Do you have a very limited time to workout? The density training may be for you. I’ve personally have been using density training for the past 3 years and have really benefited from them.
What is Training Density?
What’s the number 1 excuse you hear from people for not working out? It’s usually – “I don’t have time.”
If you know someone like this, density training is a great way of getting a great workout within a limited time.
In strength training, we use variables such as training intensity and volume.
- Training intensity refers to how much weight we lift in relation to our 1 rep max. The heavier the weight, the higher the intensity.
- Training volume refers to the total number of reps and sets we perform with a given weight.
With training density, you add in a third variable: Time.
If you can perform the same workout in a shorter amount of time, your training density has improved. If you can perform more weight and reps in the same amount of time, your workout density has also improved.
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What is Density Training?
Since we have a limited time to workout, we can work on improving our workout density. Strength training usually involves longer rest periods.
We’re already used to timing our rest between sets but density training is a little bit different.
Even if we can add 1 rep to our previous workout, our training density will have increased.
With density training, we set a time limit on each exercise we choose. We then try to do as many reps as we can within the time limit. Once the time is up, we stop that exercise and move on to the next one.
The next time we perform the same workout, we try to beat our previous workout.
For example, if we performed 40 reps within 10 minutes, the next time, we might aim for 41+ reps within 10 minutes. When the weight gets too easy, we can add increase it next time.
Over time, we can strive for more reps with the increased weight until that also starts feeling easy as we get stronger.
This is the basic concept of Progressive Overload. The only difference with density training is that we are keeping the variable of time constant.
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Density Training for Bodybuilders
The main focus of bodybuilders is to maximize muscle hypertrophy (growth)
There are 3 main mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy
- Mechanical Tension- Affected by training intensity
- Muscle Damage – Affected by training volume
- Metabolic Stress – Affected by short rest periods among other factors
Most Strength Training and Bodybuilding programs focus on Mechanical Tension and Muscle Damage to make gains.
Density training utilizes metabolic stress to drive hypertrophy. The weight lifted is usually lighter because of the short rest periods. The shorter rest periods place a different type of stress on the body which can lead to further hypertrophy.
If you want to learn more about the mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy, I highly recommend you read the brilliant paper by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Density Training for Powerlifters
Density training can be a great tool for powerlifters or any other athlete, who wants to build muscle without affecting their core training.
While most of the training volume for powerlifters should come from the competition movements (Squat, Bench and Deadlift) and its variations, GPP (General Physical Preparedness) exercises should not be ignored.
Powerlifters typically train with a high level of mechanical tension (intensity) and a moderate level of muscle damage (volume). They incur a very low amount of metabolic stress.
Powerlifting training by itself is very taxing on the nervous system, muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments. If we add in a lot of extra volume in the form of accessory and GPP exercises, it will affect the overall recovery from the competition movements.
Powerlifting training is also more time-consuming. Most powerlifters need to rest a lot longer between sets than bodybuilders. It is not uncommon for powerlifters to be in the gym for over 2 hours. If we were to add in extra bodybuilding-style accessories on top of this, the training sessions will take even longer.
This is where density training comes in. You can set time limits on each one of your accessory movements.
This has 3 benefits:
- The training intensity is automatically lowered because of the limited rest periods. This will not cause excessive stress on the nervous system and joints.
- You will save a lot of time by putting time limits on your accessories.
- The metabolic stress inducing training may enhance overall recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
Can I use density the competition movements?
Sure, but I would not recommend it for most people. If you want to maximize performance, you should rest as long as you need between sets.
That being said many successful lifters have used some variation of density training for the competition movements. I wouldn’t recommend limiting rest intervals but I you can set a total time limit for the movement.
For example, you can set a time limit of 25 minutes on a particular exercise and try to do as many sets as you can with adequate rest. Once the time limit I sup, you can move on to the next exercise.
What this does is that it helps with consistency because each workout will be the same length.
If you’re a busy person but are still interested in powerlifting-style training, you can set hard time limits on each exercise.
Anecdotally, I’ve found that if I don’t keep track of my time, I end up resting a lot longer than I need.
Sample Density Training Workout
If you have 45-60 minutes to work out, you can try this:
– Pick 4-5 exercises/muscles you want to target for that day
– Set a time limit of 7-10 minutes on each exercise (use a stopwatch)
– Start the first exercise with 8-12 reps (not to failure). Leave 2-3 reps in the tank (RPE 7-8)
– Rest 30-45 seconds
– Perform a few more reps without going to complete failure (RPE 9)
– Rest 30-45 seconds
– Repeat until time is up
– Move on to the next exercise
Repeat the same protocol for all exercises.
My sample workout:
Pull ups/Lat pull downs – Max reps in 10 minutes
Ab wheel/Crunches – Max reps in 10 minutes
Seated Incline Bicep Curls – Max reps in 10 minutes
Rear-delt flys – Max reps in 10 minutes
Total workout time: ~45 minutes
You can even include HIIT cardio at the end of the session. Get a free copy of the 25 Fat-Blasting HIIT Workouts.
Limitations of Density Training
Density training is a great way of getting an effective workout within a limited time. That being said, if your goal is to maximize your muscle mass and strength, density training is not the most effective way to do it.
This is because, in a typical density training workout, you have very short rest intervals. and you will not be able to lift the same amount of weight for the same number of reps as if you were to rest longer.
With strength training, you need longer rest intervals to maximize performance between sets. Strength training is an Anaerobic exercise, which relies on ATP and Muscle Glycogen as the primary fuel sources. Strength training also utilizes the fast-twitch muscle fibers which fatigue quickly and take longer to recover.
Mechanical tension and muscle damage are far more important when it comes to muscle hypertrophy. With density training, you will not be able to lift the same amount of weight as you can with regular training.
That is why if you rely only on density training, you will not be maximizing your muscle growth. On the other hand, if you add some density training to your existing strength training, you will be utilizing all 3 mechanisms of muscle growth: Mechanical tension, Muscle Damage and Metabolic Stress.
Density training is a great tool if you want a great workout in a short time.
To improve Training Density, you either
- Perform the same workout in less time or
- Improve performance within a time limit.
Density Training usually involves shorter rest periods
The 3 main mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy (growth) are:
- Mechanical Tension (Intensity)
- Muscle Damage (Volume)
- Metabolic Stress (Shorter rest intervals and other factors)
Density Training uses metabolic stress to drive muscle hypertrophy (growth)
Density Training is a great tool for bodybuilders in addition to their regular training
Density training can be used by powerlifters for their accessories.
Density training by itself is not the most effective way to build muscle and should be used in addition to regular strength training.