The Bear Complex Guide: How To + WOD Scaled For Each Skill Level

Barbell workouts are common in the CrossFit world and a requirement if you really want to submerge yourself into the CrossFit community. While some barbell exercises are complex and involve a series of movements, others involve one swift and powerful movement. 

The Bear complex is a test of barbell workability and a great way to challenge yourself and get well acquainted with a barbell. This workout focuses on both muscular endurance and strength. 

Unlike many other CrossFit WODs, the Bear complex focuses more on how much weight you can move than how quickly you can complete the workout. 

This CrossFit workout requires a barbell and an assortment of plates, so unlike some other WODs, you will need to have a proper lifting area setup. 

If you have not tested your barbell strength abilities in a while, get ready because the Bear complex will help you do just that. 

In this guide, we will cover the following: 

  • What Is the Bear Complex Workout?
  • How to Do the Bear Complex Workout
  • How to Scale the Bear Complex Workout for Each Fitness Level
  • What is a Good Score for the Bear Complex Workout?

Let’s throw some weight around!

A power clean.

What Is the Bear Complex Workout?

The Bear complex workout is a barbell complex that requires you to know how to do a power clean, front squat, push press, and back squat.

The movements themselves are not complicated, and even people with very little lifting experience should be able to complete them if given proper instructions. 

This workout is interesting because you cannot put the barbell down or alter the weight mid-round. Each round requires completing the entire five-movement complex seven times without touching the barbell to the ground once you have picked it up. 

The Bear complex is a CrossFit workout that requires changing weight between rounds because the goal is the max out on how heavy you can load the barbell for your fifth round; your final weight for the final round is your score

The movements are simple yet taxing, and the more weight you load onto the bar, the more you will want the workout to be over. 

A person holding on to a barbell.

How to Do the Bear Complex Workout

To prepare for the Bear complex workout, you need to situate yourself in a space with enough room to move a barbell from the ground into an extended overhead position.

You also need to have access to a variety of weight plates. Ensure you have enough weight to slowly load the bar up between rounds. 

It is ideal to have various plate weights from 2.5 to 45 pounds. You may need to add weight plates in small increments by the time you reach the last round or two. 

The Bear complex workout consists of 7 repetitions of power clean, front squat, push press, back squat, and push press. You must complete this complex five times. After each 7-repetition round, you put the bar down and add more weight. 

Here is the exact format of “The Bear:”

5 Rounds For Load

Complete 7 Unbroken Sets of the following Barbell complex:

  • 1 Power Clean
  • 1 Front Squat
  • 1 Push Press
  • 1 Back Squat
  • 1 Push Press

Your score is determined by the amount of weight you use during the fifth round of the WOD. 

A barbell clean.

How to Scale the Bear Complex Workout for Each Fitness Level

The barbell movements required for the Bear complex workout are unlikely to need to be scaled, but the amount of work, even if using a lighter weight, may be challenging for some athletes. 

Athletes newer to CrossFit may struggle with moving the barbell fluidly, and it may be especially challenging for newer athletes to hold onto the barbell for the entirety of each round. 

Grip strength is a requirement for this WOD, and people who have not been doing a lot of lifting may find it hurts their hands and quickly pumps up their forearms. 

This CrossFit Bear complex workout should challenge you, but it is okay to ease into it. Barbell work takes some time to get used to, especially when repeatedly moving the bar in various positions. That alone requires some focus. Up, over, behind, over, down. That’s a lot to remember!

Remaining uninjured is important, and if something begins to hurt or feel off, then you should not push the weight. It is okay to initially modify the number of reps or rounds and eventually build your way up to doing the full workout with heavy weight. 

This workout aims to improve muscular endurance, size, and strength due to the time under tension it demands as you work through each complex. 

It is still possible to see these benefits when scaling the workout down to your skill level. 

A front squat.

The Bear Complex Workout for Beginners:

There are various ways to scale the Bear complex workout to the beginner level.

If you are newer to these types of workouts, you may want to start using a 35-pound bar over a 45-pound bar. From there, you can add a weight that feels comfortable and light even and stick with that weight for the entire workout. 

It is important to make sure that you choose a weight that you will not have to put down during each complex since that is where the benefits of the workout come from. 

