Using Complexes For Simplicity & Progress

Despite what you may be lead to believe, "complexes" are not that complex, and are incredibly beneficial for the next generations of young athletes & adolescents. They allow us to get a lot of safe work done in a short amount of time and are also incredibly customizable so that any movements can be added to the complex and allows you to get the most bang-for-your-buck

Kettlebells - The Youth Academy

Complexes are a phenomenal tool for young athletes & adolescents to keep in their strength training toolbox, especially for their ability to teach movement patterns and aid in increasing their work capacity

Essentially, a complex is a series or "flow" of movements, whereby the barbell, dumbells, or kettlebells are not placed down until all of the movements are performed. For example, a simple complex may look like this:

  • 6 Deadlifts
  • 6 Rows
  • 6 Hang Cleans
  • 6 Front Squats
  • 6 Overhead Presses
  • 6 Back Squats

As you can see, that's 36 reps before placing the barbell, dumbells, or kettlebells down - it's incredibly humbling! But that's where the power of these complexes lie... they increase the bodies time under tension (how long the body is under stress during a single set), which, in turn, increases our muscular endurance and work capacity

Pushup - The Youth Academy

Keep Complexes Simple

As we stated previously, complexes can be performed using a variety of different implements - ranging from barbells, to dumbells, kettlebells, battle-ropes, maces, and bats. The key is to keep the movements simple and make them flow - i.e. begin from the ground up

Always choose a light weight to begin with, as these will become hard quite quick and will humble you at the beginning. When it comes to reps and sets, going lower reps will work great for strength (say around the 5-6 reps per movement), whereas a higher rep range of 8-12 will work great for conditioning, hypertrophy, and metabolic conditioning

Personally, we love to utilize Kettlebells or Dumbells for complexes because of the unilateral work that's involved, but also the wider array of movements that can be performed, such as cleans, snatches, pushups, etc...

One of our favourite strength building complexes using KB's and an ascending 1-2-3-4-5 ladder for our young athletes is as follows:

  • Pushup to Deadlift
  • Row
  • KB Swing
  • Clean
  • Front Squat
  • Press
  • Snatch

This complex is performed by doing 1 of each exercise, then two of each exercise, and then three of each, four, and finally five reps of each straight through. Two to three sets is all that's required and will have a total body effect on the young athlete, whilst developing strength, power, explosiveness, and work capacity all in one

Don't take our word for it though, try complexes out for yourself one day a week and see what benefits they provide for yourself 

Nick Maier