Make Training Less Complex with More Complexes

December 4, 2023

Life is demanding and fast. If you are like me, with a busy, on-the-go lifestyle, you might not have more than an hour to get inside the gym and train. The purpose of this blog is to show an alternative to your current fitness regime to make your time more efficient!


If you can guess from the title, I want to introduce the concept of complexes to you. Complexes, also known as combination lifts, consist of two or more exercises performed with the same free weight in a non-stop, continuous fashion


By training with a full-body routine utilizing complexes, you can spend less time in the gym and still see the results. Common ways to accomplish this is through a barbell or kettlebell complex.


What Is a Complex?


A complex is a series of movements that are performed back to back in which the set number of reps is done for one movement before moving to the next. A complex can be performed with a barbell or one or two kettlebells/dumbbells. Each movement within the complex should flow into the next one. A good way to achieve this is to start from the ground and work your way up.


How to Build a Complex


Any number of reps can be done for each movement. The more movements within the complex, the fewer reps you will want to complete for each one. A complex consisting of four to six movements should be kept at one to five reps per movement. If your complex is only two to three movements, you can use higher reps. Some examples of complexes include the following:


Barbell 1


Row x 1–5 reps
Deadlift x 1–5 reps
Hang Power Clean x 1–5 reps
Front Squat x 1–5 reps
Push Press 1–5 reps


Barbell 2


Deadlift x 3–6 reps
Clean x 3–6 reps
Press x 3–6 reps


Kettlebell or Dumbbell 1



Pushup x 1–5 reps
Row x 1–5 reps
DL x 1–5 reps
Clean or Snatch x 1–5 reps
Squat x 1–5 reps
Press x 1–5 reps


Kettlebell or Dumbbell 2



Pushup x 3–10 reps
Row x 3–10 reps
Swing x 3–10 reps
Squat x 3–10 reps



I recommend completing two to three rounds, but you can also work up to as many rounds as possible with good technique. Within each complex there will be a movement that limits the weight for the entire complex, and it is better to start the first round with a weight you think will be too light.



For example, the movement that will decide your weight in Barbell 1 above is the push press. The deadlift might feel easy, but that is okay. By the end of the complex you will be happy you did not go as heavy as possible. Try to do the entire complex without setting down the weight to rest, and remember to complete all of the reps for one movement before moving on to the next movement. It is better to start light and gradually increasing weight if you want. Sometimes, it is okay to not increase the weight!


Why Should I Implement Complexes?


These complexes are an amazing full-body tool that you can use if you are running low on time for your session, or if you have limited days per week you can come in and train. They are also a great way to add additional volume to your workouts, or can even be used as a finisher at the end to build resilience and touch up your conditioning.


If your goal is to be better conditioned, adding a sprint or jog component at the end using pieces such as the echo bike, rower, ski-erg, or treadmill can provide a nice cardiac boost on top of an already total-body workout.


On the flip side, complexes can actually be complicated to a beginner exerciser, or even a beginner in weight training. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t deter you from giving them a try! Working with a fitness professional will allow you to safely incorporate new techniques. Remember, there is no gold standard to fitness, and working with your body’s capabilities is always the safest route. 


If you’re looking for advice on how to be more active safely, please reach out to KB Fitness Solutions. Our team of certified fitness professionals will be glad to help you achieve what you are meant to achieve!

The Author

Carlo Varquez, M.S.

I believe in the practice of preventative health. The only way to combat chronic diseases is through preventative action such as exercise and diet. My health and wellness career started within myself. After being an active person in high school through sports, my fitness dropped entering college. I gained unhealthy habits that lead to weight gain. To prevent any complications, I made some time to be active again by picking up weight lifting. Through that, I found myself wanting to help others before it was too late for them. As I gained my masters degree, I interned at the Cardiac Rehabilitation department at Advocate Lutheran General. I saw firsthand what cardiovascular disease can do, and what the action plan is to help those people return back to their daily routine. The time to make change is now, but it doesn’t need to be done alone. The science behind exercise is a powerful tool that is often overlooked. I want to motivate and increase self-efficacy to help others achieve their goals.

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