In Mozart and Salieri we see the contrast between the genius which does what it must and the talent which does what it can.

Maurice Baring

Here are a pair of back-to-back workouts I performed earlier this week.  I did the MetCon-intensive workout early in the week (Monday), took a day off, then clobbered my fast-twitch IIb’s in Wednesday morning  deadlift/dip/pullup smack-down.  Now, I very well could have reversed the order here — done the fast-twitch workout on Monday, followed by the Metcon drill on Wednesday, but here’s why I chose this order: recovery time.  I knew I’d have a few days off over the Thanksgiving holiday to fully recover from Wednesday’s more fast-twitch (and central nervous system) intensive session.  Let’s have a look at the MetCon circuit (you’ll hear these referred to as “complexes” as well) first.

Now, the idea behind the Metcon type of workout — complexes, if you will — have been around for quite some time.  If you deconstruct a typical CrossFit workout, what you have at the core is a complex.  Nothing really new here.  This method, though, is a sure-fire and effective means of boosting (1) a high metabolic response — great for inducing weight loss (if paired with a proper TTP-like diet), and (2) GPP (General Physical Preparedness) — both for a competitive athlete’s early-season prep, or at any time, for the general, health-mined masses.  I like to sprinkle them in here and there in my own workouts, especially as the weather turns more foul and I’m forced to limit my outdoor sprinting bouts.  A MetCon complex, in my mind (and in my workout planning) is a good equivalent to a tough bout of sprinting — with the added bonus of additional upper body work being thrown in.

Check out this site (hat tip to reader Shaun, who pointed this one out to me — thanks, Shaun!) for a good, all-round explanation of the complex method.  Now personally, I like my workouts shifted a little more toward the speed-strength or strength-speed (power) end of the spectrum, so I’ll make appropriate tweaks toward that end.  For example, on Monday morning, I did a “tweaked” version of Javorek’s barbell complex #2:

Javorek’s Barbell Complex # 2 Exercise:

Barbell Upright Row                                        x 3
Barbell High Pull Snatch                                  x 3
Barbell Behind the Head Squat Push Press         x 3
Barbell Behind the Head Good Morning             x 3
Barbell Bent Over Row                                     x 3

How did I did tweak and manipulate this complex into the power realm?  By simply doing the following:

  1. I set the weight to allow for explosive repetitions on each exercise, i.e., no “grind it out” reps.
  2. I added a set of 3 power cleans between the High Pull Snatch and BTN push-press.
  3. I added a front push press as a transition between the power cleans and BTN press work.
  4. Instead of BTN “push-presses”, I did BTN push-jerks.
  5. I did “drops and sticks” into the full squat, i.e., instead of lowering into a full squat, I dropped & stuck the landing (akin to a plyo landing) at just below the thigh being parallel to the ground.
  6. I added 90 lbs. to the complex weight for the bent over rows, then did 3, explosive, rest-pause reps.  Then I shed the weight again to restart the complex.

I did four sets of this complex, increasing the weight for each set.  It’s not something I would do often (but neither would I do a CrossFit WOD, as Rx’d, very often either), but it is a great way to force the body into an unfamiliar zone.  It serves as a great psychological break from the “usual grind”, as well.  Always keep the body — and the mind — guessing.

One complex I enjoy throwing into the mix every now and again is The Bear .  What I usually do with this one is three reps of the full bear complex (in rest-pause fashion), followed by a set of dips and  a set of pullups (both usually — but certainly not always — in a rest-pause methodology, for threes or fours), then back for another round of the bear.  There’s nothing magical about this particular mix, other than adding the dips and pullups adds work in planes that are otherwise missing from the bear complex.

Wednesday’s change of pace ~

This is the ol’ Chicken Soup for My Weight Liftin’ Soul workout.  When you want to get back to the basics of pushing iron, this is the way to go.  If I had to pick three, and only three strength improvement movements, these would be the ones, and this is how I’d incorporate them.  And so as to further the strength building theme of the day, I used the rest-pause method throughout.

  1. Deadlifts + Straight Leg Deadlifts (on the negative back to the floor, ~ 6 secs each negative) x 3’s
  2. Weighted Dips x 3’s
  3. Semi-supinated (palms facing one another) Weighted Pullups x 3’s

Three total rounds of the above, once I reached working weight.  And again, all of these were done in a rest-pause fashion, with near maximal weights.  I’ll will have needed the two day’s recovery following this one, as the central nervous system is especially taxed during this intensive workout.

In Health,



  1. Hey Keith,

    Great post. Looks like really good workouts. One thing I don’t understand:

    “…once I reached working weight.”

    I have seen this several times or something like “at weight” and I don’t know what it means. Could you explain this a bit further.


  2. Jeff,
    “At weight” or “at working weight” simply means that I’ve done x number of rounds and/or sets at the weight that, after the conclusion of the build-up/warm-up sets, I’ve settled on. Rarely will I use the same working weight for any given exercise, workout to workout. This is due to a number of factors, not the least of which is the fact that I’ll co-mingle different exercises frequently — i.e., what comes out of the “hopper” to be paired with, say, dips, will most like not be pulled out again for quite a while. Also (and keeping dips as the example), I’ll frequently change modalities. What I mean by “modality” is the spectrum (think more toward a color wheel, i.e., circular & non-linear) speed, speed-strength, strength-speed, strength, and isolation strength. Every different modality will require a different (if any) external loading.

    I wish I could come up with a better terminology for this, but as of yet it has escaped me. Any suggestions?


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