6 Weeks to Superhero

How I Build Muscle and Strip Off Fat – FAST!

I’ve tried every way known to man to quickly put on a significant amount of muscle while simultaneously getting ripped to shreds. This is what I’ve found to be the absolute best method.

My Fastest Program for Building Muscle and Ripping Off Fat

When I’m hired to get an athlete, bodybuilder, or actor into the best shape of his life – to strip him of virtually all body fat while adding 15 to 20 pounds of functional “show” muscle – I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of protocols I can use to help him reach that goal.

But if I’m also given the added challenge of a quick deadline – where I have a limited amount of time to give him that amazing look of power – there’s only one type of training to use: star complexes.

No. Not those complexes. Not the ones you’ve read about so many times. I’m talking about real complexes. Not only that, I’ve taken the idea of complexes to a whole new level.

Soviet-Style Complexes for Bodybuilding

If you’re familiar with complexes, you’ve been mislead. Rather, you haven’t been told the whole story.

First, wipe your memory of what you think a complex is. You know, standing in one place with the same bar, going through a series of exercises without stopping, usually with a light weight. We used that type of method when I was an Olympic weightlifter. We called it a warm-up.

Real complexes originated in the Soviet Union. Later, Dr. Donald Chu wrote about this “secret” training method and used it to prepare athletes for three different Olympics.

Complexes are simply blocks of exercises. The Soviets used only two exercises in their complexes – one strength-movement and one power/explosive movement. The idea was to work both extremes of the strength curve.

My former football coach who later became my mentor introduced me to the idea. He’d have us do back squats and then, immediately after, perform jump squats. It’s the same movement pattern, just working different capacities.

It was an incredibly effective training method and I’ve been experimenting with it for years. Today I use complexes with every athlete I train at one point or another. Complexes allow you to work on power, strength, and speed, while building some appreciable mass in the process.

I’ve now perfected the method, and the results my clients are getting are nothing short of shocking. My version of complexes is simply this: a shortcut to the coveted power look.

Thibaudeau Star Complexes

I’ve taken the concept of complexes and ramped it up. Instead of training only two points on the force-velocity curve, I train around five points, which is why I call them star complexes.

Each complex will use five exercises of the same movement pattern. The five exercises will be performed back to back, starting with a heavy/slow movement as the first exercise. Each subsequent exercise will be lighter in resistance than the previous exercise, allowing for progressively faster rep speeds.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to “get it” now. I’ll provide easy-to-understand examples a little later on.

Explosive Fat Loss!

This progressive method creates a powerful metabolic effect that’s incredible for fat loss, especially when combined with short rest periods. Although short enough to keep an elevated heart rate, these rest periods shouldn’t be so short that they decrease performance. Fat loss is further increased with the addition of a strength-endurance movement at the end of the complex.

Most of my fat-loss complexes consist of two heavy movements and three explosive movements. The reason? Explosive movements have a more profound effect on fat loss than slow movements. A complex that has three explosive movements by itself is going to be efficient for fat loss. Add a strength-endurance movement at the end and it’s even more effective.

And remember, the faster you can train without having a decrease in performance, the better it is. Explosive work increases insulin sensitivity in the muscle tissue more than any other type of training. If you overemphasize the eccentric action, you decrease insulin sensitivity. In fact, intense eccentric work can decrease glycogen re-synthesis for up to 36 hours and that’s a killer!

So, by having mostly explosive movements, you sensitize the muscle cells to insulin, which leads to less storage of fat. This is followed by a powerful increase in catecholamines that results in further energy expenditure and keeps the metabolic rate elevated for a few hours after the workout.

Finally, there’s the sheer calorie burn from performing big movements. Your muscle is like an engine; the bigger it is the more gas you burn. Big movements mean big calorie burn.

