Posts Tagged ‘complex training’

The other day I was working with an athlete and he was doing some complexes. Complexes are when you use the same load on a bar and rotate through a number of exercises before putting the bar down. For example on this particular day he was doing dead-lifts, to bent-over rows, to cleans, to military presses, to good-mornings and finishing with back squats. He would complete all the movements of one exercise before proceeding to the next exercise. If you’ve never used complexes in your training before start slowly. They are very taxing and you’ll need to select a weight based on the weakest movement of the sequence. For example if the military press is the weakest movement of the six listed you will select the weight based on your ability and strength for that exercise.

So what’s the big deal with complexes? Why would we look to incorporate them into our workouts? Well, for a number of reasons.

First of all I like the amount of work that can be accomplished in a particular time. This is referred to as training density. If we use a load of 100 lbs and perform 6 reps of each exercise, for a total of 36 reps, then each set results in 3600 lbs of work. Each set takes approximately 75 seconds to complete when you use a smooth tempo of one second for the eccentric and one second for the concentric. Performing 5 sets takes less than 15 minutes with 90 second rest breaks.Not a bad investment in time for 18,000 lbs of total work.

Secondly this style of training works really when training two athletes of equal strength. The work to rest ratio is 1:1.2 or a little more than a 1:1. If you’re worked with athletes, specifically younger ones, you know there are times when they may become distracted either by the young blonde on the elliptical or just as an excuse to lengthen their rest breaks. When using complexes in this way as one is performing a set the other is resting. As the one performing the set finishes there are exactly 18 seconds for the other athlete to address the bar, get themselves set and begin. There are no opportunities to slow down.

Thirdly, this is much preferred method of conditioing our athletes than performing long, slow steady-state cardio. Our better conditioned athletes will almost be able to stay aerobic throughout the drill whereas the lessor conditioned ones will be huffing and puffing a bit more. But with this work to rest to ratio ratio we can get some conditioning work while still addressing their lifts and technique on these lifts.

Lastly I like using complexes because they are ground based. The athlete is doing the work from a standing position and requires stability in all planes as the bar moves through a sequence of movements. From a standing a position the athlete is developing ground-based strength. They are on their feet and become more in tune with their position and balance relative to the ground while handling load.

One thing I think we’ll try next time will be to mark the outline of the athlete’s feet in chalk the next time we perform our complexes. Why would we do this? Well the feet provide the cues to what is happening through the rest of the kinetic chain. Is one foot externally rotating more than the other? Is one foot advancing ahead of the other? Does the athlete take a half step as they transition from one movment to the next? Where do both feet end up at the end of the movenent?

With complexes you will see a pattern more quickly because you will have 36-42 or 48 reps to monitor the movement. If you did the same test with a 3 rep squat set you may not see much of an effect. After a 48 rep complex you simply look at the ground before you rack the bar and check the final position of your feet relative to the chalk outline and you will quickly and easily see which side is compensating, in what way and by how much. Your job then is to address this compensation.

The more we train hockey players to generate ground-based strength and power the better. If you’re going to give complex training a shot start slowly. Use 50% of the load of your weakest lift in the sequence and try 2-3 sets. And if you’re gym will allow it, trace the outline of your feet in chalk. And if your gym doesn’t allow chalk find a new gym.