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4 Barbell Complex Workouts for Killer Conditioning

Bro, it’s time to trash those treadmill workouts for a totally different animal. Barbell complexes are the beast you need to beat the sh*t out of your lungs, scorch stubborn fat to shredded cinders, and give you a muscle pump from high heaven (read hell). Let’s do it!

Article Brodown:

  • What is a barbell complex?
  • Barbell complex benefits
  • 4 barbell complex workouts for killer conditioning
  • The final rep


What is a barbell complex?

It’s simple. You’re gonna pick up the bar, hit a number of movements for a set amount of reps, then put it back down. At no point are you going to stop for a rest bro, and you better not drop that sucker. Nobody cares if your upper body feels like it’s been dragged through the fiery pits of hell.

See, not so complex is it? In fact, they’re only named complexes because you’re using one weight, a single piece of equipment, and you’re not moving from station to station.

Originally created by coach Istvan Javorek, barbell complexes were first developed for Romanian Athletes. Javorek’s quest was to “find an efficient and aggressive method of performance enhancement that saves time and makes the program more enjoyable.”

Today they’re a favorite of iconic trainer Dan John, who credits complexes as being one of the keys to building muscle mass.

Because of the minimal rest, barbell complexes are so god damn effective for improving cardio, boosting conditioning, and burning fat. Running on a rotating rubber band and bashing your knees to dust for hours is old new, bro. Why not just hit a 15-minute barbell blast instead?

All you need is a bar, plates, and a bit of old-fashioned grit. Plus, because you’re putting in move after move without putting the bar down, time won’t be an issue either. Most complexes comprise of four to six movements that flow easily from start to finish.

athlete using barbell complex workouts for conditioning

Barbell complex benefits

There’s more complexity than simply smashing your way to a serious lactic acid burn. Benefits of barbell complexing include:

  • Cardio improvements without negatively impacting muscle
  • Better lactic acid thresholds
  • Increased vo2 max
  • Perceived tolerance to hard exercise (resilience, mental toughness)
  • Triggering EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption)
  • Strength gains
  • Scorch body fat through increased energy expenditure
  • Forge a vice like grip
  • They’re fun


A quick note on EPOC

When you decide to ditch the smart stuff and head out for some slow steady-state pavement-pounding you’re sabotaging your gains. Not only are you advocating muscle wastage, but you’re also making a conscious choice to stop crushing calories the minute your workout is over.

However, workouts like barbell complexes ignite the EPOC effect. Studies have shown Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption keeps the body burning calories even after the workout is over.

In some cases, this effect can even last for hours at a time. If you’re looking for a method to torch body fat without losing lean mass, barbell complexes are your new best friend. You’ll be able to build total body muscle and get shredded all in the same session.

How to use them

As with any kind of workout program, consistency is key. Barbell complexes aren’t a one-and-done quick fix, but if you keep at them and add weight to progress, they’ll transform your body for good.

The beauty is you don’t have to hammer these bad boys every day. Simply supplement a complex workout into your existing program as you feel fit. For example, you could throw in a complex on an off day when you’re feeling good, or as a finisher at the end of a workout.

Alternatively, if you’re having a day where you feel ropey, hit a complex in place of your usual routine. A short barbell blast will still bag you the volume you crave, without having to spend excess time in a training environment. Just hit your weakest lift first to maximize development potential.

Plus, because they’re fun, complexes can help reignite the excitement in those sessions where you’re just not feeling it. Sometimes it’s a good idea to change up the routine to stop your training becoming stagnant and to keep you inspired.


4 Barbell Complex Workouts for Killer Conditioning

Remember bro, it’s all about upping the intensity with these badass workouts. Once you pick up the barbell do not put it down until the very last rep.

Choose a weight that you know you can handle without losing form. Even professional athletes stick with lighter loads for complexes, so don’t let your devil-ego take over. Aim for around 45-65 lbs if you’re a well-conditioned champ or complete a whole workout with an empty bar if not.

To reap the rewards promised, you gotta up the intensity. The trick is to override your inner bitch and go in hard with no mercy. Remember bro, you get in what you get out, no exceptions.

As these workouts are only short, attack them all-out and make sure to track your time. Not only are time scores useful to claim who’s really king of the complexes, they’re also awesome for reflection. Firstly, over time you’ll see just how far your fitness has progressed and where it could improve. Secondly, you can monitor your levels of output to spot signs of overtraining before it happens.

Get ready to put up or shut up, bro. It’s time to hit the bar…


Workout 1

Reps 8 – Rest 60 seconds – Sets 5

  1. Romanian deadlift
  2. Bent over rows
  3. Hang clean
  4. Front squat
  5. Overhead press
  6. Back squat


Workout 2

Reps 10 – Rest 90 seconds – Sets 4

  1. Deadlift
  2. High pull
  3. Push press
  4. Good morning
  5. Reverse lunges


Workout 3

Reps 8 – Rest 60 seconds – Sets 5

  1. Hang power snatch
  2. Overhead squat
  3. Lunges
  4. Good morning
  5. Romanian deadlift
  6. Push-ups on bar


Workout 4

Reps 10 – Rest 60 seconds – Sets 4

  1. Hang clean
  2. Front squat
  3. Barbell thrusters
  4. Bent over rows
  5. Barbell rollout
  6. Deadlift


Key point: Do not drop the bar until you’ve smashed the very final rep.


bodybuilder barbell complex training

Final rep

Barbell complexes were first developed by strength coach Istvan Javorek for Romanian athletes. His goal was to create a fun and aggressive method of attack for improving performance, whilst simultaneously saving time.

His answer was to construct workouts using sets of barbell exercises chained together with no rest. By restricting recovery, athletes hit a single high-volume set in one go, saving time and maximizing intensity.

Today barbell complexes are used by elite level athletes across the entire planet. All they take is a bar, a little bit of imagination, and the determination to push yourself balls to the wall until the final rep.

There are no hard or fast rules for exercise order. Be creative when constructing your signature routines and aim for movements that flow into one another. You need to be able to get from one exercise to the other without wasting time and keeping your heart rate elevated.

Finally, as the legendary coach Vince Lombardi once said, ‘fatigue makes cowards of us all.’ So, go crush these 4 killer conditioning complexes and blow your competition out of the arena.


Ready to take your gains game to the next level? Smash out a set of these, bro:

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