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Military Muscle: Start the year with a ‘complex'

Jan. 12, 2012 - 11:56AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 12, 2012 - 11:56AM  |  
From left to right: dead lift; bent-over row; high row; push press; back squat; push-ups
From left to right: dead lift; bent-over row; high row; push press; back squat; push-ups (Photos by Rob Curtis / Staff)
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This isn't a discussion of psychology — the only behavior to analyze is actually following through on your New Year's fitness resolution.

A "complex" is a great way to approach a multimuscle workout. It builds on the more familiar "super set" that works either the same muscle with two different exercises or works two opposite muscles — one exercise for biceps and one for triceps, for example. You can go total body or split into upper/lower. Keep the reps low and execute multiple rounds with no or minimal rest.

You can do this complex as a warmup or as a strength-endurance workout. It incorporates five weight exercises using a weight bar, plus one body-weight exercise. It hits almost all of the major muscles. Set the weight, reps and rounds according to your ability.

For the warm-up, do five rounds of five reps per exercise at a very low weight.

The strength-endurance complex can go two ways:

• Up the weight and do more reps, but one or two fewer rounds.

• Keep the same weight or reduce it slightly, but do three or four more rounds.

Perform the exercises in the order written, one right after the other. You are moving up the body as you go through each exercise. I use an Olympic bar and then add weights, but you can use a body bar if you need to.

1. Dead lift

Stick with the standard rather than any variation. Grip the bar either palms forward, palms back or one each way. Start the lift with your legs, bringing the bar along your shins. Keeping a neutral back is key — have a partner check this. When you pass your knees, finish standing up, ending with shoulders back and chest out. Lower the bar in reverse order, keeping your back neutral, all the way to set-down. Repeat. This works almost all of the body muscles. Get help if you need it.

2. Bent-over row

Flex forward from the hips with your back at 45 degrees and your arms hanging straight down to the bar. Raise the bar to your navel, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Return to the start position and repeat. This works your rear deltoids and back muscles.

3. High row

Position your hands close together, then stand up straight. Pull the bar to just above chest level, keeping it close to your body. You don't need to go all the way to your chin. It's important that you do not use body motion to help. This works the lateral deltoids, chest and upper back.

4. Push press

Performed the same way as a shoulder press or military press, except you can use your legs to jump-start the lift and get the bar moving. This works the front deltoids and some trapezius muscles.

5. Back squat

Put the bar across your shoulders and execute a squat to 90 degrees. This works your quads, hamstrings and glutes.

6. Push-ups

Place your hands at shoulder width and keep your body in a straight line. Lower from full-arm extension until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. This works your chest and triceps.

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