So the other day I was talking to a friend about how I use a barbell complex and as a way to build lean muscle and lose fat without running.
By the way… If the title of this blog, the URL and my nick name (Grant ‘Cardio Hater’ Lofthouse) doesn’t give it away.
I hate traditional cardio. A lot.
… So she asked me… “But surely you have to do cardio to burn fat?”
I said to her… It’s not so much that cardio burns fat, your fat loss will come from a solid fat loss diet. Cardio is a great form of exercise to burn calories and to keep the heart healthy. And yes I do think it is important and should be done. However, cardio is anything that elevates the heart rate…
Walking, if fast enough, is cardio.
Skipping is cardio.
Swimming is cardio.
Even, my personal favourite, sex is cardio. Oh by the way, this chick is cool and doesn’t get all freaked out by sexual terms so I’m allowed to say sex in front of her. However if I was having this conversation with my grandma I probably would leave that example out.
Anyways back to the barbell complex. Once she got her head around that she doesn’t need to run to lose fat. I told her about a neat little circuit that I do at the end of my strength training program that improves my fitness and helps me lose fat without running.
And that is the barbell complex, which is the secret behind my success to losing fat without cardio.
What is a Barbell Complex?
A barbell complex is when you will do all the reps of one exercise before moving onto the next exercise and you don’t put the bar down until all the reps are complete. That counts as one set. You’ll take a brief rest and repeat for the recommended number of sets.
You will also complete the entire barbell complex with the one weight and won’t change during the set because this will slow you down and result in an ineffective barbell complex.
Barbell Complex Benefits
Barbell complexes are one of the hardest and enjoyable forms of cardio you will ever do. And the best thing is that you will be done, toasted and finished in only a matter of 10 minutes, not 30+ minutes like traditional cardio.
And if those benefits aren’t enough, here are some other pretty cool side effects…
1. Blow torch body fat: not only will you burn a ton of calories during the barbell complex but your metabolism will stay jacked far longer than if you jumped on any cardio machine.
2. Maintain muscle mass: The problem with most traditional cardio methods is that they increase your Cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone which is responsible for body fat storage, especially around the abdomen, and muscle loss. Unlike traditional cardio, these barbell complexes release anabolic hormones which outweigh the negative effects of Cortisol.
3. Improved fitness and work capacity: after a few weeks of barbell complexes you’ll notice you will recover faster between your main training sets and you will be able to handle more volume.
4. They’re bad ass: Let’s face it. Barbell work is badass. So complexes + barbells = double badass!
Top 3 Barbell Complex Mistakes
1. Too complicated
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with their barbell complex is that they are too complicated. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the middle of a barbell complex I’m in a bit of a brain fog and not thinking too clearly. So that last thing I want is an overcomplicated barbell complex.
A perfect example of a bad barbell complex would be something like this…
5 deadlifts, 9 presses, 3 barbell rows, 30 seconds of romanian deadlifts, 11 front squats, 22 reverse lunges.
Yes I’m serious. I’ve seen these kinds of barbell complexes before.
On paper they look great. But in reality that are just too confusing and therefore ineffective.
The only way they can work is if you have a training partner telling you what to do after each exercise.
Since you may not always have a training partner with you every session it’s safe to keep the barbell finishers a little more simple.
2. Doesn’t flow
This rule kind of ties in with the previous one. The barbell complex must flow from one exercise to the next.
A bad barbell complex example would be…
The ‘victim’ would start off with the deadlift and then have to get the bar on their back to squat and then bring the bar back to the front to row and finish off with the bar on the back again for reverse lunges. It doesn’t really flow if you ask me.
So let’s add a little flow to the above barbell complex…
As you can see the bar will start on the back and then make its way to the front of the body by the end of the barbell complex.
Not only does this flow, it will far more simple and effective.
3. Too many hard barbell complexes a week
Barbell complexes are hard and tough. And if you’re not careful they can beat you up and burn you out pretty quickly. Believe me, I have done this before.
So to avoid injury and getting burnt out I recommend you only doing one hard barbell complex a week. That will be plenty. As for the rest of the week keep your barbell complex at a much lower intensity and volume.
How Many Sets, Reps & Rest Per Barbell Complex?
I’ve found keeping the reps on the low end to be more effective because it allows you to use more weight.
Lifting 50 kilos is going to burn more calories than lifting a 30 kilo barbell.
So for that reason I would limit barbell complexes to no higher than 6 reps. I’ve personally found 5 to be the perfect number because it easy to remember.
The biggest problem with doing higher rep barbell complexes is that your form starts to disintegrate quite quickly therefore you’re exposed to a greater risk of injuring yourself.
Aiming for a total 75-100 reps per barbell complex is a good start. For example if you do 4 exercises for 5 reps per exercise you would need to do 5 sets to get 100 total reps.
If you do 5 exercises for 3 reps per exercise you would need to do 7 sets to get to 100 total reps.
Somewhere between 60-120 seconds rest between sets of your barbell complex. The harder the barbell complex the longer you rest. If you need to rest longer than 2 minutes to rest the barbell complex is too hard.
Putting Your Barbell Complex Together
With keeping everything in mind here is how you would put your barbell complex together…
- Pick 3-6 big compound exercises.
- Keep all the reps the same per exercise. 1-6 reps per exercise works the best.
- Aim for 75-100 total reps per barbell complex.
- Rest 60-120 seconds in between sets.
- Make sure your barbell complex is not too complicated and make it flow from one exercise to the other.
- Only perform one hard bar bell complex a week (harder ones will be closer to 100 total reps). And if you’re going to do more on other days keep them a little less in volume (around 75 total reps).
Barbell Complex Example
You will be tested! You will have to work hard! But, the results will be worth the extra effort! Get ready to get jacked, strong, fit and lean.
Now go to the gym and crank one out already.
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