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Weightlifting Complexes 101

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First Week of February 2-8, Week ⅓, Block 2/4

This month we are focusing on a few different weightlifting complexes that are designed to help in you in a few important areas of your fitness. While weightlifting complexes might seem, well, complex – they’re nothing to shy away from. In fact – every person in the gym can reap the benefits of this type of resistance training. Here’s how weightlifting complexes work.

What is a Weightlifting Complex?

A weightlifting complex is generally a series of barbell movements (using aspects of the snatch, clean, or jerk generally) performed in one large and continuous set. A weightlifting complex can be as simple as 1 Power Clean + 2 Front Squats + 1 Split Jerk…or can have several repetitions of different movements back to back. Two famous complexes are ‘The Bear’ complex, as well as the ‘Big Clean Complex’ – which is performed like this:

2x CF Games Champion Katrin Davidsdottir performing the Big Clean Complex at 165#

Who benefits from Weightlifting Complexes?

Anyone looking to increase their fitness, or to improve at their sport, can benefit from performing weightlifting complexes for several reasons:

First, because of the additional repetitions & movements for each set, this lowers the overall load on the barbell to about 50-70% of what your 1 rep max in that specific lift would be. This approach can help improve technique as there is more energy left to focus on proper mechanics. This is especially beneficial for newer lifters looking to learn and master the classic lifts.

Next, because complexes can last anywhere from 20-60 seconds each set, they also increase the overall time-under-tension from these normally fast movements. The effect of our bodies under appropriate strain for longer time is an improvement in body composition (more muscle, less fat).

They also can be a great way to build strength and explosiveness for all individuals without the negative effects of continually training at the highest of intensities. It’s ok to take it easy on your Central Nervous System and still allow your body to make positive adaptations!

Finally – for functional fitness training, weightlifting complexes also make excellent transfers to your conditioning. Because complexes are relatively heavy – but not so heavy you cannot continually perform the movements with excellent form. Once we drop the weight a bit during our conditioning & focused energy system training, there is now less resistance on us to say, perform a Thruster in ‘Fran’ or to pick the barbell up once again during ‘Grace’.

Increasing your technical ability, improving your strength & explosiveness, and being more efficient with the energy you use for each repetition adds up to you being able to attack your workouts that much harder.

So – what’s your favorite weightlifting complex?