Escalating Density Training - The 15 minute workout that'll destroy your muscles

Escalating Density Training - The 15 minute workout that'll destroy your muscles

One of the reasons I love having this blog is I can share everything I'm learning through my Personal Training course, and this is one of the coolest things I've found out about. Most fitness knowledge is widely known, drink more water, focus on tempo, time your rests, lift heavy etc. But this is something that no-one in our class of 20 knew anything about, it's like finding the hidden level on Crash Bandicoot. 

Escalating Density Training or as it's better known, EDT, was developed by strength coach Charles Stanely as a way to effectively grow your muscles in a shorter time frame. This is why you'll love this workout:

  1. It's simple. Had a crap day and don't want to think abut using 5 different machines? Then EDT will be right up your street 
  2. You're only doing two different exercises. If the gym is full and machines are taken, don't jump on the treadmill and engage in some grumpy cardio, find some dumbbells and you're set. 
  3. You can do it at home if you pick the right exercises. You can use machines for these workouts, but it's not necessary. You can pick and choose what exercises work for you. 
  4. It's time efficient. Only got 15 minutes? That's all you'll need. Now you really have no excuses!
  5. You can track you progress and retest yourself later to see how much stronger you're getting. Ain't nothing like breaking PB's! 

EDT is kinda like a superset, when you move onto another exercise without a break, but with EDT, there is no break between sets. It's like supersets on steroids. Forget everything you've heard about sets and reps. They don't matter here. What's important is the total workload performed per session. 

Let's get started! 

  • Pick two antagonist exercises. That is two exercises that use two different muscle groups. This will give one muscle the chance to recover as we begin working on the next. 
  • Chose the weight that is your 10rep max. That means you should be struggling to lift it on your final two reps. 
  • Start the timer. You'll be timing yourself for 15 minutes but if you can mange 20 minutes give it a crack! I like doing this with a friend as you can encourage and track one another. This way one person keeps track of the time, and records the "reps". You can then come back to this workout in 8 weeks and compare your progress. You should be attempting to beat your previous total workload by 20%. If you don't have a friend that's okay, you can still do the workout, you just might struggle to keep track of your total workload. If you lose count, don't stress, just focus on working as hard as you can! 
  • Start at 5 reps and do as many as you can at 5 until failure. So do a set of 5 leg curls and then a set of 5 leg extensions. Then move down to the next rep range when you can't achieve 5 anymore. Don't have enough fuel in your tank to move from 5 to 4? You can mix it up. Move from 5 to 3 to 4 to 2 to 5 to 1, whatever you need to do to get the most amount of reps possible. Even if you feel you need a break, do 1 rep instead. Then you'll have enough energy to move back to 3 reps then up to 4. 
  • Try and keep your rests between 10-30 seconds in between each set. If you need more time to rest, take it, but it's best to do it at the end when fatigue is setting in. 
  • The amount of reps must be the same for each set. If you can't do the amount of reps on one exercise, but you can on the other you must only count the lower number. For example, if you can only do 4 leg extensions then you must also do 4 leg curls not 5 or 3. 
  • Add up the total amount. This will give you your total workload and your personal best which you will aim to beat next time. 
  • Use equipment that is close by. You don't want to be running from one side of the gym to the other! For example, if I'm doing bent-over rows and weighted squats, I'll move the barbell I need for the rows next to the squat rack. 
 An example of your tally board scores for the total workload performed

An example of your tally board scores for the total workload performed

Looking for some antagonist muscle groups and exercises to try? Give these a go:

  1. Leg curls and leg extensions 
  2. Seated row and chest press
  3. Hammer bicep curls and tricep extensions 
  4. Abdominal crunch and back extension
  5. Glute ham raise and lunges
  6. Hack squat and barbell step-up 
  7. Leg press and leg curl 
  8. Cable curls and cable pushdowns 
  9. Lying dumbbell press and one-arm dumbbell row
  10. Deadlift and jackknife 


Love Maddy x

P.S To read more about the technical stuff I highly recommend reading this article on T-nation