Complexes before Strength Work

I did Complex B before my strength work today. I had a question on the forum about doing them first and the question was solid: if you are wrecked doing something BEFORE strength work, then is it wrong? So, I did 4 sets of 8 of Complex B and found that the room was very hot, my sweating was sweating and my interest in going heavy diminished.

So, it comes back to this: When I was in just flat out great shape doing Alwyn Cosgrove’s Afterburn II, I handled the strength work after complexes like a breeze. My athletes after football or wrestling season can move big weights after complexes. So, like so many things in lifting, you have to stand on a balance board juggling watermelons to figure this out. If you are in fairly good shape, at least the way I use the concept, you can do strength training after a rigorous warm up. But, if you are not, strength work should start the workout.

Everything I just wrote is mostly BS. Oh, it’s true BS, but you have to keep one other factor in there, too: if you are doing strength lifts that really aren’t that close to top end maxes, you can get away with a lot before the big lifts. So, on the 5/3/1 for example, I did nine reps with 235 in the Bench Press slightly gassed. Well, I’ve benched 405, so 235 for reps is hard, but not top end hard. Doing an additional rep with 235 isn’t like doing one more with 365.

I know this kind of bantering can drive readers crazy, but this is how using the brain to train works. The answers to questions always have to run through some kind of filter and the reality filter is my favorite. So, if a teenage boy who is lean and just finished football season does three sets of eight with 65 pounds in a complex, it might have no effect on his 165 last “max reps” set in the Bench Press. Six months from now, with 225 on the bar then we can talk. With an adult struggling to do this and that and this and that in a traininig session, the complexes are best left as finishers. I have started workouts with Farmer Bars and discovered that everything after that was subpar.

So, if your conditioning is suspect and/or your big lifts of the day are serious big lifts, start the session with some foam rolling, some rolling the feet with a lacrosse ball, some hip flexor stretches, a few Goblet Squats and some general hippity dippidy moving around. Keep as much in the tank as you can as you approach a big squat or deadlift. Experiment on deloading weeks or easy days with putting harder things at the start of the training session.

Pavel has mentioned to me a dozen times that simply getting gassed in a workout is easy. I always joke: Do 10,000 jumping jacks. The key isn’t so much destroying yourself in a workout, but actually training, learning, mastering and then coming back time after time after time. It’s fine to make a mistake in training and realize you did something stupid. Learn from it. I tend to enjoy repeating stupid ideas several times until the surgeon tells me to stop doing this or that.

I never consider anything about training to be so true and correct that it can’t stand another look. Just about everything you do or try works…for about two weeks. The key, the real key, is discovering those simple and elegant things that provide the most benefit for the least amount of payment. Call it “Bang for the Buck” or “Cost to Benefit,” but there is nothing more true than if one simply mastered three to five things and did them with some intensity some times and some volume some other times, you would find the “perfect program.”

Then, as I so often lament, when I find the perfect program, I stop doing it because it works so well.

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