Working out is sort of love/hate thing.
We love the feeling of being in good shape; lean and strong, muscles bulging and veins protruding—fit feels effing fantastic.
Some of us crazy people even enjoy the act of lifting and sweating-the whole dirty process. But even when you love to lift, and acquire a sense of intrinsic purpose from hoisting iron overhead or pulling it aggressively from the floor, there are times when you just hate it.
There are moments when a sweat sesh is so damn brutal that you want to quit. But you can’t stop just because it gets tough; the reward comes to those who persevere. Sometimes you have dig deep, accessing emotional pathways that inspire tenacity and keep you under the bar, no matter how badly it wants to defeat you.
I was thinking about this the other day while I was performing an especially masochistic barbell complex and listening to Mumford and Sons. For me, music is integral to a good workout, perhaps because music is such a fundamental component of my life. On this particular day, I was blasting one of my favorite Mumford songs, “White Blank Page.”
Tell me now where was my fault, in loving you with my whole heart?
Although I am happily mated, the lyrics stirred me. After all, we’ve all been there, right? The emotional prose, the angst filled melodies-they fit so perfectly with the love/hate relationship I have with complexes.
You might think that “love” songs are the last thing you’d want to listen to during a workout; I certainly did. In fact, dirty rap and vulgar hip hop are usually my go-to training tunes-the dirtier the better! But angry love songs are a whole other story. They extract a certain fire that burns deep within you—that emotional turmoil that fuels every dynamic movement, develops stamina and breeds determination.
Each time you thrust your hips at the top of a squat or explosively push the barbell towards the ceiling in a push press is an act of emotion that is appropriately accompanied by a raging ballad of unrequited love.
This complex was so challenging that I almost skipped the last round. The music is what kept me in the rack, sweating and grunting my way through to the end. I left the gym feeling accomplished, intoxicated and filled with a hard-earned sense of euphoria.
So, from my sweaty, chalk covered hands to yours, here is a killer barbell complex and coordinating playlist to help you dig deep for the drive to push through it. The playlist is about 33 minutes long, which is pretty much the amount of time you’ll need to complete the complex.
99 Problems but a Barbell ain’t One
A complex is a series of exercises in which each exercise is performed for the prescribed repetitions before moving on to the next. Typically the same implement is used and not set down until the round is over.
So, if you were doing this complex, you would load the barbell on your shoulders in a clean grip then alternate 10 lunges, do 5 split jerks each side, clean the bar down and do 10 rows, switch the bar to your back and finish with 10 squats, then rack it and rest.
Start light and add 5-10 pounds every set. I started at 45 pounds and ended at 85 pounds. I used a barbell, but you can certainly do this with dumbbells or kettlebells if you don’t have a barbell available.
- Front loaded reverse lunge x 5R/5L
- Split jerk x 5R/5L (substitute a push press if you’re not proficient in split jerks)
- Bent over row x 10
- Back squat x10
- Rest 2 minutes, repeat for 5 total rounds
The Love/Hate Playlist