Most of us know that the best ways to improve our fitness results are to either:
1. Lift progressively heavier weights, or
2. Do more reps/sets
The thing is, you can’t realistically expect to add more weights to the bench press (or other machine) each time you go to the gym and you can’t just keep adding more reps without experiencing total fatigue. Your body won’t let you progress in these methods from day-to-day and these progressions tend to take time, discipline, and a wealth of other factors.
However, there is an additional, and often overlooked, factor that will help you improve your fitness results much quicker than the other two mentioned above: density.
What is Workout Density?
The above two factors are classified as:
Intensity- lifting progressively heavier weights
Volume- doing more total reps or sets
The third factor, density, or “density training,” is the work you’re able to do in a given amount of time. So, for example, if you usually do three sets of 10 squats in 10 minutes, your density training for that exercise in a 10-minute timeframe would be 30 reps.
Density = Sets x Reps in a given time
Two Ways to Increase Workout Density
If you want to improve your performance at the gym and adopt a better way to train try to implement either of the following into your routine:
1. Increase workload in the same amount of time
Using the example above of 30 squats in 10 minutes, the goal would to build on the amount of squats you are able to perform in those same 10 minutes. If your last workout saw that you hit 30 squats in 10 minutes, try to do another set (10 more squats) or add a couple more reps to your sets (ex. 12 squats). Even if you only do 31 squats in 10 minutes you would still be progressing.
2. Perform the same workout in less time
Instead of taking 10 minutes to churn out your three sets of 10 squats, this time you might want to try the same workout (three sets of 10) in nine minutes. If you are doing more in less time you are increasing your performance and are also benefitting from spending less time at the gym and more time looking like a boss. This method equates to simply taking less time to rest in between sets rather than speeding through them and risking injury and improper form.
Tips for Implementing Workout Density in to Your Routine
– The idea is not to turn your workout into a race. You want to keep your form throughout your exercises and progress incrementally week to week or day to day.
– Use your smartphone timer (or watch) to determine how long it takes you to move through a set, including the rest periods. When you are finished with that particular exercise, write down your time so you can reference it the next time you go to the gym. Use this approach for each exercise, every workout and make note of when your density improves (reward yourself by hitting on that personal trainer with the perfect butt you’re always looking at).
– Keep in mind that the number of reps you are able to hit each set will decrease as you near the end of your exercise. This is why you don’t want to set yourself up for failure and start with a weight that actually allows you to hit your number (ex. 12-10-8 or other) your first three sets. If you can tack on another set or extra rep into your last set, you are making progress.
– Giving your muscle groups some time to rest is a good idea when working out with density training principles. By “time to rest” we are referring to the idea that you should pair your exercises with non-competing muscle groups so you can move quickly between exercises with minimal rest without compromising results. For example, if you are doing dips (a tricep exercise) and quickly want to move on to another exercise, consider chin-ups (a lat exercise) so that you can target another muscle group while resting the other.
– You can begin to bring in other elements of progression once you start seeing more significant gains in your progress. After you reach a 20 percent increase in your reps compared to where you once started, consider increasing the weight incrementally to start the challenge over.
The idea of density is fairly simple to understand; either do more in the same amount of time or do the same in less time. You’ll find that it’s much easier to get results with density training than it is with volume or intensity training although you are free to mix these elements into your workout as you wish. These are just guidelines that may help you to excel more quickly than if you just tried to do incremental weight or rep increases alone.