The Unique New Workout Style That Combines Gymnastics and Weight Training

In this special two-part series, I’m going to outline an  approach to getting a strong and shredded body using these hybrid gymnastics training techniques, along with my own addition of some high intensity intervals for athletes and exercisers who a bit more of a cardio component.

Ben Greenfield
7-minute read
Episode #334

How to Use Weight Training Complexes to the Routine

In addition to gymnastics training, my desire with this program was to still expose my body to "lifting heavy stuff": not only for the anti-aging and aesthetic benefits, but to also ensure I'm able to handle elements I may experience during my obstacle course racing, such as heavy bucket carries, sandbag carries, log carries, tire flips, etc.

Enter complexes: a form of lifting in which one strings together three to up to a dozen different exercises - exercises that usually multi-joint and usually performed with an unwieldy object like a barbell, kettlebell and sandbag. For example, the Crossfit Bear complex is comprised of 7 total sets of 1 repetition each of power clean, front squat, push press, back squat and push press (you finish that last push press and go straight back into power cleans. 

Why complexes?

As Rob says on his excellent complex database page, they are "an efficient and aggressive method of performance enhancement that saves time..."

These words, originally written by Istvan Javorek (who is a strength coach acclaimed for making complexes very well known) sum up these exercises in one sentence.

Rob goes on to say...

..."In case you’re not familiar with complexes as they’re defined in the fitness space, they’re an array of exercises designed to be completed in one continuous set. That, I know, is a very general description, but that’s part of their beauty; they leave much to the sadistic trainer’s imagination.

Complexes can fit neatly into just about any exercise program, and there’s no fitness goal they can’t help you tackle; whether it be conditioning, fat loss, muscle growth, strength or masochism."

Rob describes the benefits of complexes as:

“...Efficient and aggressive: If massive amounts of volume packed into a minute or two of work is efficient, then he’s on the money here. Javorek’s original barbell complex, for instance, demands 30 reps across five compound exercises in one set.

And aggressive? Yeh, complexes are pretty freakin’ aggressive. I told one of my clients just last night, as he geared up for his third set of Ben Bruno’s Brutal Trap Bar Complex (10 split squats, 10 RDLs, and 10 deadlifts) that he was about to go to war. Five minutes after the set, while he was still lying on his back, he knew exactly what I was talking about. Complexes force you to be aggressive. They’re an amazing tool for sewing toughness, and insist that you to drive past your breaking point without looking back.

....“performance enhancement: I can’t help but think of Smiling Bob from those stupid Enzyte commercials anytime someone says “performance enhancements” (that’s just my cross to bear), but I don’t think that’s what Javorek had in mind (unless he’s copping Arnold’s style). No, what he’s referring to are the indisputable gains athletes experience when they add complexes to their programming.

"...in addition to muscular endurance, complex practitioners also quickly notice the increase in strength and hypertrophy. Dan John often refers to hypertrophy as “armor building”, and in his book Mass Made Simple he includes a routine that will drop you in a suit of plate mail (you get to do up to 80 reps of bent rows, hang cleans, front squats, overhead presses, back squats and good mornings without putting the bar down).

“...makes the program more enjoyable: I just adore puking on the floor and spontaneously crapping my pants…it’s just so darn “enjoyable”. Javorek, you crazy Romanian!I’m just joshing ya, buddy. I know what you’re talking about. Complexes are synonymous with variety, which staves off a stale time at the gym, and in some cases, might just foster an enjoyable experience. Not to mention the sheer feeling of accomplishment, knowing that you just slayed an exercise that would literally have killed 50% of American couch potatoes. Completing complexes feels good (then again, so does crapping in your pants…for just a second…but I wouldn’t know…more than once…ok, twice…)."

That about sums it up, but if you want to take a deeper dive into the nitty gritty of complexes, then you should check out Rob's full article from last week published right here on my site:"The Most Potent Training Method On The Face Of The Planet For Supercharging Conditioning, Melting Fat, Busting Through Strength Plateaus & Banishing Long Drawn-Out Warm-Ups Forever."

As you'll see in the program that will come in Part 2 of this series, I also have a certain section of the workout in which I perform a few basic weight training complexes.

Menwhile, if you have questions, comments or feedback about this episode, you can join the conversation at Facebook.com/getfitguy


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.