Do you find that when you’re pressed for time it becomes easier to skip a workout? Is it a hassle for you to drive to the gym before or after work? After reading this article you won’t feel this way again, no matter how busy your schedule. That’s because I will show you a great muscle building, calorie burning workout that only takes 15-20 minutes to complete. You can do it anywhere too, even your office or backyard.
The workouts are referred to as complexes by strength coaches. Despite the name, they are anything but complex with regard to the equipment, space, skill, or time they require to complete. Keep reading to learn what complexes are along with why and how to do them any time or place.
Complexes – 20 Minute Muscle Building Workouts
Basically speaking, complexes are 3 or more exercises done using the same barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell with no rest between each movement. The exercises you use typically alternate between upper and lower body in focus. They’re most often done while standing. When performed properly you will move fluidly from one exercise to the other.
Complexes are the brainchild of strength coach Istvan Javorek. He uses them to help athletes quickly build muscle and improve their overall fitness in the off-season. The results Coach Javorek reports speak for themselves. After 3-6 months of training this way men and women he coaches often gain more than 30 pounds and more than doubled their strength. People I train achieve similar results and often lose as much weight and body fat in as little time too.
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to do them or achieve similar results. Anyone can do complexes. If you’re willing to put forth maximum effort and make sure you eat enough protein to build muscle you too can achieve similar results.
The list below details the several benefits of complexes.
- Complexes are convenient. You don’t have to deal with the hassle of changing weights or moving from one piece of equipment to another.
- Complexes save you time. Since you rest so little and don’t have to change equipment or machines each workout only takes 15-20 minutes.
- Complexes don’t require much equipment. All you need to perform this workout is a dumbbell or kettlebell.
- Complexes don’t require a lot of room. You can do this workout in a spare room of your house or backyard.
- Complexes improve your overall fitness. This workout won’t simply make you bigger or stronger. Doing them regularly will help you build muscle, increase your strength, and even increase your flexibility.
The 20 Minute Workout Explained
The exercises in this complex workout are: 1 arm snatches, squats, and shoulder press. Performing a complex with these exercises trains practically every muscle in your body. Your legs, core (abs/lower back), upper back, and shoulders get an especially good workout. You’ll even feel it in your biceps and triceps. My arms got significantly bigger after doing this complex 2-3 times a week for a month. I wasn’t doing any exercises for my arms like curls or triceps push downs either.
Below are descriptions for each exercise. I recommend learning how to do each exercise by itself first. Once you have the movement mastered you can do them as a complex.
1 Arm Snatch
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand with your palm facing away from you. The weight should be between your legs.
- Bend your knees and waist as if you are performing a kettlebell swing. The weight should swing back and between your legs.
- Once the weight has swung between your legs, pull it forward explosively. Push from your heels onto your toes. Keep your arm straight and extended throughout the movement. You should be on your toes as the weight approaches chest height.
- Driving with your hips, pull the weight up until your arm is fully extended and you’re holding the weight above your head.
- Lower the weight to shoulder height and prepare to perform the squat segment of the complex.
- Stand holding a dumbbell or kettlebell at shoulder height. Your feet should still be apart at shoulder width.
- Perform a squat by bending your knees and moving your but back. Your weight should be over your heels.
- Continue to squat down until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Your heels should never come off the ground.
- Return to the standing position. Push up from your heels.
- You’ll finish in the same position from which you started this portion of the exercise. You’re now ready to perform the 1 arm shoulder press.
1 Arm Shoulder Press
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart holding a dumbbell or kettlebell at shoulder height. If you’re using a kettlebell it will rest against the back of your hand.
- Tighten your abs, breath in and press the weight overhead until your arm is completely extended.
- Lower the weight back to the starting position of the exercise.
- Return the weight to the starting position of the 1 arm snatch.
Sets, Reps and Rest Periods
Begin with 5 sets of 3 repetitions per arm for each exercise. Add 1 repetition per set every other workout until you can do 5 sets of 8 reps. Once you have achieved this goal you can decrease the amount of rest you take between complexes to make them more challenging and further improve your fitness.
When you can easily do 5 sets of 8 reps with 60 seconds or less rest between each complex it’s time to move only more challenging variations. This can include performing reverse lunges instead of squats and holding the weight overhead as you perform the squatting segment of the exercise. You can also add an additional movement such as the kettlebell swing to the complex.
When You Should Do This 20 Minute Workout
You can do this workout about as often as you like. Doing it 3-5 days a week is most effective.
Another way to add it to your overall workout routine is to perform it on your days off from the gym. This is a great way to consistently train and improve your overall fitness. When doing it with this goal in mind, perform 3-5 sets of 5 reps with a weight you can actually perform 10 reps with so you don’t train too heavy and compromise your ability to recover before your next workout.
On days I have a little more time to train, I like to do this complex as the first exercise of my workout. Then, all I have to do is perform 3-5 sets of plyometric push ups, pull ups, and farmer’s walks and I’m done. I’ll have trained every major muscle group in my body in about 30 minutes tops.
You now have a great workout that enables you to get in a great total body workout in very little time. Since it only requires 1 piece of equipment it’s super convenient too. Even if you are stuck in your office all day long, take a dumbbell or kettlebell to work with you and perform a couple of sets on during a break. Before you know it you’ll find you’re getting results faster than you ever thought possible.
(Photo credit: Workout Time via Shutterstock)
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