Olympic Weightlifting Complexes for Size and Strength

The snatch and clean & jerk, as well as their variations (snatch pulls, clean pulls, from the hang, from blocks, from a deficit, power variations) are great exercises to develop strength, power, and muscle mass in the legs, entire back musculature, and shoulders.  With a little creativity, you can develop weightlifting complexes that suit your specific needs and provide a fun and challenging change to your routine.  A complex is simply a combination of two or more weightlifting exercises done in succession.  For the most part, only a single bar, with a constant weight is used for a complex.  I will list a few sample complexes below, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations to find something that works for you.  Keep in mind that in general, the longer the complex takes to complete, the more the emphasis will be on hypertrophy (muscle growth) and work capacity, while shorter complexes, that use weights which are closer to your maximum abilities, will have a greater effect on strength and power.  For best results, I recommend not staying towards one end of the spectrum for too long

High-to-Low Complexes

In a High-to-Low complex, you will snatch or clean starting from a high position near the hip on the first rep, and each successive rep, you will lower the starting position.  This allows you to build more momentum and be in a slightly stronger position as you progress through the set.  The following complexes are beneficial for building pulling power and refining pulling technique:

Rep 1: Hang snatch from hip
Rep 2: Hang snatch from mid-thigh
Rep 3: Hang snatch from below the knee
Rep 4: Snatch from floor

Alternatively, you could use blocks and do something like this:

Rep 1: Clean from high blocks
Rep 2: Clean from medium blocks
Rep 3: Clean from low blocks
Rep 4: Clean from floor

In some cases, lifters may be weaker lifting from the floor than they are from the hang or from blocks, in which case it may be more appropriate to go from Low-to-High during the set.

Overhead Complex

An overhead complex can be a great way to build shoulder strength and supporting strength in the upper back.  A combination of military presses, push presses, push jerks, split jerks, or squat jerks can be used.  Here is one complex that will really emphasize building overhead strength as well as developing leg drive:

Power Clean
+
Push Press x 3
+
Push Jerk x as many reps as possible

Squat Complex

If you want to focus more on building your leg strength, try adding front squats to the complex. For example:

Clean
+
Front Squat x 3
+
Split Jerk

There are endless more ways of putting together complexes so be creative and identify exercise combinations that will address your weak links.  Who knew you could have this much fun with a barbell!  Happy Training!

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