Written by Mike Over
As of late, life with two babies under the age of two has my time of utmost importance. Every second is accounted for, especially when it comes to running my gym, Over-Achieve Fitness, along with my online clients.
So needless to say, long workouts are not in the cards very often so I have to utilize 30-45 minutes!
Many of us in today’s world find ourselves strapped for time, only leading to forgo the gym altogether or go about it the wrong way if you are short on time.
So below I am going to outline for you a few of my favorite workouts using a method I’ve become known for…and they are complexes!
Simply put, complexes are done by doing a number of exercises in succession without dropping the weight. They become very effective for both challenging your body metabolically and physically due to its ability to work the nervous system.
Generally speaking, when we weight train, a muscle is placed under stress. There is only so much stress a muscle can handle before it dies out. That is why complexes are a great “time crunch” fix. You eliminate the local fatigue that is set in with traditional weight training by alternating muscle groups with no rest in between. That local fatigue is what ends the work done in traditional sets because of the lactic acid build up. “Lactic acid decreases the pH of our muscle, which inhibits our cells ability to produce energy. Hydrogen ions inhibit calcium binding to troponin and interfere with cross-bridge formation.” This is what stops us dead in out tracks when lifting weights.
But complexes can be thought of as that “reserve tank” your engine has when your gas light comes on in your car! It allows you to keep going, as long as you structure them right.
The best part is that you can be super versatile with the ways you do them. You can use dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells or fancy purmotion attachments like you see below.
The key is making sure you place the exercises with the most energy demand or difficulty first. Don’t put curls before snatches, or an Olympic lift in the end of it. You want your nervous system handling the hardest work first.
What makes these guys so effective for your 30-minute workouts?
For one, they are metabolically demanding. Your heart is working overload to continue to hold the weight, transition to each exercise and all while keeping rest to a bare minimum. They also can be superior ways to develop strength because you can target different muscle groups with each exercise, so you can forget about the fatigue setting in from straight sets.
On a final note, they will improve everything about your grip because of the time under tension your muscles are placed holding onto the weights! I’ve seen fairly strong clients break with a set of 25-pound dumbbells in a complex mainly because of the grip being their limiting factor.
So, if you are short on time, needing to fire up your metabolism and get a serious pump that boosts fat loss, give one of these complexes a try:
1: The Kettlebell Complex
Kettlebell complexes are a weekly staple of mine. They require little to no space, allow for more ballistic and metabolically demanding exercises that can torch calories and get you functionally strong. You will also engage your entire body because of the dynamic nature of how kettlebells work. Not to mention the added stability you get when you use them asymmetrically or go heavier with two. You truly can’t lose when you move heavy weights quickly with little rest!
You can be super versatile when it comes to programming. Go lighter with shorter rests for more cardiovascular health, or go heavy and rest longer to build muscle.
An example strength circuit could look like:
Perform the following exercises in order, without pausing unless you need to:
- Double kettlebell clean
- Double kettlebell thruster
- Double kettlebell front squat
- Unilateral kettlebell press on the left side
- Unilateral kettlebell press on the right side
- Repeat the circuit three times.
Take a full 3:00-4:00 rest in between sets. The weight you choose will be limited by the single arm press.
Here is a recent one I did using one 53 pound kettlebell. It challenged me to stabilize, control and work my entire body.
Go 4-6 rounds and take a full 2-3:00 rest in between rounds here! The nervous system is working overload so you want to be near full recovery hitting every round! If you are more advanced, aim to increase your weight every two rounds and try adding an extra round or two with dropping your reps with heavier weights.
- Single Arm Row x 5
- Single Arm Snatch x 5
- Single Arm Strict Press x 5
- Single Arm Offset OH Reverse Lunge x 5
- Single Arm Goblet Squat x 5
- Single Arm Swing x 5
- * Now Do It All on the Left Side
- END ON 5 double HIGH swings + 5 sumo jumps (with or w/out weight)
2: The Barbell Complex
Bar complexes are the bears of metabolic conditioning. They look nice and cozy on the outside, but they are brutal and highly taxing on the body and nervous system! When they are done right, they can help lifters shed tons of body fat, build lean muscle, and torch calories not only during the workout but in the hours afterward because of its higher hormone response. It truly is a lifter’s magic pill to fat loss when they hate cardio.
The keys to making effective barbell complexes are to make sure you put the more technical lifts in the beginning, where you are fresh. Trying to do power cleans or overhead squats after you do 30 reps of squats, rows and pressing variations just will increase your risk of injury.
So, make sure your complex flows. Don’t transition from a Romanian deadlift to a back reverse lunge. Clean and flowing transitions make them pretty, yet highly effective for muscle building and cardiovascular work.
Lastly, check your egos. These are not meant to use weights out of your control! Stick to ranges you can perform clean reps with and focus on quality with ample rest.
Here is one I love for its simplicity yet effectiveness.
Go 4-6 rounds, resting 60-90 seconds in between! I ended up going 6 then ended with some heavier clean/front squat combos on the minute to end a pretty tough day!
- Full Clean x 4
- Front Squat with Pause x 6
- Barbell Squat & Press x 4
- Back 1.5 Rep Squat with 4-6 HOLD on final rep
Now, for those of you wanting crazier unconventional barbell work, you can check out this link to one of the ones I did in the past.
3:The PurMotion Complex
This attachment is a God send for lifters who need a break from joint stress. The neutral grip/swivel handles allow for a safer press and pull that can truly make your recovery quicker. Not to mention it allowing your body to be more centered with the weight rather than it being in front of you. This can make your lower back smile and dance.
The landmine portion allows you to have your body mechanically put into positions as such that are safer for you to pull heavier loads if you so choose like I do here.
But for this complex, I kept it simple and simple can be the most effective when it comes to a quality workout.
So, the order went as follows:
- Clean and Press x 6
- Strict Press x 4
- 1.5 rep Squat low handle x 10
- Push Up w/ controlled eccentric x 10
- Row x 10
I went 8 rounds with a solid 90-120 rest to be able to give max effort each round!
So next time you are in a crunch for time, ditch the treadmill and fire up your training with work that helps you build muscle, burn fat and look the part come beach season!
As an added bonus, you will have fun creating them and will never get bored!