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Rebuild Your Body with Complexes

After months of doing variations of the same workouts with similar exercises, I was ready for something new. I remembered a time last year when I was training more often. The hard work showed in my lean, strong physique.  I wondered: what part of my training regimen could I attribute my strength and esthetic gains to?


If I could recommend a workout that cuts fat and builds muscle at the same time, it would be barbell complexes.

Dan John’s definition of a complex is simple: they are a series of lifts back to back where you finish the reps of one lift before moving on to the next lift. The barbell doesn’t leave your hands or touch the floor until all the lifts are completed.

Bingo. Last year, deep in weightlifting training, I was in love with barbell complexes. They were fun, explosive, and physically demanding.

One key part to training with complexes: rest. Make your rest periods longer than what you originally think you’ll need.

Let your goals determine your rep range. For a fat burning main dish with a side of serious conditioning, try doing sets of 8.

Complex A for Eights

Row x 8 Clean x 8 Front squat x 8 Military press x 8 Back squat x 3 Good mornings (I do RDL’s) x 8

Set the bar down and set your ass in a chair. I like 2 to 3 minutes of rest between sets.

Do you have a goal of adding mass? Dan John suggests using sets of three.

Why are complexes so great at conditioning, building mass, and enhancing your athletic performance? Well, the more time the body is under the bar, the more the body adapts by getting bigger. It’s the SAID principle – Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. In other words, the more demand you place on the body (IE staying under the bar for longer periods of time), the more the body will adapt to said demand. In the end you develop muscular endurance, put on mass and enhance your athletic performance.

Complex B Dead lift Clean – grip high pull Clean – grip snatch Back squat Good mornings Row

Complex C Hang snatch Overhead squat Back squat Good mornings Row Dead lift

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