Understanding Complexes

In our Athletic Strength Training manual we often use complexes to help build both confidence and endurance. We place them strategically throughout each phase, when we want to build muscular endurance or prep the athlete for a more complicated exercise that will be introduced in the next phase. We have dozens of complexes, and in this post I will go over a few of them…


What is a Complex?


Very simply, a complex is made up of 3-6 exercises performed in a back to back manner with no rest between each. For example, in a 10 repetition, 3 exercise complex you would perform 10 reps of exercise one, then 10 reps of exercise 2, then 10 reps of exercise 3, and then rest for a short period (lets say 60 seconds). So in this example, the athlete would perform 30 total reps before resting.

We have many different variations of complexes, but they usually can be lumped into 3 categories.

1- Component Complexes: Snatch Complex

In this category, we choose 3-6 exercises that build into an advanced exercise. For example, in a Snatch Complex we would use exercises that break down the components of the snatch (patterns you need to master) and work them all together, often finishing with a variation of the movement itself. Here is an example:

  • DB RDL – 3 reps
  • DB High Pull – 3 reps
  • DB High Pull Snatch – 3 reps
  • DB Bent Over Row – 3 reps

In this case, the first 3 patterns use a hip hing to load the glutes and hamstrings and allow the athlete to focus on getting into strong positions. The second and third pattern focus on vertical pulling (to the shoulder and overhead) and the final pattern focuses on holding the power position and strengthening the posterior shoulder. These components will help build confidence and strengthen the snatch movement.

2- Antagonist Complexes:  Super Shoulders

In this category, we choose 3-6 patterns that alternate from pulling to pressing, or upper body to lower body. For example in our super shoulders complex, we focus in on the shoulders and alternate between pulling and pressing movements.

  • DB Biceps Curls – 6 reps
  • DB Upright Row – 6 reps
  • DB Shoulder Press – 6 reps
  • DB Bent Over Row – 6 reps
  • BW Push Up – 6 reps

This variation will allow one pattern to work while the antagonist is working a little less (allowing for a little recovery), and this ultimately allows us to work a little more volume into the workout in less time. These are usually done with lighter weight with more of a muscular endurance feel. We often use them as warm ups or finishers.

3- Power Complexes: Super Legs

In this category, we will be working a similar pattern but will often start slow and add speed (attacking power from both ends – strength & speed). For example in our super legs complex, we will stay with a lower body focus starting slow with squats and lunges, then adding speed with split squats and jump squats.

  • DB Squats – 20 reps
  • DB Lunges – 20 reps
  • BW Split Squats (speed) – 20 reps
  • BW Jump Squats (speed) – 10 reps

This is a leg burner and it hits our four primary lower body exercises. This is a great teaching tool as well as a muscular endurance exercise.

We also have skill complexes, speed/agility complexes and fitness based complexes in our other player focused manuals. These complexes and more are part of our Athletic Strength Training manual.

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