Stories from Crossfit Workouts

The ‘Bear Complex’ Makes Your Whole Body Roar With One Rep

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsDecember 20, 2019

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Working every last muscle group at the gym usually requires hopping from machine to machine. The CrossFit bear complex, a combination of four movements torches your body from head-to-toe using only a barbell. So not only will you feel strong; you’ll feel efficient, too.

Maillard Howell, owner of CrossFit Prospect Heights and founder of The Beta Way, deems the bear complex “a hell of a lot of workouts in one”—and that’s very accurate. The move combines a power clean, front squat, push press, and back squat for a no-muscle-left behind kind of trip to the gym.

Since the bear complex is a mash-up of four different moves, you’ll want to make sure you’re adept at each one before putting them together. And, when you do so, you’ll need to use a weight that you’ll be able to sustain for the entire movement. For example, if you push press 50 pounds and use 75 pounds for the other three movements, you’ll need to stick with 50 for the complex until you can work your push press up to a higher weight.

“From the first set, you’ll be sweating and you’ll be taxing all of your muscles,” says Howell. “There’s nothing like it. If you’re really comfortable with a barbell, it’s a great tool for adding strength.” Let’s go!

How to perform the CrossFit bear complex from start to finish

Complete 2 sets of 10 reps if you’re using an empty barbell. For higher weights, complete 5 sets of 5 reps. Take a 90-second rest between each set.

Power clean

Step 1: Stand behind the barbell with your feet parallel and about hip-width apart.

Step 2: With your arms straight and your core engaged, bend your knees and lean forward while pushing your hips back. Overhand grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width.

Step 3: Lift your chest and lower your hips until they are slightly below shoulder level

Step 4: Shift your weight onto your heels, push your knees back, and thrust your hips forward so that the barbell is just above your knees.

front squat

Step 5: Bend your knees and snatch the weight into your chest. You’re now in a front squat!

Push press

Step 5: Keeping your core engaged, stand up straight and lift the barbell overhead.

back squat

Step 6: Rest the barbell so it’s brushing your shoulder blades and squat down once more. Come to standing.

push press

Step 7: Bend your knees slightly and push the barbell overhead.

Step 8: Still standing, situate the barbell so it’s once again against your chest.

Step 9: Drop the weight to hip level.

Step 10: Bend your knees, engage your core, and place the barbell on the floor.

In the market for more challenging moves? Try the Pilates burpee and the dive-bomber push-up

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