Barbell Complex Tips

Barbell Complex Tips

I am sitting on a patio in a cottage in New Brunswick staring out at the view. The cottage is by the water and an abandoned ferry boat is on the shore.

How often do you see an abandoned ferry boat?


It is very cool.

It is an amazing temperature, with a light breeze, and the only sound is the rustling of trees.

Now I have been traveling a lot of late and have done a ton of assessments (about 60 in June) so my workouts have not been as consistent as I would like.

My travels are not done yet, I am off to Tampa Bay on Monday, but I am looking forward to getting home late next week to do some barbell work.

The guy that I go-to for that is Travis Stoetzel. His training is very hardcore. I can’t train at his level so I have to lighten it up for myself but I like what he does.

Below is a video of Travis giving you 4 Tips for Doing Barbell Complexes Pain and Injury Free.

Now to the disclaimer on the video:

  • Travis is from Oklahoma where they do not work out in t-shirts even in the winter
  • Travis uses colorful language. Pulp Fiction kind of language
  • Travis’ workouts are hardcore. You might be at this level or you might have to think of ways you can lighten it (as I do)


Rick Kaselj


What’s up, I am Travis Stoetzel, and I just cranked out a workout and I decided I am going to do a video on Barbell Complexes weekly.

I am getting questions from people asking about Barbell Complexes. They are asking when you put them in the workouts? How to do them, all sorts of different stuff.

I just wanted to go over the 4 Major Tips about Barbell Complex Training.

Tip #1

With any type of barbell complex that you are doing, before you add any type of movement into a complex you need to make sure you have gotten damn good at every single movement that is in your complex.

Let me back up just a second because some people might not know what a Barbell Complex is all about.

A Barbell Complex is a strand of different barbell movements. And you can do this with kettlebells, dumbbells, and sandbags, but one of my favorite tools for the complex is the barbell.

What a barbell complex can be is any work from 2, 3, 4, 5 even more than 5 movements in a row with different exercises. You can hit anywhere from 1 rep, 2 reps, 3 reps, 4 reps, 5 reps, and go all the way up to 10 reps. But basically what you are doing with the complex is as soon as you grab that bar you do your first rep and that bar is not leaving your hands until the very last rep.

So those are some things to think about when you start lowering your complex and doing different things like that.

The fact with tip number one, which is the most important tip, is to make sure you’ve advanced yourself further ahead so you are ready for a barbell complex.

Let’s say I got a deadlift to a power clean and overhead press. I am good in the deadlifts, I am good in the overhead press, but I suck at power cleans and you are going to do a barbell complex with that. You have no business having that barbell power clean in your complex because you are not yet ready to have it in your complex. You need to get good at that movement first before you add it in. So that’s my number one tip.

Tip #2

When it comes to the barbell complexes make sure you ease into it with the number of movements that you use and the amounts of reps that you use.

For example, I am going to stay with the same set-up. We do deadlifts, power cleans, and overhead presses. If I am just getting into the complexes, I am not going to advance yet I am still getting used to them.

Three movements are quite a bit for a barbell complex just to begin on. You are not going to go any more movements with that. I usually recommend only two movements to three movements starting with a complex.

Now I do recommend starting at two reps going up to three reps and progressing it up to five reps; five reps is going to be a little bit more advanced.

Let me demonstrate how a beginner would want to approach a complex. So we are doing deadlifts, power cleans, and overhead presses. I am going to start with two reps.

Barbell Complexes

I am getting set. I am doing my deadlifts with 2 reps. And then I am going to do my power cleans with 2 reps. And now I am going on with my overhead press with 2 reps.

For a beginner that little sequence of complex just using the two reps is going to be very difficult. Once that starts to seem easy you can do a couple of things. A) You can add more reps to your complex. B) Start adding more movements. So that’s my second tip.

Tip #3

I want to talk about loading the barbell. You want to determine the load that you use for your complex based on your weakest movement within a complex.

Using the same set-up, we are doing deadlifts, power cleans, and overhead presses and I’m probably going to be weak at the overhead press compared to my power clean and my deadlift. I should be able to deadlift more and I should be able to power clean more than my overhead press, so my overhead press is going to be my weakest movement.

If I am doing a complex with 5 reps with those 3 movements, I wanted to load it accordingly to that I know I can get 5 times in an overhead press. I’ve seen people load their barbell too heavy and when they do the deadlifts they struggle through the power clean and when they are at the overhead presses they can’t even get one rep.

So make sure you step back and think about that and think about the different movements in your complexes and load it up according to your weakest movement.

Tip #4

When it comes to barbell complexes it is in order of movement. If you are a beginner with complexes what you are going to do is to have the more advanced type of movements at the beginning of your complex and hit that all and again that depends if you got to do that movement yet.

For example, like power cleans maybe you are using snatches, maybe push jerks, and other different complex movements like that. You want to have those at the beginning and then easier movements, let’s say the overhead press, maybe a bed row, or even a deadlift, you have those towards the end for when you are fatigued in the complex.

Then once you start to get more advanced, you can start having your power cleans as your last movement or power snatches as the last movement because you will be more advanced and your fitness level will be at a higher level and you will be able to handle those type of movements better at the end when you are fatigued.

First, if you are a beginner, when you get to the end your form is going to start dropping off, the technique is not going to be there, and it’s just going to look like a total hell and that complex will not benefit you at all.

So those are my four tips on barbell complexes. I hope that helps you out. Do not use the barbell complexes yet you can throw it at the end of your workout or you can use the whole workout dedicated to barbell complexes.

One of my favorite ways to use them is specifically when I am short on time, say I only have 15 to 20 minutes to workout, I will put together that 4 to 5 movement complexes and go for 5 rounds that will put me on my ass. That will put you on your ass.

So if you need to get into a fast workout and you are short on time, barbell complexes are a great option. Put down your comments below. All details are down below and again I am Travis Stoetzel at and Keep living aggressively in getting strong. I’m out.

If you are looking for a resource for barbell complexes, you can check out Barbell Battlefield, here.

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