your first Barbell Complex, you need to make sure they’re programmed correctly first.
You use the same weight/bar for every exercise in the complex so select the weight of your weakest lift. Some of the moves will be far lighter than you’re used to, but the fast-paced nature of the complex will keep you working hard and by the final sets, no matter what the weight, you’ll be working hard as you try to complete the set.
Concentrate on form
Lifting a lighter weight gives you a great chance to really focus on form, but remember, just because it’s lighter than you’re used to it doesn’t mean you can rush through the workouts with no technique and no form. Injuries are still a threat, as with any exercise.
Chose a natural flow
Dropping from a squat into a Barbell Floor Press will take up a lot of time and take away from your routine, instead pick moves that naturally flow together and make for a quick transition. The examples included below are a great place to start.
Think about the order
Keep the harder, more challenging lifts at the start of the complex, before you get tired and are more worn out.
For example, Olympic lifts are best placed at the start, so that you’re not trying to complete a complicated move while you’re exhausted.
Check your ego
Progress doesn’t have to mean more weight when it comes to a complex, more reps or sets are also great ways of pushing yourself more, as is reducing the rest period, giving you less time in-between.
It’s important to get adequate rest before your next set and you can either stick to a set time, for example, 90 seconds or you may want to match your rest to your workout, so if it takes you 2.23 seconds to complete a set, you rest for that long too. Just make sure you know beforehand so you don’t abuse the system.
For each complex remember, you don’t put the bar down until you’ve done all the moves in order and completed that set.
Complex 1Do 6 reps of each exercise and complete 6 sets in total
Complex 2Do 10 reps of each exercise and complete 4 sets total
Complex 3Do 5 reps of each exercise and complete 5 sets total
Do 8 sets of each exercise and complete 4 sets total
World-famous fitness coaches, such as Nick Tumminello or Alwyn Cosgrove are big fans of Barbell complexes which speaks volumes in itself.
Used to promote fat loss, increase muscle strength and endurance or as a finisher workout to kick your butt the Barbell complex is a fantastic workout to really push your limits and test yourself in the gym.
Great for off days, as a replacement for traditional cardio or simply used as a conditioning tool, they’re fantastic ways of getting a true full-body workout in a very short time and should have a place in your regular programming.
Just remember to check the tips above, ego has no place when it comes to a complex and form should always be a priority.
When done correctly, you’ll have just added an awesome new resource into your exercise arsenal.