Know This…I Love Complexes

Complexes Made Simple

by Ben Bruno – 7/30/2013 Complexes Made Simple

Here’s what you need to know…

Complexes are a great way to build muscle, boost conditioning, and burn body fat while avoiding the boring cardio section of the gym.

Despite popular belief, the goal of the complex should be to add weight to the bar, not perform it faster. Too much emphasis on speed can lead to shoddy technique.

Complexes are a good way to push your limits in a relatively safe way, provided you do them correctly. There are 10 guidelines you need to follow.

Despite the name, complexes — a series of exercises performed in succession with    a single implement — shouldn’t be complex. To put together an effective complex that    builds muscle and slashes body fat, you just need to follow a few simple guidelines.

Why Should You Use Complexes?

  • They’re a great fat loss and conditioning tool, especially for lifters who    cringe at the thought of traditional “gerbil” cardio like the bike, elliptical,    Stairmaster, or treadmill.
  • Complexes are far less boring to perform as the cardio is “masked” as lifting,    which is much more palatable for most meatheads.
  • They’re a good option for a quick workout when you’re crunched for time. “I    only have 20 minutes to work out” is no longer a valid excuse to skip the gym. They    also make for a viable option for in-season athletes.
  • They’re a good chance to work on technique. Because complexes require using    significantly lighter weights than what you’d normally use in your strength work, you    get a chance to work on your form without your ego getting in the way.
  • For banged up folks, it’s a chance to do exercises you might not otherwise    be able to do. If you have exercises you love doing but run into problems when you do    them heavy, you often can do lighter versions of them in a complex without issue.    Many times it’s not the exercise that’s problematic but the load. Cut down the load    substantially and you can then perform the exercise without pain.
  • It’s a great alternative to a deload workout. I loathe deload workouts. I    either like to train hard or skip the gym altogether. Complexes allow you to lift    hard and get the feeling of pushing yourself without beating up your joints, making    it a good option for days where you’re ready to get after it mentally, but physically    aren’t feeling quite up to snuff.
  • They’re a good way to test your mettle. Complexes can be downright brutal.    While you shouldn’t approach every workout with the intent to kick the crap out of    yourself, no one has ever gotten better by being a pussy. Sometimes you have to    forget what the textbooks say, ditch the script, and just see what the hell you’re made of.

That’s not free reign to be reckless, and many dudes run into problems by being    knuckleheads in the name of being “hardcore.” However, complexes are a good way to    push your limits in a relatively safe way, provided you do them correctly.

10 Complex Principles

10 Complex Principles

I say “principles” rather than rules because one of the beauties of complexes is    that they offer a lot of freedom and leeway to construct them according to your    personal preferences and goals.

That said, there are some guidelines to follow:

1. Form still matters.

I hate seeing people use poor form in the name of trying to be more “metabolic.”

No matter what program you’re following or what your goal is, good form still    matters. Just because the weights are lighter and you’re trying to burn fat and    improve your conditioning doesn’t mean you should lift like a spaz.

Use a full range of motion and always make sure you’re in control of the weight    and not just flinging it around — quality over quantity.

2. Time isn’t a good way to gauge progress.

With some programs, the workout and the load remain consistent and the goal is to    complete the workout faster, with a better time indicating improvement.

To me, that’s a misguided way to gauge progress because all it tells me is that    you used shittier form and rushed through it. So while you may think you’re getting    better, you’re really just shortchanging yourself and needlessly risking injury.

Instead, aim to increase the load you use for the complex while still maintaining    good form. In most cases — not just complexes — adding weight to the bar is the    best form of progress.

You could also do things like add more rounds or decrease the rest period between    rounds, but don’t rush the complexes themselves.

3. Complexes should either have a full body focus or a lower body focus.

Full body focus

Upper body complexes sound good in theory but don’t work very well in practice.    The upper body doesn’t have the same endurance capacity as the legs, meaning you    can’t challenge yourself nearly to the same degree without dropping the weights to    almost pitiful levels.

You can certainly include upper body exercises in a complex, but make sure to    alternate them with lower body exercises for a full-body training effect.

Alternatively, lower body complexes work well as a way to blast the legs while    also jacking up the metabolism. The downside to them is that you might also jack up    your lunch. Consider yourself warned.

