Tip: Bench Press Star Complexes

Do Russian-style star complexes for rapid strength and muscle gains. Here's how.

Real complexes originated in the Soviet Union. Complexes are simply blocks of exercises. The Soviets used only two exercises in their complexes – one strength-movement and one power/explosive movement. The idea was to work both extremes of the strength curve.

I've taken the concept of complexes and ramped it up. Instead of training only two points on the force-velocity curve, I train around five points, which is why I call them star complexes. (This is part of my 6 Weeks to Superhero program.) https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/6-weeks-to-superhero

Each complex will use five exercises of the same movement pattern. The five exercises will be performed back to back, starting with a heavy/slow movement as the first exercise. Each subsequent exercise will be lighter in resistance than the previous exercise, allowing for progressively faster rep speeds. Here's an example using the bench press:

  1. Top-Half Bench Press, Overload, 3-5 Reps This is a very effective activation movement for the rest of the complex, but it's also one of the most effective triceps exercises you can do.
  2. Bench Press, Strength, 3-5 Reps Focus on keeping the traps shrugged up when doing this movement for added safety, stability and raw performance.
  3. Speed Bench Press, Strength-Speed, 5 Reps Focus on two things here: Move as fast as possible (accelerating throughout the movement) with 60% 1RM. Perform a quick turnaround between the lowering and lifting phase.
  4. Medicine Ball Chest Throw, Speed-Strength, 8-10 Reps You can either perform this one standing and throw it in front of you, or lying on your back and throw it straight up. If you do the latter, make sure to throw it straight up or have a partner catch it for you.
  5. Plyo Push-Up, Explosive, 5-10 Reps No need to drop your chest all the way down. We want a short and rapid dip and minimal transition time before the projection upward. Stop when you lose your "pop."
Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.