Sticking with the same weight is okay. If you are not quite able to do five rounds, you can modify how many rounds and how many reps of the complex you do. 

We suggest the following as the best option:

4 Rounds For Load

Complete 5 Unbroken Sets of this Barbell complex:

  • 1 Power Clean
  • 1 Front Squat
  • 1 Push Press
  • 1 Back Squat
  • 1 Push Press

For this option, you can try increasing weight in very small increments rather than keeping the weight the same the entire time since the overall workload is less. 

An overhead press.

The Bear Complex Workout for Intermediates:

If you are an intermediate CrossFit athlete, the workload of this WOD probably will not phase you. 

However, you may struggle with the frequent increase in weight. Rather than increasing weight every round, you could skip adding weight in rounds 3 and 5. 

You should be able to complete the entire workout load of the WOD without modification, and holding onto the bar for each round should not be an issue, so there is no need to scale down the number of rounds or repetitions. 

We recommend the following workout:

5 Rounds For Load, adding weight only prior to rounds 3 and 5. 

Complete 7 Unbroken Sets of this Barbell complex:

  • 1 Power Clean
  • 1 Front Squat
  • 1 Push Press
  • 1 Back Squat
  • 1 Push Press

If this feels too easy, then the next time you give it a try, you can try only skipping the addition of weight in round 4. It should feel challenging, but not in such a way that you could injure yourself. 

An overhead press.

The Bear Complex Workout for the Advanced:

The Bear complex CrossFit workout should be completed as written for advanced athletes. However, you should still be cautious with how much weight you add between rounds. Be conservative so that you can be sure to have some left in the tank for the final round. 

The workout should look like this: 

5 Rounds For Load

Complete 7 Unbroken Sets of this Barbell complex:

  • 1 Power Clean
  • 1 Front Squat
  • 1 Push Press
  • 1 Back Squat
  • 1 Push Press

Advanced athletes should easily be able to hold onto the bar for the entirety of each round. If your arms start to get too pumped, give them a good shakeout between rounds. 

A back squat.

What is a Good Score for the Bear Complex Workout?

The score for the Bear complex CrossFit workout is calculated by the amount of weight used in the final round. 

How much weight an athlete is able to load up for the final round is dependent on many factors. While overall muscular endurance and strength are important, grip strength also plays a role in how much an athlete can tolerate loading onto the bar. 

For someone who does the full number of rounds and reps of the CrossFit Bear complex , here are some ideas on how much weight they may be able to load according to skill level:

  • Beginner athletes completing the workout will likely be able to load about 75 lbs for men and 55 lbs for women. 
  • Intermediate athletes should be able to load about 115 lbs for men and 85 lbs for women. 
  • Advanced athletes should be able to complete this workout with about 155 lbs on the bar for men and 105 lbs for women. 
  • Elite athletes who complete the Bear complex workout will likely be able to use 225 lbs or more for men and 155 lbs or more for women. 
A back squat.


The Bear complex workout is very challenging and a great test of endurance, strength, and ambition. Not letting go of the bar during each wrong will truly pump your forearms and require you to push through the pain. 

This benchmark workout can be fun and is a great test of how your strength has improved over time. Completing the Bear complex quarterly will allow you to see what kind of strength gains you have made. 

It is a good idea to complete this workout when you are feeling fresh and do not have residual fatigue from workouts earlier in the week. You will need to engage the majority of your large muscle groups, so do not forget to warm up before you start!

If you can complete this full-body barbell workout, then you are ready to level up your CrossFit WOD game and try some things that are more complex. 

Remember that benchmark WODs are meant to be completed to test your abilities and that you may not knock it out of the park the first time, but the whole point is to try it again later in the year so you can gauge how far you have come. 

If you want to try another CrossFit workout that will test your endurance and maybe crush your soul a bit, check out “The Murph.” 

A barbell and weight plates.
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I am a UESCA-certified running coach, psychology PhD student, and competitive obstacle racer and trail runner. Once 100 pounds overweight I found fitness and fell in love with an active and competitive lifestyle. My passion for inspiring others and fitness come together seamlessly in the world of writing where I get to share the thing that changed my life. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family, my dogs, as well as baking and cooking.

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