I tend to get the same questions over and over again, and lucky for me, I can usually give the same answer. What is the best way to lose weight? Try complexes. How can I tone my arms and legs? Try complexes. I don’t have time to work out. Try complexes.
So what are complexes? Complexes use one piece of equipment and require several different exercises back to back to back, all without rest. Or as the author of numerous fitness books and owner of Results Fitness, Alwyn Cosgrove put it, “A complex is a circuit using one piece of equipment, one load, and one space.” The metabolic effort of this type of work is intense. You increase work demand, use more muscle groups, increase work density and get a massive boost in caloric expenditure both during and after the workout.
Also, because you spend less time resting and more time working, you can get in and out of the gym faster. And finally, you don’t have to worry about the gym being busy because all you need is once piece of equipment that requires standing room only.
Common equipment choices are kettlebells, sandbags, dumbbells and the most popular choice being the barbell. An example of a barbell complex set would start with 10 barbell deadlifts, then without letting the bar go, perform 10 front squats, then 10 overhead press, 10 back squats and finally 10 barbell back rows. This can be done after a traditional workout, in place of cardio work or if repeated multiple times an entire workout.
Because the goal is fat lose, pick a weight that is relatively light but still a challenge. The basic rule is to use the heaviest weight you can on the weakest movement in the complex. For example the above complex contains an overhead. Most people will be able to squat more than then can overhead press, so; use the weight you can handle on the overhead press, not the back squat. This can be done with a loaded barbell or a broom stick depending on your condition.
Another option is to use a dumbbell. A sample advanced dumbbell complex: 10 single arm dumbbell snatches each arm, then 10 squats holding the dumbbell with both hands, then 10 reverse lunges each leg holding the dumbbell and finally 10 side lunges each leg.
Complexes are typically for more advanced lifters because they require you to preform movements under extreme fatigue. However, beginners and people not accustom to using free weights can still get a great workout using less intimidating equipment with the same idea.
A recent study using 21 female administrative staff workers that were currently not exercising saw strength improvements in their lower body muscles and core using only a Swiss ball. The women trained three days a week for 45 minutes. The participants preformed two to three sets of seven different Swiss ball exercises. The women also trained at a traditional slow-paced lifting resting in between sets.
It is my guess that if the women, once comfortable with the execution of the exercises, could have saved time and saw better results by simply performing all the exercises back to back without rest, or in other words complex fashion. (Visit www.KCstrength.com for the Swiss ball workout).
So, even if all the treadmills are taken, the gym is packed and you can’t find a place to train, or if you simply want to mix things up, try complexes. Between the barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells and even the Swiss ball the possibilities are nearly endless. As always, consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program and if you are unsure how to perform any exercise, seek the advice of a trained fitness professional.
Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach who trains at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. Crouse specializes in performance enhancement and injury prevention. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information.