Complex Topic


Chances are, you’ve dabbled in circuit training by now, but have you tried complexes? A complex is a type of circuit in which the exercises are all performed with the same piece of equipment and “flow” together seamlessly so that there’s no need to take time to set up for the next exercise. For example, a barbell complex might have you doing a set of hang cleans, then push presses, then front squats — all without setting the barbell down. 

According to expert strength coach Nick Tumminello, complexes are great for fat burning and full-body conditioning, with the added benefit of coming in handy when you’re training in a crowded gym and aren’t able to monopolize multiple pieces of equipment to do a standard circuit. This excerpt from Tumminello’s new book Strength Training for Fat Loss (Human Kinetics, 2014)offers one super-
effective sample complex along with guidelines for how to perform it correctly. 

Complex Parameters

  • Use the heaviest load possible to complete the reps while moving quickly with good control through the complex.
  • Perform six to 15 reps per exercise within a given complex and two to five sets per complex.
  • Take no rest between exercises within a given complex (unless you need to take a quick breath). However, you should take between 90 seconds and three minutes of rest between each set (i.e., after completing a full round of a complex). 
  • It is recommended that you use a higher number of repetitions for the easier exercises (the ones you’re strongest at performing) within a complex and use a lower number of repetitions for the most difficult exercises (the ones you’re weakest at performing). 

Sample Complex

  • Barbell Reverse Lunge
  • Barbell Push Press
  • Barbell Wide-Grip Bent-Over Row
  • Barbell Wide-Grip Romanian Deadlift

As Tumminello advises, do six to 15 reps of each exercise before immediately moving to the next. Select a weight that allows you to do at least six reps of all four exercises. If you’re unable to reach six on any move, decrease the weight.