What is Work Capacity?
Work capacity is your ability to perform as much work as possible in a prescribed amount of time. Alternatively, it’s your ability to perform a prescribed amount of work as quickly as possible.
Most dedicated lifters possess a strong and muscular physique, but what really separates the men from the boys (or the women from the girls) is their capacity to perform work in a set amount of time.
Think of work capacity as the ability to keep moving, lifting, and carrying objects at a steady pace for a set period of time. Or, the ability to move, lift, and carry an object or objects as quickly as possible. The individual who can perform the most work in a set amount of time or complete a set amount of work the fastest possesses the greatest work capacity.
For example, let’s say we have two lifters who both squat 405 pounds for their 1-rep max. A simple way to determine which lifter has the greater work capacity is to test how many squats they can perform in 10 minutes at 365 pounds (90-percent of their 1RM).
As you can guess, the lifter who performs the most reps in 10 minutes has the greater work capacity and will make better long-term progress simply because he can perform more work. (Five more workouts to try here.)
Many lifters look strong and fit but possess very poor work capacity. They’re all show and no go. Improving your work capacity requires high cardiovascular and respiratory output. It’s hard work. Literally. Most lifters never put in the effort to fully develop their work capacity. Thus, they never truly reach their full potential.
Building work capacity may even be more important for the over-40 lifter.