Workout Protocol #3 For Mental Toughness Development – The Barbell Complex Movements (part 1)


This is a great complex barbell series, minus the curls.

When making the leap from bodybuilding to full-body athletic workouts, both men and women have difficulties of letting go of their individual body part training. The girls usually think full-body training usually ignore their butts, while the guys tend to think that full-body training doesn’t hit the arms enough. If this sounds like you, the third workout protocol in this mental toughness system will help you make the transition as it is the most bodybuilding friendly. Barbell complex movements are universally liked by both women and men because they feel that are still shaping and building muscles with this workout protocol.

A complex is a series of lifts performed back to back where you finished the reps of one lift before moving on to the next lift. You can use a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell for complex movements. For consistency with this blog, I will describe the following movements using a barbell. A barbell complex movements usually consist of 5 movements which you do each movement without stopping. The bar only leaves you hand when all the lifts are completed. Barbell complexes movement are basically like circuit training, but instead of going from one station to another, you have only have one piece of equipment, one weighted load and one space. In other words, you stay in  one place and you never have to move to a different area or change the weight on the barbell. It’s all one huge full-body giant set. Barbell complexes movements are very practical. You can do them at home or in the corner of the gym when it is really busy. They may sound relative easy, but they are not. The challenge of barbell complex movements in this program is there is no rest period between each movement. You go from one movement to another and since you are using the same weight for each movement, the transition should be smooth. Barbell complex movements will play havoc on you mentally because your biggest challenge is not only to finish the set, but trying your damnedest not to drop the barbell on your head or feet. The first two movements shouldn’t be a problem, but by third movement, your grip on the barbell will feel shaky, your legs will get wobbly, the sweat begins to pour, and your body will then feel like it will collapse. What’s throwing your body through a loop is the “time under tension” concept. Normally, when you lift a load it takes about 30 seconds to complete 5 reps. But, for barbell complexes movements your “time under tension” increases dramatically, applying all kinds of pressure to your muscles. For example, in the following barbell complex movements you are required to do 5 movement in a row without a break. So if you if you do 5 reps each of overhead presses, back squats, bent over rows, good mornings and barbell roll outs that’s total of 25 sets or close to about 2:30 minutes under tension. That’s a lot of time for whole body muscle contractions and lot of agonizing adversity on your mind as well.

Also, since this mental toughness program is predicated on full-body workouts, barbell complex movements are fantastic for building over all muscle development because of this increased “time under tension” concept. This is especially important for those of you guys are still somewhat obsessed with packing on muscles or you gals wanting to shape up your physique. Again, this is nothing to be ashamed about or to hide from. Having a great bod is motivating goal to have. For me personally, when I made the changeover from bodybuilding work to conditioning training, the transition was extremely difficult, especially on my mental perception of myself. For about 20 years, my only goal was to get “big” so my biggest fear was that I would loss muscle mass as felt certain muscle groups would be under worked when I gave up single-body part training. In other words, I ridiculously thought I was going to shrink and shrivel up to a bag of bones. This was totally irrational on my part, but after years of force feeding and bulking up, I’m sure many of you guys will have the same fear. No need to worry.

The barbell complex movements are very bodybuilding friendly with primary body part movements all bunched up into one giant set. They are an excellent transition for you to leave the single-body part training into the world of full-body workouts. I know some of my male clients prefer doing barbell complex movements for this particular reason as they slowly say good-bye to their traditional goal of building mass. The funny thing is that you don’t lose muscle while doing barbell complexes, but will build a more muscular body with less lard swishing around in your soft spots. The reason why complex barbell movements are so effective in helping you build muscle is that they type of training not only hit nearly every single muscle group in your body, but it focuses on your fast twitch muscles, your big muscles that grow the most. The more muscle being used during exercise will help release growth hormones in your body and at the same time, trigger the powerful EPOC effect that will put your body 48 hour fat burning zone.

(End of part 1)

Today’s WOD: An Introduction to a classic barbell complex

(Use a weight that you can handle for 5 reps for the hardest movement which will be the strict military press)

8 sets of 5 reps for each movement. Try your best not to rest between each movement

Strict military press

Back squat

Bent over rows

Good mornings

Barbell roll outs (here’s a good tutorial video on how to perform them –

When picking a weight to do this barbell complex, be conservative. You won’t need a lot of weight because this workout is about stimulating your metabolism and busting your mental focus. It is very difficult so don’t worry about going heavy. For some, the 45 pound barbell is more than enough. The general rule is to use the heaviest weight you can handle for the most difficult movement in the complex. For example, in this complex, the most difficult movement is the strict military press. Use a weight you can handle for this movement and not for the back squat.

In order to maximize your progress with this mental toughness program, you need to understand the reasoning behind the concepts. One of the main principals that I followed is based on SEAL toughness development. I wrote about on an earlier post and you can read about it here. If you read it already, review your notes again. Basically, SEAL training and the WODs in this mental toughness training program, are purposely trying to push your body to extreme exhaustion so you can use your mind to guide yourself through the physical task that you are doing. By taking your body out of the equation, you must learn to use your mind as your primary energy source. Most people think their muscles are what provides strength. They do, but they are no comparison to what the mind can do. The body has limits on what it can do, the mind does not. It is limitless in its source of power. I know this may sound like wacky bullshit to a lot of you, but with a few week into this mental toughness program, you will truly believe in it. The goal of this program is to teach you that your thought patterns are your greatest source of strength.

Even with all my years of training, I still have to constantly remind myself of this major mental toughness principal during my preparation (I will go heavily into the preparation process very soon) before I go into the WOD.  If not, I will suffer just for the sake of suffering and that will do very little to mental toughness growth. So for all of you that is first starting out with your mental toughness training, make it a habit to remind yourself that what your are doing is purposely trying to over fatigue the body so that you can get the mind involved. With this barbell complex WOD, your whole body will be mushed very soon in the WOD, so this is excellent lesson for you to teach yourself how to let your mind take over the body. When the barbell complex has your whole body quivering and begging you to drop the weight, your mind must step in and be defiant with aggressive thoughts to shut up the pain and negativity.

This is your goal for today – activate the mind when your body has reached its limit.

If you can achieve this today during the WOD, you will make a huge step in your mental toughness progress. And when you do, it’s going to feel so fucken incredible.

Now go to work.

Scaled back version of this WOD:

1. Do 3 reps for each movement

2. Do only 5 sets total at 5 or three reps for each movement.

3. Omit the barbel roll outs.

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