Rank the most common excuses for skipping out on the gym, and odds are that "lack of time" is at the top. Many otherwise dedicated lifters have been forced to miss out on their training because of a hectic schedule. And once they get behind, even just by a day or so, it gets way easier to miss more.

You can say these people just "don't want it enough" or whatever your cliche of choice is, but I'm more understanding. Missing training doesn't necessarily indicate a lack of dedication; sometimes, there really just isn't enough time in the day. People work abnormal hours, or extra long days, and just can't get to a gym. Maybe they've only got a few hours free each day to divide between family, eating or cooking, and errands.



Density Training: 4 Weeks To Strong In 40 Minutes A Day!

{{caption}}

Grab your phone, open up the timer app, and let's get to work.

Those things aren't wrong—they're necessary. It's your program that's wrong, since it insists that you cram X sets of X reps into a timeframe where they simply don't fit. It doesn't have to be this way, though. When you master the variable of exercise density, you'll finally be able to work with time rather than against it.

Grab your phone, open up the timer app, and let's get to work.

A Date with Density

Training volume is typically measured in sets and reps. It's a good system, and it works. But there is one thing it doesn't take into account: time. Rarely will a trainee pay attention to how long it takes to complete a prescribed number of sets. Doing so tracks your "training density," a different acute-training variable that can be a great indicator of progress in the gym on its own.

Acute Workout Variables

  • Exercise selection: Should I choose compound or isolation?
  • Exercise order: What should I do first?
  • Intensity: How heavy should I lift?
  • Volume: How many sets should I do?
  • Rest: How long should I rest?
  • Density: How much work should I do in a given time?
  • Repetition speed: How fast should I lift?

You may not always set a PR in terms of weight lifted or max reps, but hitting a density PR is still a sign of progress. It means you were able to do more work in less time. And if you've only been measuring your progress in terms of intensity or volume, you might be surprised how a four-week date with density could help you improve those variables down the road.

It should be obvious at this point that this has to do with lifting on a schedule. By making use of the clock, you are automatically creating accountability for your training density. You'll also be able to set a definitive time limit for your workouts.

To exploit this system, you are going to set your timer and perform your exercises with the goal of doing as many working sets as possible within that time frame. To maximize time in the gym, exercises will be done in groups of two or three. You will superset the movements, taking however much rest you feel necessary, while keeping in mind that you're on the clock.



Meet your density with the training program below!

 Week 1

Day 1: Lower Body/Arms
As many sets as possible in 10 minutes for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Barbell Squat
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Standing Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension
10 sets, 10-12 reps
2
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Romanian Deadlift
10 sets, 10-12 reps
Barbell Curl
10 sets, 10-15 reps
3
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Leg Extensions
10 sets, 10-15 reps
Seated Leg Curl
10 sets, 10-15 reps
4
Triset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Spider Curl
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Lying Triceps Press
Skullcrushers
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Ab Roller
10 sets, 10 reps
Density Training: 4 Weeks To Strong In 40 Minutes A Day!

{{caption}}

Day 2: Chest/Back
As many sets as possible in 10 minutesfor each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Weighted Pull Ups
10 sets, 6-8 reps (if you can't use weight, just do sets of as many reps as possible)
2
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Incline Dumbbell Press
10 sets, 8-10 reps
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
Bent-Over Two-Dumbbell Row (w/ Pause)
10 sets, 10-12 reps
3
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Dips - Chest Version
Weighted Dips
10 sets, 10-15 reps (if you can't use weight, just do sets of as many reps as possible)
Seated Cable Rows
Wide-Grip Cable Rows
10 sets, 12-15 reps
4
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Dumbbell Flyes
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Reverse Flyes
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Day 3: Shoulders
As many sets as possible in 10 minutes for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Standing Military Press
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Face Pull
10 sets, 12-15 reps
2
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Bradford/Rocky Presses
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
3
Triset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Front Dumbbell Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Side Lateral Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Sit-Up
10 sets, 25 reps

Week 2

Day 1: Lower Body/Arms
As many sets as possible in 10 minutes for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Barbell Squat
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Standing Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension
10 sets, 10-12 reps
2
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Romanian Deadlift
10 sets, 10-12 reps
Barbell Curl
10 sets, 10-15 reps
3
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Leg Extensions
10 sets, 10-15 reps
Seated Leg Curl
10 sets, 10-15 reps
4
Triset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Spider Curl
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Lying Triceps Press
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Ab Roller
10 sets, 10 reps
Day 2: Chest/Back
As many sets as possible in 10 minutes for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Weighted Pull Ups
10 sets, 6-8 reps (if you can't use weight, just do sets of as many reps as possible)
2
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Incline Dumbbell Press
10 sets, 8-10 reps
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
Bent-Over Two-Dumbbell Row (w/ Pause)
10 sets, 10-12 reps
3
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Dips - Chest Version
Weighted Dips
10 sets, 10-15 reps (if you can't use weight, just do sets of as many reps as possible)
Seated Cable Rows
Wide-Grip Cable Rows
10 sets, 12-15 reps
4
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Dumbbell Flyes
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Reverse Flyes
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Day 3: Shoulders
As many sets as possible in 10 minutes for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Standing Military Press
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Face Pull
10 sets, 12-15 reps
2
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Bradford/Rocky Presses
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
3
Triset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Front Dumbbell Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Side Lateral Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Sit-Up
10 sets, 25 reps

