T Nation

Strength Complexes


#1

Hello all,

was wondering if these strength complexes would be efficient for fat loss. I am currently doing Christian Thib's Athlete lean athlete strong program because it is lined up with my current goals to be as lean, strong and powerful as possible. On saturday he has you do a strength complex: https://www.T-Nation.com/training/athlete-lean-athlete-strong

I like the complex he made but the program wants you to deadlift 3 times a week and I don't want to deadlift that many times a week. The complex is 5 rounds 30 sec between each exercise and 2 min rest between each round. When I did it my heart was pounding and it definitely kicked my ass. Was thinking these would be a good alternatives to his?

A1. Front squat 5x5 (following his same loading scheme for all the big movements)
A2. Dips (weighted) 5x8
A3. Hang Clean and Jerk 5x3-5
A4. Pull-ups 5x8

A1. Back Squat 5x5
A2. incline dbell press 5x8
A3. behind the neck push press 5x3
A4. 1 arm dbell row 5x8

A1. Power Clean 5x3
A2. Close Grip push-ups 5x10-12
A3. Push Press 5x5
A4. Inverted Rows 5xfail

A1. Thrusters 5x5
A2. Push-ups 5x15
A3. 1-arm dbell push press 5x5 (each arm)
A4. 1-arm kettlebell swing 5x8 (each arm)
A5. Ab-rollouts 5x10-15

So whats your guys thoughts on these? Any suggestions, comments or your own complexes are welcome. Thanks.


#2

[quote]jvella wrote:
So whats your guys thoughts on these? Any suggestions, comments or your own complexes are welcome. Thanks. [/quote]

I think you need to be very proficient to deadlift 75% of your 1RM for fives in a circuit session, so while I support his general idea, I’d don’t like the way he set it up.

One thing I can recommend from my own experience is what Dan John did in Mass Made Simple - basically, his version of Javorek’s peripheral heart action complexes. The simplest one goes like this:

load the bar
grab the bar
barbell rows x5
power cleans x5
front squat x5
overhead press x5
back squat x5
good morning x5

set down the bar and puke. Do this for 3-5 rounds with as much rest as you really need. You can vary the rep range - Dan John likes 3s for strength, 5 for something in the middle and 8 for really painful conditioning. Note that you should use a weight that you can overhead press for the required reps - starting with just the bar to get used to the complex would be fine.

This is one of the nastiest forms of conditioning I’ve ever done, right behind twenty-minute bodyweight circuits at a Muay Thai club. It works very well but it sucks.


#3

[quote]nighthawkz wrote:

[quote]jvella wrote:
So whats your guys thoughts on these? Any suggestions, comments or your own complexes are welcome. Thanks. [/quote]

I think you need to be very proficient to deadlift 75% of your 1RM for fives in a circuit session, so while I support his general idea, I’d don’t like the way he set it up.

One thing I can recommend from my own experience is what Dan John did in Mass Made Simple - basically, his version of Javorek’s peripheral heart action complexes. The simplest one goes like this:

load the bar
grab the bar
barbell rows x5
power cleans x5
front squat x5
overhead press x5
back squat x5
good morning x5

set down the bar and puke. Do this for 3-5 rounds with as much rest as you really need. You can vary the rep range - Dan John likes 3s for strength, 5 for something in the middle and 8 for really painful conditioning. Note that you should use a weight that you can overhead press for the required reps - starting with just the bar to get used to the complex would be fine.

This is one of the nastiest forms of conditioning I’ve ever done, right behind twenty-minute bodyweight circuits at a Muay Thai club. It works very well but it sucks.
[/quote]

I have actually tried that complex before and it is downright brutal. 135 lbs has never been so humbling lol. Im definitely going to try this again. Also want something with plyometrics and more athletic movements to make me more explosive. Thank you for your input.


#4

I’ve found that if all you’re looking for is a metabolic hit, the simpler the better. I’ve come up with awesome complexes and circuits that look amazing on paper but I always find the most brutally effective are also the simplest.


#5

[quote]jvella wrote:
On saturday he has you do a strength complex: https://www.T-Nation.com/training/athlete-lean-athlete-strong

I like the complex he made[/quote]
Technically, it’s a strength circuit (which it says in the article), not a complex. A complex would be all exercises using the exact same piece of equipment, like every exercise done with a 95-pound barbell, like the solid examples the guys gave.

Is there a reason other than “I don’t wanna”? And it’s not straight-forward heavy deadlifting three days a week. One day is trap bar deads, another is cluster reps (basically singles), and the third is relatively-lighter in the circuit.

i’ll requote the answer you got straight from Thibaudeau when you asked this same question in his forum:
“if the exercises changes you made work the same structures in a similar pattern and allow you to work hard it will work.”

