Why You Need to Incorporate Complexes

Correct swing start position
Correct swing start position

Summer is still hanging around, barely. If you want to maximize your time outside complexes can be a great way to get your lift in with minimum time spent indoors. Earlier this summer I wanted to get more efficient in the weight room seeing as I was in season for gaelic football. I had a heavy game and conditioning schedule so based on time restrictions I incorporated more complexes. Fast forward to August and we were crowned Champions of Boston, because of these complexes! I joke, but complexes can be a great intermission in your training for the following reasons.

  • They can act as a bridge between training cycles
  • Bang for your buck
  • “Get in and get out”
  • Can incorporate multiple movements

For anyone looking for a good sweat and to be challenged technically, complexes are a great way to go. For in season athletes they act as a “get in and get out” lift that saves time and give maximum bang for the buck. Did I mention they are quick and awesome? Something even the “busiest” person can incorporate. Without putting the bell or bar down you can get an a multitude of movements in including explosive, hinge, squat, press, pull and unilateral work.

1. Building a Complex

As Dan John says, everyone needs the fundamental human movements, hinge, squats, push, pull and carry. We omit the carry here and try and aim for the four previous movements listed. I’m not a huge fan of rows in complexes, most people are lacking sufficient hip mobility to gain proper position to execute them so most times I’ll add in a unilateral movement as a further challenge instead of a row.

2. Dumbbells, Kettlebells or Barbells??

Depending on the person, everyone is more comfortable on what they know best. Kettlebells are probably the most efficient in terms of flow but require a lot of skill.  Below is an example of a kettlebell complex I like to use with clients once they are comfortable and proficient with all the lifts prescribed. Here Maren demonstrates the following.

-Double Kettlebell Swings x 3

-Double Kettlebell Cleans x 3

-Double Kettlebell Squats x 3

-Double Kettlebell Press x 3

-Double Kettlebell Reverse Lunge x 3 (each side)

Here is an example of a barbell complex demonstrated by Eirinn, which includes the following:

-3 Hang Cleans

-3 Front Squats

-3 Military Presses

-3 Single Leg Deadlifts (per side)

3. Sets & Rep Schemes

After watching the above video you may notice that Maren “only” done three reps per movement. Try out this complex and tell me it doesn’t challenge you. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

When it comes to complexes and rep schemes I like to follow the 3 or 8 rule. With the 3 rep scheme you can go heavier and target strength and with the 8’s a little lighter and target hypertrophy. Both complexes will hit conditioning and possibly on your back. You can never load up super heavy on a complex as one of two things will happen:

  • You won’t finish the complex
  • It’ll look like crap (use the crap test here as appropriate)





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