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8 Barbell Complex Tips to Build Strength and Muscle Mass

In the fitness world a "complex" is several exercises strung together to move your entire body in one non-stop routine. As you'll find out, when combined with a barbell, this type of training not only benefits your overall muscle mass but pushes the limits of your endurance, coordination, mobility, athleticism, and general strength.

By
Brock Armstrong,
Episode #438
Photo of a man and woman lifting barbells

IN THIS ARTICLE YOU'LL DISCOVER

  • What makes up a barbell complex
  • Why this simple weight lifting process is so effective
  • 8 pro tips to maximize your barbell workout
  • 4 sample workouts

Istvan Javorek is said to be the brains behind this type of barbell training. It's fabled that he first brought his complex routines to North America in the 1980s after he defected from Romania. Word has it that he initially developed it as a way to “find an efficient and aggressive method of performance enhancement that saves time and makes the program more enjoyable.” Let's take a look at barbell complexes and see if he hit the mark.

What is a Barbell Complex?

A barbell complex is any series of movements done back-to-back using a barbell. A set number of repetitions (or reps) is completed for each movement before shifting immediately on to the next. What makes a barbell complex unique, difficult and effective is that the weight never leaves your hands until the entire series is complete.

What makes a barbell complex unique, difficult and effective is that the weight never leaves your hands until the entire series is complete.

For example, a simple and very common barbell complex is called a clean and press. In this exercise, the ending movement of the clean (pulling the barbell up to your chest) is the starting movement of the press (pressing the barbell over your head and straightening your arms and legs.)

One of the biggest reasons people include barbell complexes in their workout regimen is that they are a great way to include some cardio in your training program without the need to do traditional cardio (like running, cycling, or aerobics). Cardio is something most weightlifters and bodybuilders see as their enemy. Complexes allow you to raise your heart rate, get out of breath, do a series of movements that last a few minutes each, and throw some heavy weights around ... all at the same time.

Another reason people like them is that barbell complexes are quick and do not take a lot of time to bust out. All you need is 20 to 30 minutes to do an effective barbell complex workout. They can take longer, but with this type of high output workout, it is often true that less is more.

Because of their ability to effectively boost your heart rate, barbell complexes make “doing cardio” more interesting and less repetitive. If you are tired of your usual heart-rate-raising routine, this can be an exciting way to mix it up.

If you are tired of your usual heart-rate-raising routine, this can be an exciting way to mix it up.

Also, when you do a barbell complex, you use a lighter load than you would if you were doing just one lift. This has a few benefits, but one of the biggest is that you can work on your technique and form while stimulating neuromuscular coordination.

Let's look at the ways you can use barbell complexes in your workout. I'll also give you some quick and dirty tips.

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