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Complex Training Program Overview

This 4-week training plan will boost your muscles in all areas – power, strength, and size – with one scientifically proven technique.

Complex Training program

A more powerful muscle is a stronger muscle, and a stronger muscle is a bigger muscle. Combine these three elements – power, strength, size – intelligently into one workout and you get my exclusive 4-week Complex Training Program.

In just four weekly workouts, you’ll have a physique that not only looks leaner and more muscular, but that also performs better in the gym and at virtually any sport.

Why Complex Training Works

Although the name implies otherwise, Complex Training is quite simple once you understand the science behind it. The “complex” portion comes from stacking, or supersetting, two exercises back-to-back to improve strength and power on the second move. (I also discuss Complex Training in this article.)

The reason for the improvement on the second exercise is known as Postactivation Potentiation (PAP). Simply put, PAP "charges" your nervous system so that on successive sets, you can lift more weight, jump higher, or complete more reps. (More on PAP below.)

During the 4-week program, the complex sets in each workout will help you first build explosive power in the upper and lower body (both pushing and pulling muscles). Then, you’ll use more weight on heavy low-rep sets (5 reps, 4 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps) to promote gains in pure strength, not to mention athletic power improvements that will carry over into all aspects of life. Finally, the workout ends with compound sets with higher rep counts to build lean muscle mass.

The Science Behind PAP

Let’s be clear, complex training isn’t some bro-science nonsense. Numerous studies done over the past 20 years support the effectiveness of PAP for improving power and strength. In fact, a 2019 published review of over 30 studies using complex training confirmed that it’s quite effective for boosting 1-rep-max (1RM) strength and increasing power to allow athletes to jump higher and sprint faster.

The way PAP works, in simple terms, is that it primes the nervous system to fire with more force and power. Think about a baseball or softball player warming up to bat. Often, the athlete will swing with several bats for added weight or use a weighted “donut” on the bat while in the on deck circle. Doing this primes the nervous system to move a heavier bat. Then, when the athlete is batting for real with a lighter bat, the nervous system fires with the force and power to move the heavier bat. The stronger nerve impulse causes the athlete to swing the bat with more force than he or she normally would. This results in a more powerful swing to hit the ball farther.

PAP also works the other way around – using a light weight before lifting a heavy weight.

The trick here is to lift a very light weight as explosively as possible before the heavy load. For example, if you do a few medicine ball chest throws before a heavy set of bench press, the fast and explosive med ball reps will prime the nervous system to explode with more power. Then, when you attempt the heavy bench press, your starting strength (where you explode the bar off the chest) will be greater, thus allowing you to bench press more weight.

Complex Training Rundown: Power + Strength + Muscle

As I mentioned above, during the 4-week program you’ll be working on three main goals:

  1. Power
  2. Strength
  3. Muscle Building (hypertrophy)

All workouts focus on all three areas via exercise pairs – a.k.a., a “complex.” The order of exercise pairings (complexes) in each workout will be as follows:

Exercise Pair #1: Power Complex

Every workout in the program will start with a power complex exercise pairing. This means that the exercises you do and the order in which you’ll do them are designed to develop explosive power. It’s important to do this exercise pairing first in the workout when the fast-twitch muscle fibers are at their strongest and freshest (i.e., not fatigued from previous sets). Once the fast-twitch muscle fibers become fatigued (and believe me, they fatigue fast), they’ll no longer produce power. So, do this power complex first for each major muscle group.

Note: The power complex applies to chest, back, shoulders, legs, calves, and abs. For triceps, biceps, and traps, you won’t do a power complex; rather, you’ll start with a strength complex pairing. Why? Because the triceps assist on the pushing power moves (chest and shoulder exercises), the biceps assist on upper-body pulling moves (back), and the traps assist on shoulder moves. In other words, the triceps, biceps, and traps will have already gotten their power complex work in for the day and will be somewhat fatigued. With forearms, which assist on biceps moves, you’ll skip power and strength complexes and only do hypertrophy complexes.

To do a power complex, you’ll pair a strength move with a power move, in that order. Here are some examples, all of which are shown in the below workout charts…

Workout 1: For chest, the heavy bench press (done short of failure) will provide more explosiveness to your power push-up. This will allow you to explode higher up on each rep. That means greater power development, which carries over into greater strength on chest press movements like the bench press. Even abs get a power set with weighted crunches to...

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