So, if the article calls for deadlift, dip, power hang clean, and pull-up, ideally you’d want a hip hinge (dl variations), horizontal or vertical press (uh, some kind of press), explosive hip hinge (hang clean, hang snatch, hang high pull, swing), and upper body pull (row/pull-up variations).

[quote]A1. Front squat 5x5 (following his same loading scheme for all the big movements)
A2. Dips (weighted) 5x8
A3. Hang Clean and Jerk 5x3-5
A4. Pull-ups 5x8 [/quote]
The clean and jerk is a monster exercise to have in a circuit. That exercise alone would be a brutal “complex”. I’d clean or jerk, and since you’ve already got dips, well, yeah.

[quote]A1. Back Squat 5x5
A2. incline dbell press 5x8
A3. behind the neck push press 5x3
A4. 1 arm dbell row 5x8[/quote]
Unilateral exercises tend to slow down a circuit too much.

[quote]A1. Power Clean 5x3
A2. Close Grip push-ups 5x10-12
A3. Push Press 5x5
A4. Inverted Rows 5xfail [/quote]
Most bodyweight exercises won’t be appropriate for strength circuits because you either can’t load them enough or you’d need an advanced variation. Also, you’d want to stay away from higher reps and away from hitting failure in any of these circuits.

[quote]A1. Thrusters 5x5
A2. Push-ups 5x15
A3. 1-arm dbell push press 5x5 (each arm)
A4. 1-arm kettlebell swing 5x8 (each arm)
A5. Ab-rollouts 5x10-15 [/quote]
Again, I would say thrusters and push-ups don’t belong in a strength circuit. And again, (lots of) unilateral exercises. Where’d the ab rollout come from?

So, yeah, overall I’d try to stay as close to Thib’s guidelines as possible, which is what he told you when you asked him.


#6

I think the strength circuit in the Athlete Lean program looks awesome just the way CT wrote it.


#7

I thought these olympic complexes looked pretty badass


#8

Brilliant replies as usual.
Can’t wait to try the barbell complex listed above. Great great great info.


#9

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

[quote]jvella wrote:
On saturday he has you do a strength complex: https://www.T-Nation.com/training/athlete-lean-athlete-strong

I like the complex he made[/quote]
Technically, it’s a strength circuit (which it says in the article), not a complex. A complex would be all exercises using the exact same piece of equipment, like every exercise done with a 95-pound barbell, like the solid examples the guys gave.

Is there a reason other than “I don’t wanna”? And it’s not straight-forward heavy deadlifting three days a week. One day is trap bar deads, another is cluster reps (basically singles), and the third is relatively-lighter
in the circuit.

i’ll requote the answer you got straight from Thibaudeau when you asked this same question in his forum:
“if the exercises changes you made work the same structures in a similar pattern and allow you to work hard it will work.”

So, if the article calls for deadlift, dip, power hang clean, and pull-up, ideally you’d want a hip hinge (dl variations), horizontal or vertical press (uh, some kind of press), explosive hip hinge (hang clean, hang snatch, hang high pull, swing), and upper body pull (row/pull-up variations).

[quote]A1. Front squat 5x5 (following his same loading scheme for all the big movements)
A2. Dips (weighted) 5x8
A3. Hang Clean and Jerk 5x3-5
A4. Pull-ups 5x8 [/quote]
The clean and jerk is a monster exercise to have in a circuit. That exercise alone would be a brutal “complex”. I’d clean or jerk, and since you’ve already got dips, well, yeah.

[quote]A1. Back Squat 5x5
A2. incline dbell press 5x8
A3. behind the neck push press 5x3
A4. 1 arm dbell row 5x8[/quote]
Unilateral exercises tend to slow down a circuit too much.

[quote]A1. Power Clean 5x3
A2. Close Grip push-ups 5x10-12
A3. Push Press 5x5
A4. Inverted Rows 5xfail [/quote]
Most bodyweight exercises won’t be appropriate for strength circuits because you either can’t load them enough or you’d need an advanced variation. Also, you’d want to stay away from higher reps and away from hitting failure in any of these circuits.

[quote]A1. Thrusters 5x5
A2. Push-ups 5x15
A3. 1-arm dbell push press 5x5 (each arm)
A4. 1-arm kettlebell swing 5x8 (each arm)
A5. Ab-rollouts 5x10-15 [/quote]
Again, I would say thrusters and push-ups don’t belong in a strength circuit. And again, (lots of) unilateral exercises. Where’d the ab rollout come from?

