A workout doesn’t have to be long to be effective. Whether you’re doing a strength routine or a cardio session, dialing up the intensity means you can still see results even if your workout is shorter.
This isn’t a new idea for anyone who has followed workout trends. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes have popped up all over the country, capitalizing on the idea of doing more work in less time. And it’s now common to see experts creating intense 20-minute, 10-minute, or even seven-minute workouts.
But if you really want a crazy-effective workout, trading time for intensity is only one tactic you can use. Another way is to blur the line between strength training and cardio training by lifting weights in a way that significantly raises your heart rate.
One way to implement this cardio-strength approach is with a type of workout called a complex. In a complex, you use one tool — such as a barbell or a pair of dumbbells — and perform a series of exercises back-to-back without setting down the weight.
“Complexes are what I consider the king of cardio strength training because they are so effective at eliciting such a huge metabolic response,” says strength and conditioning coach Robert Dos Remedios, author of Cardio Strength Training.
Complexes have several advantages. First, you’re able to perform a large number of reps and exercises in a short amount of time, simply because you don’t have to change your equipment or allow for rest breaks. You also tend to play a mental game with yourself while doing this type of workout. You don’t want to put the weight down — that’s the whole point of a complex — so you push through until the end of the circuit even when you’d normally stop.