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Barbell Complex Workout

Simple Barbell Workouts To Burn Fat Fast


Torch fat in 20 minutes or less with these five-move barbell complexes

What Is A Barbell Complex?

Barbell complexes – workouts where you do multiple moves back to back without putting the bar down – seem simple enough. After all, the weight isn’t heavy – it’s perfectly acceptable to do one with an unweighted Olympic bar. And the rep count isn’t too high. In the instance of our first workout below you only do ten reps per exercise. But simple isn’t the same as easy, and despite all that you’re likely to end up in a sweaty heap on the floor at the end of the session.

The reason is that the minimal rest and high volume means that you get through a lot of work in a short period of time. “Doing a barbell complex is a great way to train the whole body in a short time period while keeping the intensity high,” says personal trainer Tirrel Grant (, who supplied the first of three workouts below. “The compound movements will have great metabolic effects, leading to fat loss.” We’ll see you at the bar.

Barbell Complex 1

How to do the workout

In a barbell complex you do all the reps of each exercise in order without rest and without putting the bar down. At the end of this complex, rest for 90sec-2min. Do five rounds in total. To progress, add a rep to each set or reduce the amount of rest you take between rounds. Once you’re at 15 reps, add another round.

Romanian deadlift

Reps 10 Rest 0sec

How With knees slightly bent, hinge at the hips to send the bar down your legs until you feel a strong stretch in your hamstrings.

Expert tip “Keep your back straight as possible while keeping your head in a neutral position,” says Grant.

Progression To really focus the effort on your hamstrings, do the stiff-legged version, where you don’t bend your knees.

Bent-over row

Reps 10 Rest 0sec

How Bend at the hips and let the bar hang down. Pull your elbows back to bring the bar up to your stomach.

Expert tip “Initiate the movement with a shoulder blade retraction, then row the bar up, leading with your elbows,” says Grant.

Progression To make the move even more effective, squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top and hold that position for a second.

3 High pull

Reps 10 Rest 0sec

How Lead with your elbows to raise the bar in front of you until it reaches chest level, then lower back to the start.

Expert tip “To initiate the movement, keep your core tight and perform a jumping and shrugging movement,” says Grant. “Drive through your calves using lots of momentum, keeping in mind that you want high-speed bar movement.”

Progression Make it a power move by explosively going up onto your toes as you raise the bar to chest height.

Overhead press

Reps 10 Rest 0sec

How Press the bar directly overhead, then lower it. When you lower, don’t go beyond chin height to avoid stressing the shoulders.

Expert tip “Your arms should finish in line with your ears,” says Grant. If you struggle with that, work on shoulder mobility.

Progression Use the same movement but take longer to lower the bar so you maximise the time under tension.


Reps 10 Rest 90sec-2min

How With the bar on your back, take a step forwards and lower until your knees are bent at 90°, then press back up to the start.

Expert tip “For the movement pattern, think escalator not elevator - forwards then down, not up and down,” says Grant.

Progression Do a reverse lunge where you take a step backwards and bend both knees to 90° before standing back up.

Barbell Workout 2

How To Do This Workout

This workout has five moves which are performed in a circuit. Do all the reps of move 1 then go straight on to move 2 and complete those reps without resting. Follow this pattern for the rest of the circuit and only rest once you have completed all the reps of the fifth and final move, and for no longer than two minutes. The first and last exercise are 20-rep sets, and the three lifts in between them are ten-rep sets. You’ll do five circuits in total.

Do this circuit with just a barbell. Once that’s too easy, add a 2.5kg weight plate to each side, then continue to go up in 2.5kg increments.


Reps 20 Rest 10sec

How Squat down to pick the bar off the floor with an overhand grip, then stand up tall.

Why Doing deadlifts with an empty bar will improve your form and work multiple muscle groups.

Progression If 20 reps doesn’t get your heart rate high and breathing hard, add five more reps per circuit.

Romanian Deadlift

Reps 10 Rest 0sec

How Bend forwards from the hips with arms straight to lower the bar down your shins.

Why This move will work your glutes and hamstrings and keep your heart rate elevated.

Progression If this feels too easy, increase the rep count to 12 or 15 for each circuit of the session.

Bent-over row

Reps 10 Rest 0sec

How Hinge forward from the hips with legs and arms straight. Row the bar up to your stomach.

Why It works all the major muscles of your upper back as well as your core and forearms.

Progression If this feels too easy, increase the rep count to 12 or 15 for each circuit of the session.

Overhead press

Reps 10 Rest 0sec

How Stand tall holding the bar across the front of your shoulders. Press the bar straight overhead.

Why It’s one of the best moves to work your shoulders and your triceps.

Progression If this feels too easy, increase the rep count to 12 or 15 for each circuit of the session.


Reps 20 Rest 2min

How Stand tall with the bar across the back of your shoulders. Squat down as deep as you can. Keep each rep smooth and controlled so you never pause at the top or bottom, but don’t “bounce” at the bottom either.

Why This final move of the circuit works your legs and core and again elevates your heart rate.

Progression Increase the number of reps you do per circuit to 25 if you have more left in the tank.

Barbell Complex 3

How do to it

Do the five moves here in order, performing 15 reps of a lift then moving on to the next one without rest. After the final move, rest for 60 seconds, then repeat. Do six circuits in total. If you want to make the circuit harder you can add weight to the bar, starting with 2.5kg each side.

Romanian deadlift

Stand tall holding the bar with a wide, overhand grip. Bend forwards, hingeing from the hips, to lower the bar to knee level. Push your hips forwards to stand up straight.

2 Clean

From the bottom of the deadlift, push your hips forward and raise the bar, rotating your elbows to “catch” it at shoulder height. Reverse the move to the start.

Bent-over row

Starting from the bottom of the clean, let your arms hang then, leading with your elbows, row the bar in towards your lower chest. Return to the start.

Push Press

Clean the bar up to the front of your shoulders then, initiating the move with a knee bend, push the bar straight up over your head. Lower it back down to your shoulders.


After the last push press rep, lower the bar behind your head to rest on the backs of your shoulders. Squat down, then stand back up


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