4. If you’re using Olympic lifts, put them first in the complex and do no more than five reps.

Olympic lifts can work well in a complex and are a great way to work on technique    with lighter loads. However, doing them in a fatigued state late in a complex or    doing them for higher reps is a bad idea due to the technical nature of the exercises.

5. Put the hardest exercises early in the complex.

“Hardest” refers to technically demanding lifts such as the Olympic lifts, along    with exercises that require using lighter loads. Do those while you’re still fresh.

6. For full body complexes, alternate between lower and upper body exercises.

This gives the upper body a chance to rest (at least to some extent) while you do    your lower body exercise, and vice versa, which in turn allows you to extend the    complex without fizzling out.

7. Try to order the exercises in a way that flows.

Order the exercises in a way that flows

Nothing kills your complex mojo like an awkward transition between exercises.    Instead, try to structure the complex such that one exercise flows seamlessly into    the next so you can maintain a good rhythm.

An example of an awkward transition would be a barbell row into a back squat —    you have to clean the weight and put it over your head before you can start squatting.

Examples of better transitions might be a push press into a back squat, a front    squat into a military press, or a barbell row into a deadlift because they don’t    require extra steps to get into position.

8. Avoid choosing exercises that require a significant reduction in weight as    compared to the other exercises.

The load you use for a complex is going to be limited by the weakest exercise, so    try to avoid picking exercises that require drastic weight drops so you don’t    shortchange the whole complex.

For example, rather than a military press, you may be better off with a push    press. Similarly, you might be better off using a power curl instead of strict biceps    curl, or a high pull instead of an upright row.

This point applies more so to upper body exercises as these tend to be the weakest links.

9. Try to give your grip a break.

Grip often becomes the limiting factor in how much weight you can use in a complex    because the weight never leaves your hands. So whenever possible, give your grip a    little reprieve by interspersing exercises that allow you to rest the weight on your    shoulders — such as squats, front squats, and lunges — in between more    grip-intensive exercises.

10. Combo exercises can be great.

I’m typically not a fan of combo exercises (i.e. squat to press) for strength    work, but they tend to work very well in complexes where strength isn’t the primary goal.

Sample Complexes

Abiding by these principles, here are four sample complexes for you to try. That    is, if you’re up for it. Wussies need not apply.

Barbell Complex

Here, Eirinn Dougherty does 5 hang cleans, 10 reverse lunges with a front squat    grip (5 per leg), 10 push presses, 10 squats, 10 high pulls, and 10 Romanian    deadlifts (RDLs) all in succession without putting the bar down.

Eirinn makes it look easy, but trust me, it’s anything but. Get the puke bucket ready.

Landmine Complex

Here Kevin Anderson uses the landmine to crank out 10 squat-to-presses, 10    single-arm presses per arm, 10 single-leg RDLs per leg, 10 single-arm rows per arm,    and 10 reverse lunges per leg, all without letting the bar touch the floor.

Holding the thick part of the barbell really challenges your grip strength, but    because the complex is composed primarily of unilateral exercises, one arm rests    while the other works, allowing you to extend the set.

Trap Bar Complex

Here’s a complex I like using the trap bar or Dead-Squat™ Bar that absolutely fries the legs: 10 split squats (5 per leg), 10 RDLs, and 10 low    handle trap bar deadlifts.

For the final leg of the trap bar deadlifts, focus on getting your hips low and    almost try to squat the weight up to keep the stress on the quads for a total leg    blitz when combined with the RDLs.

Barbell Leg Complex

This one’s a real doozy so you’ll want to wear your big boy panties. Ten reverse    lunges with a front squat grip, 10 front squats, and 10 squats, done as one    continuous set.

Kevin knocks that sucker out with 225 pounds on the bar, which is no joke:

Put It To Work

Now that you have the guidelines to put together your own complex and even have a    few to try, it’s all on you now to put in the work.

Food for Thought…Why Baby Carrots Are Killing You

Why Baby Carrots Are Killing You

What could I possibly have against these cute little “healthy” snacks that can be found in school lunchboxes across America? It’s back to school time and baby carrots are one snack to keep out of your child’s lunch.

