Bar Math Hack

Here’s the article everyone has been wanting and needing…

How to do Barbell Math.

Here’s my personal and “professional” pro-hack to help you never get lost in the numbers again.

I developed this method when I was interning with the Liberty University Football Strength & Conditioning program and large football players would be throwing around even larger weights and ask me what the total was and I needed to be able to spit out an answer quickly (especially as the only girl in there, down with the stereotypes of girls being bad at math…even though honestly it isn’t my personal strength)!

So here is the process:

  1. Start with the base.  What is the weight of the barbell?
  2. Count by 10’s as often as you can, from inside to outside of each side.

That easy.

A women’s barbell with a 15# and a 10# plate on each side… 35# (base) + 15# + 15# + 10# + 10#.  Even easier to count the 10’s of the 15 on each side first (step 2 and 3 pictured) THEN add in the additional 10 of the remaining 5+5 (step 4).  Then continue with the outer 10#’s (step 5 and 6) to get to your total of 85#!

  • DON’T add up the plates on one end of the barbell, then try to double it, then add 45/35 to that total…that’s just confusing and you’re carrying 1’s and finding square roots and it just isn’t the way.
  • DON’T give up and say you’ll just never count and throw something on and see if you can do it…you’ll end up being bummed you were 5lbs under your PR instead of 5lbs over it or you’ll end up injured because you attempt a weight you shouldn’t yet.
  • This won’t be the way that clicks for everyone, but it’s worth a shot!

Here’s a few extra helpful tips & visuals:

1.Memorize “bigger” bases to help even more.

Memorizing the combination of different plates on barbells will make adding even quicker and easier.

When it comes to a men’s bar:

  • 1 45# on each side = 135#
  • 1 45# and 1 25# on each side = 185#
  • 2 45# on each side = 225#

If you get those “bases” memorized, it’s easy to figure out any additional plates on top of that base.  Here’s an example:

  • We see 2 45#’s on each side of this Men’s barbell.  We’ve memorized that that base is 225#.
  • Count by 10 for the plate on one side of the bar (235#)
  • Count by 10 for the plate on the other side of the bat (245#)
  • Now you know the total

2. Always count from inside, to outside, back and forth

Here’s what I mean, per the photo to the right:

  • We’ve memorized the 45# base on a women’s barbell is 125# (yes you will need to practice memorizing the bases but you’ll get there!)
  • Now we have 2 additional plates on each side (first is a 25# and the outer is a 15#)
  • Again, only counting by 10’s, starting from the inside of one side, then moving to the same plate on the opposite end of the barbell like this:
  • 125 + 25# + 25# + 15# + 15#
  • Add them up counting by 10’s… 125 + 10 + 10 (of the first 25#) + 10 + 10 (of the other 25#) + 10 (of the remaining 5+5 for a 25# plate)…so in your head it sounds like: 125..135..145 / 155..165 / 175.
  • Now continuing to the outermost 15# plates: add the 10 of one side, 10 of the other side then 10 of the remaining 5+5.  So… 175 to 185..195..205!

I know it looks challenging written out with so many numbers, so feel free to ask more about it in person at the gym and I’d be happy to help!  This definitely isn’t the ONLY way to do it…someone who’s good at math is for sure laughing at this broken down process, but hopefully it will resonate a little bit with someone to help you make your bar math easier!