Kettlebell Complexes and Chains

Complexes and chains are a great way to get an effective workout in a short amount of time. Complexes and chains require doing multiple movements in a row without putting the weight down. These are great movements for building strength, size, and burning layers of fat.

Complexes consist of doing 3 to 5 movements in a row. You could do more movements than that but it is not necessary. In a complex, you perform a set amount of reps for each movement before moving onto the next.

For example, a lifter could be doing swings, cleans, squats, and then press. You perform 5 reps for each movement. Complete 5 swings, then 5 cleans, then 5 squats, and finally 5 presses without setting the kettlebell down. This sequence will consist of one round.

Now, this is where the fun begins. You can do just one round or you can do multiple rounds. Using the example from above, instead of setting the kettlebells down after the presses, you will go right into the swings again starting the complex all over.

Doing a complex of 3 or more rounds becomes quite challenging. For reps, it will depend on the movements and the weight you are using. Typically reps fall between 3 to 10 reps.

Like complexes, chains consist of doing 3 to 5 movements in a row. The difference is that each movement is done for only one rep. Chains are more fluid as you are constantly moving from one movement to another. In chains, it would be possible to add more than 5 movements since you are only doing one rep of each movement.

An example of a chain would be to swing for 1 rep, clean for 1 rep, squat for 1 rep, press for 1 rep, and windmill for 1 rep. This is all done without setting the bell down. One time through the chain is one round.

Just like with the complexes we can add more rounds. Using this example, you will go right from the windmill back into the swing starting the chain all over again. In the chain, the reps will always be just 1 rep. The variety comes into play with how many rounds you choose to do.

The main reason complexes and chains are so effective is due to increased time under tension. Time under tension is just like it sounds. It is the amount of time you are under load. Doing 5 squats might take you 10 seconds, while doing 15 squats might take you 1 minute.

The longer we are under tension the harder our muscles work, which causes muscle growth and fat loss. You will notice that you will be breathing quite heavily especially the longer you go.

Building your cardio endurance is an additional benefit when performing complexes and chains. If you are short on time and looking for a quick productive workout give these a try.

Here are a few examples of different chains and complexes.

Complex 1

Clean/push press/rack squat/snatch
5 reps each movement 3 rounds

Complex 2

Swing/clean/jerk/overhead lunge
6 reps each movement 2 rounds

Chain 1

1 rep each movement 5 rounds

Chain 2

Turkish get up/windmill/snatch
1 rep each movement 3 rounds

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