Javorek Complex (What It Is & How To Do It)


Javorek Complex

The Javorek Complex, created by Istvan Javorek, is a complex, or series, of several exercises done back to back in succession.

There are about a dozen different variations of the Javorek complex, using both a barbell and dumbbells. In this article I’m going to focus on the original Javorek Complex with a barbell and a slightly modified version that I like to use with athletes.

The original Javorek Complex consists of an upright row, high pull snatch, behind the head squat push press, good morning and bent over row. The complex is most traditionally done with either 3 or 6 repetitions of each exercise.

The big questions are – what are the benefits of the Javorek Complex and how should you incorporate the complex into your training?

I’ll answer both of those questions and give you a slightly modified version that I use. But, before we get into the benefits, I’m going to get a little more detailed on how to properly execute the Javorek Complex.

Javorek Complex – How To

The original Javorek Complex consists of the following exercises:

  • Barbell Upright Row
  • Barbell High Pull Snatch
  • Barbell Behind the Head Squat Push Press
  • Barbell Behind the Head Good Morning
  • Barbell Bent Over Row

How much weight you start with on the bar will depend on your desired results – warm-up, strength or conditioning. Light weight (even just the bar) for a warm-up, heavy weight (usually dictated by the ability to complete the upright rows) for strength and somewhere in the middle for conditioning.

Coaching Point: “Conditioning” is almost interchangeable with “Work Capacity” (or muscular endurance) here as complexes are an excellent means of building work capacity early on in a training cycle.

The amount of reps for each exercise will also dictate the emphasis of the complex. Warm-up sets can go either way, but strength will generally always be with sets of 3 and conditioning with sets of 6.

Once you’ve selected your weight, pick the bar up and perform all five exercises, continuously with no break in between the movements.

Don’t forget to breathe as you go through the complex and stay focused on technique and proper bracing, especially when that fatigue sets in (and it will!).

Benefits of the Javorek Complex

Bent Over Row
Bent Over Rows means you’re almost finished!

The Javorek Complex has a ton of benefits that can differ greatly depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with it. Let me explain:

As A Warm-Up

This is my favorite way of incorporating the Javorek Complex into training. It makes an excellent transition from the dynamic warm-up to the barbell, right before we get into our big movements of the day, like power clean or back squat.

The complex involves the entire body and includes pulling, pushing, squatting and bending. What more could you ask for from a warmup? Also, as a coach, it’s great for being able to do a quick evaluation on your athletes. Tightness and soreness in almost any area of the body will be put on display during this barbell warmup.

To Build Work Capacity / Conditioning

If you’ve never had the pleasure of working through a set or two of this exercise complex, the only thing I can compare it to is running a 400 meter sprint.

Your chest is on absolute fire and every muscle in your body is screaming.

I will occasionally throw in a complex or two at the end of a lift during our work capacity phases. Acts a tremendously good ‘finisher’ at the end of a workout.

To Build Strength

You can also absolutely make strength gains by using the Javorek Complex within your training routine. I’ve seen athletes after a few weeks work themselves up to being to do the full complex with 135 to 155 pounds which is pretty impressive.

There are even more impressive stories in the weightlifting community of lifters being able to complete the full complex with ridiculous amounts of weight like 220lbs plus.

Time Constraints

Another benefit of the complex is that you can get in an enormous amount of work in a very short time window. I’ve utilized this particular benefit on more than one occasion during the in-season.

Let’s say practice ran late and now your athletes have precious little time to get in there workout, shower, eat and get to class.

Javorek Complex to the rescue.

4 Sets of 6 Reps Each can be done in less than 15 minutes, which even allows for plenty of rest time in between.

That’s 120 reps of pressing, pulling, squatting and bending and your athletes walk out of the weight room knowing they got some good work in. Is it a perfect solution? Of course not, but it’s a really good solution when you’re completely crunched on time.

Javorek Complex For Athletes

The beauty of the complex is that once you understand the basic fundamentals of the complex, you can mix and match exercises to fit your needs.

I slightly tweak the original complex to look like this:

  • Barbell Upright Row
  • Barbell Muscle Clean or Muscle Snatch*
  • Barbell Behind the Head Squat Push Press
  • Barbell RDL
  • Barbell Bent Over Row

*We’ll do muscle cleans on clean emphasis days and muscle snatch on snatch (or overhead) emphasis days.

So, three of the exercises – upright row, squat push press and bent over row I leave alone.

The High Pull Snatch is a little too technical of a weightlifting movement for me so I switch it to a muscle clean or muscle snatch. Two exercises my athletes are much more familiar with.

Then, because I don’t use the good morning within my programming, I sub in RDLs instead.

The point here is not whether you should do the original complex on my modified version, but to take the concepts of the complex and use it to best fit your workouts.

Final Thoughts

I am a huge proponent of incorporating complexes into your training. I include some form of a complex into my warm-up every day as the first thing I do when I start working on the platform. (All of my currently available Strength and Conditioning Programs can be found here)

I’ll also include it throughout other aspects of my training to improve muscular endurance or even to help with strength gains. However you choose to use it is up to you, but it’s almost too valuable a tool to not use.

Finally, big thank you to Istvan Javorek for bringing this wonderful exercise complex to the world of strength and conditioning.

Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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