Tip: Overhead Press Star Complexes

Train five different portions of the force-velocity curve in a series of exercises and you'll build muscle and get strong rapidly. Details here.

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

With star complexes, instead of training only two points on the force-velocity curve, we train five points. (Note: This is part of my 6 Weeks to Superhero program.) Each complex uses five exercises of the same movement pattern. The exercises are performed one after the other, starting with a heavy/slow movement first. Each subsequent exercise will be lighter in resistance than the previous one, but the rep speed will be faster.

Here's an example using the overhead press movement pattern:

  1. Top-Half Seated Overhead Press, Overload, 2-5 Reps: Start just above the weak point of the movement so you can use a lot of weight while still having enough of a range of motion to stimulate the pressing muscles.
  2. Standing Military Press, Strength, 3-5 Reps: I prefer the standing variation over the seated because of its greater postural involvement. Make sure to squeeze the glutes hard during the whole pressing movement.
  3. Push Press, Strength-Speed, 2-3 Reps: Make an effort to create a "shoulder shelf" to push from by resting the bar on your delts at the beginning of the movement. Use a slight leg drive to get the bar past the weak zone while driving hard with your arms.
  4. Medicine Ball Push-Press Throw Overhead, Speed-Strength, 8-10 Reps: This is a very effective speed-strength exercise for the upper body. Focus on pushing equally with both arms, as most will tend to use only one arm. The motion is similar to a basketball pass, but overhead.
  5. Feet Elevated Plyo Push-Up, Explosive, 8-10 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.