Density Training for Metabolic Conditioning & Strength Work

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Density Training for Metabolic Conditioning & Strength Work

By Sarah Rippel, Author of “Build ‘N Burn”

 

It is never a bad idea to have an arsenal of training strategies available to plug in to your clients’ programming! If we wish to keep people progressing, we must create solid programs that keep our clients right on the edge of their ability. In addition, we must introduce enough variety to create a stimulus AND make things exciting!

 

Density training is a method that focuses on two training variables: volume and duration. Basically, we are looking at doing “X” amount of work in “Y” amount of time. There are several ways in which we can accomplish this:

 

 

We can use a set amount of time and work to get as many sets or reps as possible. This is also known as an AMRAP or AMReps.

We can use a set goal of reps/sets and see how long it takes to finish it. Increasing the density would mean trying to decrease the amount of time required for this goal.

 

I was introduced to Charles Staley’s “Escalating Density Training” (ESD) when I was a bodybuilder in the ‘90s. His method requires you to take a block of time, typically 5-30 minutes, and perform submaximal reps with a certain exercise or a non-competing pair of exercises.

 

For example: In 20 minutes, complete as many sets of 5 front squats and 5 strict presses using loads around the 10-rep max range.

 

EMOMs are a great way to inject density training into a workout. I have written about my love of EMOMs before, and this training strategy has become quite popular in the past few years. For those who are not familiar with this method, EMOM stands for “every minute on the minute.” Basically, you begin when the timer starts (or look at the second hand on a clock) and perform a set amount of reps/time for an exercise. Once you have finished, you rest until the top of the next minute.

 

You can program density training for strength or for metabolic work, and EMOMs make it easy!

 

For strength work, I recommend using ~70-90% of your 1-rep max and performing 1-3 reps for ~10 sets. There are two ways in which you could employ this strategy within a workout: straight sets or increasing load. With straight sets, you would keep the loading the same across all sets, and with increasing load you would bump up the weight with each set.

 

Here are two examples of how you could progress a strength EMOM over a training block of four weeks:

 

Straight Sets EMOM Deadlift Progression:

Week 1 = EMOM 10 minutes: 70% x 3 reps (for a total of 10 sets)

Week 2 = EMOM 10 minutes: 77.5% x 2-3 reps (for a total of 10 sets)

Week 3 = EMOM 10 minutes: 85% x 2 reps (for a total of 10 sets)

Week 4 = EMOM 10 minutes: 90% x 1-2 reps (for a total of 10 sets)

 

Increasing Load EMOM Deadlift Progression:

Week 1 = EMOM 10 minutes:

On the 0:00 & 1:00: 70% x 3 reps

On the 2:00 & 3:00: 72.5% x 3 reps

On the 4:00 & 5:00: 75% x 2-3 reps

On the 6:00 & 7:00: 77.5% x 2-3 reps

On the 8:00 & 9:00: 80% x 2 reps

Week 2 = EMOM 10 minutes:

On the 0:00 & 1:00: 72.5% x 3 reps

On the 2:00 & 3:00: 75% x 2-3 reps

On the 4:00 & 5:00: 77.5% x 2-3 reps

On the 6:00 & 7:00: 80% x 2 reps

On the 8:00 & 9:00: 82.5% x 2 reps

Week 3 = EMOM 10 minutes:

On the 0:00 & 1:00: 75% x 2-3 reps

On the 2:00 & 3:00: 77.5% x 2-3 reps

On the 4:00 & 5:00: 80% x 2 reps

On the 6:00 & 7:00: 82.5% x 2 reps

On the 8:00 & 9:00: 85% x 2 reps

Week 4 = EMOM 10 minutes:

On the 0:00 & 1:00: 77.5% x 2-3 reps

On the 2:00 & 3:00: 80% x 2 reps

On the 4:00 & 5:00: 82.5% x 2 reps

On the 6:00 & 7:00: 85% x 2 reps

On the 8:00 & 9:00: 87.5% x 1-2 reps

 

Alternating EMOMs are a great way to employ density training for conditioning/fat loss! I recommend using 3-5 exercises and perform them for reps or for a set amount of time at the start of each minute. You simply begin when the timer starts and knock out the first exercise, then rest until the timer gets to the next minute, then move on to the second exercise and so on. I recommend a work interval of 20-30s for these types of circuits. This allows for enough rest after each exercise.

