Let me take you back a few years (15 to be exact) as I walk on the platform for the first time at the Hoosier weightlifting club. My coaches that day introduced me to one of my favorite tools that I use to this day to build stronger athletes.
Back then it was the same everyday. At the end of training, or at the beginning of training the same six exercises for 5 reps each, High pull, muscle snatch, front squat, back squat to press, RDL bent over row. (this one is brutal, particularly so when you go up to 90 kilos as was done on a dare 1 training session).
The same feeling afterwards. Smoked.
Fast forward 15 years and today we use plenty of different complexes at my gym, different implements, different goals, and different results. When implementing complexes before training sessions the complexes can improve technique and generally we use lighter weights. When implementing as conditioning or strength training we use complexes later in the workout and we generally use heavier weights.
For complexes that use an Olympic lift or derivative in them we do not program them for more than 5 reps per exercise. If no Olympic lift is included then going up to 8 reps is perfectly acceptable. Typically doing the most taxing movements (Olympic lifts) first will preserve technique. Rest should be 1:1 or even 2:1 depending on what you want to accomplish.
The following three complexes are absolutely brutal and not for the faint of heart. Do each complex for 5 reps each. Repeat for up to 3 sets if you really want to. Each complex has a challenge weight that only true beasts can do (for reference I am NOT doing that weight in the videos).
I am giving each complex a name because they are so awesome they deserve the name of an animal.
The Tortoise AKA the clean complex
Named because: You won’t walk too fast the next day
Movements involved: Squat cleans, Push Press, Back Squats, Good Mornings
Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 5 reps
Challenge Weight: 70 Kilos
Full cleans followed by push press, followed by back squats, followed by good mornings (“why good morning to you to!!”). This thing is brutal on the lower body. You are not going to walk quickly the next day, and maybe not the day after that either.
Roadkill AKA the snatch complex
Named because: See Picture…
Movements involved: Split Snatch, Snatch Balance, Snatch Grip RDL, Snatch Grip Deadlift
Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 5 reps each exercise (5 reps each leg on split snatch)
Challenge weight: 50 Kilos
This is actually a great complex to improve snatch technique, just keep the weight light enough to make the movements retain a speed quality. If you choose to do this complex as a strength building movement then prepare with some serious chalk and some tape on the old thumbs.
The Liger AKA the DB Complex
Named because: This thing is like the ultimate animal.
Movements involved: Snatch, Split Jerk, Monkey Jumps (watch the video), Renegade Rows
Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 5 reps
Challenge weight: 50 lbs Dumbbells
This complex features a move that I named monkey jumps a long time ago, and is only seen in my gym when using this complex, it is a split jump high pull hybrid that actually has some carry-over to the Olympic lifts and the act of pulling yourself to, and around the bar. This complex is the best bet for a beginner because very little Olympic lifting skill is necessary to complete the movements. On an interesting aside the first time I completed this complex for 3 sets I ended up taping the Dumbbells to my hands to finish my 3rd set (that is not recommended).
Complexes can be designed with any quality or skill in mind and there are some great resources (like this book: Cardio Strength Training) out there with plenty of awesome options in them. Try these three if you want with you or your athletes.