I don’t know about you bros, but I am all about efficiency. My time is money, so if there’s a way I can optimize that time, I will. My training is no different. If I can get in and out of the gym in 30 minutes and still have an effective workout, I’ll take that every day of the week.
One way I do this is by utilizing density workouts. A density workout allows you to build more muscle and burn more fat, while spending less time in the gym. You’re probably thinking that’s too good to be true, right? Wrong!
Density workouts have actually been around a while. First brought to the mainstream by Charles Staley in his book “Escalating Density Training”, density training was originally thought of as a pure muscle-building workout. Later however, John Romaniello took the concept of density workouts, and tweaked them for fat loss.
The two biggest factors of density workouts, like any workout, are volume and duration:
- Volume is how much work you do in a workout, or your sets x reps. Say you perform 5 sets of 5 reps in a workout, your volume for that workout would be 25 reps.
- Duration, or simply how long your workout lasts.
Therefore, density is a combination of these two factors; how much work you are doing in a given time frame.
By increasing your workout density, you are not only burning more calories and building more muscle, you are also increasing your work capacity. And the more work you can do in a given time frame, the more calories you can burn, and the more muscle you can build.
There are two basic ways to increase density. First, you can aim to do the same amount of volume in less time. So say your first workout, you do 4 sets of 10 reps on bench press in 15 minutes. Next time, your goal would be to do the same number of sets and reps in say, 10 minutes. You are doing the same amount of work but in less time, meaning you either have to lift the weight faster or rest less. Both are increasing your work capacity.
The second way to increase density is to try and do more work in the same amount of time. Using the example above, your goal would then be to increase the number of sets or reps you do in 15 minutes. Again, either way you are going to have to lift the weight faster or rest less.
While the main idea of density training is to progressively do more work over time, it is set up a little differently for fat loss and muscle building…
Density Training for Fat Loss
When utilizing density training for fat loss, you are going to be performing more exercises (4-6) with higher reps in a circuit-style fashion. These are known as blocks. You can perform 1-3 blocks per workout. Trainees who have no experience with density training can start by adding one block to the end of a training session, while those with more experience can perform whole density workouts lasting 20-40 minutes.
Each block will contain at least 4 exercises, consisting of an upper body push, upper body pull, lower body push, and lower body pull. Two additional exercises can be added, such as abs or other isolation work, for added metabolic effect. Here’s an example:
Directions: Set a timer for 12 minutes and perform A1-A4 sequentially. Rest as little as your conditioning allows, trying not to rest at all between exercises or circuits. Choose a weight that is appropriately challenging and perform 12-15 reps for each exercise. If you get through 3 or more rounds in 12 minutes, increase the weights next time.
A1. Dumbbell Goblet Squat 12-15
A2. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 12-15
A3. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge 12-15
A4. Bent-Over Two Dumbbell Row 12-15
Density Training for Muscle Gain
One of the most effective density training modules for muscle gain is the total rep method. With this method, you pick a number of reps and try to complete those reps in the fewest number of sets possible. The catch is you can only do perfect reps. This means that when you slow down or your form starts the break, you have to stop and rest. The reason for this is that perfect, fast paced reps ensure the maximum number of muscle fibers are being used each rep.
The total rep method can be used in any rep range, but the most common is 24-30 reps. This seems to be the optimal range for size AND strength. For pure hypertrophy, you can work more in the 35-40 rep range.
The catch here is, you want to use a weight that is appropriately challenging and allows you to work in the right rep range. So say 30 total reps is your goal; you want to use a weight you cannot lift more than 6 times.
Density training for muscle gain is normally done with two exercises paired together. There really is no guideline for which exercises to do, as long as you are hitting two different muscle groups. So really this can be used to build up any lagging body parts. Here’s an example:
Directions: Alternate between A1 and A2, resting 30 seconds between exercises. Choose a weight you can lift no more than 6 times. Perform 30 reps total for each exercise.
A1. Seated Alternating Dumbbell Bicep Curl
A2. Overhead Tricep Extension – Rope Attachment
Density workouts are great for doing more work in less time. With these workouts, you can optimize your fat loss and muscle gain, all while spending less time in the gym, and more time in the bars books.