Escalating Density Training

Escalating Density Training by Charles Sledge

Perhaps you’ve heard of EDT or escalating density training before. It’s a growing training protocol that involves manipulating factors generally not manipulated in traditional set and rep schemes, or at least not focused on. Escalating density training focuses on doing more work in less time progressively making your workouts denser in denser as opposed to simply changing the pounds lifted or the set and rep schemes.

I have found escalating density training to be effective for getting a large volume of work done as well as pushing myself further then I would push myself on my own. It’s a method of training that you’ll want to try out at least once and see how it works for you. It’s intense, it’s short, and it’s too the point exactly how I like my lifting style to be. If you’re a no nonsense get in and get shit done then get out type of guy then you’ll feel right at home with escalating density training.

The Basics Of EDT

Escalating density training was first developed by the legendary lifting coach Charles Stanley. Escalating density training makes use of time instead of sets times reps for the total work load. Meaning that you are forced to push yourself harder and at a more intense rate for every workout. It is done using super sets and depending on your level of lifting experience done for anywhere from 3-5 “blocks” of time. I’ll get into more detail below just giving you a quick rundown here.

So say you take overhead presses and rows for your first block of time. Let’s say 15 minutes and you’re going to use 135 for the overhead press and 185 for the rows (the numbers are arbitrary) so what you’re going for is to hit 50 reps of each exercise in that time period (you can adjust the total reps a little bit if you need to). So you hit the timer and go. Generally you’re going to do say 10 reps of the overhead press then 10 reps of the rows and back and forth you go trying to get all 50 done within the 15 minutes.

Once you all 50 reps in during the time limit then you add weight. So let’s say you hit all 50 reps with both the overhead press and the rows then you’d add 5-10 lbs to each and use that weight for the next workout. You’d then have a 5-10 minutes break and hit your next block of exercises. Maybe it’s DB bench presses and face pulls or something else. Your choice. Same rules apply going for a certain number of reps in a given time frame once you hit that number of reps in that given time frame then you.

Fun With Escalating Density Training

Alright now that you know the basics of EDT it’s time to have some fun with it. You can setup your workouts by body parts or you can do whole body training like I like to do. So for whole body training I do it three times a week using 3 blocks of 15 minutes with 5 minutes rest in between. Feel free to modify this to fit your needs and schedule this is simply what I do not a hard and fast rule.

I generally start off my workout with a squat and a push of some type. So let’s say back squats with DB overhead presses. Then I do a pull and another lift. So let’s say barbell rows and face pulls. Then accessory style lifts for the third block. Let’s say ab wheel rollouts and skull crushers. I shoot for 50 reps in each and obviously the weight varies. So it look at it like this.

Block #1 – heavy main exercises (squats, deads, overhead press, bench press)

Block #2 – moderate exercises (rows, cleans, DB work)

Block #3 – accessory movements (shrugs, neck work, ab work)

That’s what works for me, use it as a template and do what works for you.


Escalating density training is a great way to make sure that you’re getting after it and really pushing yourself in the gym. It’s not about doing a mind numbing certain number of sets and reps but rather beating the clock. All of your works are done in less then an hour. You know exactly how long you’ll be at the gym and exactly what you’re aiming to get done. With escalating density training there’s no time for foolish around or dealing with mindless bullshit. You get in, kick ass, and get out making it one of my favorite types of training and something that I would definitely recommend you try out at some point or another.

If you have any questions you would like to see answered in a future post send them to me at charlessledge001 (at) gmail (dot) com. If you found value in this post then I would encourage you to share this site with someone who may need it as well as check out my books here. I appreciate it. You can follow me on Twitter here.

-Charles Sledge

Charles Sledge