Posted 18 February 2013 by Grant Lofthouse

Break Any Plateau With

The Barbell Complex


Break any plateau with the barbell complex

There are many ways to break through a plateau… Take a deload week where you perform about 40% of your previous week, change the program in terms of a different set and rep scheme or exercise variation. You can tag a barbell complex onto the end of your strength training program.

A barbell complex is when you do all the reps of one exercise before moving onto the next Barbell_complex_q1.pngexercise and you don’t put the bar down until all the reps are complete. That counts as one set. You’ll take a brief rest and repeat for the recommended number of sets.
You will also complete the entire barbell complex with the one weight and won’t change during the set because this will slow you down and result in an ineffective complex.

Barbell Complex Benefits

Barbell complexes are one of the hardest and enjoyable forms of cardio you will ever do. The best thing is that you will be done, toasted and finished in only a matter of 10 minutes, not 30+ minutes like traditional cardio.


If those benefits aren’t enough, here are some other pretty cool side effects…

1. Blow torch body fat: not only will you burn a ton of calories but your metabolism will stay jacked far longer than if you jumped on any cardio machine.

2. Maintain muscle mass: The problem with most traditional cardio methods is that they increase your Cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone which is responsible for body fat storage, especially around the abdomen. Unlike traditional cardio, these barbell complexes release anabolic hormones which outweigh the negative effects of Cortisol.

3. Improved fitness and work capacity: After a few weeks of these bad boys you’ll notice you will recover faster between your main training sets and you will be able to handle more volume.

Top 3 Barbell Complex Mistakes

1. Too complicated

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with their barbell complex is that they are too complicated. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the middle of a complex I’m in a bit of a brain fog and not thinking too clearly. So that last thing I want is something that’s overcomplicated.

A perfect example of a bad barbell complex would be something like this…

5 deadlifts, 9 presses, 3 barbell rows, 30 seconds of romanian deadlifts, 11 front squats, 22 reverse lunges.  Yes I’m serious. I’ve seen these before.

On paper they look great. But in reality that are just too confusing and frustrating.
The only way they can work is if you have a training partner telling you what to do after each exercise.  Since you may not always have a training partner with you in every session, it’s safe to keep them a little more simple.

2. Doesn’t flow

This rule kind of ties in with the previous one. The barbell complex must flow from one exercise to the next.

A bad example would be…

  • Deadlift
  • Back Squat
  • Row
  • Reverse Lunge.

The ‘victim’ would start off with the deadlift and then have to get the bar on their back to squat and then bring the bar back to the front to row and finish off with the bar on the back again for reverse lunges. It doesn’t really flow if you ask me.

So let’s add a little flow to the above…

  • Reverse Lunge
  • Back Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Row

As you can see the bar will start on the back and then make its way to the front of the body by the end of the barbell complex.  Not only does this flow, it will be far more simple and effective.

3. Too many hard barbell complexes a week

Barbell complexes are hard and tough, and if you’re not careful they can beat you up and burn you out pretty quickly. Believe me, I have done this before.

To avoid injury and getting burnt out I recommend you only doing one hard complex a week. That will be plenty. As for the rest of the week keep them at a much lower intensity and volume.


How Many Sets, Reps & Rest Per Barbell Complex?

I’ve found keeping the reps on the low end to be more effective because it allows you to use more weight.

Lifting 50 kilos is going to burn more calories than lifting a 30 kilo barbell.
So for that reason I would limit them to no higher than 6 reps. I’ve personally found 5 to be the perfect number because it easy to remember.

The biggest problem with doing higher rep barbell complexes is that your form starts to disintegrate quite quickly therefore you’re exposed to a greater risk of injuring yourself.
Aiming for a total of 75 - 100 reps is a good start. For example, if you do 4 exercises for 5 reps per exercise you would need to do 5 sets to get 100 total reps.

If you do 5 exercises for 3 reps per exercise you would need to do 7 sets to get to 100 total reps.

Somewhere between 60 - 120 seconds rest between sets. The harder the barbell complex the longer you rest. If you need to rest longer than 2 minutes, it’s too hard.

Putting Your Barbell Complex Together.

Keeping everything in mind here is how you would put it all together…

- Pick 3 - 6 big compound exercises.
- Keep all the reps the same per exercise. 1-6 reps per exercise works the best.
- Aim for 75 - 100 total reps.
- Rest 60 - 120 seconds in between sets.
- Make sure it’s not too complicated and make it flow from one exercise to the other.
- Only perform one hard complex a week (harder ones will be closer to 100 total reps). If you’re going to do more on other days keep them a little less in volume (around 75 total reps).

Barbell Complex Example:

  • High Pull x 5
  • Hang Clean x 5
  • Military Press x 5
  • Front Squat x 5
  • Push Press x 5

You will be tested! You will have to work hard! But, the results will be worth the extra effort! Get ready to get jacked, strong, fit and lean.

Written by: Grant Lofthouse

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