It may shock you that baby carrots do not come out of the ground that way. There is no little baby carrot garden where these are harvested. Manufactured baby carrots are a result of taking all the broken and “ugly” big carrots they can’t put in the package, grinding them all up, processing them into the “baby” carrots and giving them a bath in chlorine to give them a bright happy orange color. There are also “Cut & Peel” baby carrots that are whittled into a miniature form.

If you look on the package it doesn’t say “Chlorine”, because it was added as part of manufacturing and not added as an ingredient…why is that?
Packaged foods contains lots of chemicals both in the ingredients and in the manufacturing process. The tricky part is chemicals added as part of the manufacturing process are not considered to be an ingredient therefore does not have to be listed on the food label. So there is no way to tell what else is hiding in that box or package.

As defined by the EPA, Chlorine is a pesticide. Its purpose is to kill living organisms. So it would make sense that when you ingest chlorine, it kills some parts of our body like the healthy bacteria in your gut and intestinal flora for instance. Chlorine is a highly toxic, yellow-green gas most heavily used in chemical agents like household cleaners and can be found in the air near industrial areas especially around paper processing plants.

Exposure to Chlorine has been linked to health problems such as sore throat, coughing, eye and skin irritation, rapid breathing, narrowing of the bronchi, wheezing, blue coloring of the skin, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, pain in the lung region, severe eye and skin burns, lung collapse, a type of asthma known as Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS).

Chlorine is also added to the public water supply. So not only are you drinking it, but you are absorbing it through the largest organ in your body, your skin. In fact, 2/3 of human absorption of chlorine is from inhaling the steam in the form of chloroform and fast absorption through your open pores in the warm shower or bath. The inhalation of chloroform is a suspected cause of asthma and bronchitis, especially in children… which has increased 300% in the last two decades. Other health risks associated with chloroform is cancer, potential reproductive damage, birth defects, dizziness, fatigue, headache, liver and kidney damage. Chloroform is also found in the air and in food, like baby carrots.

Conclusion: Stick to organically grown whole carrots. They are really easy to find as you can buy them at your local farmers market or grocery store. Wash them and cut them into sticks for your childs lunch box. Carrots are an excellent snack that we enjoy all the time. Enjoy!


by Angela Garrison

Know this…Thirteen Training & Nutrition Facts We All Agree On—And 13 Things We Don’t

Thirteen Training & Nutrition Facts We All Agree On—And 13 Things We Don’t

by Poliquin™ Editorial Staff
7/16/2013 12:14:32 PM

“Are you sure? Check Again.”    —Thich Nhat Hanh

Misinformation is the name of the game when it comes to mainstream nutrition and training. Controversy may be more evident in the nutrition world—after all, everyone has to eat. To help you through the confusion, here are 13 “facts” that we all agree on that can guide us in our pursuit of the best life. Then we have 13 lies or “not facts” of fitness and food—think twice about listening to such advice!

Fact #1: Omega-3 Fats are “healthy fats” that are essential for the body to function properly. Get EPA and DHA in your diet every day—the most accepted source is fish oil and wild fish.

Lie #1: Canola oil is a great “heart healthy” fat that you should use regularly.
Not so! Canola goes through rather incredible processing before it makes it into the bottle—it’s heated, washed, and treated with the chemical hexane. It also has a poor omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Avoid canola!

Fact #2: HIT (High-Intensity Training) can help you lose fat. HIT programs favor the use of the anaerobic energy system, burning a lot calories fast, raising metabolism during the recovery period, and building muscle.

HIT training has also been found to convey the following benefits: better brain function, depression prevention, better pain management, improved circulation and lung function, lower blood pressure and resting heart rate, and decreased chronic inflammation.

Not Fact #2: Aerobic training can help you lose weight and everyone should do it regularly.
If you enjoy aerobic training, please don’t let this deter you. The point is that if you are doing it to lose fat or improve health, it’s not your best choice.

According to scientist Stephen Boutcher, “The effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible.” Boutcher looks at the short- to moderate-term uselessness of aerobic exercise for fat loss, whereas longer surveys show it can actually lead to weight gain.
A 2006 study that tracked runners for 9 years showed that most of them gained fat and increased waist circumference. Only those who tripled their weekly mileage from 16 km/week to 64 km/week lost weight.
Fact #3: Squats are an excellent exercise and everyone should be doing some form of them. They work the whole body and studies show squatting can produce major functional benefits: better mobility, faster walking speed, better bone strength, stronger core musculature, faster running speed, greater vertical jump height, and better athletic performance.
Lie #3: Squats are dangerous and will damage the knees and spine.
Lie! Squats are not dangerous if you do them correctly. In fact, squatting is a natural motion performed by our ancestors on a regular basis. We evolved from people who didn’t have chairs and spent their days moving heavy stuff and tending crops and they needed to squat to accomplish these tasks.

