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Density of Training

By, Joe Kenn | VP of Education & Performance

One of my personal key components in Athletic Based Strength Training is Density of Training. Density of Training is considered the total amount of volume accomplished in a specific amount of time. It has always been one of my goals to push the tempo of the training session to possibly illicit a metabolic conditioning effect. Because of the long overall duration of most team sport competitions, where there are multiple bouts of short intense, explosive bursts of movements, I put a premium on the athlete being able to maintain a high percentage of overall strength during that period of time.

The key factor to improving the density of a training session is to push the “TEMPO


Excerpt from Coach Kenn’s The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook (pgs. 18-19)

“One of the goals of the program is to increase work capacity. This can be done in a daily session by decreasing rest time, always standing during training sessions, complexing, coupling, or combining movements, or super/tri setting exercises. It is understood that most research says that a minimum 3-minute rest between sets is necessary to increase strength. Unfortunately, most athletes never get this amount of rest between successive bouts of performance in a competition. For example, in Football, an average series is 5 plays with a rest interval of 35 seconds. This athlete will repeat this type of performance for approximately 17 series for a total of 75 plays. Obviously, some series may be as short as 1 play and as long as 15, so it is important that the athlete is trained with a limited rest period in between sets to be prepared for numerous bouts of repetitive exercise. By reducing the rate of recovery between sets, you are allowing for more muscle fibers to be recruited for each set thereafter.

The goal is to complete the main session of the work out in 60 minutes or less regardless of the total number of sets prescribed. This program builds in an anaerobic conditioning effect during our strength sessions. This will help increase the athlete’s work capacity.”

There are several strategies that can be implemented into your plan to improve the density of a training session. These principles can help drive tempo.

  • Medley – are mini circuits that usually include 3 movements regardless of category.

  • Pairing (super setting) – pairing antagonistic muscle groups together with minimal rest between sets.

  • Escalating Density Training (EDT) – created by Charles Staley, this principle is based on pairing antagonistic muscle groups to trick the body into recovering faster and accomplishing the maximal amount of total repetitions over a 15:00 time period. (you can adjust between 10-20 minutes, but 15 is the standard). The athlete predicts a 10RM for each exercise and then starts the session doing 5 reps of each until fatigue sets in. The athlete then reduces the reps per set to 4,3,2,1 as fatigue increases. The final tally of reps is your baseline record. The goal is to beat that record the next time out. When you have beaten your rep record by 20%, you increase the load by 5% or 5 pounds depending on exercise.

  • Time Cap – similar to EDT, this is a time-based principle where the goal is to perform a set number of repetitions per paired movements in a specific amount of time. If the athlete cannot perform the prescribed reps, the load is reduced and the reps stay the same. Total number of sets and tonnage are tracked. This is usually done for 10 reps per exercise with a 10 set per exercise goal. There is a 20:00 cap on the block and the goal is to finish 10x10 on each exercise in less than the cap time. When this can be accomplished without lowering the load, you can increase the weight next session.

  • Volume Accumulation Training – similar to EDT, this is a time-based principle where the athlete’s goal is to improve total volume in the same period of time over a 3-week time period. This can be done with a single movement or utilizing a pair. This program in based on a 3 week – flat loaded cycle, where the athlete must increase the volume of each working set while reducing rest time between sets. This is an extremely tough goal to achieve.


Back Squat Training

As you can see as the duration of the set and overall volume increases week to week, the athlete still has to maintain the start time of each set. At the overall duration of the set increases with the additional volume, the actual rest time between sets becomes shorter. EXTREMELY TOUGH!

The goal of improving density of training is to also improve work capacity. The ability to withstand more work as the athlete’s body adapts and learns to recover from the higher demands of training as well as building a tolerance to fatigue is a key factor in building a resilient athlete.

Kenn, J. The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook

Bullet Point #5 of Coach Kenn’s Tier System Strength Training Model of Athletic Based Strength Training

As a bonus to this week’s blog and 60 Second Strength Coach, we will be hosting an Instagram Live Discussion on Density of Training on Thursday, May 28st at 3pm EST on the Dynamic Fitness and Strength Instagram Page. During this 15-30-minute program, we will go over how to improve Density in a training session.


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