Complexes for Fat Loss

Note: Win AtLarge Nutrition Fat Burners Nitor & Thermocin – (see bottom of article)

Let’s cut the BS and get down to business: traditional cardio – running on the treadmill, sitting on a bike, riding on one of those stupid-looking elliptical machines – just doesn’t work that well if your main goal is to lose fat (now if your main goal is to watch TV or read a book and portray the illusion of hard training, then traditional cardio has you covered).

Traditional cardio bites the big one for one main reason:

It Doesn’t Burn That Many Calories

We all know that fat-loss is pretty simple: burn more calories than you consume. So riding on a bike seems logical since it burns calories while you do it: the longer you pedal, the more you burn. But how many calories do you burn once you step off the bike? The answer is not that many.

What if there was a way to burn calories not only while training but also after training? My friends, let me introduce you to the EPOC effect. It stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, which is just a fancy way of saying you burn more calories after training since you’re taking in more oxygen and expending more energy than normal.

Interval training like HIIT accomplishes this simply because it’s harder on your body and throws off your body’s natural homeostasis. More calories burned = more fat loss.

So Why Not Just Do Intervals?

Intervals are still great, but most people are already excessively tight in their hip flexors and anterior delts (front part of the shoulder) due to too much sitting and poor posture.  Do we really need to make it worse by riding an exercise bike? And what about running sprints? Truth be told, many of you (and probably me) have horrible, horrible running form. And it doesn’t just look ugly – it’s bad for our bodies, too.

Think about it: if you had poor bench-press form but decided to bench press anyway, you’d be setting yourself up for injury. Well, look at running the same way, except with hundreds (and possibly thousands) of reps. Every time your foot strikes the ground, it could be putting harmful stress on your joints. Kind of defeats the purpose of doing a “healthy” activity, huh?

Weight-lifters Rejoice! There Is a Better Way.

Fortunately for us, weight training is much more fun and challenging than intervals and, when done properly with “complexes”, will lead to the same EPOC effect. Also, if you set up your complexes properly, you’ll get more than just a lung-burning, feel-like-you’re-going-to-die feeling. You can hit all the main muscle groups and even have specific work for your abs, all while burning a ton of calories (and setting yourself up to burn a ton of calories after your workout).

Just What the Hell is a Complex, Anyway?

Good question. A complex is a series of exercises (usually compound movements) that flow into each other with no rest in between. You usually have to use lighter weights than you normally would, but a good complex will be challenging. Remember: we’re going for fat-loss here, not pure strength.

The Equipment

  • You.
  • A pair of dumbbells.
  • A barbell and some plates.

Three Complex Challenges

1. The Barbell Complex

3 sets of 8 reps with no rest between exercises.
Rest for 90 seconds after you complete the full circuit, then perform two more times.

Romanian Deadlift

Bent-over Row

Front squat

Push Press

Barbell Rollout

2. The Dumbbell Complex

4 sets of 6 reps with no rest between exercises.
Rest for 90 seconds after you complete the full circuit, then perform three more times.

Reverse Lunge

Alternating DB Row



Alternating DB Military Press

3. The Anywhere Bodyweight Complex

3 sets of 12 reps with no rest between exercises.
Rest for 90 seconds after you complete the full circuit, then perform two more times.


Spiderman pushup

Jumping lunges*


Mountain Climbers*

* 6 reps each leg for a total of 12

When Should I Do Complexes?

Complexes are best performed directly after your regular weight training session or on an “off” day.

If you need to lose 15 pounds or more of fat, I’d recommend doing all three complexes, one for each day per week, on the days when you’re not doing your regular program.

If you want to use complexes to “tighten up” or just to become more athletic, I recommend you pick two or three complexes and perform them after your regular weight training session.

The Death of Traditional Cardio

Despite what hardcore bodybuilding magazines or traditional media try to tell you, training should be hard and rewarding. Traditional cardio doesn’t burn as many calories as complexes and can even lead to injury and overuse syndrome.

So wave goodbye to the soccer moms and skinny-fat guys on the treadmill, grab a barbell (or use just your bodyweight), and get one hell of a workout that actually strips the fat off.

Written by Riley Bestwick * All photos of Mike Scialabba were taken at MUST (Missoula Underground Strength Training Center)

Win AtLarge Nutrition Fat Burners Nitor & Thermocin – We’d love to see some videos of Wannabebig members performing the complexes either in this article or your own complexes.

Submit your video on the forums and we’ll pick a few random winners and hook you up with some AtLarge Nutrition Fat Burners, Thermocin or Nitor to help you with your fat loss!

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Complexes for Fat Loss discussion thread.