Bear Complex WOD: How To Do & Why It’s Great

The bear complex WOD is a series of five movements strung together using a barbell. It is as follows - 

5 rounds for load

Complete 7 unbroken sets:

    • 1 power clean

    • 1 front squat

    • 1 push press

    • 1 back squat

    •  1 push press

Done correctly, this workout can be a highly effective way to stimulate both strength, muscle and cardiovascular fitness gains.

How to Follow the Bear Complex WOD

Along with stringing all five movements together and not putting the barbell down, a good bear complex workout should:

  • Use a manageable starting weight: Don't load your 1RM front squat on the bar. You've got to put the weight overhead twice on each repetition, so start with about 70 percent of your push press if you've never done these before. You can add weight in future workouts. 
  • Do the exercises in order: Any other order than the one listed above is not technically a bear complex.
  • Cycle through movements: It's better to rest at the end of reps rather than mid-set. Time your rests to meet this so you don't have to do extra deadlifts or power cleans. Cycling through movements in this way can also be great for conditioning.
  • Breathe: An easy tip to overlook, you might not realize how much of a cardio workout these are until you try them. Trust us, you won't make the same mistake twice! Be sure to take steady breaths early and often to help keep your heart rate down.
  • Change it up: Usually done with a barbell, this WOD can also be done with a kettlebell or dumbbells.

Read Also: Going Overhead - How and why CrossFitters need to do overhead presses.

Also, be sure to focus on good form:

  • Front squat: Weight in heels, kick your hips back to the wall behind you (knees follow). Squat to parallel. Drive your elbows to the ceiling as you come up out of the hole.
  • Push press/behind the neck push press: Stand tall with your bodyweight in your heels; dip down, drive the weight overhead, locking your arms out. Finish with the bar overhead.
  • Power clean: Feet shoulder-width apart; hook grip on the bar; shoulders slightly in front of bar at set up (bottom of a deadlift). Pull the bar off the floor; shoulders shrug followed by a pull under with arms. Catch in a partial squat.
Two CrossFit athletes performing Bear WOD

What is the Bear Complex & Why is it so Popular?

Bear complexes are a type of conditioning and strength training made popular by CrossFit. Although not a Hero Workout like Murph, it is considered one of the more challenging workouts out there.

Read Also: 11 Thruster WODs to take your fitness to the next level

 The standard WOD is as follows:

5 rounds for load

Complete 7 unbroken sets:

  •  1 power clean
  • 1 front squat
  • 1 push press
  • 1 back squat
  •  1 push press

The goal of this barbell complex workout is to increase weight across each round. Each rep must be completed without putting the bar down, until you reach the seventh and final reps of each exercise (reps 31-35).

Your final set should be performed with the max load for the day. This is not a timed workout, so take as much rest as you need in between sets. 3 to 5 or even 7 minutes is completely fine.

This workout has been around on CrossFit since the 2000s. Over time, the bear complex has evolved into other workouts that involve cardio movements like running and rowing, gymnastics like muscle-ups and bodyweight exercises like burpees. WODs like DT are also quite similar.

As of 2020, it has not appeared in the CrossFit Games, but as an athlete there's a great a chance this WOD could take your training to the next level.

For more CrossFit WODs, check out the rest of our website. Good luck on this one!

Ben Kissam

Ben Kissam

I help college athletes maximize their 4-year sports window and succeed after graduation.

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