Week 3

Day 1: Lower Body/Arms
As many sets as possible in allotted time for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Barbell Squat
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Standing Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension
10 sets, 10-12 reps
2
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Romanian Deadlift
10 sets, 10-12 reps
Barbell Curl
10 sets, 10-15 reps
3
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Leg Extensions
10 sets, 10-15 reps
Seated Leg Curl
10 sets, 10-15 reps
4
Triset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Spider Curl
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Lying Triceps Press
Skullcrushers
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Ab Roller
10 sets, 10 reps
Day 2: Chest/Back
As many sets as possible in allotted time for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Weighted Pull Ups
10 sets, 6-8 reps (if you can't use weight, just do sets of as many reps as possible)
2
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Incline Dumbbell Press
10 sets, 8-10 reps
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
Bent-Over Two-Dumbbell Row (w/ Pause)
10 sets, 10-12 reps
3
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Dips - Chest Version
Weighted Dips
10 sets, 10-15 reps (if you can't use weight, just do sets of as many reps as possible)
Seated Cable Rows
Wide-Grip Cable Rows
10 sets, 12-15 reps
4
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Dumbbell Flyes
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Reverse Flyes
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Day 3: Shoulders
As many sets as possible in allotted time for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Standing Military Press
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Face Pull
10 sets, 12-15 reps
2
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Bradford/Rocky Presses
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
3
Triset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Front Dumbbell Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Side Lateral Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Sit-Up
10 sets, 25 reps

Week 4

Day 1: Lower Body/Arms
As many sets as possible in allotted time for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Barbell Squat
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Standing Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension
10 sets, 10-12 reps
2
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Romanian Deadlift
10 sets, 10-12 reps
Barbell Curl
10 sets, 10-15 reps
3
Superset
Repeat for 8 minutes
Leg Extensions
10 sets, 10-15 reps
Seated Leg Curl
10 sets, 10-15 reps
4
Triset
Repeat for 8 minutes
Spider Curl
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Lying Triceps Press
Skullcrushers
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Ab Roller
10 sets, 10 reps
Day 2: Chest/Back
As many sets as possible in allotted time for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Weighted Pull Ups
10 sets, 6-8 reps (if you can't use weight, just do sets of as many reps as possible)
2
Superset
Repeat for 10 minutes
Incline Dumbbell Press
10 sets, 8-10 reps
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
Bent-Over Two-Dumbbell Row (w/ Pause)
10 sets, 10-12 reps
3
Superset
Repeat for 8 minutes
Dips - Chest Version
Weighted Dips
10 sets, 10-15 reps (if you can't use weight, just do sets of as many reps as possible)
Seated Cable Rows
Wide-Grip Cable Rows
10 sets, 12-15 reps
4
Superset
Repeat for 8 minutes
Dumbbell Flyes
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Reverse Flyes
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Day 3: Shoulders
As many sets as possible in allotted time for each superset/triset.
1
Superset
Repeat for 15 minutes
Standing Military Press
10 sets, 6-8 reps
Face Pull
10 sets, 12-15 reps
2
Superset
Repeat for 8 minutes
Bradford/Rocky Presses
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
3
Triset
Repeat for 8 minutes
Front Dumbbell Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Side Lateral Raise
10 sets, 12-15 reps
Sit-Up
10 sets, 25 reps

Ideally, these training days should have at least one day of rest in between. Training like this tends to beat your body up quite a bit, so take your recovery seriously.

You'll notice that for the first two weeks the times stay the same. This is for two reasons. The first is that it allows you a week to feel out how much work you can get done in the allotted time. The second reason is so that in Week 2, you can try and beat what you did in Week 1. Week 3 is the highest volume of the month, as you have the longest times to work with. In Week 4 the times drop down overall, so that your body can recover while still getting work done.

Since you're on the clock, you should be aiming for minimal rest between sets. This will maximize your results and get as much work as possible done with the time you have. Every session should be treated as a competition with yourself, because it is. That said, this isn't a WOD or met-con work. Sure, you'll work hard, and probably pour sweat, but only perform quality reps at a controlled pace. Take the rest you need; don't kill yourself.

You may find that you can't keep hitting the goal reps with the weight you started with. If that happens, you can either continue using that weight for fewer reps, or you can adjust the load in order to keep the goal reps. Ultimately that's up to you, as changing loads may be inconvenient in a busy gym, or just take too long.

What comes next?

Because this is a high-volume program, you may want to change to something focused more squarely on developing strength after completing it, like my "Strong in 8 Weeks" program (yes, that is a shameless plug!).

Like "Strong on a Schedule," it includes three workouts per week, all of which can be completed in an hour or less. Between the two, there's no reason why you can't get strong, even on a busy schedule.



About the Author

Christopher Smith, CSCS

Christopher Smith, CSCS

Chris Smith is a strength coach from New York City and the founder of Train Better Fitness.

View all articles by this author

Workout