|Total Tonnage System
By Dennis B. Weis "The Yukon Hercules"
If you are a bodybuilder who is anxious to pack on slabs of thick,
sculptured muscle to your most stubborn body parts, then one of
the most efficient ways of doing it is by using the systematic
employment of the Total Tonnage System.
The Total Tonnage System is a training
procedure that was developed decades ago by Eastern Bloc coaches
as a means of evaluating or
measuring the phase-loading workouts of their Olympic lifters.
As time went on, amateur and pro bodybuilders began to see the
merit of this system, and with some modifications began to adapt
it to their own training protocol. I personally learned about this
Eastern Bloc training system in some letter correspondence from
an IFBB bodybuilding superstar, the late Chuck Sipes, 35+ years
ago. Ten or 12 years ago, John Little and Peter Sisco included
a refined version of the Total Tonnage System as a critical element
in their best-selling book, Power Factor Training: "The Science
As you will notice from reading this article, the Total Tonnage
System represents the specific wants and needs, both psychologically
and physiologically for the hardcore bodybuilders of this decade
and well into the 21st century.
The most basic procedure of the Total Tonnage System is to record
the number of sets, reps, and poundages for each exercise performed
and then multiply all these factors so that a volume of loading
can be determined. The following Supine (flat) Bench Press outline
is one example using the procedure just described.
Supine (flat) Bench Press
300 Pounds = Single Maximum Effort
|Number of Sets (NS)
||Number of Reps (NR)
||Total Gross Poundage (Volume Loading) (TGP)
||(10 x 210)=2100
||(8 x 240)=1920
||(6 x 255)=1530
||(4 x 270)=1080
||(2 x 285)=570
||(2 x 285)=570
||(10 x 240)=2400
As you can see from the chart above, over 5 tons was lifted
(Ref: Col 4). One of the most important factors in achieving success
with the Total Tonnage System is to compute the threshold-of-intensity.
This is accomplished in a number of ways. The first way is to compute
the average amount of net poundage (NP) or mean intensity used
on each of the seven sets. Simply divide the total of net poundage
lifted in column 3 by the total number of sets performed in column
1: (1, 785 (NP)/7 (NS) = 255 lbs.). To determine what percentage
255 lbs. would be of the maximum single effort (MSE), divide this
poundage into 300 lbs.: (255/300 = .85 or 85%).
A second way to compute the threshold-of-intensity
is to calculate the relative intensity of any given net poundage
(NP) listed in
column 3. I’ll use the top exercise poundage lifted of 285
lbs. Divide this poundage by the MSE of 300 lbs.: (285/300 = .95
or 95%). Note: Whenever you have an odd poundage, always take your
answer to the nearest five-pound interval (ATNI), so 302.1 would
be moved to 300, whereas 303.6 would be moved to 305. For the percentage
process, round the number to the nearest whole percentage (NWP),
so 95.4 would be 95, whereas 95.6 would be 96.
A first glance at the Total Tonnage System procedure (ref: Supine
Bench Press, etc.) reveals seven mathematically-derived and known
1) Current Maximum Single Effort (MSE) is 300 lbs.
2) Number of Sets (NS) is 7
3) Number of Total Reps (NR) is 42
4) Total Net Poundage (TNP) is 1, 785
5) Total Gross Poundage (TGP) is 10,170
6) Mean Intensity is 255 = .85 or 85%
7) Relative Intensity is 285 pounds = .95 or 95%
A second look back at the Total Tonnage System process suggests
that two additional factors must be considered. They are Distance
(Ft. Pounds) and Time.
Distance (Ft. Pounds)
Distance in progressive resistance exercise is the measured movement
or travel of that resistance from the starting to the finish
position in the concentric or positive (+) phase of each and
every rep. Within the full anatomical range of travel in the
Supine Bench Press a measurement is taken from the highest point
on the chest to the bar when the arms are completely locked out.
Let’s assume that the measured movement or stroke is 24
inches while using a 240-pound barbell. In physics, work is defined
as force ‘x’ distance. Each pound moved a distance
of one foot is called one foot-pound of work. Thus, when the 240-pound
barbell was pressed upward from the chest to lockout (24 inches)
just one time, 480 ft.-lbs. of work was produced (240 x 2 ft. =
480). A formula for measuring increments of foot-pounds is as follows:
3 inches = .25 feet; 6 inches = .5 feet; 9 inches = .75 feet;
12 inches = 1.0 ft; 15 inches = 1.25 ft.; 18 inches = 1.5 ft.;
21 inches = 1.75 ft.; 24 inches = 2 ft.; 27 inches = 2.25 ft.,
and so on.
Varying the distance on select exercises can have a rather dramatic
impact on how the reps feel. For example, going from a 24-inch
stroke in the Bench Press down to 21 inches may cause the rep(s)
to feel somewhat more effortless, while increasing the distance
from 21 to 24 inches may make the reps feel more difficult to perform.
Generally, the time allotted for an exercise set is the calculated
number of seconds it takes to move the weight in the positive (+)
and negative (-) phase of a full exercise range of motion repetition(s).
