You may use supersets in your current program to increase training density and fatigue a certain muscle group. Complexes take this concept to the next level. By working three to four exercises in a row, you’ll compound fatigue on a certain group of muscles leading to an insane stimulus for growth.
To incorporate complexes in your routine, pick a group of muscles to target. For this example, we’re going to use the chest group. Select three (intermediate) or four (advanced) exercises according to the following layout:
1. Power exercise – 3-5 reps (Example: Clapping Push-up)
2. Strength Exercise – 6-8 reps (Example: Dumbbell Bench Press)
3. Isolation Exercise – 8-12 reps (Example: Cable Chest Fly)
4. Bodyweight Fatigue Exercise – As many reps as possible (Example: Close Grip Push-up)
By the time you get to the bodyweight fatigue exercise at the end, your chest should be thoroughly exhausted. Because this complex combines power, strength, and hypertrophy rep ranges, you’ll stimulate a ton of muscle fibers and create a huge potential for growth. Be sure to move in a fast and explosive manner during the power exercises. “The high velocity contractions required to execute the lifts correctly recruit what are called high threshold motor units, which activate your fast twitch muscle fibers. These fiber types have the greatest potential for improvements in size and strength, compared to their slow twitch counterparts,” according to Jon-Erik Kawamoto, head trainer at JKConditioning.com.
There are three distinct phases during a lift. First, there is a muscle shortening phase or concentric contraction when lifting the weight (think of squeezing the muscle). Next, the muscle is lengthening under load to lower the weight back down – referred to as an eccentric contraction. Finally, there is typically a pause or isometric contraction between the two. The eccentric phase or slow lowering of the weight causes huge amounts of muscle damage and therefore spurs tons of new growth. To make matters even better, you’re stronger when lowering a weight than actually pressing one up meaning you can handle heavier loads on the lowering portion and cause more muscle fatigue. This all translates to negatives being a fantastic method for building strength and size.
Since negatives are extremely intense and can leave you sore for days afterwards, it’s best to start slow with only one or two exercises in your program. Using a spotter, load up your five rep max on an exercise (preferably a total body move like bench press). Perform the exercise as normal but take 5-6 seconds to lower the weight. With the help of a spotter, lift the weight back up. Aim for two to three repetitions.