Categorized | Cardio

Exercising at Home – Barbell Complexes For Cardio

For the last three years, I’ve mostly been working out at home. For a while, I continued going to a commercial gym as well but, eventually, I made the commitment to stop paying for a gym membership that I didn’t need and started working out exclusively at home.

To start with, I found the lack of equipment and machines difficult to do without. After a few months, though, it got easier. And before the first year was out I was enjoying exercising at home far more than I ever did in a commercial gym.

I soon found that there were in fact lots of different options for exercising at home, even if you’re concentrating on cardio, or aerobic training. Most people think that they have to invest in the same piece of equipment that they’ve always used in the gym but that’s not the case. I used to be chained to the Concept 2 rowing machine but I soon learned that there were other options to give me the cardio buzz that I needed.

Barbell complexes

One of the best ways to do cardio is to use barbells to create complexes. Some strength coaches refer to this as weighted cardio, or strength cardio.

Barbell complexes only really work if you are already comfortable using barbells as part of a resistance training programme. If you start grabbing a barbell and tearing through complexes before you’ve mastered the basic lifts, you’re going to suffer horribly because your form will deteriorate. First, get mastery over the basic lifts and only then think about complexes.

Here are a couple of key pointers, if you decide to use complexes as your cardio option:

  • Make sure that your complexes programme fits in with your resistance training goals. Don’t start ripping it up with complexes if your resistance training programme already has tonnes of volume in it or they will make you unhappy.
  • A good example complex might have 5 to 8 exercises of 5 to 8 repetitions each but everyone has their own sweet spot.
  • Choose exercises that you’re familiar with. I learned the hard way that complexes aren’t the time or the place to learn the good morning!
  • Put the harder exercises first. This makes it easier to use the same weight all the way through. E.g. you would want to place a deadlift or squat variation earlier than a press or a row.
  • Don’t put exercises that require lots of co-ordination too late in the complex. E.g. even if you can Olympic lift safely I wouldn’t include snatch or snatch variations too late in the complex as your form may get sloppy owing to fatigue. Doing them as a first exercise is great, however, if you are comfortable doing them safely.
  • Choose big, compound movements. You’re looking for whole-body recruitment here to burn calories and get the heart pumping. We’re not isolating muscles.
  • Emphasis the posterior chain. Think deadlifts, cleans and squats. This will make you a better athlete, a more upright human being and a stronger person. Birds will sing around you as you walk and flowers will grow at your feet. (OK, I made the last bit up).
  • Plan the transitions in your complex. You don’t want to be finishing a deadlift and transitioning to a squat, because this means you would first have to do a clean and jerk to get the weight over your head before you can then drop it onto your upper back. Deadlifts and rows transition well into cleans (or high pulls). Cleans (and high pulls) transition well into push presses or front squats. Presses transition well into back squats or good mornings.

My favourite complex is: Romanian deadlift, high pull, front squat, push press and good morning. This comprises purely compound movements, puts the harder movements earlier and transitions nicely all the way through.

Lots of options

I hope this short article has gone a little way towards showing you how barbell circuits can be used to do cardio or aerobic training at home.

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