July 10, 2011
July 15, 2011

Instead of awkward, things got complex on Tuesday night.

Complex: (n) A whole composed of interconnected or interwoven parts; (adj) Involved or intricate, as in structure; complicated. From the Latin complexus, the past participle of complectī, meaning “to entwine.”

NOTE: “complex” is sometimes wrongly used where complicated is meant. Complex is properly used to say only that something consists of several parts. It should not be used to say that, because something consists of many parts, it is difficult to understand or analyse.
(American Heritage + HarperCollins = CFDC Awesomeness)

So, barbell complex: difficult to understand? No; Difficult to analyse? No; Difficult to perform? Ummmmm…..

Strength Warm-Up:
Graduated Barbell Complex

Series 1 = 10 Front Squats & 10 Presses (bar only)
Series 2 = 5 Front Squats & 5 Presses (with weight on the bar)
Series 3 = 3 Cleans, 2 Front Squats, 2 Presses (with weight on the bar)

3 x Barbell Complex = Power Clean + Press/PP/PJ + Thruster;
2′ AMRAP, 4′ Rest

Done in groups of 2 to 3, where P1 performs the complex as many times as possible within 2min. At the 2min mark, P1 rests, and P2 performs the complex as many times as possible. Continue in this fashion until everyone has completed the 2min AMRAP three times. The press could be done as a strict press, push press, or push jerk.

So what’s the deal with complexes, barbell or dumbell? When I started writing this post, I began with a lengthy explanation, discussing why the sum was so much more difficult than the parts, how this translated into better fitness gains, yada yada yada. I wasn’t doing it justice, as really, this describes just about every workout we do. So then I got to wondering where the idea for complexes came from, a sort of historical aspect. Google to the rescue – except not really. I didn’t find much; mostly a bunch of posts saying the same thing that I had already started writing about. And then I came across a blog post from CF Fenway, and they summed up my trouble pretty accurately:

As for barbell complexes as a category, the general consensus seemed to be that they’re a great alternative to traditional cardio conditioning, because they get you sweating, breathing hard, and your heart pumping, while also adding an element of strength training. They’re also a great supplement to a traditional strength training program, because they get you sweating, breathing hard, and your heart pumping in addition to continuing strength development. Basically barbell complexes take anaerobic movements and put them at an aerobic pace (sound familiar?).

“Anaerobic movements…at an aerobic pace.” At face value, that would seem to require a pretty substantial physical investment, and it does. However, it also requires a pretty substantial mental investment right from the outset. Even though we’ve doubtlessly performed the particular movements many, many times on their own, it’s not always easy to link them together smoothly, without pausing to think in between, as required in a complex. So mental coordination and agility is required, but complexes also demand mental toughness to really go hard through the workout, since your brain knows it takes multiple movements to get just one rep. To lift another line from CF Fenway’s post, “every time you put your hands on the bar you know you’ve got several steps in front of you just to inch a little closer to the end of the workout.”

So maybe complex doesn’t automatically mean complicated, but it sure as hell doesn’t mean easy. Great work by a large Tuesday class in fighting through the heat, and that was just to get to the gym. Also, simply to beat a deadhorse a little more: H2O, H2O, H2O! And if you’re paleo, or at least have cutout/cut back on the processed foods, please be sure to monitor your sodium intake to make sure you’re getting enough. Now, save yourselves from the awfulness that are blourpees and hit the comments!



  1. Andraea says:

    Great workout! I think I managed to burn some of that georgetown cupcake off that I had yesterday!

    I really like this type of sequence with the cleans, presses and thrusters. The thrusters were rough, I was fine during the cleans and press part but when it came time to do the thruster I felt everything giving out. The soreness is settling in a bit already in the shoulders.

  2. Steph says:

    Wow, early post and early comment!

    Wish I could’ve done the wod. I’m a big fan of barbell complexes, dumbbell complexes not so much.

    Andraea, your cleans looked really good last night! On the thrusters, as Chris said while he was helping the girls at the other end, make sure you take a deep breath in, elbows in front of the bar and keep everything tight before you go down to the squat, that will help you stabilize and not collapse and have the bar pull you forward. Chris, correct me if I’m wrong.

    It was great to see Erica, MacKenzie and Dian pushing their limits by going with a heavy-enough weight but still trying to keep good form.

    Well done everyone! See you all Thursday when it’s supposed to be cooler and drier.

  3. Dan Samarov says:

    Definitely liked this workout, came at it with a focus on maintaining good form throughout; keeping back position on the power clean, using the legs (which were pretty dead by the end) to really drive the bar on the push-press and keeping the knees out and driving the head through on the thrusters.

    This combined with a whole bunch of heavy back squats the day before made for a good challenge. Planning on a moderate run this afternoon.

    Great job on this one everyone! Agree with Tom’s comments from yesterday, there were some form issues at the beginning that everyone really cleaned up by the end.

  4. edgy reggie says:

    I really liked this workout. Once I got into a rhythm [e.g., getting some “air” before each movement, squatting deeper so that Coach would stop yelling at me (just kidding…I deserved it), and tightening my core so that I would not overarch my low back on the push press/push jerk and the thruster], I was fine…until the humidity beat me down.

    I worked with “Double B” (Brendan), and we used 55 kg (121 lbs.).

    As mentioned in several comments prior to mine, everyone did a great job (especially in making the necessary adjustments during the workout).

    Post-class: Had a surprise visit from “Mistress” Winnie. She really stretched me out (after I was “busted” on performing a “plow”). After that, “Ms. Giggles” (my bud, Julia), Greg, and I did some double-under practice.

    “Not too bad for an old man.” – CFDC’s own ODB

  5. Greg says:

    I liked this too but still have problems with squat thrusts. I can’t bet the breathing right. Need more practice.

  6. Erica says:

    I like the picture of Greg right under “clean cut” because he looks so clean cut in the pic 🙂

    I usually don’t like drills that involve heavy olympic lifting because I’m still so intimidated by all the moves, but I was really proud of myself for pushing for 65lbs, maybe a PR? And while I still hate power cleans and am definitely not doing them right (darn shrugging), I am becoming more accepting of the notion that I have to do them. Oh and 20 burbees wasn’t toooooo bad 😉

  7. Dian says:

    I was glad to be back in class after missing the snatch balance class on Sunday. I was at work meeting a deadline all day Sunday. A deadline! On a SUNDAY! I was pissed when I read the blog and saw what I missed. I had some anger to work off last night…and a couple of apricot scones.

    As always, a great class. I worked with Erica and McKenzie. We used 651bs. It was a challenging weight for us and we all worked on trying to keep good form throughout.

    I’m going to stop complaining about burpees. I’ve been reading more and more about the sheer awesomeness of the burpee. So thanks for the 20 burpees last night.

  8. Ethan says:

    I enjoyed this class. I definitely noticed a difference when I concentrated on taking a deep breath in before the thruster, and I wasn’t nearly as sore as I thought I might be.

  9. Julia says:

    Andraea – your form looked awesome. And Joanne – seriously FIERCE push presses.

    Thanks for being my partners, and thanks for pitching in (along with Sara!) when I started dropping the bar and knocking the weights off (of course I wasn’t trying to use up those 2 minutes, or anything remotely like that…)

  10. Sara says:

    Anytime Julia! Your last set you did a great job of following the bar down instead of pushing it down which helped keep the clamps from coming loose.

    I only saw Andrea, Joanne and Julia but they definitely worked hard throughout the workout. As I am positive everyone else did too.

  11. Stohlman says:

    I don’t wanna wear Salty’s hat!