Guest Post by Wil Flemming
You have likely read about, or performed a complex of some sorts in your training experience.
Yeah, you have most likely performed some gut busting combination of movements that made you want to puke.
Something like, 10 reps of deadlift, 10 cleans, 10 RDL’s, 100 push presses, 33 good mornings, 14 punches in the stomach, until you yakked up what you ate 3 days ago (only a slight exaggeration).
At least that is what I have read about complexes.
“The hardest 10 minutes you can throw down in the gym.”
“Guaranteed to get you ripped, in shape, and conditioned like a Navy SEAL”
Complexes will certainly do that. They can be soul crushing, call your mom and tell her you love her experiences.
Believe me, I have done a lot of complexes in that fashion. I have ended up in a heap on the platform with my hands still curled around the bar. Complexes like this have their place in training, when you want to test your will, or see exactly what your gas tank holds, a complex similar to the one above has its place.
This article is not about those sorts of complexes.
What do you mean?
I train a lot of athletes, from high school, to college, to pro athletes and conditioning is a good thing, but strength is better.
Developing max strength makes everything better.
When you’re stronger you can do more reps at a higher weight, you can get shredded faster by challenging yourself even more. Everything we do is better when you are stronger.
Even your Olympic lifts.
Strength Complexes (or combos)
Don’t get me wrong; strength complexes are not the easy alternative to the ones you are used to. They are tough. They will challenge you, but you can know that you are absolutely stronger when you are done with them.
Strength complexes are low rep, high weight parings of movements without letting the bar leave your hand. To use them with the Olympic lifts you will choose 1 main lift and add other primary movements to the pot.
Typically these will be done with 2-4 movements for 1-3 repetitions per exercise. The goal is to complete less than 10 total repetitions within the complex.
A couple rules…
Complexes mean that you do x reps of a certain movement before moving onto the next exercise, complete the next exercise for the prescribed number of reps and then go on to the next exercise and so on. Something like this: 3 reps of clean, then 3 reps of front squat, and then 3 reps of push press.
Combos on the other hand are 1 rep of an exercise, then 1 rep of the next exercise, and so on until you do all of the exercises, you can then repeat the combination of movements for X total reps. Like this: 1 rep clean, 1 rep front squat, 1 rep push press x3.
When you are doing strength complexes move in an orderly fashion, movements that start at the floor before movements that start at the hip or chest, movements that start at the chest after movements that end at the chest.
The Snatch combo
In this movement we are completing a 1+1 combo of the snatch deadlift and the snatch. These movements can be completed for multiple reps in complex fashion or combo fashion.
In terms of strength the snatch is a great movement to develop popeye forearms and a landing strip for a back. The wide grip position taxes the grip, and the starting position and receiving position, force you to have great activation in your lats and rhomboids.
This complex is named for the Russian weightlifter Dmitry Klokov, and a video in which he performs this combination of movements with a mind blowing 205 kilos (452 lbs).
In combo format perform 1 repetition of the deadlift, full clean, front squat, push press, and split jerk. Going for Klokov doubles is asking for getting pinned below massive amounts of weight.
The Modified Klokov
While the Klokov complex is brutal, the limiting factor is typically the push press. Eliminating this movement makes you able to handle much higher loads.
Perform 1 deadlift, 1 full clean, and 1 front squat at 90% of your current 1RM in the clean and jerk, and tell me how you are feeling tomorrow.
Wrapping it Up
The typical complex can bring you a ton of benefits, greater work capacity, improved conditioning, and some serious fat loss. The complexes in this article can seriously improve your strength and power, to new heights.
Using movements like the Olympic lifts in your complexes will allow you to recruit the high threshold motor units that are required for maximum strength. If you don’t already have a strategy for learning and performing the Olympic lifts, check out COMPLETE OLYMPIC LIFTING.
Coach Wil Fleming is the co-owner of Force Fitness and Performance and Athletic Revolution Bloomington, in Bloomington, IN. Wil was also an Olympic Trials participant, an all-American athlete, and the school record holder at Indiana University as a hammer thrower. There is no better coaching resource to teaching, cueing and progressing the Olympic Lifts for athletes. Learn more about Wil by clicking HERE.