Want to get back to the simple roots of barbell training? Back in time before kettlebells and prowlers were clouding our minds, conditioning was as simple as grabbing a barbell, crushing rep after rep, movement after movement, all without dropping the bar. Though new age training has changed the game for the better with athletes and trainees becoming more powerful, more mobile and generally more awesome than ever before, there is still room in one’s training schedule to get that barbell back into your hands!

The technique, now popularized and deemed complex conditioning, provides the training effect to pack on some muscle mass, but also scorch fat and push your conditioning through the roof in the process. Don't overthink it! After my experience consulting in China for the Chinese Olympic Committee and their many national teams (include weightlifting), it is clear that this old school method is still a staple inmost ultra performing Olympic lifters programs. The last time I checked, those guys are some of the strongest humans in the world!

Ready to be intelligently torched? Give this complex a try using only a barbell and your own body weight. Just wait, you will be crawling back to your kettlebell in no time, wishing you never heard of the barbell complex!


1.Clean to Press - 7

2.Overhead Squat - 7

3.Romanian Deadlift - 7

4.Bent Over Row - 7

5.Deadlift - 7

6.Bodyweight Squat - 10

7.Push Up - 10

8.Alternating Reverse Lunge - 20 Total

9.Mountain Climbers - 20 Total


The weight on the barbell will be the same throughout the entire complex (movements 1-5). The key to successfully optimizing this programming is to choose a weight that you can still bang out 7 reps of your weakest exercise. For most people, the weakest movement will be the clean to press due to the strict vertical orientation of the press only using the upper body while maintaining a strong neutral core position. This is also why it is the first movement in the complex. Determine what weight you can do for seven repetitions at max effort (leaving maybe one rep in the tank) with pristine form, and there you have it! This will be your starting weight for the complex. Ready? Have at it!

The goal of the first 5 movements of the complex is to keep the bar in your hands without dropping it until you get to the bodyweight portion of the complex. Starting with the Clean to Press, you are going to move through each exercise for the prescribed number of reps with no rest until you complete your last rep of the Mountain Climber. Welcome the burning lungs and shaking muscles with joy; you earned it.

After you grind out the entire complex, rest periods of 30-90 seconds can be taken in order to recover between sets. Remember, the quicker and more efficiently you move through the complex, the less rest time you will need to be ready for the next set, so make sure you’re pushing to the brink of your cardiovascular limits and mechanical breakdown points on each movement! The goal is to keep rest at a minimum, so challenge yourself to get your hands back on the bar as soon as possible. One way to keep a continued progression moving in the right direction is to minimize rest periods over time by increasing your muscular endurance and cardiovascular efficiency.

Repeat the complex for 3-5 sets, depending on your overall level of conditioning. Make sure to set and achieve a goal for the training session, whether it is a number of cycles through the complex or sticking to a predetermined rest period. Write it down, track it, and be sure to stick to it. And remember to challenge yourself; this isn’t supposed to be easy! Before you start, record your load, rest periods, and number or sets. Stick to the program, and push through the pain you are about to endure!

  • Load - Clean to Press 7RM (keeping pristine form and rhythm)
  • Sets - 3-5+
  • Rest - 30-90 seconds


The complex. It's one of the oldest methods in the long history of weight training. There may be no better way to simultaneously train your metabolic system while working your technique and efficiency of complex barbell movements than with this type of complex.

This is a program that I use myself and with my athletes and clients primarily for conditioning. Give it a shot; it is one of the most well balanced total body complexes I have ever programmed. And by well balanced, I mean it will put you on your back praying for the training session to end!

Don't just limit yourself to the barbell. Feel free to create complexes with any type of loaded implement (RMT Club, Ropes, Dumbbells, Kettlebells etc.) for a kick ass workout. Also, choose movements for the complex for any training goal that you are currently focusing on. The possibilities are endless! Enjoy your gains.

About the Author: Dr. John Rusin is a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Sports Performance Physical Therapist specializing in all encompassing programming design for athletes and clients alike. John's single-minded goal is to bridge the ever-growing gap between high performance Strength and Conditioning and cutting edge rehabilitation programming for the elite strength athlete. From NFL and MLB athletes to competitive powerlifters and bodybuilders, John has developed recovery, regeneration, and prehab-rehab programs for some of the world's best power athletes both in person, and from an online platform. John is the owner of JR Fitness Systems, located in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information about Hands-On Self Myofascial Release Techniques, or about Dr. John, email him directly at john@drjohnrusin.com , or visit these pages: Website www.drjohnrusin.com | Facebook: John Rusin Fitness Systems |Twitter @johnrusin

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