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Density Training: Definition, Examples, and Benefits

What is Density Training?

Density training is an approach where the goal is to complete as much work as possible (e.g., sets, reps, or rounds) in a specific period. For example, an athlete can set a timer for 20 minutes and see how many rounds of exercise they can complete while keeping other variables (e.g., reps per exercise and tempo) consistent. It works particularly well for kettlebell training, but trainees can also do bodyweight, resistance band, machine-based, and dumbbell exercises.

A Deeper Look at Density and Density Training

In the context of training, density refers to the amount of work done per unit of time. Therefore, density training aims to maximize the amount of work done, allowing for quicker and more efficient workouts with less rest between bouts of activity.

Density training is essential for metabolic conditioning (MetCon), given the intense nature of this workout style. 

Fixed-time workouts are a popular way to do density training. Select a duration and see how many sets, reps, or rounds (typically consisting of several movements) you can do within that time. This method is also called AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible).

Escalating density training is another option. Here, the goal is to pick two opposing exercises (e.g., chin-ups and push-ups), set your stopwatch to 12-15 minutes, and start with a moderate number of reps that don’t pose a considerable challenge. Do the same number of reps for both movements and take intuitive rest periods.

As you go along and fatigue builds up, the number of reps you can do will decrease. Go with the flow instead of trying to push through fatigue. You might go down to singles by the end of your session.

Record the total number of reps you do for the duration and try to beat it next time.

Density Training Benefits

1. It Takes Less Time

Since the whole point of density training is to do more work in less time, workouts don’t need to be as long to provide a good stimulus.

This can be perfect for athletes who don’t have much time to train, especially if they spend multiple hours training for their sport every week.

2. There are Multiple Ways to Do It

Another advantage of density training is that it’s easy to set up, and there are numerous activities for athletes to push themselves to their limits in as little time as possible.

For example, the athlete can set a timer for 15 minutes and see how many push-ups and chin-ups they can do in that time.

Density training is also an excellent fit for circuit training because trainees can put together several movements, do them back to back, and see how many rounds they can do in 15, 20, or 25 minutes.

Also, as coach Cathe Friedrich says:

“You can apply density training to any strength training exercise, such as squats, deadlifts, and rows. You can also use this approach with bodyweight exercises, including push-ups, pull-ups, and lunges. The key is to perform a high volume of work with minimal rest between sets.”

3. It Develops Multiple Athletic Characteristics

Density training allows athletes to train in multiple ways to develop various fitness characteristics, including endurance, strength, power, agility, and even mobility.

This is thanks to the structure of a typical density training workout and the ability to tweak training variables (e.g., the intensity and rest periods) as well as pick from many activities and combine them in countless ways to work on what the athlete needs the most.

If an athlete is more interested in strength, you could apply the principles of density training to compound lifts. Similarly, if someone primarily wants to build power or agility, you could prescribe many plyometrics and drills.

FAQ

1. How often should athletes do density training?

It depends on their other training, but most athletes can handle at least two density sessions weekly to improve their endurance, power, and work capacity. 

2. Is density training beneficial for fat loss?

Proper nutrition will always be the most important factor in creating the necessary calorie deficit, but the muscle stimulus from density training can help athletes retain more muscle while losing mostly fat.

3. How is density training different from circuit training?

The primary goal of density training is to do as much work as possible in a given period, whereas circuits are about doing movements back to back with no rest and taking a break between rounds.

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