CRAZY Barbell Complex Workouts
Do you enjoy feeling like you’re about to puke? Do you love breathing so heavy you think you might just keel over? Yea, me neither. But if you ask me, avoiding those sensations altogether is a good way to get fat and mentally weak. Stupid-hard conditioning isn’t necessary all the time, but it can definitely serve a purpose in your training.
Unfortunately, the simplest and most effective conditioning methods also present some logistical problems. Hill sprints are awesome, but it’s tough to find a decent hill that’s actually within driving distance. Sled pulling is also great, but not a workable option if you live in a crowded city.
Fortunately, the weight room itself provides all the equipment and space you need in a pinch. In fact, you can do a balls-to-the-wall, puke-inducing conditioning workout with nothing but a barbell, a few plates, and some space. Skeptical? You won’t be after you give barbell complexes a try.
Simply put, a complex is just a series of exercises done without any rest in between. You can use almost any combination you want, but there are a few I’ve found to be particularly effective. Oh, and don’t let the light weights fool you. When you’re doing this many reps and using every muscle in your body, it’s just not going to matter.
Complex #1: Full-Body Blitz
Targeting specific areas is obviously great for building muscle, but that’s not what complexes are about. If you really want to get your heart rate up and push your anaerobic threshold, you need to go full-body. Try this series on for size:
-10 military presses
-10 hang cleans
-10 push presses
-10 stiff-leg deadlifts
You do all six exercises with the same bar and NO rest in between! Don’t even let go of the bar. And trust me, you’re going to have to go light. 95 pounds is more than enough for most people, and you may even want to drop down to 85 or 65. Remember, the point of this technique is to get you breathing like a tank. Save your strength work for another day.
How many total rounds you do will depend on your current level of conditioning. Five should be your bare minimum, and working up to ten rounds would be ideal. You also want to severely limit the reset in between them. Take a thirty-second breather if you need to, but try to keep going until you’re done.
Complex #2: Back Attack
Alright, I know I said targeting one area isn’t ideal, but the upper back is an exception. Why? Well, it’s a HUGE group of muscles that can handle some seriously high reps. This circuit will still make your chest pound, and it may even add some size to your lats and traps.
-10 hang cleans
-10 Yates rows
-10 barbell rows
-10 dead-step rows
Some of these might need some explanation. A “Yates” row is the high-angle row popularized by former Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates. Just bend your torso at about 60 degrees, and make sure you feel your traps working when you row.
Once you do the Yates rows, just bend over further to do a more “normal” barbell row. Once you do all ten of those, bend even more so that the plates actually touch the ground. The dead-step rows are just like they sound – let the bar stop “dead” on the floor after each rep.
After you do the dead-stop rows, stand all the way upright again to do the high-pulls. This is basically just a jerky upright row where you pull BACK as you pull up. You can put plenty of sway into the movement, too – at this point in the circuit, you’ll need it!
You can use a little heavier weight on this complex, but don’t go thinking it’s going to be easy. Fifty total reps targeting the same group of muscles is absolutely brutal. Since you’re pounding one area into submission, give yourself a couple minutes’ rest between rounds. This is a great “finisher” to throw in at the end of a back workout, especially when you don’t have time for other conditioning work.
Complex #3: The Man-Maker
People use the name “man-maker” to refer to all sorts of stuff, but here’s what it means to me. As always, begin the complex with the bar on the ground. Do one power clean – now the bar’s on your shoulders. Next, do one front squat. Once you stand back up, push-press the bar BACK over your head so it lands in the back-squat position. Do one back squat, and then push-press the weight over your head to the front once more. That’s ONE “rep.”
You’re going to do that TEN total times. Make sure you touch the weight to the floor between each “rep” so that you can do a full power clean at the beginning – not a hang-clean. Once you get those ten reps, rest for a minute, and get ready to go again. Like the other full-body circuit, your conditioning level (and toughness) will determine how many rounds you do.
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