Key Concept: Increase Tonnage Lifted

Increase tonnage lifted.  This is a simple but crucial concept I believe doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.   While exercising, rather than get caught up in how much you’re sweating, how high your heart rate is, or how much the exercise “burns” (though these relatively subjective metrics can be useful), simply keep track of how much physical work you do during a workout and aim to increase it in subsequent workouts. More sets, more reps, or more weight! Simple.

The basic physics equation is Work = Force x Distance. Force is weight on the bar (vertical axis on graph below). And distance is the distance that weight moves against gravity. i.e., accumulated reps and sets (horizontal axis).  Put simply, you are getting stronger, leaner, and more fit as the size/area of the rectangle increases.

Let’s illustrate this concept with numbers. From the above graph, weight on the bar could be for one of the major lifts (squat, deadlift, bench or overhead press):

Work (green) = 200lbs. x 3sets x 5reps = 3,000lbs.

Work (blue) = 150lbs. x  3sets x 10reps = 4,500lbs.

Work (red) = 100lbs. x 5sets x 5reps = 2,500lbs.

So which one is best? Well, that depends. From total work done perspective, the answer is blue rectangle at 4,500lbs. of accumulated work. But from a strength perspective, the green rectangle is better because you’re using heavier weight. Regardless, these are just example numbers to illustrate the concept of increasing physical work capacity by either adding more weight to bar, or doing more reps and sets.

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