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What Is A Barbell Complex?

It is definition day again on World’s Strongest Librarian. One year ago I heard the term barbell complex for the first time. I actually wondered if complex was a brand of barbells, but no, the guy talking was actually saying “And then I did a bunch of complexes.”

So what is it? As simply as possible, a complex in terms of exercise is a series of movements performed one right after another without setting the weight lifting implement down. It can be a kettlebell, a dumbbell, or of course, an Olympic barbell. For instance, let’s say that this is what your workout looks like today:

  • 5 deadlifts
  • 5 back squats
  • 5 power cleans
barbell complex

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If you were doing these in a complex, you would simply not put the bar down during your transitions. This is not a good complex to try, by the way, unless you’re using very little weight. Good luck getting from a deadlift to a backsquat with much weight!

But hopefully you get the idea. To give you an example from the kettlebell world, you could do a snatch, then the descending portion of the Turkish get up, and then do floor presses from the ground. The point is that you string the movements together and the weight never leaves your hand.

Why should you do barbell complexes?

I actually don’t know that you should. The first thing is to simply ask what your goals are, and then to see if complexes against resistance are going to help move you towards your goals.

The major benefit of the bb complex is that it allows you to get more work done in less time. By work I simply mean the amount of pounds you lift and the time you are under tension.

For me personally, I do not do complexes often, but that is simply because I never know exactly what movements I’m going to perform each workout. If you’re curious about that, please check out Gym Movement.

There is no denying that complexes will help you get a lot of work done in a small amount of time, but that is not necessarily what everyone is after.

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