So, yeah, overall I’d try to stay as close to Thib’s guidelines as possible, which is what he told you when you asked him.[/quote]

Thanks for the response
I don’t have access to dead squat bar at my gym. So I was thinking of substituting it with like a snatch grip dl or Romanian dl on that lower day. But for the complex id like a little variety which I know your not supposed to do, I’m supposed to keep it simple but I like a little variety to keep me from getting bored.

I think I’m going to try the Complex mentioned in the link above. The klokov complex has a lot of explosive big compound strength movements and I’ll see how it goes from there


#10

I’ll never figure out why people insist on being entertained in the gym as opposed to being consistent and getting good results.

People who are “always looking for variety” because they “get bored easily” are usually the same guys who look the exact same from month to month, year to year.

Do you constantly look for a new, exciting way to drive to work? How about the newest trend in taking a shower? Always searching for an exciting variation for shirt folding? Teeth brushing? Shoe-tying?

This is work. It’s not supposed to be entertaining. It’s hard and boring and it sucks sometimes. The excitement is in the results. If you expect every day in the gym to be fun, exciting, and entertaining, you won’t be doing this for very long.

Especially if you keep hopping from one thing to another; because you’ll never see the kind of results that’ll really get you hooked on iron


#11

[quote]JayPierce wrote:
I’ll never figure out why people insist on being entertained in the gym as opposed to being consistent and getting good results.

People who are “always looking for variety” because they “get bored easily” are usually the same guys who look the exact same from month to month, year to year.

Do you constantly look for a new, exciting way to drive to work? How about the newest trend in taking a shower? Always searching for an exciting variation for shirt folding? Teeth brushing? Shoe-tying?

This is work. It’s not supposed to be entertaining. It’s hard and boring and it sucks sometimes. The excitement is in the results. If you expect every day in the gym to be fun, exciting, and entertaining, you won’t be doing this for very long.

Especially if you keep hopping from one thing to another; because you’ll never see the kind of results that’ll really get you hooked on iron[/quote]

I think a lot of people need to reevaluate why they go to the gym. Being entertained is a perfectly valid reason to lift, as long as you’re honest with yourself about your motivation.


#12

[quote]JayPierce wrote:
I’ll never figure out why people insist on being entertained in the gym as opposed to being consistent and getting good results.

People who are “always looking for variety” because they “get bored easily” are usually the same guys who look the exact same from month to month, year to year.

Do you constantly look for a new, exciting way to drive to work? How about the newest trend in taking a shower? Always searching for an exciting variation for shirt folding? Teeth brushing? Shoe-tying?

This is work. It’s not supposed to be entertaining. It’s hard and boring and it sucks sometimes. The excitement is in the results. If you expect every day in the gym to be fun, exciting, and entertaining, you won’t be doing this for very long.

Especially if you keep hopping from one thing to another; because you’ll never see the kind of results that’ll really get you hooked on iron[/quote]

Well I have been working out and lifting since I was 16 years old and have lost over 90 lbs since I was an obese teenager (weighed 297 lbs). I know how much training can “suck” and be “boring”. I embrace the suck of training, and I find it fun. I like getting my ass kicked in the gym by a grueling workout and every now and then look for a new way to kick my own ass. That’s what I meant by “fun”. Also if I don’t try new things in the gym how will I know what works for me and what doesn’t?


#13

I’ve tried a few times the barbell complex mentioned above. It is brutal. It kicked my ass properly.
Solid gold advice on this forum as usual.
Cheers.


#14

General question regarding complexes-

Is there a particular reason why Dan John and others suggest that you do them in straight sets as opposed to one rep at a time?

Like, why do-

barbell rows x5
power cleans x5
front squat x5
overhead press x5
back squat x5
good morning x5

as opposed to-

row to a clean to a squat press to a back squat to a good morning to a BTN press to get the bar back to the original position, and do this however many reps you want?


#15

[quote]magick wrote:
General question regarding complexes-

Is there a particular reason why Dan John and others suggest that you do them in straight sets as opposed to one rep at a time?

Like, why do-

barbell rows x5
power cleans x5
front squat x5
overhead press x5
back squat x5
good morning x5

as opposed to-

row to a clean to a squat press to a back squat to a good morning to a BTN press to get the bar back to the original position, and do this however many reps you want?[/quote]

To be fair, to really know the answer, one would have to ask Dan John himself. Personally, I think the idea is to tire out each individual muscle/movement before moving on. Javorek (the man DJ gives credit to) intended the complexes to be good for strength AND conditioning, depending on the rep scheme. In this sense, your question is like asking why 1x10 with a given weight is better/different than 10x1.*


*I’m not ridiculing you, I think you asked a very valid question. I just used a fairly extreme/ridiculous example to clarify things.