For many bodybuilders, the positive (+) phase of a rep will take
3 seconds to complete and the negative (-) phase, two times slower
at around 6 seconds. However, if your desire is to build maximum
muscle size couple with huge reserves of power, then accelerated
high-speed positive (+) phase reps is a good option. Here is how
it works. Each and every rep in the positive (+) phase should be
completed as fast as possible, not with momentum, but with perfect
motion and precise form (never jerky). Each and every positive
(+) phase speed-rep should be accurately timed (1/100s of a second)
with a stopwatch. Always round the times off to the nearest 1/10th
of a second. Positive (+) phase speed-reps should take approximately
2 seconds each or less to complete. When the speed slows down by
.10 or 10% of the fastest time (ex.: 2 sec. x .10 = 2.02 sec.),
there are usually a couple of reasons for this, both of which can
have a definite effect on your current state of physical, mental,
and neurological preparedness as it relates to your workouts and
speed-reps in general.
If the rest-pauses between exercise sets are not long enough to
allow the heart rate to drop to 102 beats per minute before beginning
the next set, this will definitely affect the timed performance
of speed reps.
The recovery levels of the muscles and central nervous system may
not be fully completed. Proper restorative methods should be
applied: get enough sleep (8-10 hours), massage, and supplement
When maximal speed-rep time takes 10%
longer than the suggested 2 seconds in the positive phase of
a rep for even one set of a
conventional bodybuilding exercise, then a "fresh start" of
stimuli must be introduced. Usually, this is in the form of reduced
intensity. One of the best methods for accomplishing this is one
that Jay Shroeder (Director of the Ultra-Fit International and
Conditioning Center, located in Mesa, Arizona) pioneered. He calls
it: Zones of Training/Utilizing Positive (+) Speed-Reps. Here is
an encapsulated look at each zone
First Myofibril Zone - 85%+ max, 3-6 rep sets (Maximum/Heavy)
Second Myofibril Zone - 72%-84% max, 7-15 rep sets (Heavy/Medium)
Mitochondria Zone - 50%-71% max, 16-30 rep sets (Medium/Light)
All training sessions utilizing compound/single-joint
and/or isolationary/single-joint exercises begin in the Zone
1 and as your rep times slow to unacceptable
levels as previously discussed, you change in order, moving on
to Zone 2 and so on to Zone 3. This of course is only a brief outline
of the "Zones of Training".
Summarizing the discussion of time, let’s assume that it
takes 2 seconds to complete the positive (+) phase of each of the
consecutive speed-reps in set number 7 of the Supine Bench Press
sample. This computes out to 20 seconds of accumulated positive
(+) phase rep time (10 reps x 2.0 seconds = 20 seconds). Don’t
worry about the timing of the negative (-) phase (which is usually
2 times slower than the positive phase), for it is the factor of
time in the positive (+) phase which is of the utmost importance
in calculating the Power Output in the Total Tonnage System formula.
Ref: Supine Bench Press (Set No. 7)
Nine mathematically-derived factors are in place and now the Total Tonnage
System Formula can be revealed.
Maximum Single Effort (MSE) 300 pounds ‘x’ (times)
percentage of maximum (POM) .80 = 240 pounds ‘x’ (times)
number of reps (NR)10 = 2400 pounds ‘x’ (times) distance
(ft. lbs.) 2.0 feet = 4800 ft. lbs. ‘x’ (times) number
of sets (NS) 1 =4800 Total Gross Ft. Lbs. (of work).
Power is defined as force ‘x’ (times) distance divided
by time. To determine the actual power output of ft. lbs. lifted
per second, simply divide the 20 seconds of accumulated positive
(+) phase time by 4800 Total Gross Ft. Lbs. (20/4800 = 240 ft.
lbs. per second).
When using the Total Tonnage System, always try to increase the
load volume of training through an adjustment of one or more
of the nine factors previously discussed. Other adjustments could
include doing more sets and reps in the same allotted training
period (a training session of high intensity should not last
longer than one hour and 15 minutes. Growth Hormone (GH) release
has almost completely stopped when training time goes beyond
one hour and 15 minutes. Some experts say that 40-45 minutes
is maximum for an exercise session), or by varying the exercises
being performed to bring in fresh muscle and nerve stimuli.
At the end of each month, add up the
total net poundage successfully lifted in the various select
compound and isolation exercises.
Divide the net poundage by 2000 to arrive at an estimate of how
many tons of weight was lifted. Ultra-refined "annual" training
plans (such as Larry Scott’s Bio-Phase Training System (visit
www.biophase.com for details) can incorporate the Total Tonnage
principles for monitoring average monthly and yearly load volumes
As you add up your weekly tonnage at the end of each month, you
will notice a tremendous motivation (mindset or will to push your
body a little more) to strive each month to outdo the month before
(tonnages begging to be smashed).
These ever-increasing demands of your workouts will create the
environment for your muscles to get bigger and stronger. Remember
that the Total Tonnage System has propelled many a man and woman
to the top in the iron game. Always strive for progress when
hoisting the heavy iron.