Weighted Exercise


You must check with your doctor before starting any exercise program


Weighted Exercise is the name I gave to my idea of assigning numerical weights, wi, to i = 1 to N exercises, then randomly selecting n of these exercises, with replacement, to perform for a workout. Weighted Exercise can help eliminate bias in exercise selection and exercise order, increase mental and physical intensity, assist with planning, help create a balanced body, help workout environments run smoothly, add variation and novelty to workouts, overcome plateaus, increase exercise program adherence, and empower the trainer or exerciser to generate workouts. It is a general method that is not rigidly attached to any specific workout protocol. Because of these benefits, I endorse introducing randomness into exercise where appropriate.

Weights are numbers greater than or equal to 0 that you assign to exercises to reflect how important the exercises are to your exercise goals. The larger the weight, the more importance. There is a relationship between probability, pi, and weight, which is pi = wi/sum(wi, i = 1 to N). This relationship allows us to randomly sample from the list of exercises taking our exercise goals into consideration. Setting wi = 1 for all exercises results in sampling from the exercise list with equal probability, pi = 1/N. This is the default weight setting. However, one benefit of using weights is that we have the ability to customize workouts. We can incorporate trainer or doctor preferences and recommendations, make exercises ineligible for selection (wi = 0) due to extreme soreness or injury, or make it so we concentrate on certain exercises on a given day. The larger the weight, the more likely the exercise will get selected for a workout. Every useful random selection program must have the option to alter the probabilities of selection.

Exercise Selection Bias

The idea of exercise selection bias arises because there are exercises you dislike and choose to do less frequently and ones you favor and choose to do more frequently. For example, in strength training, my lists were:

Likes bicep curls lat pulldown leg press pullover squats
Dislikes chest press chin ups dips lateral raise overhead press running shrugs

Using previous workout programming, invariably human nature set in and I found my workouts consisting of more exercises from my Likes list and less from my Dislikes list. Observe others to demonstrate how widespread this problem is. How many guys have you seen at your gym with huge biceps and tiny legs? How many exercises in the gym have you never done? How many times have you seen certain people doing the same exercises over and over? How many people do you know who have repetitive use injuries from their exercises? How many people focus primarily on abritrary sports specific movements that tend to neglect joint and muscle function, which often proves to be an unwise investment for overall health? The examples of emphasizing Likes at the expense of Dislikes are alarming, endless, and can limit your potential.

Exercise Order Bias

The importance of exercise order is seen when one realizes that the quality of the current exercise depends on the proceeding exercises. In a workout routine with a deterministic structure, your strength training potential may suffer. Who really knows what an ideal exercise order is given the myriad of interactions between exercises in a workout? This is something that probably varies from person to person, exercise to exercise, machine to machine, day to day, and even by definitions of "ideal". It is a logistical nightmare or an unsolvable problem using traditional deterministic workout programming. Having the exercise order randomly selected provides some protection from this effect.

Increase Mental and Physical Intensity

To make exercise meaningful, one should not just "go through the motions". If the next exercise in the workout is randomly selected, your body and mind simply cannot "brace" against what is coming like you can in a deterministic workout. Additionally, if you approach the current exercise not knowing the following exercises, it allows you to focus 100% on the current exercise, and additionally to avoid consciously or subconsciously altering your intensity on the current exercise in anticipation of the following exercises. The combination of random sampling with replacement and revealing exercises on your printed exercise one at a time addresses this issue.

Assist with Planning

The aim is to show that randomness is not incompatible with planning and goal setting by considering a hypothetical scenario. Because it is hypothetical, forget the specifics, like if one would really use so and so exercise to train for something, or if a doctor would really say such and such. The goal is big picture here, to illustrate a workable concept.

Please study the following picture

The text has been made very tiny because it is only desirable to show a "big picture" view here. You can view things closer in the simulation.

The hypothetical scenario: The majority of the year, you do all strength training exercises with roughly equal frequency as a general fitness program. These are the tiny black text throughout the graphic. For approximately the first three months of the year you are concentrating on the BENCH PRESS exercise more often due to a weakness that your personal trainer noticed. You also have a fencing competition in the middle of the year, so you are slowly increasing the frequency of the SQUAT exercise until then. After the fencing competition you will decrease the frequency of the SQUAT exercise. About a month or two away from the end of the year you unfortunately have a non-strength-training-related injury, and cannot do the SQUAT exercise for the remainder of the year. Also, one week out of the early part of the year, you concentrate heavily on NECK EXTENSION exercises, due to advice from your doctor.

Please see the simulation. Refreshing the random numbers generates new exercises for each day, yet the planned requirements are satisfied. The programming was done by week, but it can be planned out to the day, like the randomizer shown below.

Balanced Body

Having a balanced body is wise from a medical viewpoint, as well as aesthetics. Exercise is a long-run activity, and given this time and a representative exercise list to sample from, Weighted Exercise may be the only exercise method statistically guaranteed to create a balanced body while simultaneously addressing the aforementioned issues. This can be shown by comparing observed exercise frequencies for a period of time to the expected exercise frequencies using a chi-square goodness of fit test and not seeing a statistically significant p-value.

For example, say we have a representative exercise list, and we let wi = 1 for all exercises. Simulating 5 years of workout days, we get

which demonstrates that the observed exercise frequencies are not statistically different from their expected frequencies. If we adjust weights for one or more exercises, this still holds. For example, let wi = 2 for Squat, so Squat is sampled approximately twice as frequently as the other exercises.


I've made two randomizers freely available. Randomizer1 is for creating lists of randomly selected exercises. Randomizer2 is for displaying the exercises on a computer screen, one right after the other.


Randomizer1 is available here. I am not saying to use this randomizer "as is". You must edit the types of exercises to choose from, the number of exercises to do per workout, and the weights as needed for your goals. The rep and weight lifted parameters and lifting method are also up to you and/or your personal trainer. Upon opening the spreadsheet, it creates a workout for a day. An example is:

When I go exercise, I'll cut out the list of exercises and slip it into my pocket to refer to during my workout. One could edit this spreadsheet to plan their workouts for an entire week, month, or year.


Randomizer2 is available here. This is great for displaying exercises in large text that can be seen across the room for use in drills.

Feel free to edit the fonts, types of exercises to choose from, the number of exercises to do per workout, the exercise weights, and the time between displaying exercises as needed. Upon opening the spreadsheet, enter the parameters in the Parameters tab. Then go into the Selections tab. Make sure you have macros enabled, and then press Ctrl-r to run the macro.

Other Examples of Randomness in Exercise

It was mentioned that introducing randomness into other activities, where appropriate, is endorsed. For example, if a regular ball was dropped straight onto a racket or the ground, it would only bounce in a single predictable path. The reaction ball, however, is only expected to bounce in that same path, and mostly does as the density of the dots from the model indicates, but with smaller probability can bounce to other areas.

Random exercise could therefore be said to contain deterministic exercise, or put in other words, deterministic exercise is a subset of random exercise, or deterministic exercise is only one realization of random exercise.

Questions and Answers

However, please don't take my word that randomness is effective for exercise. There are many examples of exercise proponents who clearly understand and incorporate the benefits of randomness in exercise, or ideas that are compatible with the spirit of Weighted Exercise. To list a few: The success with the general idea by many people, in many different subject areas, and the inherent originality in it, beg for continued experimenting. Have fun with it!

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