The bear (or barbell) complex is an advanced strength training workout that involves a sequence of five barbell exercises. You do these power movements back-to-back without lowering the bar.

Performing these exercises as a series helps build overall body strength and enhance athletic performance.

Continue reading to take a look at the moves that make up the bear complex, its benefits, and safety precautions to follow.

The bear complex is a series of five power movements accomplished with a single barbell. Bodybuilders, weightlifters, and athletes use it.

It’s an advanced weight training exercise, so it’s not suitable for beginners. The sequential moves require adequate strength as well as flexibility, mobility, and muscular endurance.

To do the bear complex, you progress from one weightlifting move to the next without putting down the barbell. One repetition consists of five movements, which are (in order):

  1. power clean
  2. front squat
  3. push press
  4. back squat
  5. push press

You do the push press twice.

Before you combine the moves, you must build a strong foundation by mastering each exercise. It’s a good idea to work with a professional trainer to ensure that you’re doing the moves correctly.

Here’s a description of each move.

1. Power clean

Muscles targeted:

Instructions for doing the move:

  1. Stand behind the barbell with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Engage your core and keep your arms straight alongside your body.
  3. Bend your knees, press your hips back, and lean forward.
  4. Use an overhand grip to grasp the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  5. Raise your chest and lower your hips until they’re just below shoulder level.
  6. Lift the barbell slightly above your knees.
  7. Bend your knees slightly as you jump up and shrug the bar with your shoulders.
  8. Position the bar across the front of your shoulders.

Pro tips and recommendations:

  • Keep the bar close to your body the entire time.
  • Encourage hip mobility by keeping your feet directly under your hips.
  • To prevent injury, engage your core and maintain spinal alignment.

2. Front squat

Muscles targeted:

Instructions for doing the move:

  1. From the power clean position, bend your knees.
  2. Lower into a squat, keeping your chest lifted.

Pro tips and recommendations:

  • Lean back in your hips as you press your elbows up toward the ceiling.
  • Avoid lowering your elbows or pressing back into your heels, which causes you to bend forward.
  • Keep your spine in alignment and avoid rounding your upper back.

3. Push press

Muscles targeted:

Instructions for doing the move:

  1. From the front squat position, engage your core as you stand up straight.
  2. Raise the barbell overhead.

Pro tips and recommendations:

  • Use a wider grip if you have large biceps or find it challenging to externally rotate your shoulders.
  • Keep your feet directly under your shoulders.
  • Engage your core to help maintain alignment in your spine.

4. Back squat

Muscles targeted:

  • low back
  • core
  • glutes
  • quads
  • hamstrings

Instructions for doing the move:

  1. From the push press position, place the barbell on your shoulders.
  2. Slowly lower down into a squat position.
  3. Return to the standing position.

Pro tips and recommendations:

  • Press your knees out to the side and don’t let them move past your toes.
  • Lower your thighs until they’re parallel to the ground.
  • Look straight ahead and draw your shoulders back and down. This helps keep your chest lifted.

5. Second push press

Instructions for doing the move:

  1. From standing, raise the barbell overhead.
  2. Bring the barbell against your chest.
  3. Lower the weight to your hips.
  4. Slowly bend your knees and lower the barbell to the floor.

It’s safe to do the bear complex a few times per week. You can do the bear complex on its own or as part of a longer workout routine. You can also use it as a warmup or after your usual weightlifting session.

Each repetition comprises five exercises. Do 2 to 5 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions. Rest for up 1 to 3 minutes between sets.

The bear complex is an incredibly efficient workout that has a wide range of benefits for your whole body. This exercise can take your workouts and fitness ability to the next level.

Since it requires you to use more time under tension (TUT), your muscles are constantly working throughout the exercise. This improves muscular size, strength, and endurance.

In addition to power and strength gains, the bear complex can lead to fat loss. Strength training also helps improve overall function and can help develop speed, balance, and stability.

The bear complex requires a substantial amount of strength and agility. It’s not suitable for beginners or anyone with a medical concern or injury that is affected by strenuous activity.

Ensure you’re adept and comfortable with each move before putting them together as a sequence. You should be able to breathe comfortably throughout the workout. Stop if you experience pain or any sign of injury. Take a break for a few days when you feel you’ve overdone it.

For safety, keep the bar close to your body during lifts. Focus on proper form instead of lifting heavy loads.

To begin, use lighter weights to master your form and technique. Go slowly, and gradually increase the weight load over time.

If you want to amp up the intensity, do the bear complex faster to make it more of a cardio workout. Either way, avoid doing too many reps. Start each workout with a warmup and finish with a cooldown.

The bear complex is a challenging but attainable addition to your workout routine. It can provide you with a sense of accomplishment and the confidence to rise to new challenges.

Master this series to improve strength, function, and endurance. These benefits will carry over into your athletic and daily movements while improving your overall health.