Workout Routines

The Barbell Complex Program to Shed Fat: Part 1

Burn fat fast with these targeted complex routines.

Forward Lunge
Edgar Artiga
Edgar Artiga
Exercises 17
Equipment Yes

The most intricate program in the world won’t do jack for your physique if you approach it with half-assed intensity and focus. To improve your training efficiency and keep your intensity level high, select basic exercises that give you the highest return on investment in terms of muscle recruitment and efficiency of movement, and limit your rest time to keep your heart rate elevated and increase your fat-burning potential. Employing a barbell complex-training method will cover all of that.

Made popular by strength coaches Istvan Javorek and Dan John and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, a complex—done with one piece of equipment, usually a barbell, a dumbbell, or a kettlebell—is a style of circuit training where several exercises are performed in succession without resting. For example, you can perform eight reps of barbell rows, followed by eight front squats and eight overhead presses. Not only will this flood all your major muscles with nutrient-rich blood, but you’ll also be gasping for air.

Since you’re using only one piece of equipment, you won’t have to worry about another trainee interfering with your circuit. They’re also diverse: If you don’t have access to or don’t want to use a barbell, you can use dumbbells, sandbags, kettlebells, and medicine balls. Finally, complexes can be tailored toward different goals, since they’re more of a template for how to lift. Not sure where to start? No problem. In Part 1 of this two-part feature, we provide you with a road map for structuring your own complexes and then outline three to try depending on your training goals.

Create Your Complex Routine

Follow these simple rules to put together your own complex

1. DETERMINE YOUR GOAL

Figure out whether you want to focus on hypertrophy, strength, endurance, or athleticism. This will help you determine how many reps and the types of exercises you should do.

2. GET INTO THE FLOW

Be sure to arrange exercises in an order that allows a smooth flow from move to move. For example, the back squat flows nicely after an overhead press but not so much if it’s performed after a bentover row. For a full-body workout, include an upper-body push, an upper-body pull, a lower-body push or a lunge variation, and a lower-body pull. And be sure to order them wisely.

3. SELECT YOUR SET AND REP RANGE

A good place to start is 6–8 reps, but go higher (12–15) for endurance and lower (3–6) for strength. Start with 3–5 rounds, resting 90 seconds between.

4. BEGIN EACH COMPLEX WITH A NAKED BAR TO WARM UP

Add weight slowly to the bar until the weakest exercise feels challenging. Then begin your working sets. Leave your ego at the door: Complexes are about not how much you can lift but the consistent flow from exercise to exercise and total work performed in each workout.

5. PROGRESS SMART

Once you’re comfortable with your form and can stick to the 90-second rest interval more easily, add 5–10 pounds to the bar, 1–2 reps per exercise, or add 1–2 sets to each workout. Choose only one mode of progression every three to four weeks.

Directions

Complete 4-6 rounds. For complexes one and two, rest 90 seconds between rounds. For complex three, rest 60 seconds between rounds. 

Complex 1 Hypertrophy Upper

Exercise 1

Barbell Bent-Over Row You'll need: Barbell How to
Man Performing Barbell Bentover Row thumbnail
-- sets
12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Barbell Upright Row You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Upright Row thumbnail
-- sets
12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Barbell Overhead Press
Overhead Press thumbnail
-- sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Barbell Biceps Curl You'll need: Barbell How to
bicep curl thumbnail
-- sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5

Close-Grip Barbell Pushup You'll need: Barbell How to
Close-Grip Barbell Pushup  thumbnail
-- sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6

Isometric Barbell Bentover Row You'll need: Barbell How to
Bentover Row Isometric thumbnail
-- sets
15 sec hold reps
-- rest

Complex 2 Hypertrophy Lower

Exercise 1

Barbell Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Deadlift thumbnail
-- sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Romanian Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Romanian Deadlift thumbnail
-- sets
12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Barbell Front Squat You'll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
Barbell Front Squat thumbnail
-- sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Barbell Good Morning You'll need: Barbell How to
Good Morning thumbnail
-- sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5

Back Squat You'll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
Back Squat thumbnail
-- sets
12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6

Barbell Reverse Lunge You'll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
Barbell Reverse Lunge thumbnail
-- sets
8* reps
-- rest
*Alternate legs and perform 8 reps per leg.

Complex 3 Full-body Endurance

Exercise 1

Barbell Bent-Over Row You'll need: Barbell How to
Man Performing Barbell Bentover Row thumbnail
-- sets
15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Romanian Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Romanian Deadlift thumbnail
-- sets
20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Barbell Thruster You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Thruster thumbnail
-- sets
15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Barbell Lunge You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Lunge thumbnail
-- sets
12* reps
-- rest
*Per leg.

Exercise 5

Barbell Lateral Lunge You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Side Lunge thumbnail
-- sets
12* reps
-- rest
*Alternate legs. Perform 12 reps per leg.
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