Total Body Conditioning

MAXIM fitness guru ALEXA TOWERSEY helps your “to-get-fit” New Year’s resolution with the only workout you’ll ever need…

You don’t need an hour to get a heart-pounding, muscle-building, fat-shredding workout. All you need is a set of Kettlebells, 20 minutes and some defibs on standby.


We could start here by listing all the studies about the drawbacks of long duration cardio, without even mentioning the fact that endurance athletes are reported to have the highest divorce rates amongst all the sporting codes. Then we could list all the studies that show the benefits of shorter, high intensity conditioning sessions. Truth is, there is a time and place for both depending on what YOUR specific objective is. However, what I want to make clear is that irrespective of goals, cardio and conditioning can be two very different beasts. In short, the conditioning I’m talking about prepares you for battle whereas the cardio you’re probably used to, prepares you for running away from it. In short; conditioning is sex and cardio is cuddling and a chick-flick. Here’s what you need to know…

The Complex

Despite its name, the Complex is anything but complex. It’s simply a series of lifts back to back where you finish the reps of one lift before moving on to the next lift. The piece of equipment you choose to use only leaves your hand or touches the floor after all of the lifts are completed. Complexes have been gaining mainstream popularity due to their time efficiency and effectiveness, the original goal being – according to the Complex OG Javorek, “to find an efficient and aggressive method of performance enhancement that saves time and makes a program more enjoyable.”

The Rules of Complexes


The most technical movement with the highest neurological demand. This is the movement you don’t want to f–k up, because it has the highest risk of injury, i.e. Olympic Lifting.


Work either up or down the chain so you don’t waste time and energy on pointless transitions. A Deadlift to Bent Over Row works really well, as does a Push Press to Front Squat. But Deadlift to Push Press back to Bent Over Row won’t just waste your breath, but it will also waste your hands.


Love your ‘pullers’ as much as your ‘pushers.’ Try selecting from different categories of movements – Explosive/Olympic Lifting, Lower Body Pull, Lower Body Push, Upper Body Pull, Upper Body Push.


Training should always have a goal, even if it’s just to get Fit AF. If you’re training for strength, complexes should combine strength-based moves for low reps – 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps per movement with longer rest times between sets – i.e. twice the time it took to finish the complex. If you’re training to get leaner and need to address your breathing, simply use more reps and less rest – think 1:1 work/rest ratio or less.

You can do complexes with any equipment – sandbags, deadballs, plates, dumbbells or kettlebells – the most common tool being the barbell. However, I like to include a little more structural balance and ‘functionality’ in my training and Kettlebells are ideal for this. They allow for unilateral work so you can’t cheat a movement or compensate for a weakness, they’re awkward as f–k to carry so your core and stabilisers have to work pretty hard and they’re usually thicker than your average bar so your grip gets an extra workout, too.


8 x Romanian Deadlift
8 x Bent Over Row
8 x Sumo Deadlift High Pull
8 x Double Rack Hold Squat
8 x Push Press
16 x Double Rack Hold Reverse Lunge
45 secs Straight Arm Plank Balancing on KB
90 secs rest. 4-5 rounds.

Here’s where the really brutal part comes in. If you have to put the KB’s down at any point during your complex, it is an offense punishable by death AKA 5 burpees (add up the total and complete at the end of each round).

TOP TIP: When it comes to weight selection, don’t be swinging around 2lb DB’s, but be sensible. The basic rule is to use the heaviest weight you can on the weakest movement in the complex. For example, if it contains an overhead press and a squat, you’d use the weight you can handle on the overhead press, not the squat. Otherwise you’d get crushed, and girls would laugh. But if you’re not questioning why the hell you’re doing these exercises, or trying to convince yourself that 3 circuits is enough, you’re being a pussy.

It’s brutal – and it’s brutally effective. But the best thing? You can’t do it while talking on the f–king cell phone or ‘going through the motions’. It requires focus, discipline, hard work, and quite possibly a touch of insanity. Now, go to war!

For the full article grab the February 2020 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.

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