One of the best training methods in my arsenal is complex or matrix-style training. These methods work extremely well after the strength-boosting component of your program, when you’ve already made a concerted effort to build some muscle.
I first learned about complexes back in the late 1990s when I was just getting started in the iron game. Istvan Javorek is widely regarded as the pioneer of complexes, and while he used them to improve the Olympic lifts, I feel as though they’re great as a workout finisher as well.
But before we dive head first into a few sample complexes or matrixes, let’s first discuss why you might choose to include them in your workouts.
Complexes and matrixes have quite a few benefits. Here are just a few that spring to mind:
They’re fat loss friendly
This is an obvious benefit for long-duration, low-intensity cardio targets such as improved cardiovascular function and parasympathetic tone, and so on – but not maximal fat loss.
Anaerobic intervals in the 1:1 to 1:3 work:rest ratio are one of the best ways to shed body fat. You don’t want to use them all year round, but if you want an all-out assault on body fat, they’re the real deal.
If you’re looking to get lean, more training volume isn’t always better. In fact, this is the ideal time to use faster, more high intensity methods. Complexes are fast and brutally effective, which gets you in and out of the gym quicker.
Space and equipment efficient
One of the big issues when it comes to fat-loss training is equipment and/or space. Not everyone has sleds, prowlers or a hill in the back yard to train with.
In the case of complexes and matrixes, not only are they space efficient (they can often be done in a very small area), but they require minimal equipment as well. With only one barbell, a sandbag or even just your bodyweight you can knock out a very intense workout.
When performing complexes, I typically prescribe 24 total reps. My favorite options are either four exercises with six repetitions each, or six exercises with four repetitions each.
You’ll perform each exercise for the allotted number of repetitions, and then move immediately on to the next exercise. Go through the entire series of exercises and then rest for the same period of time or, at the most, twice as long as it took you to go through the series.
As your conditioning improves, work to decrease the rest period so that you’re adhering to a 1:1 work:rest ratio.
The Basic Barbell Complex
This is a super-efficient complex that even the most seasoned iron veteran will enjoy. All the big lifts are tied into one awesome series!
Romanian deadlift – 4 reps
Bent-over row – 4 reps
Front squat – 4 reps
Push press – 4 reps
Good-morning – 4 reps
Back squat – 4 reps
Week One: 3 complexes
Week Two: 4 complexes
Week Three: 5 complexes
Week Four: 6 complexes
Bodyweight Leg Matrix
If you struggle with body fat in the legs, this lower body matrix will help you blowtorch it like no other. They can be done simply using your bodyweight, while holding dumbbells or in a weighted vest.
Vertical jump – 6 reps
Squat – 6 reps
Step-up – 6 reps
Lunge – 6 reps
Week One: 2 matrixes
Week Two: 3 matrixes
Week Three: 3 matrixes
Week Four: 4 matrixes