Four Types of Movement Patterns

I carve up the body’s actions into four basic movement patterns:

  1. Deadlift
  2. Squat
  3. Overhead press
  4. Bench press

Each complex targets one of these movement patterns, and you’ll be performing two complexes per day, paired like this:

Day Complex A Complex B
Monday Overhead Press Squat
Tuesday Deadlift Bench Press
Thursday Squat Overhead Press
Friday Bench Press Deadlift
  1. Perform the 5 exercises in Star Complex A as a circuit, resting 30 to 90 seconds between each exercise
  2. Complete 4 to 6 rounds of the complex, depending on your goals and capabilities.
  3. Rest for as long as it takes you to set up Star Complex B.
  4. Perform the 5 exercises in Star Complex B as a circuit, resting 30 to 90 seconds between each exercise.
  5. Complete 4 to 6 rounds of the complex, depending on your goals and capabilities.

Maximizing Results with Peri-Workout Supplements

Complexes can be used for several goals: fat loss, strength and power gains, and building high-performance mass. You name it, complexes can do it! However, I’ve designed this specific program for maximum fat loss while gaining as much muscle as possible, so my workout supplement protocol will reflect those goals.

You need to understand, just because you’re in a fat-loss phase doesn’t mean that you can’t grow stronger and pack on muscle as well. I’ve trained several bodybuilders who broke personal records a week prior to a contest. And this is after weeks of hardcore dieting. To maximize results, especially when training at this level, you simply have to load up on these high-tech nutrients during the peri-workout period.

Here’s my recommendation for maximum results:

Supplement Amount
Plazma 3 servings
Mag-10 2 servings
  • Drink half of the Plazma 15-20 minutes pre-workout, and the remaining half at the mid-point onward.
  • Thirty minutes after your workout drink Mag-10.
  • Eat your regular meal 60 to 90 minutes after the workout.

What Kind of Results Can You Expect?

I’ve seen dramatic results time and time again.

I’ve seen hockey players dropping 5% body fat in five weeks without changing their diets. I’ve seen fitness girls losing 20 pounds of fat in six weeks while getting stronger. And I’ve seen football players completely revamp their body composition in six weeks while adding 20% to some of their lifts!

Complexes, performed in this fashion, work. For any body type. For any goal. They’re that powerful. They’re one of my best “secrets.” And now, the secret is all yours. Get to work.

6 Weeks to Superhero Program

Deadlift Star Complex

Exercise Load Types Reps
1 Top-Half Deadlift Overload 3 - 5
This first exercise is your heaviest, and the top-half movement will allow you to use more than your limit strength in the standard deadlift. Start with the bar just above the knees. Good for activation and building your traps and upper back.
2 Deadlift from Floor Strength 3 - 5
Moving up a notch in the force-velocity curve, this is a heavy deadlift, but not super maximal. The speed of movement should be faster than the previous exercise.
3 Power Clean from Hang or Blocks Strength-Speed 2 - 3
Moving into the strength-speed portion of the curve. Focus on explosion, not on the load used. If you start from blocks it’s better for starting explosive strength (e.g. sprint start) and if you start from the hang it’s better for movements where you have to quickly switch from eccentric to concentric (e.g. running and jumping)
4 Jump Good Morning Speed-Strength 8 - 10
This exercise is a speed-strength movement, so it should be loaded but light enough so that you can accelerate. A load of 20% of your max good morning is adequate.
5 Broad Jump Series Explosive 8 - 10
This is a reactive or plyometric movement. Each rep should be a high quality jump and very explosive. Start off by doing each rep individually, and as you become better at it you can do them as a series with minimal transition between the jumps.

Squat Star Complex

Exercise Load Types Reps
1 Top-Half Squat Overload 2 - 5
This movement is both a great neural activator and a very effective quadriceps movement. The top-half of the squat is done mostly by the quads.
2 Front Squat Strength 3 - 5
For this complex I prefer the front squat over the back variation because the posterior chain and lower back were already heavily hit by the deadlift complex.
3 Power Snatch from Hang or Blocks Strength-Speed 2 - 3
Doing this powerful movement from blocks focuses on explosive starting strength, like that needed for a sprint start. In contrast, the hang variation is more transferable to movements where you have to rapidly switch from eccentric to concentric, like in running.
4 Jump Squat with Bar Speed-Strength 8 - 10
Do this one with a minimal dip down, a quarter squat, no more. Keep the torso as upright as possible to focus on quad explosiveness. A load of 20% of your max squat is adequate.
5 Vertical Jump Series Explosive 8 - 10
Do a short and quick dip then reverse the motion as fast as you can. The transition from dip to jump should be lightning fast
6 Backward Sprint with Sled or Prowler Work Capacity 1
Keep a crouched position (knees bent at 90 degrees), and sprint backward for 30 meters. This will be hell on the quads, especially the vastus medialis.

