Complexes are simply a series of movements performed with a barbell, dumbbell(s), or kettlebell(s) where you finish each rep of one movement before quickly moving onto the next movement. Typically, you don’t take your hands off the weight until the complex is finished. They can be done after your regular workout as a fat-burning, muscle-shaping finisher. Here’s an example.
The Modified Cosgrove Complex
- Straight-Leg Deadlift
- Romanian Deadlift
- Bent-Over Row
- Front Squat
- Push Press
- Back Squat
- Good Morning
- Do 6 reps of each movement in sequence (e.g., 6 deadlifts, 6 straight-leg deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, 6 bent-over rows, etc.). After completing 6 reps of each movement, rest 45 seconds.
- Do 5 reps of each movement in sequence. Rest 45 seconds.
- Do 4 reps of each movement in sequence. Rest 45 seconds.
- Continue in this fashion until the last circuit where you finish with 1 rep of each of the movements in sequence.
Do at least 3 sets. Rest 90 seconds in-between sets. If you can complete the 3 sets, as described, add 5 pounds to the bar the next time.
While Cosgrove’s original complex included power cleans, I replaced them with another movement. However, the complex needs to have some way for you to transition between the lower body movements to upper body movements.
Most people who do complexes simply clean the bar up to shoulder level while including the movement itself in the complex, but if you don’t have any experience with power cleans or hang cleans and don’t feel ready to learn them just yet, we can easily work around them.
The trick is to simply break one of the rules of the complex and take the hands off the bar before finishing. When setting up to do the complex, set the pins or supports of the squat rack or power cage a bit lower than waist level before placing the bar on them.
When you begin the complex, un-rack the bar and do your lower body movements (e.g., deadlifts, straight-leg deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, bent-over rows). When you’re ready to transition to upper body movements, re-rack the bar in the pins or supports.
Then quickly reposition yourself so that you can front-squat the bar up, thereby taking a detour around the power clean. Proceed with the front squats, push presses, back squats, and good mornings. When you finish the complex, squat the bar back down into the supports or pins so it’ll be ready for the next circuit. Easy.