Tip: Deadlift Star Complexes

Star complexes build strength and muscle like nothing else. Here's how to do them.

Complexes are blocks of exercises. The Soviets used only two exercises in their complexes – one strength-exercise and one power/explosive exercise to work both extremes of the strength curve.

With my version of complexes, instead of training only two points on the force-velocity curve, I train five points, hence the name: star complexes. (This is part of my 6 Weeks to Superhero program.)

Each complex uses five exercises of the same movement pattern. The exercises are 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 deadlift:

  1. Top-Half Deadlift, Overload, 3-5 Reps: This first exercise is your heaviest. The top-half movement will allow you to use more than your limit strength in the standard deadlift. Start with the bar just above the knees. Good for activation and building your traps and upper back.
  2. Deadlift From Floor, Strength, 3-5 Reps: Moving up a notch in the force-velocity curve, this is a heavy deadlift, but not super maximal. The speed of movement should be faster than the previous exercise.
  3. Power Clean From Hang or Blocks, Strength-Speed, 2-3 Reps: Now we're moving into the strength-speed portion of the curve. Focus on explosion, not on the load used. If you start from blocks it's better for starting explosive strength (e.g. sprint start) and if you start from the hang it's better for movements where you have to quickly switch from eccentric to concentric (e.g. running and jumping)
  4. Jump Good Morning, Speed-Strength, 8-10 Reps: This exercise is a speed-strength movement, so it should be loaded but light enough so that you can accelerate. A load of 20% of your max good morning is adequate.
  5. Broad Jump Series, Explosive, 8-10 Reps: This is a reactive or plyometric movement. Each rep should be a high quality jump and very explosive. Start off by doing each rep individually. As you become better at it you can do them as a series with minimal transition between the jumps.
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.