Overhead Press Star Complex

Exercise Load Types Reps
1 Top-Half Seated Overhead Press Overload 2 - 5
Start just above the weak point of the movement so you can use a lot of weight while still having enough of a range of motion to stimulate the pressing muscles.
2 Standing Military Press Strength 3 - 5
I prefer the standing variation over the seated because of its greater postural involvement. Make sure to squeeze the glutes hard during the whole pressing movement.
3 Push Press Strength-Speed 2 - 3
Make an effort to create a “shoulder shelf” to push from by resting the bar on your deltoids at the beginning of the movement. Use a slight leg drive to get the bar past the weak zone while driving hard with your arms.
4 Medicine Ball Push-Press Throw Overhead Speed-Strength 8 - 10
This is a very effective speed-strength exercise for the upper body. Focus on pushing equally with both arms, as most will tend to use only one arm. The motion is similar to a basketball pass, but overhead.
5 Feet Elevated Plyo Push-Up Explosive 8 - 10
No need to drop your chest all the way down. Just as in jumping, we want a short and rapid dip and minimal transition time before the projection upward. Stop when you lose your “pop.”

Bench Press Star Complex

Exercise Load Types Reps
1 Top-Half Bench Press Overload 3 - 5
This is a very effective activation movement for the rest of the complex, but it’s also one of the most effective triceps exercises you can do!
2 Bench Press Strength 3 - 5
Focus on keeping the traps shrugged up when doing this movement (for added safety, stability and raw performance).
3 Speed Bench Press as fast as possible with 60% of max Strength-Speed 5
Focus on two things here: 1. move as fast as possible (accelerating throughout the movement) with 60% 1RM, and 2. perform a quick turnaround between the lowering and lifting phase.
4 Medicine Ball Chest Throw Speed-Strength 8 - 10
You can either perform this one standing and throw it in front of you, or lying on your back and throw it straight up. If you do the latter, make sure to throw it straight up or have a partner catch it for you!
5 Plyo Push-Up Explosive 5 - 10
No need to drop your chest all the way down. Just as in jumping, we want a short and rapid dip and minimal transition time before the projection upward. Stop when you lose your “pop.”

Progression from Week to Week

Week 1

Load Types Loading Instructions
Overload Max weight you can lift without grinding on any rep
Strength Max weight you can accelerate on every rep
Strength-Speed Max weight you can perform explosive reps
Speed-Strength See the individual speed-strength exercise notes
Explosive Bodyweight only
Work Capacity Max weight you can move fast for 30 meters

Weeks 2 - 3

Load Types Loading Instructions
Use the same weight, add 1 rep per week
Work Capacity
Use the weight and reps

Week 4

Load Types Loading Instructions
Drop 2 reps, add 10 - 20 pounds
Work Capacity
Use the weight and reps

Weeks 5 - 6

Load Types Loading Instructions
Use the same weight, add 1 rep per week
Work Capacity
Use the weight and reps

I’ll take the chance to revive this since it popped up on the front page: this was one of my favorite programs of all time and incredibly effective. As someone who errs towards the volume side of things, I was skeptical that this would be “enough” - either in movement variation or total reps. I certainly didn’t lose any muscle while significantly improving conditioning and cutting body fat.

I haven’t run the full 6 weeks since the original came out (like 12 years ago?), but I have revisited some of the sessions here and there. I was actually just thinking about these again recently, as I’m playing more (extremely recreational) basketball and I don’t move that quickly anymore.

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