Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barbell Complexes

I've probably lost my mind but right now I am very into barbell complexes in a masochistic kind of way. They are a part of the Afterburn II program I am doing this quarter and they completely wear me out.

This type of workout component includes a barbell, your body and a small section of space. Choose about 5 exercises requiring a barbell and arrange them in an order that flows smoothly. For instance, you might follow a front squat with a push press because it transitions well. You probably wouldn't choose a bent over row followed by a reverse lunge since the transition would be awkward. That is an important part of the structure because the tempo is fast without losing form so transitions should be neat and quick. You will complete each exercise for the desired number of reps (say 6) before moving on to the next exercise. You work through all 5 exercises without resting and without putting the bar down. That's one set. Then put the bar down, rest for about 90 seconds and repeat for a total of 4 or 5 sets with 90 seconds rest in between each set.

It will take your breath away and get your heart rate up. Your rest period is your recovery time, so it's like doing intervals. Another important part of barbell complexes is to choose a weight that is manageable for your weakest move. You likely can squat much heavier than you can manage on a row or a good morning. The point is not how much you can lift, the point is shaking your body up metabolically. Choose a weight that allows you to get all the reps in at a fast tempo without putting the bar down. You should need every second of that 90 second rest period to recuperate and you should be working hard enough that you're trying to talk yourself out of the last couple of sets. If you go too light the first time choosing your weight, keep the tempo up and go heavier the next time. Switching weight between exercises defeats the purpose.

If you've never done barbell complexes, give it a try! I'd love to hear about the experience.

If you'd like more information, here's a great article by Alwyn Cosgrove, Complexes for Fat Loss.

Related post(s):

Complexes for Fat Loss Part II - Sample Complexes

Barbell Complexes Revisited


Anonymous said...

Hello Kelly,

Found your blog on Smoketheblowfish; I have a few of Alwyn Cosgrove's DVD's (bodyweight training and BB Complexes) and complexes are amazing for getting you 'fried'. I found I had to go with much lighter weights (65lb BB) than I usually would use. But I agree with you, they're like doing intervals. I don't do them very often...probably should start making them more of a habit just to shake things up.

Thanks for the great post...I'll be checking out your earlier ones as well.

Nice blog!


Kelley Moore said...

Fred, thanks for the comment! I too have been using a lighter weight than I can lift, and am about take it up a notch. I felt I had to get the rhythm and pattern down first. I've been doing 5 exercises, 8 reps each x 4 sets, so 40 reps before you put the bar down is tough! Visited your blog also, great post on Tabata intervals. k

Kelley Moore said...

The question "how often should I do barbell complexes?" came up recently. I realized I had not addressed that in this post. Barbell complexes can be incorporated into any strength training session. I would do it at the beginning of the session prior to any circuit or interval work. Just like most strength training, a day of rest in between would be ideal to allow for muscle growth and repair. Also, they could be incorporated into an existing workout routine even once a week to shake the body/routine up.