#16

[quote]nighthawkz wrote:

[quote]jvella wrote:
So whats your guys thoughts on these? Any suggestions, comments or your own complexes are welcome. Thanks. [/quote]

I think you need to be very proficient to deadlift 75% of your 1RM for fives in a circuit session, so while I support his general idea, I’d don’t like the way he set it up.

One thing I can recommend from my own experience is what Dan John did in Mass Made Simple - basically, his version of Javorek’s peripheral heart action complexes. The simplest one goes like this:

load the bar
grab the bar
barbell rows x5
power cleans x5
front squat x5
overhead press x5
back squat x5
good morning x5

set down the bar and puke. Do this for 3-5 rounds with as much rest as you really need. You can vary the rep range - Dan John likes 3s for strength, 5 for something in the middle and 8 for really painful conditioning. Note that you should use a weight that you can overhead press for the required reps - starting with just the bar to get used to the complex would be fine.

This is one of the nastiest forms of conditioning I’ve ever done, right behind twenty-minute bodyweight circuits at a Muay Thai club. It works very well but it sucks.
[/quote]

  1. Well 75% for5 on the deadlift should honestly not be a problem. I’ve used that weight in circuit fashion with tons of people with no issue. At 75% most people should be able to do 8 to 10 reps. If you do it as part of a circuit it might drop a bit but 5 reps is very manageable. The problem arises (and it’s true for everything where percents are used to select the weight) is that people quite often use an excessively high max to calculate their training weight. They usually take their once in a lifetime lift that went up excruciatingly slow on one blessed day and have not be able to repeat it since. This is a PR …PERSONAL RECORD and I NEVER use it to plan training weights. I use a PB… PERSONAL BEST… which is the heaviest you can lift with perfect form any week, without peaking or special circumstances. A PB is normally 5-7.5 or even 10% lower than a PR. People also often use a previous max that they can’t do right now.
  1. It’s actually physically easier to do reps with a certain percentage of your max on the deadlift than other big lifts, especially if tyou use a touch and go style. The first rep is often the hardest on the deadlift. I’ve seen plenty of guys struggle with their first rep, get 3-4 more. Even if you start each rep from a deadstart reps 2 and 3 are normally easier than the first one. If 5 reps give you trouble on the deadlift with 75% it is mostly a strength-endurance or midsection issue.

  2. Time changes… I like the Javorek complex. I talked about it in my first book (The Black Book of Training Secrets which was published about 15 years ago)… but the Javorek complex was actually our warm-up when I was training in Olympic lifting. If it leaves your gassed, it indicated a lack of conditioning. Just like Louie Simmons I believe that today’s lifters are so afraid of overtraining that they are actually deconditioned and for that reason people recommending very low volume of work find an interested ear. It has been my experience that those who can handle to largest workload without exceeding their capacity to recover, improve the most.

The issue is that people are not used to doing a large workload, feel like death for 2-3 days and immediately assume that they are overtraining whereas they are just deconditioned. Heck when I went to train at Dave Tate’s place the sessions lasted about 4 hours! My 2 Crossfit athletes who went to the Games this year do about 20-25 hours of training a week, they are natural and recover fine (Alex for example cleans 375lbs, snatch 285lbs, deadlift close to 600lbs, push press 300lbs, jerks 355lbs… he can go on a 4 miles run and snatch 265 without minutes of coming back for example).

Overtraining takes A LOOOOOOOONG time to develop. You must go through stages of acute fatigue, accumulated fatigue, chronic fatigue, overreaching (all of which can be reversed with a short deload) then if you continue you might enter an overtraining state. I’ve trained athletes from 28 different sports… pros, Olympic athletes, national champions and in all my life I’ve seen 2 real cases of overtraining. And both times it was right after the Olympics.

It pisses me off sometimes how people are afraid of work (I’m not saying it’s your case) yeah sometimes some plans might seem to much and the first time you do them they are… but instead of seeing them as “oh he programmed that wrong, that’s too much work” see it as a challenge, something to work up to… scale down as need with the goal of getting up to the standards.

People should stop putting limitations on themselves.

The complexes in the “Athletes Strong…” article is something that I used with many people. And it is actually a toned down version of some of the work I do with my Crossfit competitors, who are human beings like you and me.


#17

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
People should stop putting limitations on themselves.
[/quote]

This reminds me of a quote on the 5/3/1 boards:

“good things rarely happen when you expect less of yourself”

Anyway, genuinely excited CT is on the BSL section.