In addition, a number of studies show squats can optimally strengthen the entire thigh and hip musculature so as to prevent knee pain and dysfunction. Depending on training status, you may need to start with unilateral split squats instead of barbell squats—but the same principles apply to unilateral squats as to barbell back squats: Go all way the down!

Fact #4: Sitting all day is extremely bad for you. Research shows that people who sit for more than 6 hours a day have greater risk of kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and premature death.

Not Fact #4: You can counter the ills of sitting all day by working out regularly.
Unfortunately, this is not so. Research into the effects of having a sedentary desk job show two key points:

1) Within a population that exercises at a vigorous intensity a few days a week, the amount of time spent being inactive is dramatic and not significantly lessened by regular workouts.

2) In just 20 minutes of sitting, your blood sugar and insulin can get out of whack. A little longer and oxygen saturation of the muscles drops and gene activity decreases, which directly influences protein synthesis and the clearance of waste from cells.

Fact #5: Whey protein rules for building muscle in conjunction with resistance training. It is “fast” digesting, making the amino acids available quickly for protein uptake into muscle for maximal gains. It has a superior amino acid profile of all protein sources, and it raises the most important antioxidant, glutathione, which is only produced inside the body to fight off disease.

Not Fact#5: Casein should always be taken with whey because it is slowly digested, triggering protein synthesis for a longer period after exercise.
Casein is highly allergenic. Will everyone who tries it have a problem? No, but when compared side-by-side with whey, it produces inferior results in terms of body composition. It’s not necessary or superior, and most people will do best without it.
Fact #6: Eating a high-protein, low-carb diet of whole foods can help you lose fat. High-protein, low-carb eating may be more effective and sustainable for more people than a low calorie or low-fat diet. It’s a scientific fact that high-protein, low-carb diets are effective for decreasing body fat because they help sustain lean mass and metabolic rate (calories burned at rest).
Lie #6: High-protein, low-carb diets are dangerous and don’t work.
Lie! Saying they don’t work is blatant disregard of the evidence. Same goes with saying they are dangerous.

Among the lies about high-protein diets are that they damage healthy kidneys, cause ketoacidosis, cause nutrient deficiencies, cause bone loss, and will cause poor brain function. The truth is, if you prepare a high-protein, low-carb whole foods eating plan, you may find that you have more energy, better health, and enjoy eating delicious meals!

Fact #7: You can build amazing abs with compound lifts (squats, deads, chins, clean, snatch, lunges, presses, pulls). You can showcase those abs by maintaining a low body fat.

Lie #7: Isolation ab exercises can help you lose belly fat and get great abs.
Most readers already know this is a lie. Bulletproof abs are made in the kitchen, with compound lifts, and the addition of sprints when necessary.

Did you know there’s research to show ab training is a waste of time? A 2011 study showed that 6 weeks of ab training 5 days a week for 45 minutes produced no change in body fat, abdominal fat or waist circumference. The only benefit was being able to do about 33 percent more sit-ups!

Fact #8: The perfect diet varies for each person and is informed by genetics. It is the one that helps you feel energized, mobile, pain free, and with optimal body composition. If it ain’t broke, there’s no need to fix it.

Not Fact #8: It’s okay to bash other people diets.
Obviously, not a fact and not okay!

With all the dietary confusion that is compounded by a multi-billion dollar lying food industry, it’s tempting to start bashing other people’s eating styles. Let’s stay positive and focus on evidence-based education: This may be the only way to outsmart dangerous food policy and marketing.

Fact #9: Eating berries will improve your health—and they’re delicious! Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cherries have been shown to counter cardiovascular inflammation, speed recovery from intense exercise, reduce muscle soreness, enhance brain function, and decrease the ill effects of a high-fat diet.

Not Fact #9: Antioxidants will save us.