Here’s a basic alternating EMOM format I will use to illustrate a few variations:

Exercise 1 = Squat Variation

Exercise 2 = Cardio

Exercise 3 = Plyo Variation

You can easily increase density within conditioning EMOMs by adding more rounds each time you perform the workout.

For example:

Week 1 = 2 Rounds = 6 Minutes

Exercise 1 = Squat Variation

Exercise 2 = Cardio

Exercise 3 = Plyo Variation

Week 2 = 3 Rounds = 9 Minutes

Exercise 1 = Squat Variation

Exercise 2 = Cardio

Exercise 3 = Plyo Variation

Week 3 = 4 Rounds = 12 Minutes

Exercise 1 = Squat Variation

Exercise 2 = Cardio

Exercise 3 = Plyo Variation

Additionally, you can increase density by using timed work intervals and having AMReps be the aim for each. The goal for completing the same workout the second time would be to try and match or exceed the previous reps within each work interval.  

For example:

Week 1 = 20 second work intervals, keep track of reps performed on each

Exercise 1 = Squat Variation = 8 reps

Exercise 2 = Cardio = easy pace 30s

Exercise 3 = Plyo Variation = 5 reps

Week 2 = 20 second work intervals, match or exceed Week 1’s reps

Exercise 1 = Squat Variation = 10 reps

Exercise 2 = Cardio = moderate pace 30s

Exercise 3 = Plyo Variation = 7 reps

Week 3 = 20 second work intervals, continuing to match or exceed previous week’s reps

Exercise 1 = Squat Variation = 11 reps

Exercise 2 = Cardio = faster pace 30s

Exercise 3 = Plyo Variation = 8 reps

Furthermore, with the AMReps focus, you could aim to increase reps (or pace on bike/run/rower/ski erg) with each round within a workout. This allows people to start off at a comfortable pace and then be able to ramp up the intensity with each round.

For example:

Round 1:

Exercise 1 = Squat Variation = 8 reps

Exercise 2 = Cardio = easy pace 30s

Exercise 3 = Plyo Variation = 5 reps

Round 2:

Exercise 1 = Squat Variation = 9 reps

Exercise 2 = Cardio = moderate pace 30s

Exercise 3 = Plyo Variation = 6 reps

Round 3:

Exercise 1 = Squat Variation = 10 reps

Exercise 2 = Cardio = faster pace 30s

Exercise 3 = Plyo Variation = 7 reps

 

Here are a few alternating EMOMs I have used with my groups recently:

 

Alternating EMOM 12 Minutes (3 rounds):

1) Bike/Row/Ski – 30s (try to increase intensity each round)

2) Goblet Squat x 10 (moderate load)

3) Static Beast w/Opposite Lift-Offs x 5-8/side (pause for 1-2s ea)

4) Slam Ball Push Press Toss x 5 (moderate-heavy load)

 

Alternating EMOM 12 Minutes (4 rounds):

1) Prowler Push 20-30m (light-moderate load)

2) Renegade Row x 4-6/side OR Renegade Row with Push-Up x 4-6 (push-up + row 1 side = 1 rep)

3) Hanging Knee Raise OR Toes to Bar x 8-12

 

Alternating EMOM 15 Minutes (3 rounds):

1) Reverse Sled Drag – 20-30m (moderate-heavy load)

2) Ring Row (hold 1s at top) – x 8-10

3) Reverse Crunch – x 8-10 –

4) 1-Arm Straight Leg Sit-Up – x 4-6/side (regression = abmat sit-up x10-12)

5) Staggered Stance Alternating Band Speed Punches – x 20-30/arm (40-60 total) –

 

Density training is an easy way to manipulate training volume and intensity. I have found it to be a no-brainer for group programming because people are able to work at their own pace. In addition, it easily enables you to establish a baseline and then give people something to shoot for the next time that workout is on the menu! Furthermore, with EMOMs, the clock takes care of setting the pace for the workout, therefore you do not have to worry about anyone lollygagging between sets. Such an efficient and effective way to get the job done!

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Go grab Sarah Ripple’s Build N’ Burn  – Done For YOU  Metabolic Small Group Training System for Fit Pros


Other articles by Sarah Rippel:

Using Cluster Sets To Spice Up Strength Programming

Wall Ball Conditioning Workouts+4 Tips to Improve Wall Ball Technique(Videos)

Using a Tempo Focus with Build ‘N Burn Workouts

Speed Ladder + Static Core Continuous 30-Second Circuit Version 2.0

 

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