Different aspects of a strength and conditioning program often get very segmented. The Warm-up, Speed Work, Conditioning, Weight Training – they’re all components of a complete strength and conditioning plan and they often all have their own beginning and end.
However, one exercise that blurs the line a bit is a Barbell Complex, also referred to as a Barbell Warm-up.
A Barbell Complex is a warm-up exercise (technically a series of exercises) that fits right between your regular warm-up and your strength training. It can take the lifter through a variety of movement patterns that can both prep the body for that day’s workout and serve as an assessment for how the body feels.
In this article, I’m going to explain some of the benefits of a Barbell Complex Warm-Up and give you three examples that you can start using right away in your training.
Benefits of a Barbell Complex Warm-Up
If you’re going to do sprints, then it would make sense to have some short sprints in your warm-up. If you’re going to do agility training, then some shuffling and change of direction are perfect warm-up movements.
With that in mind, doesn’t it make sense to go through some barbell movements before jumping into Snatches, Cleans or Front Squats?
Prep The Body
A Barbell Complex can consist of a variety of different movements. They can hinge movements like Muscle Snatches and RDLs, Rows like Upright Row and Bent Row, Squats like Overhead Squat and Front Squat – the possibilities are almost endless.
The point is to take the body through a series of movements that is going to prep the lifter for that day’s workout.
If Snatches or Snatch variations are in the lifting plan for that day, then Muscle Snatches, Behind the Neck Presses and Overhead Squats are all great examples of movements that could be incorporated into a Barbell Complex.
As An Assessment
Because you’re going through all these different movement patterns and ranges of motion with the barbell, a Barbell Complex can be an excellent assessment tool.
You can find out pretty quickly where you may be feeling any soreness, tightness or even pain. This gives you a chance to address these issues before jumping into the day’s work sets.
Coach’s Note: I find this extremely beneficial with in-season athletes. A Barbell Complex Warm-up can give you great insight into how athletes’ bodies are moving and feeling which is critical to know while in-season.
Barbell Complex Warm-Up Examples
As I eluded to earlier, there are almost an infinite number of exercise combinations you could use to create your own Barbell Complexes.
Here are three of my favorites that I use quite often in my strength training programs.
- Hang Muscle Snatch
- Behind the Neck Press
- Overhead Squat
This Snatch Complex is one of my favorites. It includes a hinge, an overhead press and an overhead squat. Almost every muscle and every range of motion is incorporated into these three movements.
I started using this Complex once or twice a week within my strength training for football players a few years back. A couple of sets of Snatch Complex lets me know right away who’s sore, tight and potentially needs extra mobility work.
- Upright Row
- Clean Grip Hang Muscle Snatch
- Squat to Press
- Bent Over Row
The Javorek Complex works great as a barbell warm-up before doing any type of Cleans or Clean variations.
It’s not just good before Cleans though. With multiple pulls, hinges and a full squat it will completely prep the body for almost anything you want to throw at it.
3 x 3
- Behind the Neck Snatch Grip Push Press
- Overhead Squat
This complex is shorter than the first two. Combine that with the two exercises being used and it should make sense when I say that 3 x 3s are typically done with a bit more weight than the other two complexes above.
It’s a great complex for any workout that includes overhead work – Snatches and/or Jerks for example.
How Many Sets/Reps Should I Do?
It doesn’t have to be a lot.
I will typically do 2 sets of 3 to 5 reps of each movement within a complex.
- Hang Muscle Snatch x 5 reps
- Behind the Neck Press x 5 reps
- Overhead Squat x 5 reps
That would be one set.
How Much Weight Should I Use?
It doesn’t need to be much. Remember, this is simply a warm-up.
I’ll generally do the first set with just the bar and the second set maybe a ten on each side. It depends on the overall strength of the athlete.
For 3 x 3s, I might go a bit heavier – greens (10kg plates) on each side is typical.
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Barbell Complexes are a great way to incorporate many of the same movements that you’re going to do in your workout directly into your warm-up.
A Barbell Warm-up should consist of multiple different movement patterns – hinges, squats, pulls, presses – to maximize their effectiveness.
If you’ve not used Barbell Complexes as part of your movement prep, I would highly suggest giving them a try.