The other day an online coaching client of mine asked “Nate, you forgot to add the conditioning section to my program, I don’t see any treadmill or elliptical.”  The first thing that ran through my head as I clicked reply was “Muhahahahhah, muahahahha, muahah, haha, ha…..ha.”  I sent him an e-mail back with the following:  “Complete all the components to the workout and if you still want a treadmill session I will be happy to create one for you.”

No fault of his own, but my coaching client didn’t know that the section titled DB COMPLEX was actually his conditioning program.  I have found over the years that this is the most efficient way to drop body fat while building muscle in those who are have fewer training years under their belt, and for those more experienced trainee’s this cardio strength training method is hands down the best way to maintain muscle mass.  Now, this is all providing people follow my recommendations in terms of nutrition, adequate sleep and managing their stress.

Setting up a Complex

  • Select a piece of equipment.  A kettlebell, a dumbell, a barbell, a medicine ball, a sandbag, a suspension trainer etc
  • Choose between 5 or 6 exercises that hit as many body parts as possible
  • Make sure the weight of the equipment is challenging for 6 reps of the weakest exercise in your group of exercises.
  • Without setting that piece of equipment down, complete 6 reps of each exercise with no rest between exercises.
  • Rest 45 seconds and repeat for a total of 6 rounds.

As you get better, decrease your rest time until you only rest for 30 seconds between each round.  If you can get to 30 seconds rest between rounds increase the weight and go back to 45 seconds rest intervals.

I have used this approach when cutting body fat for photo shoots and physique competitions.  This is not to say that other modes of conditioning aren’t good as well.  I also like to use sprint intervals for dropping body and maintaining muscle but not everyone can sprint and sometimes I don’t have enough time to build up someone’s level of sprinting to just rely on it before the arrival of a photo shoot or competition date.

Here is a video of a basic complex I used for myself.

*Please do not use this workout unless you have been screened for movement dysfunctions and asymmetries by a professional.  Even then, this video is just an example of a routine and not designed for everyone as movement ability and exercise progression varies among individuals.  


Nathane L. Jackson, cscs
Nathane Jackson Fitness Inc.
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Nathane Jackson is a veteran health and wellness authority, specializing in holistic living.  He has a decade worth of knowledge as a personal trainer and strength & conditioning coach and is dedicated to improving all aspects of health starting at the cellular level by combining holistic nutrition, functional exercise, and restorative practices to help his clients strengthen their mind, body and spirit.


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