Escalating Density Training

Escalating Density Training

Bottom Line Up Front:

  • Escalating Density Training is a method of strength training that hinges around doing progressively more work in a given period of time workout to workout.
  • Escalating Density Training allows you to be both efficient and effective with your time in the gym.
  • Many Crossfit workouts are based on the concept of Escalating Density.


Fitting a workout into your already busy life can be tough. If you're anything like me, you have to wedge fitness time somewhere into business and work, being a parent, being a spouse, fixing leaky faucets and running toilets, plus getting time in on your hobbies and self-improvement efforts.

It's a LOT of work this adulting thing. Maximizing your time in the gym means being efficient and effective all at once.

Enter: Escalating Density Training

The Basic Concept of Escalating Density Training

In a nutshell, Escalating Density training can be thought of in two related but distinct ways:

  • You can do more work, workout to workout, in a given period of time, or
  • You can do the same amount of work but shorten the time workout to workout

Let's look at some examples of each to make the picture more clear.

More Work, Same Time

Let's say on a given Monday, you are going to perform a push/pull couplet consisting of dumbbell bench press and bent over rows. In the Escalating Density Framework you would perform them as a superset, resting as long as you need in between sets. You would choose a weight that is challenging for 6-8 reps. And finally, you would perform this couplet for 15 minutes.

Let's say on this particular Monday you performed 36 total reps of the dumbbell bench, and 30 of the bent over rows. 

On the following Monday, when you repeat this workout, your one goal is to beat those total reps in the same 15 minutes. And on and on it would go, until it's time to increase the weight for the exercises.

Same Amount of Work, Less Time

In this framework your goal is to beat your previous time. So let's say on a Wednesday, your workout consisted of:

  • 50 pull ups
  • 100 push ups
  • 200 air squats

Let's also say that this took you 45 minutes to complete. On the following Wednesday, your only goal is to beat that 45 minute time. And so on it would go, until it's time to add volume (more reps), additional weight, or switch up the circuit.

Cardiovascular Benefits of Escalating Density Training

The benefits of doing this type of progressive overload extend beyond just strength and hypertrophy gains. Your heart will benefit as well.

In order to beat your previous reps or your previous times, you will have to be MOVING and staying focused. You will be breathing like a freight train. You will be pouring sweat. Your heart will be chugging away like an engine.

You will see a good deal of the same benefits of running or swimming (challenging the aerobic system) without putting in the time on the road or in the pool.

Efficient and Effective Training for a Busy Life

Escalating Density Training is an extremely effective way to train for the modern lifestyle that most of us share.

You always know exactly how long you will be in the gym. You will always have a specific plan of action. You will get stronger while also reaping cardiovascular benefits as well.

Later this week, we will provide a sample Escalating Density Training program for those of you interested in giving it a shot.


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