Strength, size, and ripped definition all together spell pure functional muscle. When you train for all the three factors equally, the body you create in the gym replicates peak performance in all areas of life and enables you to feel fantastic all the time. However, nailing the balance between these variables altogether is not as easy. For hard-gainers, maintaining a calorie surplus for size can be quite a bit of a struggle. Those who eat indiscriminately to bulk will often find that their strength tends to waver. High volume work to enhance definition is time consuming and not always feasible either if you have a busy life outside the gym.
If you know your way well around a barbell, you will realize that barbell complexes are a simple, and time efficient technique to get both big and ripped. A typical complex will last less than half an hour, but it will leave you flat out spent and generate fat loss far superior to the outcome generated by long, boring, steady state cardio.
Be it the sensationally shredded Terry Crews, UFC champion Randy Couture, Stephen Amell who plays the lead in Arrow, the cast of 300 and 300 – Rise of the Empire or Henry Cavill in the Man of Steel; they have all regularly employed barbell complexes to condition themselves during their cutting phase.
In fact, as featured in Muscle and Fitness magazine, the barbell complex prescribed to Henry Cavill during the last phase of his training in Man of Steel is perhaps an ideal example of a well-defined complex, where each movement seamlessly flows into the other.
Rules for performing a barbell complex
It involves executing 5 to 10 compound movements in quick succession. Perform all the prescribed number of repetitions for the first compound movement before moving on to the next one. The barbell does not come down on the floor until you perform ALL the repetitions for ALL the assigned movements. That will count as one set! You may rest for 3 to 5 minutes between each set.
Celebrity Trainer Mark Twight created the following Six-Exercise Barbell Complex* for Henry Cavill
Deadlift // Bentover Row // Hang Clean // Front Squat // Push Press // Back Squat x 6,6,4,3
*Perform four total complexes, never putting the bar down during the set. Start with a deadlift and then perform a bentover row, and so on.
Cavill did the following:
Set 1) Six reps at 75 pounds // Set 2) Six reps at 95 pounds // Set 3) Four reps at 115 pounds // Set 4) Three reps at 135 pounds
Once the bar came down, Cavill did not rest beyond 2-3 minutes between each set.
Given below is a demonstration of this complex.
Programming barbell complexes in your training regime
- A complex performed with an empty barbell serves as a great dynamic warm-up.
- You may perform it as a metabolic finisher at the end of a short workout but go easy on the weight.
- For enhanced fat loss and as a substitute for traditional cardio, perform complexes with higher repetitions on your OFF days twice a week (5-7 reps for EACH movement which will amount to 30-42 repetitions total in a single set).
- For muscle size, strength, endurance and conditioning, go heavy and lift in the lower repetition range of 3-4 reps per movement.
- Light barbell complexes, 2-3 times a week are also ideal for de-loading / active rest week to recover from a prolonged period of heavy lifting.
Choosing the right weight, repetition range and frequency
Of all the movements of the complex, consider the exercise for which you lift the least amount of weight. Pick a starting weight with which you can perform 15-20 convenient repetitions of your weakest exercise with that load. A thorough barbell complex session should have approximately 100 repetitions broken up into 3-6 rounds.
Henry Cavill’s barbell complex not only incorporates heavy weights but also includes 114 repetitions split into mere four rounds. If you are up for it, perform this brutal, heavy session once a week. You may go twice if you possess advanced level fitness.