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Simply Complex

The holiday season is upon us and for most people that means stress, dietary indiscretion, and time consuming commitments. Whether these issues stem from work, family obligations or simply the desire to make merry is irrelevant. Due to this holiday pressure it is very common to let training fall to the wayside.

There is no need for that.

To my knowledge, complexes (by name and basic layout) were the brain child of Istvan “Steve” Javorek. Though I’m sure some version of them has been around since people lifted rocks to get jacked, it was certainly Javorek that popularized them.

A complex is simply a series of exercises back-to-back with no rest, using the same implement, e.g. a barbell, for a given amount of reps for each movement. With that knowledge you can pretty much be off and running and have unlimited options for setting up a complex. They are a powerful training tool that allows for a lot of work in a short amount of time. Thirty minutes is more than sufficient to get a powerful conditioning and hypertrophy stimulus.

Here are a few examples of some of my favorite complexes. Each shows a slightly different way you could set them up.

Javorek Complex #1 (I call it the Yoke-sterior chain complex)

  1. Upright Row x6
  2. Muscle Snatch* x6
  3. Good Morning x6
  4. Back Squat/Push Press (Thruster) x6
  5. Bent Over Row x6

3-8 sets. The less you rest and/or heavier you go the harder it is.

*I changed from hang power snatch to muscle snatch for a wider audience.

Strength Sensei Reverse Pyramid Complex (as best I can remember it)

  1. Deadlift
  2. Hang Power Clean
  3. Front Squat
  4. Push Press
  5. Back Squat

Do 5,4,3,2,1, REST, 1,2,3,4,5 of each movement. If I recall correctly, you only rest, a mere 60 seconds, after completing all 15 reps for each movement. Then complete 15 again working up from 1. I did this many moons ago with 135 at a time I should have used about 85, nearly died and got flu-like sick within two hours. So either go light(er) than you think is needed or rest some between each number group.

12 and 6 Dumbbell Complex

  1. Floor Press x12
  2. Reverse Lunge x6 per leg
  3. Curl x6
  4. Stiff Legged Deadlift x12
  5. Muscle Snatch x6
  6. Squat x12
  7. Press x6
  8. Dumbbell Swing x12
  9. Jump Squat x6
  10. Row x12

This is one I made up. It seems like a lot of work but ultimately you use a light weight so it isn’t as bad as it seems.

Joe Mills EMOM Bear Complex

  1. Power Clean
  2. Front Squat
  3. Push Press
  4. Back Squat
  5. Push Press

This is a combo of a classic Joe Mills workout and the original Bear Complex. Start with about 70% of your weakest movement, probably clean or push press, and do 1 rep of the whole complex every minute on this minute. Add 5-10 pounds every 5 reps. After 15 reps, start adding 2-5 pounds per set until you’ve done 20 total reps. Then you’re done.

Bodyweight Basics Complex

  1. Squat x16, 10, 7
  2. Push up x16, 10, 7
  3. Inverted Row x16, 10, 7

Do this sequence all the way through, rest 1 minute and repeat 2 more times. That’s 100 reps of each movement. Should take about 10 minutes and will feel like work.

Each of these complexes take very little time, add up to a massive amount of work and will allow anyone to get a great workout in anywhere.

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