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Breakthrough Fitness

Why Are Complexes Workouts So Effective at Burning Fat?

Want to get better results in less time?

Complexes workouts could be the answer.

Whether it’s work or workouts, we all want to get more done in less time (without sacrificing on quality, of course). And at Breakthrough Fitness, one of our favorite ways to do that is through complexes workouts. 


What Are Complexes Workouts?

Complexes workouts are a group of exercises done consecutively using one piece of equipment. Because you are using the same piece of equipment throughout the workout, the weight you are working with stays the same; only your movements change.

Unlike HIIT, you do not take breaks during a complex. You complete your set the entire way through. No stopping. No slowing down. You can rest between sets, but try to keep these breaks short, about 90 seconds or so.

woman with barbell on shoulders

This doesn’t mean you can string any set of movements together and call it a complex. Complexes workouts are designed to work together as a whole, either as a total body workout or to do segments of a larger movement. For example, your complex might include a set of Romanian deadlifts and bent over rows to work your way up to a hang clean.


Why Are Complexes Workouts So Effective?

Let’s do the math on this: high volume + less time + heavy weight = HARD WORK.

It takes a lot of work to burn fat. Your body burns sugar before it begins to use up your fat stores, so if you only do eight squats in the morning before fixing yourself a stack of pancakes, you’re not going to see any results.

Let’s take a 5 exercise complex and break down the numbers: 5 exercises x 6 repetitions for each = 30 repetitions. 

Since the number of reps is low, you’ll be able to retain great form under a decent load (that is, something heavier than the pink dumbbells).

Even if you did a barbell complex with just the bar (45 lb.) that would come to 1,350 lbs. of total work per set.

Training volume = number of reps x number of sets x load (30 reps x 1 set x 45 lb. = 1,350)

Complexes workouts don’t require much time, but they pack a big punch. Complexes will increase work capacity, caloric burn, and EPOC (exercise post-oxygen consumption). We call this the “afterburn”—the amount of calories you burn from your training the rest of the day. This raises your metabolism, which is extremely important for fat loss.


How To Do Them

First of all, complexes workouts are not for beginners! You need a solid foundation of strength training and conditioning before you attempt such an intense routine. 

For that reason, it’s best to do your complex workout at the beginning of your workout or on its own day. Your focus should be on proper form, so you want to make sure you have plenty of energy to get through it.

The success of your workout depends a great deal on the weight of the equipment you use.


Because complexes only require one piece of equipment—a medicine ball, suspension strap, barbell, kettle bell, dumbbells, or even your body weight—it’s important to get the weight right. 

The weakest exercise in the sequence will determine the weight you use. If you can do one exercise with 20 lbs. and another at 50, use a 20-lb. weight for the entire complex. If you’re unsure, start with a lighter weight and work your way up. You’ll know when the load is correct when your heart is pounding out of your chest and your lungs burn.

Again, complete the entire complex from start to finish without taking a break. Each exercise should flow into the next. Once you have finished, set down your weight and re-hydrate. You’ve earned it!


A Medicine Ball Complex to Burn Fat Fast

Here’s one of my favorite medicine ball complexes that you can do the next time you go to the gym.

Do 4-5 sets with 5-7 reps per movement and make sure you don’t sacrifice your form. For most people, throws will determine what weight you use. The objective is to be as explosive as possible, so keep the medicine ball on the lighter side. (You can’t throw a heavy ball fast.) An 8-lb. ball works well. If you are a big fella, go with a 10-12 lb. ball.

When you first try a complex, you might need to rest longer between sets. When you’re ready to take it up a notch, increase your weight or decrease your rest time. Track what you are doing and make sure you are improving. 

1. Over-the-Back Throw

Stand about three feet away from a solid wall, with your back to the wall. Squat to gather enough power to launch the medicine ball over your head and against the wall. Pivot at the waist to catch it as it returns, then repeat.

2. Overhead Throws

Standing facing the wall, about three feet away. Hold the medicine ball over your head and throw it at the wall. Catch it as it returns and repeat.

3. Chest Throw

Stand closer to the wall, throwing the medicine ball against the wall at about chest height.

4. Side Throw

Turn 90° so that your right shoulder is facing the wall. Hold the medicine ball in front of you and throw it against the wall with your left hand. After you have completed your selected number of reps, turn and repeat with the other arm.

5. Single-Arm Chest Throw

Throw the ball against the wall at chest height, but throw primarily with one arm (your other arm is only there so the ball doesn’t fall). After you have completed your selected number of reps, turn and repeat with the other arm.



Complexes workouts are an extremely effective way to get a total body workout in a relatively short amount of time. Combining strength training with full-body fat burning, you’ll lose fat in no time.

Some important things to remember:

  • Pick your weight based on your weakest exercise.
  • Don’t stop for a rest until your set is finished.
  • Use the same weight through the entire complex.
  • Keep moving!