Muscle Sport Magazine

The Physics Of Weight Lifting, Part 4: Work

By Paul Becker, copyright © 2008-2010 Paul Becker – In part 4 of this series we’ll look at the formula for work and how we can use it to monitor our training. The formula for work is: Force X Distance.

When we workout we use a certain amount of muscular force to lift a weight across a certain distance, the work done is measured in Foot/Pounds. If we kept track of the work we do each workout it will tell us much about our progress and also how we should proceed with our training. You can measure the work done each workout in the following way:

1. Take an empty bar and do the full range motion for each exercise you are currently doing in your workout, have your training partner measure the distance (e.g., how far is it from the bar being on your chest to it being at full extension for the bench press, how far is it from the bar being on the ground to when you are standing up with it on the deadlift, etc.) and write down all these measurements. When there is an exercise that the movement is in an arc, like curls, you will have to find a way to measure the distance of the arc, you might want to take some chalk and do the motion against a wall and then measure the arc of the line you drew, or some other bright idea on measuring the distance of an exercise that travels in an arc.

2. Now the next time you workout you can figure the amount of work done (called workload), just take the reps done on your first set and times it by the distance (this would be twice the distance of the distance you measured, since one rep is both down and up), for example, if one rep down and up on the squat is 7 feet and you did 10 reps that would be 70 feet. Now take the weight lifted and times it by the distance, for example if you squatted 265 lbs: 265 lbs X 70 ft = 18,550 ft/lbs.

3. Take every set of the workout and used the same formula (F X D) and you will know the workload for each set add the workloads of all the sets and you will have the total workload of that one training session.

Now when you keep track of your workload each workout in this way you can see that as you get stronger your workload increases, you will also see that you can monitor how much workload you can handle each week before overtraining sets in. Just watch yourself for signs of overtraining and see where you workload is at.


You can increase or decrease your workload as you feel is necessary, and you can see that not all sets are created equal – a set of curls is much less work then a set of squats or deadlifts. You can also vary the workload from workout to workout, may alternating heavier with lighter sessions.

Keeping track of your workload will give you a much insight and the ability to predict things in your training, experiment with it and you will learn much more about how useful it is. In the part 5 I’ll expand a bit on this formula.

About The Author: Paul Becker is a natural (steroid free for life) bodybuilder and fitness consultant. For more information on Bodybuilding and Bodybuilding Supplements visit his website at

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