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How to Use Complexes to Build Muscle

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babrelz1If you’ve found yourself stagnated while on your quest for aesthetic mass, let me introduce you to a unique and versatile muscle-building tool to add into your training regime: mass-building barbell complexes.  

Barbell complexes are far from a new concept. Though their traditional application lies in fat loss, they have the ability to greatly impact hypertrophy.  

And who doesn’t love stimulating beautiful muscle growth? 

Barbell complexes have the power to create large amounts of metabolic stress; between that, not setting the bar down until all exercises are complete, the tension created through the high threshold barbell movements, you’ll jack up your fat loss, and more importantly, you’re going to grow, son. 

When to Use Barbell Complexes

You can fit barbell complexes into your program in a number of ways.

You can:

  1. Build your entire program around complexes.
  2. Perform them 1-3 x per week while following your “normal” training plan.
  3. Add them onto the beginning or end of 1-2 of your less demanding training sessions.
  4. Or as a standalone session 1-2 times per week.

That last option is my favorite.

As effective and fun as barbell complexes may be, I dread the thought of walking into the gym and training in such a fashion 4, 5, or 6 times a week. It just doesn’t sound like a good time.

But, you can still reap the numerous rewards of barbell complexes by adding them into your workouts 1-2 times a week, and it doesn’t have to take away from the remaining portion of your training plan.

Here’s an example hypertrophy training split with barbell complex work sprinkled in:

[Training Split #1]

Day 1: Legs
Day 2: Chest/Delts/Triceps
Day 3: Back/Rear Delts/Biceps
Day 4: OFF
Day 5: Lower Body MASS Complex
Day 6: OFF
Day 7: Upper Body MASS Complex

[Training Split #2]

Day 1: Lower Body MASS Complex
Day 2: Upper Body MASS Complex
Day 3: OFF
Day 4: Legs
Day 5: Chest & Back
Day 6: OFF
Day 7: Arms & Shoulders

[Training Split #3]

Day 1: Legs
Day 2: Chest & Arms
Day 3: Back & Delts
Day 4: OFF
Day 5: Full Body MASS Complex
Day 6: Double up on a lagging body part
Day 7: OFF

Those are just 3 examples of the endless ways you can fit barbell complexes into a typical hypertrophy-focused training split.

Alternatively, here’s a quick example of how your entire training program over the next 4-6 weeks could be based solely around barbell complexes:

[Training Split #4]

Day 1: Lower Body MASS Complex
Day 2: Upper Body MASS Complex
Day 3: Full Body MASS Complex
Day 4: OFF
Day 5: Lower Body MASS Complex
Day 6: Upper Body MASS Complex
Day 7: OFF

[Training Split #5]

Day 1: Fully Body MASS Complex
Day 2: OFF
Day 3: Lower Body MASS Complex
Day 4: Upper Body MASS Complex
Day 5: OFF
Day 6: Lower Body MASS Complex
Day 7: Upper Body MASS Complex

Now that your training schedule is laid out, let’s dive into the sessions.

Mass-Specific Barbell Complexes

I’ve outlined one complex each for upper, lower, and full body. When implemented into your routine, you’ll find yourself drenched in sweat and complexing your way into some fresh, fresh gains.

1. Upper Body MASS Complex

A1. Barbell Deadlift

A2. Pendlay Row

A3. Barbell Bench Press

A4. Barbell Military Press

A5. Barbell Curls

Take this complex for a spin of 3-5 sets for 12 reps per exercise. Rest minimally between exercises and wait until your heart rate has settled down before starting the next round.

2. Lower Body MASS Complex

A1. Barbell Back Squat

A2. Barbell Good Morning

A3. Barbell Front Squat

A4. Reverse Barbell Lunge

A5. Snatch Grip Deadlift (sit back on your heels and keep your back very upright so that your legs are the primary mover)

Run through this complex for 3-5 sets of 12 reps. Rest minimally between exercises and wait until your heart rate has settled down before starting the next round.

3. Full Body MASS Complex

A1. Pendlay Row

A2. Barbell Front Squat

A3. Barbell Military Press

A4. Barbell Back Squat

A5. Barbell Good Mornings

Run through this complex for 3-5 sets of 8 reps. Rest minimally between exercises and wait until your heart rate has settled down before starting the next round.

Final Recommendations

If you’re still wondering where and when to place these complexes in terms of your own training, I’d recommend one of the following:

1. In the context where you can ONLY train 3 times per week, give these 3 sessions a chance at being your program for 4-5 weeks. Not only will you level up your conditioning, and get leaner. But there will most certainly be a need for some new, larger clothes.

2. If you’re currently on a 4 or 5-day training split that you’re absolutely loving, try picking one session from above and implementing it into your split. You could perform it as a standalone session on its own day, or you could also tack it onto the beginning or end of one of your other sessions.

3. Now, if you’re training 5, 6, or even 7 days a week while eating right and still giving yourself time to recover, well, congratulations on fucking crushing life.

But, if you’re STILL looking to spice things up, I challenge you to take 1-2 of these sessions and perform them before or after your regularly scheduled sessions. Keep in mind that if you do so, your performance will drop in whichever session you choose to do second.

If you’ve got the flexibility in your schedule, you could also try doing a complex in the morning (talk about a wake up), and then come back later to crush whatever was initially planned.

Now, my friend. Go forth and train.

About the Author

Alex is a self-proclaimed anti-meathead and part-time nerd. When he's not working towards Greek God status or learning how to better serve his clients, he can be found exploring how to further crush life, perfect his flair in the kitchen, or pull the perfect shot of espresso. You can learn what he's all about at MASSthetics .

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