We utilized a non-steady state method (kJ per set, not kJ min–1) to estimate the total energy costs (aerobic and anaerobic, exercise and recovery) of five different resistance exercises: incline bench press, squat, deadlift, shoulder shrug and calf raise. Using a Smith machine, work was precisely measured as the product of the vertical distance the lifting bar traveled and the amount of weight lifted. The average of two lifts performed on separate days was completed by 16 women (165 cm; 61.1 kg; 21.8 years) and 22 men (180.5 cm; 83 kg; 23.7 years). Overall 40 data points (the averages of 80 lifts) were plotted and correlations completed within each exercise for work and total energy costs: deadlift r = 0.997, squat r = 0.977, incline press r = 0.947, shoulder shrug r = 0.921 and calf raise r = 0.941 (p < 0.05). The amount of oxygen consumed during exercise for each lift represented the lowest energy cost contribution (18%), followed by anaerobic (31%) and excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC, 51%) (p < 0.05). The identification of work (J) along with an estimate of the total energy costs (kJ) revealed remarkably consistent relationships within any given resistance exercise, leading to a predictable increase in the cost of lifting for each exercise. However, due to the muscle/joint and movement characteristics of each exercise, the work to cost relationship differed for all lifts.