What Are Complex Workouts, And How Do I Perform Them?
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What Are Complex Workouts, And How Do I Perform Them?

What are Complex Workouts? Cardio is a crucial part to any fitness program; whether your goal is weight loss, muscle building or simply to improve your overall health. Yet you cannot simply do cardio workouts alone to achieve optimal results, you will need a combination of both cardio and weight training.

So with this being said, on top of doing your cardio workouts, you’ll need to be sure you are getting in your 2-4 days a week of strength training workouts as well. Strength training workouts do not have to be endless amounts of squats, or dumbbell presses which can end up leaving you in the gym for hours, because let’s be serious who has time for that?! Why not add strength training to our cardio for a double punch?! Complex workouts are going to help you do just that!

What are complex workouts you ask?

According to an article published on AskMen.com “Complex training is a type of weight lifting that is meant to replace your traditional cardio sessions.” Complex training is done using strength training exercises, yet you are still primarily focusing on cardio, so it is a good workout in addition to lifting, not exactly a good replacement.

This article from BrianMac.co.uk explains complex training as a workout combining a resistance exercise followed by a matched plyometric exercise, for example squats followed by squat jumps or bench press followed by plyometric press up. The article explains that the “logic behind these matched pair of exercises is that the resistance work gets the central nervous system into full action so that more Type IIb fibers are available for the explosive exercise, hence a better training benefit.”

Many people might compare complex training to circuit training, because they are very similar, yet there is one slight difference. With circuit training you are performing one set of exercises then move on to another and only rest between circuits. With complex training, instead of going exercise to exercise, you are performing whole body movements that flow together in a way that you are constantly keeping your heart rate up. One might go as far to say, “complex training is like circuit training on steroids”.

The reason complex training shows such great results is due to the fact you are constantly changing moves, so your body is not allowed to adapt, as opposed to repetitive endurance activities where your body shows adaption.

So now that we know what they are, how do we perform complex workouts?

You start off my choosing anywhere from 5 to 9 different moves that you will perform, some examples of complex exercises are: deadlift, power clean, front squat, overhead press, burpees,  upright row, etc. After choosing the exercises, you will want to make sure you choose moves you can flow directly into the next one. You complete one exercise then move directly into the next move, it is not an alternating type of workout where you switch between exercises.

There is no break period between each exercise in complex training so you are going to want to make sure you keep the weights the same during your entire workout so you can move flow freely from one exercise to the next.

The weight you use for these types of exercises is going to be lower than amount you normally lift, due to the demand complex workouts place on your body. You need to make sure the weight is not too high and that you can still complete the workouts as you reach the end of the series. This lack of break period is going to help increase your metabolism tenfold compared to regular weight lifting workouts.

Complex Workout Examples

MusclesAndFitness.com shares some great examples of complex workouts, which you can check for more examples out here, but here are a few of my favorites:

Start off by choosing a set of exercise complexes. You will do each exercise 8-20 reps, depending on if your goal is strength or calorie burning. You will then complete each complex 4-6 times.

If strength is your main goal you will want to go with heavier weights and lower reps, while if you main goal is calorie burning you will want to train with lighter weights doing a higher amount of reps. Because you are using the same weight throughout the entire workout, MusclesandFitness.com suggests to “choose a weight that allows you to complete at least your desired minimum number of reps for each move.”

Sets:     3-5
Reps:    8-20
Weight:  Select a weight that you can handle in your selected rep range for each exercise in the complex
Rest:    Between exercises – none; Between complexes – 2-3 minutes

5-EXERCISE COMPLEX

Romanian deadlift
Upright row
Hang clean
Thruster
Split jerk

Squat
Plyometric squat
Split-lunge jump
Split jerk
Clean to press

6-EXERCISE COMPLEX

Arnold press
Stiff-legged deadlift
Bent-over row
Thruster
Squat
Stiff-legged deadlift

8-EXERCISE COMPLEX

Curl
Upright row
Bent-over row
Hang snatch
Shoulder press
Thruster
Upright row
Curl

9-EXERCISE COMPLEX

Arnold press
Stiff-legged deadlift
Bent-over row
Squat
Upright row
Hang snatch
Thruster
Bent-over row
Hang snatch

It is a good idea to start with the 5-exercise complexes, and then work your way up to the 9. It’s also a good idea to avoid any hard aerobic or anaerobic session for at least 2 days before a complex workout and to not do more than 3 days of complex workouts a week. Your body and muscles need to be well rested and at their best before trying to master the complex training exercises.

What Are Complex Workouts, And How Do I Perform Them?
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Laura and Dave are the owners of the Planet Supplement Nutrition Info & Blog. Both have battled with weight loss and fitness issues until they finally found the plans and routines that worked for them. On this website they share their experiences with you.