Not so much. The misconception that consuming antioxidants will save us comes from an oversimplification of the body’s internal antioxidant system.
The truth is simple, but misunderstood: We have an internal protection system called the Anti-Inflammatory Cascade. A substance called glutathione, which our bodies produce, drives the Cascade. Foods that contain what we casually call “antioxidants” help glutathione do its work to protect us. These foods include berries, certain nutrients like zinc and alpha lipoic acid, and other plants. The solution is to consume whole antioxidant-rich foods in-season.
Fact #10: Eating vegetables will improve your health. Green vegetables are beneficial for body composition because they are filling, low energy, high in a gazillion nutrients, provide fiber, are affordable, and are easy to eat. Eating fresh vegetables is associated with lower disease risk in a number of studies.
Lie #10: Vegetables are good for you in any form, whether it’s processed, packaged, or added to a cake.
Not so. Look, carrot cake, zucchini bread, and ketchup may have a place if they are homemade, but that doesn’t mean that eating them constitutes a serving of vegetables. The perfect diet varies for everyone, but to get the most out of veggies, stick to fresh or frozen, steamed veggies.

Fact #11: Resistance training is great for health and body composition. There’s no downside to lifting weights: You will build muscle, improve insulin health, become more mobile, have better cognition, improve heart, lung, and bone health, have better reproductive function, and have greater chance of avoiding disease. Everyone should strength train!
Not Fact: Light load training is just as good for building muscle as heavy load training.
Not exactly. Recent research shows that in untrained people, lifting light weights to failure will build the same amount of muscle as heavy weights. The problem is this study was widely publicized and missed the message that after 6 months, trainees need to increase the weights to continue making progress. Long-term results come from a carefully planned, progressive program, not lifting measly loads.

Fact #12: Probiotics can improve gut health, improve brain function, and help you achieve optimal body composition. A lofty statement, especially since research into the role of the bacteria in our guts is in the early stages, but it appears to be true.

There’s evidence that overweight people can lose fat by taking a probiotic that alters the type of bacteria living in the gut. In addition, since the majority of the chemical transmitter serotonin is made in the gut, probiotic appear to improve cognition and boost mood.

Not Fact #12: Yogurt is a great source of probiotics.

Not exactly. Plain fermented dairy such as yogurt is an acceptable source of probiotics that is beneficial for the gut. But, most of the readership is aware of two problems with this plan:

1) Yogurt often has chemicals and sugar added to it
2) Dairy tends to cause intolerances when eating chronically.

Depending on your gut situation, a probiotic supplement may be needed, or you may be able to create a healthy gut by eating probiotic foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, keifer) and eliminating processed foods.

Fact #13: Overeating regularly can make you gain fat. Eating more calories than you expend can make you fat. However, this is not very useful when we consider factors such as insulin sensitivity, the thermic effect of food, and factors that influence resting energy expenditure, which brings us to the lie…

Lie #13: All calories are equal when it comes to weight loss. It doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you eat fewer calories than you expend.

The funny thing (not funny “ha-ha”) is that there will probably a comment to this article saying that a “calorie is a calorie!” However, a few things show this is not so:
1) Many factors affect the number of calories you expend daily: Something as simple as working at a standing desk versus sitting desk can cause your body to use at least 25 more calories per hour (that’s 200 extra a day!), or doing a HIT weight workout with short rest periods has been shown to increase resting energy expenditure by 25 percent (354 calories) during the 24 hour recovery period whereas a traditional strength workout with long rest periods increased resting energy expenditure by only 5 percent (98 calories).
2) The body uses different amounts of calories to break down protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Protein burns the most calories, followed by carbohydrates, and then fats. The body also processes certain types of fat differently. For example, omega-3 fats enhance the activity of something called uncoupling protein genes that cause you to burn calories at an accelerated rate by raising body temperature. This is why “healthy” fats don’t make you fat, but can make you lose fat.
Please, if you take away one single thing from this article, know that all calories are not equal when it comes to fat loss. If you are convinced otherwise, I ask you to consider what the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh writes about mindfulness and certainty:
“For doctors, the wrong diagnoses can kill people, so they have to be careful. Doctors have told me that in medical school they are taught that even if you are sure check again…Sometimes we are too sure of our perceptions….It would make you safer to write in calligraphy, ‘are you sure?’ and hang it in your office. That is the bell of mindfulness. Always go back to your perception, check it again, and don’t be too sure of it.”