Barbell overhead press

I have a love/hate relationship with barbell complexes. I love them because they make cardio workouts less boring and more effective by boosting the burn and intensity without stressing the joints. I kinda hate them because, done right, they can be a bear to get through due to their intensity.

What’s a barbell complex? Basically, it’s a nonstop series of exercises done while holding a barbell, using the same weight throughout. Athletes have done them for years to improve conditioning and boost fat loss. They’ve been increasing in popularity with fitness fanatics because, frankly, they kick butt.

We had a big snow day yesterday which left me with a gap in my personal training schedule so I decided to video a basic (but potentially tough!) complex for you. The video is located just below this post.

Important to note: the first few times you do a complex it can be tricky to figure out which weight barbell to use. That’s normal. Remember, it’s important to keep excellent form throughout the exercises to avoid injury and to train your muscles effectively. (Also important to note, I’m wearing my snow-day clothes AND my dog is a loudmouth, which you will see and hear in the video.)

As always, check with a doc before you start a new workout program or if you have any concerns about working out, and if something hurts, don’t do it.

How to do this workout:

First, warm up with 5 to 10 minutes cardio — elliptical/bike/treadmill/stairs. Then, do some dynamic exercises like bodyweight squats, lunges, pushups, light overhead presses, etc., to let the muscles know they are in for some work.

Then, grab a barbell and do:

  • 8 Romanian deadlifts
  • 8 bentover barbell rows
  • 8 hang cleans
  • 8 overhead presses
  • 8 reverse lunges each side
  • 8 squats

Rest for 1 minute, and repeat, for a total of 4-6 times through the complex.  Then cool down on an elliptical/treadmill/bike for 5 minutes so that your heart rate gradually returns to normal. (Alternatively, you can perform recovery cardio for 3-5 minutes on a low-impact cardio machine between the complex exercises.) Try it and let me know what you think!