Total Tonnage Bodybuilding System

Phase-Loading Workouts!

Total Tonnage Bodybuilding System
Author Writter Image By: Dennis B. Weis "The Yukon Hercules"

Total bodybuilding system based on total amount of weight lifted per-workout!

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.

Sheer Strength Sheer Alpha

Sheer Strength
Sheer Alpha

Testosterone & Anabolic Booster

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.

Twenty or 25 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 of Bodybuilding".

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. Put very simply the system worked yesterday, today and will work tomorrow. It is one of the best systems to grow bigger and stronger without drugs.

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
Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 Column 4
Number of Sets (NS) Number of Reps (NR) NetPoundage (NP) Total Gross Poundage (Volume Loading) (TGP)
1 10 210 (70%) (10 x 210)=2100
1 8 240 (80%) (8 x 240)=1920
1 6 255 (85%) (6 x 255)=1530
1 4 270 (90%) (4 x 270)=1080
1 2 285 (95%) (2 x 285)=570
1 2 285 (95%) (2 x 285)=570
1 10 240 (80%) (10 x 240)=2400
7 42 1,785 10,170 (TGP)

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 factors:

Factor 1) Current Maximum Single Effort (MSE) is 300 lbs.
Factor 2) Number of Sets (NS) is 7
Factor 3) Number of Total Reps (NR) is 42
Factor 4) Total Net Poundage (TNP) is 1, 785
Factor 5) Total Gross Poundage (TGP) is 10,170
Factor 6) Mean Intensity is 255 = .85 or 85%
Factor 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.

Factor 8: 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.

Factor 9: Time

ALLMAX Nutrition Vitastack

ALLMAX Nutrition Vitastack

Pro-Level Vitamin & Nutrient Stack Packs!

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.

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

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.

The Formula:

Ref: Supine Bench Press (Set #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 Output: 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 for details) can incorporate the Total Tonnage principles for monitoring average monthly and yearly load volumes and intensities.

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.

Tags: bodybuilding life workout programs


Dennis B. Weis

Send Us Your Comments:
Total Tonnage Bodybuilding System - Comments

Related Articles


Sponsored Products:

PEScience Select Protein

Select Protein

Whey & Casein Blend

MuscleTech NitroTech


Advanced Musclebuilding Protein!



Testosterone & Nitric Oxide!





Altas Strength - Smith Machine

Altas Strength
Smith Machine

Smith Machine with Lever Arms Pulley Ratio 2:1 Squat Rack Pull Up Bar Upper Body Strength Training Leg Developer Light Commercial Home Gym Strength Training!


Allvodes Bands - Resstance Banda Set - Workout Bands, Exercise Bands for Men and Women, Exercise Bands with Door Anchor!

Allvodes Bands
Resstance Bands Set

Workout Bands, Exercise Bands for Men and Women, Exercise Bands with Door Anchor!