How To Burn Fat And Build Muscle At Once With Barbell Complexes

barbell complexes fat loss

One of my favorite ways to train for fat loss is to implement barbell complexes. What exactly is a complex, you ask?

A complex is performing a series of exercises back to back, without putting the weight down. They’re downright brutal. They work every single muscle in your body, and then test your mental fortitude along with it. And, they are one of the best exercises to burn calories.

Now, if you’re an astute reader you might be asking yourself a question like:

“Why the fuck would I do a series of compound movements back to back? That sounds like masochism, and I’m only down with that in the bedroom.”

And the answer is that barbell complexes are one of the best tools that exist when it comes to facilitating fat loss. They’re high intensity in nature, cost a great deal from a metabolic standpoint, and even help you get in a little extra lifting volume to help benefit from a hypertrophy perspective.

Put simply, they’re downright awesome.

In theory, they’re incredibly simple and everyone can do them. But if we know anything about life, we know that very few things that work well in theory actually work that way in practice.

The problem with complexes.

To be clear, you can do complexes with tools other than barbells. Dumbbells and kettlebells work well here. And I suppose if you had some other tool like a sandbag at your disposal you could build a pretty mean complex.

But barbells are part of all that is good and holy in this world, so we’re talking about barbell complexes.

There are myriad of barbell movements someone can do and attempt to pair together. But one of the overarching principles of complexes is that they’re going to be limited by your weakest movement.

For example: you can pair a deadlift and overhead press in the same complex just fine. Except the weight you can overhead press for reps, especially in a highly fatigued state, is going to limit the weight you’re deadlifting. And this is a problem.

Now, from here you have a couple of options. You can either A) Double the number of reps you’re doing on a deadlift, which is a perfectly acceptable option, as long as you’re technically sound with the movement you’re doing. Or B) Just eliminate extremely strong movements like the deadlift from the equation, leveling the playing field.

My go to barbell complex:

Barbell row x8
Hang clean x5
Front squat x12
Push press x8

The beauty of a complex like this is that it flows easily. A lot of people fuck up with barbell complexes when they try and make them far too complicated by throwing moves together that don’t flow well.

Moving straight from a barbell row into a hang clean is an easy transition. You don’t need to set the bar down, even if you’re forearms are on fire. And then moving from hang clean to front squat is by far and away one of the easiest transitions you’ll find, because the front squat is the final position you should be in with a hang clean.

A push press is basically a half front squat with an overhead press at the top of the movement.

Now, the important thing to remember about this in the end is that barbell complexes, while awesome, can be exhausting and tough to recover from on top of a normal lifting schedule. So if you’re going to start using barbell complexes as a conditioning tool to stay in shape, then I’d suggest the following rules:

– Don’t do them 3 days in a row.
– Don’t do them the day you do heavy deadlifts.
– Be smart in choosing your weight. Heavier isn’t always better.

Follow those rules and you’re going to be golden. Give this a whirl and let me know what you think about it.

Tanner is a fitness professional and writer based in the metro Atlanta area. His training focus is helping normal people drop absurd amounts of fat, become strong like bull, and get in the best shape of their life.