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6 Steps To The Ultimate Workout Complex

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6 Steps to the Ultimate Workout Complex – By Kate Vidulich

Complexes are awesome for advanced fat loss conditioning – but it’s really important to structure the circuit correctly to be effective, get maximal calorie burn and skyrocket your conditioning.

The idea is to do as much work as possible in a short time period, focusing on speed and density.

However, throwing together a bunch of shoddy exercises in any random order and calling it a “complex” is a complete waste of time. Plus, as a bonus you run the risk of injuring yourself and looking like a moron.

Hang on. What is a workout complex?

Simply put, it’s a series of exercises performed using the same resistance, without rest or putting the weight down between exercises. You perform all prescribed reps of one exercise before moving onto the next.

Sounds tough, right?

Well that’s a guarantee, and the reason why this is for advanced folks ONLY.

With proper programming, these brutal circuits have the potential to strip fat off faster than any other protocol.

Why Workout Complexes Rock

Here are the top 3 reasons:

1. You only need one weighted resistance and a small space. The most effective barbell complexes only require an empty bar and small space, but you can use dumbbells or kettlebells too. You can do these circuits in a crowded gym, tiny NYC apartment, your backyard or a hotel gym.

2. You save tons of time compared to boring ass cardio. It almost sounds like an infomercial ad you see at 3am, “In just 10 minutes, twice a week you can burn fat and get shredded abs! And if you order in the next 2 minutes, you’ll get this amazing set of steak knives – absolutely free!”

But of course, it takes more than 20 minutes a week to build a defined body, and workout complexes don’t store neatly under your bed for three easy payments of $29.95. However, adding complexes to your favorite fat loss program will take your conditioning to the next level, without adding hours onto your session.

3. It sure beats the boredom and repetition of cardio, spinning and interval training. There is no overuse injury, no waiting time for equipment at the gym and will train your entire body in one big bang.

How To Build A Workout Complex

Creating an awesome workout complex is just like baking a cake.

Hmmm cake…

The ingredients (exercises) need to be added in correct order for the mixture (entire circuit) to combine correctly; otherwise it will end in disaster.

If you go freestyle and don’t follow instructions, you’ll end up with a big mess and one awful tasting cake.

“I love disgusting cake” – said no one ever

Here’s a quick advanced guide to building your own workout complexes, without looking like a goofball.

Step One: Pick Your Moves

Choose 3 + compound exercises that are varied and reflect big movement patterns.

- Squat
- Deadlift
- Lunge/Step
- Pull
- Push
- Total body power moves (cleans, snatch)

Isolated exercises, like bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, and wrist curls have no place in a time efficient workout complex. Don’t even think about it…

Step Two: Order of Exercises

Getting this step right is critical. I see all kinds of home-brew complex creations at big box gyms that are scary and ineffective. Remember, it’s not as simple as throwing all the ingredients together and mixing it up. Follow the recipe.

Here’s how you can avoid the common mistakes:

(a) Consider the Exercise Skill Level

You want to do the most difficult exercises first that require the highest skill level. Don’t think including more exercises with a higher skill level will make your complex more effective.

The main thing is your technique is solid for the exercises in the complex; otherwise you won’t get the desired metabolic effect and you’ll run the risk of getting injured. Unless you’ve been personally coached on Olympic lifting technique, skip the high skill moves.

High skill exercises include:
- Overhead squat
- High pulls
- Cleans
- Snatch

Moderate skill exercises include:
- Push Press
- Front Squat
- Deadlift

Low skill exercises:
- Lunge variations
- Bent over row
- Back squat
- DB overhead press
- DB squat

One take away: do the hardest exercise first. If you finish up with the toughest, total body moves, you will already be fatigued and increase the likelihood of compromising your form.

(b) Non-Competing Order

Arrange the exercises in non-competing order, meaning you hit opposing muscle groups. The reason for this is simple: while you’re using one muscle group the other is resting.

Given that workout complexes use compound exercises, don’t waste time getting too picky here. Avoid repeating the same movement pattern for two back-to-back exercises.

(c) Exercise Flow

Another important factor ordering the exercises is making sure the transition and flow is spot on. For example, the transition from deadlift to push press is smooth and simple.

However, you wouldn’t go from back squat to floor press. Not only will you waste time in the transition, but you’ll kill the flow and look silly.

Step Three: Choose the Right Weight

Another super important step, that many folks screw up. This will make or break you.

Choose a weight that you can press overhead for 10-12 reps, as this movement is usually your weakness.

Remember, it’s not a strength stimulus. The idea is to create a metabolic conditioning effect. So if you go too heavy, it will all end in tears.

If you’re unsure how heavy to lift, start lighter. You can always add more the second set. But like I said, if you blow yourself out in the first round, it’s game over.

Step Four: Set the rest period and number of sets

Planning your rest breaks and controlling them with a timing device (GymBoss timer) is the next step.

Start with a 90 second break between sets. As you progress, shave 15 seconds off each rest.

Think a rest break is unnecessary and over rated?

Skipping it altogether doesn’t make you a hero. If fact, that’s just moronic.

Working through a rest break will turn your whole workout into a steady state session, similar to cardio. That’s EXACTLY what we’re trying to avoid here. Go hard, take a break and bring the intensity for every round.

Step Five: Where does a complex fit in your workout?

You have two choices:

(a) Appetizer for your workout: Add a workout complex at the beginning of your workout before the resistance training. Why the beginning? You are fresh, primed to perform and ready to rock.

(b) Off day metabolic conditioning: this is my favorite move. Use a complex as your entire workout. All done in no more than 15-20 minutes.

Step Six: Bring Your “A” Game

This is the game changer. You know, like the secret ingredient in Grandma’s finest cupcakes…

As you can imagine, this style of training is not for the faint hearted. It’s tough. It’s challenging. And so you need to bring the right attitude. Think with a positive mindset and you will improve your mental toughness.

Now you’re all set and ready to rock workout complexes.  Not only will this boost your metabolism and skyrocket your conditioning, but it will help you accelerate fat loss results.

Do you have a favorite workout complex? Be awesome and share your go-to conditioning complex in the comments box below.

Fat Loss Accelerators is the ultimate package of done-for-you workout complexes you can simply add into your current program.

Click here to try these Fat Loss Accelerators workouts

Rock on!

Kate Vidulich, CTT

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COMMENTS

  1. Jerry L. Burns
    08/8/2013

    Well written article Kate!

    I first learned of complexes from the legendary Dan John, though he was aiming at power and size more so than fat burning (which might be why the program called for heavier weights and a ton of peanut butter sandwiches).

    You did a great job of addressing the importance of selection, order and especially flow.

    One of my favorites;

    Power Clean
    Front Squat
    Overhead Press
    Back Squat

    I usually rack the bar after the back squat as there’s not enough gas in the tank to press it over the head and lower it safely. Once recovered, I’ll unrack and lower it to start the next set.

    Complexes done right are a killer (as in lying on the floor afterwards trying to determine why I shouldn’t just spend the night there).

    Thanks again, I hope people follow your advice and give it a shot!

    • Kate Vidulich
      08/8/2013

      Thanks Jerry!
      Great complex you mentioned – I’m going to rock this one today. Good points on safety too.
      Keep rocking it,
      Kate

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