Plateau Crusher: The Total Body Barbell Complex

Have you been stuck in a rut for awhile? Maxes not going up? Body fat loss remaining stagnant? Chances are your endurance sucks. Try this total body complex that crushes plateaus, builds muscle, and torches body fat. Here’s how to break the cycle:

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Believe it or not, this article is not just for meatheads. Everyone needs some level of local muscular endurance, however small. Even Olympic weightlifters–some of the most specialized power competitors–can benefit from some General Physical Preparedness to promote injury-resistance and recovery between attempts.

Here’s what happens in your program that forces you into a plateau:

As the SAID (Specific Adaptation of Imposed Demands) Principle makes clear, if you want to increase your max-effort lifts, you have to move heavy weight. Short-term, this is awesome advice.

The Problem:

Your body is a pretty amazing piece of equipment. The reason you have to increase volume or intensity through progressive overload to continue improvement is due to adaptations occurring in your body that are physiologically designed to support the newer stresses being placed upon it. In other words, it gets used to your new behavior of picking up heavy things and putting them down… and it does this faster than you’d think.

When you embark on this journey for less fat, more muscle, or greater motor unit recruitment (or all the above), it’s all wine and roses for awhile. Your gains skyrocket at a seemingly sustainable level… until they don’t. Chances are, it’s because you’ve only been training one aspect of overall fitness. I’m not against specialization. In fact, I prefer it to being average at everything. However, you need to be somewhat proficient in other aspects of fitness in order to have a solid foundation on which to build your brick house. You can have the best hands in the game, but if you can’t sprint and cut, you can’t play receiver in the NFL. Specialization, when taken too far, can set you back and have you spinning your wheels wondering why the car isn’t moving.

A lot of excuses I hear about building endurance usually revolves around time allocated to the gym. There are only so many hours in the day so you’d rather spend them moving heavy weights. You don’t have to dedicate entire sessions to MetCon. There’s a better way if you want to keep getting stronger.

The Solution:

Try total-body complexes. For those not in the know, a complex has you picking up a loaded barbell and not setting it down until all exercises and reps for that complex are completed. They require recruitment from prime movers, synergists, and antagonists alike to keep you stable and standing until the last rep is finished. They’re also a great way to add volume and time under tension at the end of your workout as a finisher.

Add this brutal total body complex to the end of your workout. Load up a barbell with 70% of your Standing Military Press max to start.

A1) Standing Military Press x 5
A2) Push-Press x 5
A3) Front Squat x 5
A4) High Pull or Muscle Clean x 5
A5) Bent-Over Row x 5
A6) RDL x 5
A7) Deadlift x 5

Go for 3 rounds on 2 minutes of rest.

Choose a “lighter” load to start. Roughly 70% of your Standing Press Max will do. If you don’t know it, take a guess but err on the lighter side. Go too heavy and you increase your risk of injury due to mechanical failure under high fatigue. This complex is going to hurt. Use sound and efficient technique for each rep. At this load, you shouldn’t have to gut it out with bad mechanics.

Keep your strength workout. Building max strength is an excellent set-up for what’s about to follow. By fatiguing your prime movers with heavy load, you’re prepping yourself for big lean mass gains by adding a little endurance to the end of your session.

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