Most of you by now know what HIIT or high intensity interval training is and what it does, it allows you to burn lots of calories in a short amount of time often leading to greater fat loss. As it’s more fun than standard steady state cardio and takes less time so you’re more likely to do it.

It also has a strong EPOC or after burn affect if you work hard enough, this simply means you carry on burning calories for a prolonged period after the session has finished. WINNING!

Sounds pretty good right! So how could I even be entertaining that there might be something better for fat loss and building strength.

Well that’s because I use barbell complex’s with my clients more than HIIT for a multitude of reason. But before we talk about them, I bet you are wondering what the hell are barbell complexes?

What are barbell complexes?

Well much like HIIT they are simple, time efficient and very very affective.

They consist of using an intelligently loaded barbell to repeat a sequences of exercises, normally 3-6, but here’s the kicker!

You don’t put the bar down for the whole sequence! Which leaves your forearms burning, your muscles fatigued and you heart racing. All of which are positive and lead to fat loss, increased strength and endurance, and what’s even better is they may well make you stronger at many of your compound lifts too.

This is because many of the exercises you pick will be compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, cleans and overhead presses. These movements are skills and require repetition to perfect the movements and thus have your body accept them as a saved movement pattern if you like.

Challenge –

Use deadlift, overhead press and then squat as a barbell complex.

Select a weight that you can overhead press (OHP) for 10 reps.

Start by doing 1 rep of each exercise without dropping the bar move onto 2 rep and so on until you hit 10.

Time yourself and see how fast you can do it, then you’ll see why these complexes are such a powerful tool.


What exercises should I use?

There is lot’s of ways to set up your exercises, time period and reps but when it comes to exercises you want to be careful not to overload one much group and you may find you fatigue to early or give up. I would suggest splitting the movements to upper/lower or the opposing muscle groups.

It could look like this




Overhead press


That way i’m not overloading the same muscles like if I did, deadlift, row, upright row.

How about reps and time? 

This is another cool thing about barbell complexes, they have almost unlimited variations so you can work around tired muscles, small injuries or even boredom.

You could set your self an interval timer and do as many reps in the given time of each exercise.

You could do 5 reps of each exercise until failure or you hit your time limit, bare in mind good technique we don’t want injuries.

Or you could use pyramids or inverse ladders like we did in a previous youtube video where you may start at 1 rep of each exercise and finish once you’ve hit 10 of each.

Ultimately it’s a quick workout that requires you push through to finish and the fact you’re holding that bar means you really have to push yourself mentally and physically which only ends in better results.

Thanks for reading and be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay educated and motivated.


Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Amber says:

    When doing a barbell complex like this would you repeat the complex say 3 times or is once enough for the entire workout?

    • admin says:

      It really depends, you could use it as a 20 min conditioning session or you could add it onto the end of a session. The cool thing is you control all the parameters, the exercises, weight & time so you can tailor it to your needs. If you want it to be longer add more exercises, or just set a clock for x amount of time and do maybe 20s of each exercise until you complete the time allocated.

      Personally I would use it as conditioning instead of cardio and carefully select exercises so the don’t hinder my performance the next day. For example if I want to squat the next day I wouldn’t be trying to really tax my legs the day before.

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