A barbell complex is any series of movements performed back-to-back with a barbell in which the set number of reps is completed for each movement before moving on to the next. It’s basically a big superset that involves completing 4-6 exercises without stopping.
The number of reps performed on each exercise can vary from 4-10. Selecting the right amount of reps will be based on the exercises involved, the weight being lifted and the fitness level of the client. It is best to start off with a light weight and low reps, then increase as you get more confident.
Generally a barbell complex will incorporate compound movements such as variations of squats, deadlifts, shoulder press and rows.
Here’s an example of a barbell complex sequence:
- Hang clean x 5
- Romanian deadlift x 5
- Push press x 5
- Front squat x 5
- Bent over row x 5
Repeat 2-4 times
Barbell complexes such as the one above would be completed with submaximal weight to allow for good exercise technique to be maintained throughout. Barbell complexes are best used as a conditioning tool (aerobic and anaerobic energy system development), as well as to improve muscular endurance.
For individuals looking for weight loss or to improve cardiovascular fitness while still focusing on muscle gain, this can be a great way to achieve both. It allows you to increase energy expenditure in a short time frame (due to working large muscle groups), but due to the resistance will assist with maintaining muscle mass more than utilising running or cycling as your form of cardio training.
I suggest starting with 2-3 sets at the end of your resistance training session – you will soon see improvements in your work capacity, strength and fitness.
Barbell complexes are an advanced training method. Before implementing them in your training be sure to have a good foundation of fitness as well as technique and strength on the main compound barbell exercises. Be sure to consult with a qualified fitness instructor if you are trying them for the first time.