The ‘Priority’ Kettlebell Complex

Did you know it’s totally ok to have only a short amount of time to train and to have training priorities and to expect results?

Usually time constraints mean you have to sacrifice moving forward towards gaining results in strength and fitness and have to instead make do with maintaining, or practicing. These latter two are of course vital aspects of continuing training but it’s commonly accepted that moving forward is only possible with detailed and lengthy training sessions. While this is true for big goals, you can still up your press, squat, cleans and swing strength with this simple Priority Stacked Complex.

A complex if unfamiliar, is a set of more than 2 exercises carried out back to back without resting the weight on the floor. An example would be performing cleans, moving straight to push presses and moving straight onto to performing front squats.

You can of course organise the sequence of the individual exercises to prioritise one exercise over the others. An example here would be performing more of the push press whilst carrying out fewer of the other movements.

A stacked complex is what I call a complex that grows per set by adding on a new additional exercise. I stack on a new exercise to practice after the first and prioritised exercise. In essence, the first exercise performed is the priority, the second is second priority and the final is least. All based on the total volume you’ll amount over the rounds.

The below routine demonstrates this idea.

The Priority Stacked Complex

Note: the 3 sets = 1 round.

Day 1.

  • Swing,
  • Swing, clean and press
  • Swing, clean and press, squat
  • Rest as needed before repeating

Day 2.

  • Clean and press
  • Clean and press, swing
  • Clean and press, swing, squat
  • Rest as needed before repeating

Day 3.

  • Squat
  • Squat, clean and press
  • Squat, clean and press, swing
  • Rest as needed before repeating

You can see how over the three sets you will perform the same movements but per day you prioritise either the Swing, Clean and Press or Squat.

In a program you could repeat the above round of the stacked complex for a total of 2 to 4 rounds, depending on repetitions. You could decide on working with a single arm / 1 kettlebell or double / 2 kettlebells, dependant on your ability and skill level.

So, let’s look at the repetitions with consideration to goals.

General Work Capacity:

6 to 8 reps of each movement.

This would amount quite a number of total reps on the final set of each round, 24 to 32 repetitions in fact. You would choose a weight that’s not close to your top strength 3 to 5 rep weight – maybe a kettlebell you could perform the weakest exercise of the complex for 10 reps.

General Strength:

5 repetitions of each movement. A conservative number for general strength development. Use a kettlebell you can perform the weakest movement in the complex for 7 reps.

Focussed Strength:

3 to 5 reps for the first / prioritised movement then just 1 for the following. You get to focus on that prioritised lift whilst performing simple practice of the others. Some may say to not bother with the following exercises and instead just perform the focussed exercise. But look, if you are stuck for time, getting any practice of the other moves is time well spent. Specialised programs are fine for a small percentage of the annual schedule and if this isn’t one of those times, keep up whatever practice you can, whenever you can. Use a weight that is 5 to 6 rep max (technical max).

There are lots of ways to build the numbers. I’m not writing this to argue a point but simply to demonstrate one solution. You could even just do singles for each movement in the complex to form a chain of heavy lifts.

Over a 4 week cycle, you could start with general work capacity, then move to general strength, to focussed strength before finishing the cycle with just heavy singles. Just an idea.

The Video below simply demonstrates the sequences listed for Day 1 with 5 reps per movement.

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