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If your workout time is limited to a frantic gym session during lunch hour, an elaborate free-weight circuit is out of the question. Even if you can grab yourself a gym ball, a medicine ball and some dumbbells, chances are you’ll piss a lot of people off with the amount of floor space you’ll be taking up by laying all this kit out.
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What you need to do is a barbell complex – an efficient routine made up of five free weight exercises done one after the other, without putting your barbell down.
Originally developed by Eastern European weightlifters to help them stay lean, this type of circuit is now popular with UFC fighters, who use them to combine strength and cardio in one short workout – with killer grip strength as an added bonus. Research has also shown that training with free-weights registers a higher level of muscle activity than when performing the same exercises on a Smith machine, for example, thus increasing strength far more effectively.
Try this barbell complex – consisting of a deadlift, bent-over row, hang clean, split squat and push press – on two non-consecutive days a week, but don’t go heavy on the weight to start with. Don’t rest between exercises and do each one at a high tempo without sacrificing form. Try to complete four circuits with a one-minute rest before starting a new one. You’ll be done in 20 minutes, but rest assured you would be unlikely to get a better workout even if you had all day to train.
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Keep your core muscles braced throughout the move. Start the lift by pushing with your glutes. As the bar passes your knees, push your hips forward. Keep your shoulders back.
Targets quads, glutes, hamstrings, back, core
Keep back straight and your neck in line with it. Tense your core muscles to stabilise your body. Pull the bar into your sternum. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Targets traps, lats, rhomboids
Keep your core braced throughout. Bend your knees to initiate the move. Pull the bar up powerfully, rising onto your toes to gain more power. Bend your knees to duck under the bar at its highest point. Flip the bar onto your fingers and catch it at the top of your chest. Stand up straight and reset the bar.
Targets hamstrings, glutes, calves, back, shoulders
Reps 5 each side
Start in a split stance. Keep your core braced and back straight. Pull your elbows back to retract your shoulder blades. Lower your back knee until it almost touches the floor. Don't let your front knee go beyond your front foot.
Targets quads, hamstrings
Hold the bar on your upper chest. Bend your knees slightly, and push up with your knees and arms at the same time. Keep your core braced.