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Workout of the Week: Interval Conditioning

Bent-Over_row

Barbell complexes build strength and burn fat

By Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS

The average long-distance runner would not have a snowball’s chance in hell in landing even a day shift at Chippendales. If he did, he’d go hungry. Compare him to a world-class sprinter — he’d dance the night away and rake in Ben Franklins by the bushel.

By no means am I suggesting exotic dancing as a career. I’m illustrating a point. Long-distance runners have piss-poor physiques while great sprinters resemble an Adonis.

That’s because sprinters train interval style; long-distance runners train in a long, slow cardio style. Common sense and anecdotes suggest interval training is superior to long, slow cardio for shedding body fat and preserving muscle mass.

What About Science?

Countless studies show that interval training trumps long, slow cardio for fat loss. One study showed that interval trainees got nine times the fat loss for every calorie burned during training compared to folks using long, slow cardio.

Izumi Tabata has conducted research for the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan. In terms of aerobic benefits, Tabata demonstrated that a program of 20 seconds of all-out cycling followed by 10 seconds of low-intensity cycling for four minutes was as beneficial as 45 minutes of long, slow cardio.

This is why interval training has so many die-hard advocates and supporters.

Having said that, let’s look at a highly effective method of interval training—the barbell complex.

Barbell Complexes

Not only are barbell complexes one of the greatest metabolic conditioners and fat loss modalities, they are also one of the best tests of pure guts.

If you’re doing barbell complexes and find they aren’t challenging, you’re not loading the bar with enough weight or not giving a sufficient effort. Barbell complexes potentially serve as a feasible alternative to sprints for heavier athletes.

The key point is that barbell complexes are performed as quickly as possible, moving exercise to exercise with no break. Like sprints run slowly, barbell complexes at a moderate pace impede results.

To construct a complex, you may do 5–8 squats, followed by 5–8 squats to presses, followed by 5–8 good mornings, followed by 5–8 power cleans, followed by 5–8 bent over rows, and finally finished off with 5–8 deadlifts.

From a bodypart split standpoint, barbell complexes can be arranged somewhat specifically to the muscle group being worked. For example, on a leg day, a barbell complex might look something like this: overhead squats, squats, reverse lunges, front squats, and Romanian deadlifts. On a back day, it might look something like this: good mornings, power cleans, hang cleans, deadlifts, and bent over row. These are tough and will put your testicular fortitude to the test.

Some points to remember when performing complexes:

  • Use compound exercises
  • Perform exercises as fast as possible while maintaining proper technique
  • Do not rest between exercises
  • Try your best not to drop the bar
  • Start with an empty bar and add weights in increments of 5 or 10 pounds
  • Do 5–7 exercises per complex, each set consisting of 5–8 repetitions
  • Rest 1 to 3 minutes between sets, do not exceed 4 sets, do not exceed 15 minutes total duration
  • Barbell complexes are intense interval workouts and are included in your total of interval workouts

 Barbell Complex in Action

A Few Last Words

Fat loss comes from strength training and dieting. If you’re depending on long, slow cardio or even interval training for fat loss, your body is telling you that your diet is not in check.

The age-old truth is still the same truth today: strength training and diet are the keys to fat loss.

Like heavy weight training, barbell complexes cannot be performed daily, perform then 2 to 3 times weekly.

Fat loss is a war, this a powerful weapon to add into your fat loss arsenal.


Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS, trains some of the strongest and most muscular athletes in the world in person at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and via the Internet. He is the co-author of Amazon # 1 selling book, Jailhouse Strong. To learn more about Josh Bryant or to sign up for his free training tips newsletter, visit www.JoshStrength.com

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