Work Capacity


Over the next couple of months, you may hear our coaches speak about building up “work capacity.”  What does this mean?

In short, work capacity in training and fitness refers to the amount of physical stress our bodies can withstand, recover from, and use to make positive change. Most often, we use this term to describe a more general ability to get work done and make gains from the amount of training we are doing. Realistically, though, you have several pathways from which to pull energy. And while they all work together (and often at the same time), they must also be intentionally targeted and developed in training—especially when there is a leak in the system.

Consider a boat like the Titanic. The hull is split into different rooms to limit the damage done when flooding occurs. This allows the boat to hold larger amounts of water before the flooding becomes unmanageable.

how this applies to you in the gym

Training is represented by the water entering the hull. Recovery is our ability to clear that water completely in order to operate at our best and put our full focus on moving forward. As the boat (our body) experiences some flooding (training) of the system, it fills one room (energy pathway), floods over the bulkhead into the next room, and so on.  With more balance between the sizes of the rooms, managing flooding becomes easier. Our body must work to clear out the water and repair any damage done by its effects.

How long that process takes and how well the job is done determines when our body can withstand flooding again. It also determines how much flooding it can handle before we move from being an operational boat with some water in its hull to sinking—like the Titanic.

The awesome part about being a living organism, and not a boat, is that we have the ability to adapt.  We can build the size of our rooms (energy systems), increase our ability to withstand flooding, improve the speed of our recovery, and still move through life with ease while doing so. When our body notices water flooding over the bulkhead, it recovers, and then makes that room bigger for next time. When a boat has an area of the hull that’s weak and prone to leaking, it can be patched or repaired. When we have an area that is weak, we can heal it internally.  We can alter its physical properties to make it stronger.

I encourage you to show up regularly over the next months as the coaches at South Landing make building work capacity a focus of our Fitness classes. If you have a particular area that you would like to develop, are feeling run down, or have stopped making gains and would like to get more information about how work capacity may be the root problem, reach out to us and schedule a meeting. If you’d like even more information on how to build work capacity and bust through plateaus, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read this article by Greg Nuckols from Stronger by Science.