It seems every summer is the same. Life simply gets … busy. Kids are out of school, there are vacations, you’re working more hours and still trying to maintain anything remotely close to a social life.
With the mad shuffle, it’s our fitness routine that usually gets put on the back burner first. Why? “I don’t have time to spend an hour at the gym.” Well, you may not actually need an hour. In fact, you might get more out of your routine now in as little as 20 minutes using strength complexes.
Strength complexes are similar to circuit training with one exception: We limit our workout to one piece of training equipment. This can be in the form of dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, TRX, barbells – anything, really – as long as it’s simple and allows for a wide variety of exercises.
The advantages of using one training tool are: First, it minimizes setup time; and second, it allows us to move seamlessly from one exercise to the next without moving to another station.
Strength complexes come with many fitness advantages as well. Not only are they great for building strength, but they are highly effective at improving cardiovascular endurance. Also, strength complexes come with a high metabolic, which taxes our bodies more in less time, yielding a higher-calorie expenditure post workout, higher fat loss, etc. And lastly, strength complexes utilize total body movement, which is what our bodies were designed for. If you watch an athlete or people move in general, you see that movement involves multiple regions of the body.
Whether you’re hitting a tennis ball, picking up your kids or putting away groceries, these actions require multiple muscles to fire and work synergistically. So, by using full-body strength complexes, we experience a better carryover effect for our recreational activities and day-to-day living.
OK, here’s how we set it up:
Choose your equipment: The only rule for this is choosing something that can be taken anywhere in the gym, preferably where you have ample space to maneuver. My favorites are the TRX, dumbbells, barbells, resistance tubing, medicine balls and kettlebells. One isn’t necessarily better than the other; simply know that each has its own advantages, and any of them will suffice.
Pick a rep scheme: There are countless options when it comes to choosing reps. Typically, strength complexes are more endurance-based.
I recommend working with lighter loads and training at higher reps due to the high demand of the workout. Anywhere between 10-15 reps per exercise/combo works great. Another option is performing each exercise for a specific time, typically between 30-90 seconds per exercise.
Exercise sequence: Again the sky is the limit. Pick two or three combination exercises (e.g. barbell deadlift/row) or four exercises that focus on a total-body movement (e.g. lunge with lateral raise), a pressing exercise (e.g. overhead press), a pulling exercise (e.g. dumbbell row), and a squat and/or lunge. The goal of the sequence is to use all the movement patterns of the human body.
The workout: Once you have your exercises and reps selected, perform your strength complex for a 5- to 10-minute block of time, resting only when needed. This will get your heart pumping and your muscles burning in no time. Rest between 1 and 3 minutes and repeat, performing a total of 2-3 blocks.
There you have it. A killer workout in 20-30 minutes. Outlined below are three strength complexes to get you started.
To see a video of these complexes click here
Barbell strength complex: Perform 10 reps each for a 5- to 10-minute block. Complete 2-3 training blocks total.
1. Alternating lunge
2. Push press
3. Deadlift to barbell row
Dumbbell strength complex: Perform 10 reps each for a 5- to 10-minute block. Complete 2-3 training blocks total.
1. Squat to lateral raise
2. Single leg squats
3. Renegade row
TRX strength complex: Perform 10 reps each for a 5- to 10-minute block. Complete 2-3 training blocks total.
1. Pistol squats
2. Wide row
4. Hip press