WATCH: Barbell Lifts: This Barbell Complex Is A Total Body Workout

Here's how to master the barbell lift, and how to upgrade it for massive gains


Squats, deadlifts, cleans, and presses can lay the foundation for incredible strength and athleticism. But where do you go once you’ve mastered these foundational building blocks? One answer: You start stacking them on top of one another.

A barbell complex is a series of barbell movements performed back-to-back, with seamless transitions from one exercise to the next without letting go of the bar in between lifts. 

Related: 15-minute Workout: 4 Barbell Exercises For Bigger Biceps And Triceps

Like the lifts they are comprised of, barbell complexes can be great for building power and strength, but due to the added time under tension—your body is constantly working to stabilize itself under the weight of the bar—they’re especially useful for forging next-level muscular endurance and full-body conditioning.

Watch the video above to see CrossFit Prospect Heights coaches Maillard Howell and James Wright demonstrate the bear complex, which combines a clean, a front squat, a push press, and a back squat.

Related: Barbell Training For Your Upper Back

It should go without saying, but we’ll go ahead and say it anyway: You should absolutely be proficient in these individual exercises before you go anywhere near the bear complex. We’d make a joke here about how uninitiated lifters could emerge from this complex like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant (get it? Because of the bear…), but this is serious stuff. Get your basics down first, for your own safety. Don't get mauled.

The bear complex can serve a variety of functions in your workout. Once you’ve got the movement down, you could go light and perform it at a faster pace for a heart-pounding cardio session. Or go even lighter than that—you could use an empty bar—and incorporate it as a warm-up to prime your body for other lifts.

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