Let’s get COMPLEX: 3 Complexes That Will Spice Up Your Lifting Game

by Vikki Schembri on August 17, 2021

More times than not, I preach keeping your workouts simple. But this week, I URGE you to make your workouts COMPLEX!

Not complex in the sense that I want each workout to require 20 different pieces of equipment, it will be three hours long, and involve a scavenger hunt… NO, not at all! I want you to make them all about the complex!

What is a complex

OK, enough word play.

A complex is a type of workout that involves one piece of equipment at one set weight and as little rest as possible during a set. There are a series of exercises the athlete will do one after the other without setting down the equipment until the entire set is done.

or example, The Bear Complex is a well-known complex. It is:

  • 5 rounds for load
  • Complete 7 unbroken, continuous sets of:
    • 1 power clean
    • 1 front squat
    • 1 push press
    • 1 back squat
    • 1 push press

It is completed by doing 1 of each movement, one after the other, 7 times through; and the bar can be set down after each movement has been done 7 times. Then, after resting, add some weight to the bar and do the Complex again. This continues until the whole complex is done 5 times (35 of each movement).

The Bear Complex REMIX

You can also create a complex with these same movements that is slightly different! You could do:

  • 5 rounds for load
  • Complete:
    • 7 power clean
    • 7 front squat
    • 7 push press
    • 7 back squat
    • 7 push press

This complex would be similar BUT different from The Bear Complex – hence, The Bear Complex Remix! It would involve doing each movement for 7 reps before moving to the next, and holding onto your barbell from the power cleans all the way through to the push presses. When each movement has been done 7 times, the bar can be put down and loaded up for the next Complex Set. The complex will be completed 5 times total.

Why Should I Do Complexes?

So, these sound tough… right?

If you are a masochist and love lifting, then I probably don’t have to explain why you should add complexes to your workouts. They are tough. They will challenge you mentally and physically. And you feel REALLY badass doing them!

They are also very effective at building muscle and burning fat. These complexes eliminate rest during the working period and thus increase the intensity of your workout.

Of note, because these complexes are so challenging, they shouldn’t be done every day. As well, if your form becomes compromised early in the complex, put your ego to the side and remove some of the weight. Moving from movement to movement with explosivity will be challenging enough, and hurting your back because you want to lift the over-the-top 135# instead of the doable-but-challenging 120# is not a good call. EVER.

3 Complexes to Try at Your Next Workout

We already gave you 2 complexes to try – The Bear Complex, and the Bear Complex REMIX! – but we’re feeling generous today. So here are 3 ADDITIONAL complexes to try!

NOTE: When choosing a weight for your workouts, choose according to your weakest lift. For example, if you were completing the Bear Complex and you could power clean 105, front squat 100, push press 85, and back squat 135, complete the ENTIRE complex at 85 lbs.

Complex #1: Grip It

  • 4 rounds (same weight for each):
  • Complete:
    • 5 Sumo Deadlifts (touch & go)
    • 5 Bent over rows
    • 5 Power Snatches
    • 5 Overhead Squats

Rest as needed between rounds

Complex #2: Smooth Criminal

  • 3 rounds (same weight for each):
  • Complete:
    • 20 Kettle Bell Swings
    • 10 Right-Side Front Racked Walking Lunges
    • 10 Left-Side Front Racked Walking Lunges
    • 10 Push Presses (Goblet Grip)

Rest as needed between rounds

Complex #3: Deja Vu

  • Complete:
    • 3 deadlifts
    • 3 hang cleans
    • 3 thrusters
    • 3 back squats
  • Rest as needed. Then Complete:
    • 5 deadlifts
    • 5 hang cleans
    • 5 thrusters
    • 5 back squats
  • Rest as needed. Then Complete:
    • 3 deadlifts
    • 3 hang cleans
    • 3 thrusters
    • 3 back squats
  • Rest as needed. Then Complete:
    • 5 deadlifts
    • 5 hang cleans
    • 5 thrusters
    • 5 back squats
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