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Why workout complexes make for great strength training

Strength and conditioning coaches love workout complexes, and this is the reason why

If you're interested in strength training, you should try workout complexes.
If you're interested in strength training, you should try workout complexes. (Istockphoto)

First things first—what are workout complexes? In the world of exercise and fitness, complexes are an exciting, challenging concept. Workout complexes combine two or more movements to create an effective full-body exercise— essentially, think of them as a series of fluidly performed movements and postures—making them extremely popular among strength and conditioning coaches. Done right, they can help you build lean muscle and shed massive amounts of body fat, says Rajesh Parameswaran, head coach and owner at the Den Strength and Conditioning in Bengaluru. “Complexes are downright brutal and highly metabolic. They also help your body go into a phase where it burns more calories for hours after a workout,” says Parameswaran.

Complexes are also a great way to refine your technique. The top thing to bear in mind while performing a complex is it has to be done fast. “But not so fast that you compromise technique and form,” warns Parameswaran. Complexes also mean extra training volume and frequency, which are paramount to building muscle. “Thanks to the compound lifts, even if the weight is lighter, your muscles get extra stimulus, which leads to more gains,” he adds.

Also Read: Are you killing your gains by not resting between sets?

Try these fun complexes and see how the movements that you are used to impact you when performed in these combinations and flow.

The Cluster

This complex combines the squat clean and the push-press and starts with the bar/dumbbells on the floor. You need to perform a squat clean and then from the bottom of the squat, progress straight into a push-press, which is essentially a thruster.

The Cluster is the most simple yet most brutal of all complexes and a favourite of AK Abhinav, coach and founder of Namma Crossfit in Bengaluru. “In my experience, the two movements that most people cheat on are squats and thrusters,” says Abhinav. “The Cluster emphasizes a full squat and a full thruster. Most folks never do the full squat in a squat clean and while doing thrusters they do just a quarter squat. This one is tough and very effective,” he says.

Also Read: The benefits of high-bar vs low-bar barbell squat

Combining the squat clean and thruster slows down both movements thereby exerting lesser stress and pressure on you, which, in turn, is likely to drive you to do the full squat clean and move into a full thruster from that bottom position. Thus, this complex lets you reap the full benefit of strength and power through the entire range of motion.

The DT Complex

The DT Complex, a tribute to a US Marine, is a full-body workout in itself that works all your big muscle groups as well as supporting muscles. Three deadlifts, three hang power cleans and three push jerks back-to-back without pausing in between make one round and five rounds of this make one DT Complex.

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Pune-based coach and founder of Chakra Fitness, Pawan Jani is especially fond of the DT Complex because it is a full-body workout that works on strength and cardiovascular fitness at the same time. “It uses the basic universal Olympic lifting movements like the deadlift, cleans and an overhead lift, which makes this an easy workout even for beginners who have learned these movements. Your explosive strength goes through the roof even though you use a lighter weight while doing a complex,” says Jani.

The Bear Complex

One Bear Complex comprises seven unbroken sets of the following: 1 power clean, 1 front squat, 1 push press, 1 back squat, and 1 behind-the-neck push press. Parameswaran calls the Bear Complex the “perfect blend of strength, power and cardio” that works all the major muscle groups in a single set.

Also Read: Why you should exercise first thing every morning

I generally use the Bear Complex to restart exercise after a break. Instead of going through the leg day, back day and upper body day routine for a week after a break to get your body used to the strenuous movements, one session of five Bear Complexes works every major muscle group in your entire body. Though you would be sore for a day or two, you would be quickly on your way to returning to peak fitness as this complex really helps gain strength and cardiovascular conditioning in quick time.

The Macho Man

One repetition of the Macho Man is three power cleans, three front squats and three push jerks without any breaks. This one is my favourite. Unlike the Bear Complex it requires you to do the same movement thrice before moving on to the next thereby making it slightly easier. However, it is extremely effective and I try to pencil in this in my workout routine once a month at least because it is fun. My typical workout combines Macho Man with burpees and sit-ups so that I get that extra cardio and ab burn benefits.

Shrenik Avlani is the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

  • FIRST PUBLISHED
    20.07.2021 | 10:00 AM IST
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