Complex Training Defined
Combining various modalities of training (lifting, plyometrics, and sprinting) is known as “complex” training.(2) More specifically, complex training alternates biomechanically similar high load weight training exercises with a plyometric exercise, set for set in the same workout.(3) Examples of this would be performing a set of squats followed by a set of jump squats, or doing a bench press followed by a medicine ball chest pass.
Example of Complex training series
- Weights – Plyometric
- Step-ups – Box Jumps
- Squats – Vertical Jumps
- Lat Pulls – Overhead Medicine Ball Throws
- Bench Press - Medicine Ball Power Drop
- Crunches – Medicine Ball Incline Sit-ups
Combination Training Defined
Combination training, which is often incorrectly represented by some trainers as complex training, is different in terms of program design. With combination training, a trainer will use a combination of exercises, in succession, i.e. – bench press to lat pull down. This is often performed as a complete series of exercises and is commonly incorrectly referred to complex training, when in reality it is combination training.
Example of Combination training series for upper body
Using a barbell-dumbbells-or weight bar, do 10 reps of each with no rest between exercises.
- Incline Bench Press
- Bent Row
- Shoulder Press
- Bicep Curl
- Reverse Forearm Curl
- High Pull
- Front Shoulder Raises
- Db Flat Bench Fly
Base Levels Required
Both complex training and combination training can be useful methods for training. A key in using either type of training method is to make sure the client/athlete has a sufficient strength training level and experience to handle the workload and the intensity of the program. Complex training can be incorporated after a base strength or “preparation” training cycle of weight training.(3)
Intensity and volume with complex training should to be at a high level for both weight training and plyometric work.(3) With combination training, intensity and volume also need to push the client/athlete to high levels of performance. Specificity and exercise choice with complex training should include a multi-joint weight training exercise followed by a biomechanically similar plyometric/explosive exercise. (1, 2)
Recovery is Important
Research has shown that to gain the most from complex training, it is essential to incorporate three to four minutes of rest between the weight training and plyometrics training portions to be optimal.(3) With combination training, fatigue can play a dramatic role in the ultimate outcome of the workout. If technique deteriorates, the potential for injury increases. If a client is looking to produce power, remember that fatigue will keep the client from performing the exercises explosively, thereby reducing the ability to develop power.(4) Be sure that this is kept in mind during this type of training and understand that complex training is very taxing and with proper rest intervals the client should see optimal results.
Chart 1 gives some general guidelines for sets, repetitions, intensity level and number of training sessions per week based on the training goals for a clients program. A critical determinant for success will be an accurate assessment of the client/athlete's ability. This includes everything from scheduling, conditioning levels, years of training experience and how much he or she is able to handle.
It is important to keep in mind that complex training, as well as combination training, can easily lead to overtraining which can result in a person to be unable to make significant gains in their training.(2) By alternating methods of exercise, following a good periodized program, and training a client/athlete hard and smart, a trainer can assist in helping reach peak performance in the training program.
- Bompa, T.O. (1983). Theory and Method of Training. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.
- Chu, D.A. (1996). Explosive Power and Strength. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Ebben, W.P. (2002). Complex Training: A Brief Review. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 1, 42-46.
- Sandler, D. (2005). Sports Power. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.