Intro to Training Density

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There are a lot of ways to lift weights.

The number and types of set/rep schemes in uncountable. We can also do things for time which adds to the possibilities.

One aspect of training that seems to sometimes get forgotten about with people that lift heavy is the concept of density.

Training density is all of the sets, reps, and weight lifted in a session divided by the time it takes. High training density is great for building submaximal strength and size.

This is a different approach to training than always going for a new 1rm, 3rm, etc.

Too often lifters take 3 hours to finish a workout that should probably be done in 45 minutes.

skinny rest

When we are training, the goal is not to constantly be hitting new rep maxes. If that is the case then the rep max you had last week was not accurate.

The only people that increase their maxes by 10+ pounds per week for multiple weeks in a row are 1. New lifters and 2. Steroid users.

Maximal lifting definitely has a place in training but it should not be the idea every single session. The only results will be burn out.

Submaximal Weights

As I have mentioned the beauty of density training is that submax weights are being used. When time is thrown into the equation, full recovery is not always an option.

If we were trying to test our squat max, we would be using a series of low reps to build up to the weight we wanted to test. We would also be taking a lot of time in between sets. Low reps and long rest periods mean low training density. This is necessary since the intensity is so high.

It has been well established that spending a lot of time submaximally (especially in the 70-85%) helps to build strength. This needs to be balanced with some reps over 90% as well but that is a different focus.

Lifting weights that are not PR breakers means that we can perform more sets and reps in less time.

Metabolic Effect

With an increased training density there is going to be a greater metabolic effect from lifting weights. We will be working harder in a short period of time since the rest periods will be shorter.

This will often get the heart rate going and keep it high throughout the sets. Lifting a weight once and resting for 4 minutes isn’t very metabolic.

This helps those that are looking to lose fat. These people do not want to be taking a lot of rest. Fat loss thrives with short rest periods and a lot of work packed into a session.

New Lifters

Training density can be a good way to measure and teach new lifters about lifting weights.

The body of a beginner is not very efficient when it comes to lifting weights. This often means that reps over 6 don’t look too good.

We still want them to get some volume in to start building the foundation that they need going forward but having them do 10-12 reps will be ugly.

One solution is to use density training. The idea is to take a weight that is manageable. Pick a time frame and tell the person to get as many sets of six in during the time frame.

Rest periods will increase as time goes on and fatigue starts to set in. Count the total number of reps and weight, divided by time. This is your training density for that exercise for the day.

Next week we can try to build off of that number.

Training density is a good way to measure how much work got done in a session. It is not the best way to train for everyone and every goal but it is something that should be considered.

When people are in a rut or their fat loss efforts have seem to plummet taking a look at the density of the sessions can reveal some answers.

Play around with the different numbers for the session and don’t try to make every day a max effort.