It’s easy to adapt to different methods of training, especially when it comes to fat loss. A general rule of thumb I like to apply to my own training and to that of my clients is to include exercises that will cause difficulty due to inefficiency. In other words, it means incorporating movements you’re bad at. Doing so will burn more calories and help you drop more fat because your body isn’t trained to be efficient at the lift just yet. Needless to say, the big lifts still deserve their place at the top of the food chain (at the very least, variations of those lifts). Even the most minor of tweaks can make a major change to your training effect and results.
That’s where the use of complexes comes in handy. With them, you get the best of both worlds to address your goals: being exposed to exercises you might be unfamiliar with and including large, compound movements into your program.
What Is a Complex?
A complex is a set of exercises performed one after the other without putting the weight down in between. Typically a complex consists of anywhere from three to six movements.
Lifters should use a weight that allows them to maintain form while also challenging them in each of the chosen exercises, but it shouldn’t be so heavy that it frustrates the athlete’s ability to get through the prescribed set. In order to make this process easier, it’s fair play to adjust rep ranges depending on the exercise. Also, choosing exercises that “flow” together and complement each other in a way is a smart move. Doing so will enable a lifter to make a smooth transition rather than fumble for positioning and risk an injury due to the change.
The name of the game with complexes is time under tension. Not being allowed to put the weight down between exercises turns a number of different movements and sets, in a way, into one giant set that lasts upward of three minutes straight. This will burn more calories and keep the heart rate up for much longer. Because of the anaerobic component of part of the set, it can also contribute to EPOC (excess postexercise oxygen consumption, or afterburn).
A complex can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells. The chart shows examples of both. And they both include an exercise that many trainers might not be all that familiar with — the hang power clean or the renegade row, for example.