Don’t Have Time to Hit the Gym? Try Complexes

Jul 19, 2012 -
You spend 40-plus hours a week at your job and several more commuting to and from home. Factor in how long it takes to get everything else on your to-do list done and there’s often not much time to go to the gym. It's so easy to skip going altogether. I often felt the same way, so I decided to solve the problem. I figured the best way to work out regularly was to find a way to do it at home before or after work. After a lot of research, I found that workouts typically geared for elite athletes were the perfect solution. The workouts? They’re called complexes. Once you try them yourself, you’ll see how they’re as good as or better than any workout you may do at the gym. I know, because I used these exercises to lose 70 pounds in six months and now work as a trainer.

What are complexes?

Complexes consist of doing three or more exercises with a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell. The key difference between complexes and a typical strength training workout is you don’t rest or adjust the weight you’re using between exercises. Complexes are the brainchild of Olympic strength coach Istvan Javorek. He uses them to help elite athletes quickly build muscle and improve their overall fitness in the offseason. The results speak for themselves: after three to six months of training this way, devotees regularly gain several pounds of muscle, lose fat and double their strength. I’ve seen the same results in the fitness clients I train. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to do them or achieve similar results. All you need is to commit 20 to 30 minutes, three to four days a week.

The Workout

The exercises in this complex are squats, one-arm shoulder presses and one-arm swings. I recommend using a kettlebell to perform each exercise. Its design makes the workout more challenging than when using dumbbells, which means you'll progress faster. You can buy one at better sporting goods stores. If you don’t have access to a kettlebell, use a dumbbell instead. Performing a complex with these exercises trains practically every muscle in your body. Your legs, core (abs and lower back), upper back and shoulders get an especially good workout. You’ll even feel it in your biceps and triceps. My arms got significantly bigger after doing this complex two to three times a week for a month. I wasn’t doing any other exercises for my arms like curls or triceps push-downs, either. Here is a description of each exercise. I recommend mastering one at a time before you do them as a complex. Squats 1. Stand holding a kettlebell at shoulder height. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. 2. Perform a squat by bending your knees and moving your butt back. Your weight should be over your heels. 3. Continue to squat down until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Your heels should never come off the ground. 4. Return to the standing position. Push up from your heels. 5. You’ll finish in the same position from which you started this portion of the exercise. You’re now ready to perform the one-arm shoulder press. One-arm shoulder press 1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart holding the kettlebell at shoulder height. The kettlebell will rest against the back of your hand. 2. Tighten your abs, breathe in and press the kettlebell over your head until your arm is completely extended. 3. Lower the weight back to the starting position of the exercise. 4. Return the weight to the starting position of the next exercise, the one-arm swing. One-arm swings 1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a kettlebell in one hand with your palm facing away from you. The kettlebell should be between your legs. 2. Bend your knees and waist slightly. The kettlebell should swing back between your legs. 3. Once the weight has swung between your legs, pull it forward explosively. Push from your heels onto your toes. Keep your arm straight and extended throughout the movement. You should be on your toes as the kettlebell approaches chest height. 4. Driving with your hips, pull the weight up until your arm is chest high. 5. Return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Sets, reps and rest periods Begin with five sets of three repetitions for each exercise. Add one repetition per set every week until you can do five sets of eight reps. Once you have achieved this goal, you can decrease the amount of rest you take between complexes to make them more challenging.

How often should you do this workout?

You should do this workout three to four days a week on nonconsecutive days (i.e. Monday, Wednesday, Friday). This will allow you to reap the most benefit and ensure your body recovers completely. If you’re new to lifting, start by doing it two days a week. Add extra workouts after one to two months of regular training. After doing it for three to four months on a regular basis, you can make the program more challenging by adding additional exercises to the complex. Just make sure you follow the general rules of the workout, which means no putting the weight down or stopping between exercises until each is finished. Some exercises you can add on are: lunges, bent-over rows, stiff-legged deadlifts and good mornings. You can learn how to perform them correctly at You now have the tools to conveniently get an excellent total body workout in 20 to 30 minutes. Who says you can’t find time to work out when you have a full-time job or are starting your own company? Do complexes regularly and you’ll be bigger, fitter and stronger in no time. The additional energy these workouts produce will help you get more done at work, too. Curt Pedersen is the founder of, a website that helps people build the body they deserve. Get a free copy of this eBook Fat Loss Confidential for cutting-edge diet and workout tips that will help you lose fat and get into great shape fast.