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

Learn to use exercise density to your advantage, and you'll have the skills to make a workout fit into any time slot. Follow this efficient, fast-paced, 4-week training program!

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.

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.

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

Barbell Squat

Day 2: Chest/Back

Barbell Bench Press

Day 3: Shoulders

Week 2

Day 1: Lower Body/Arms

Overhead Triceps Extension

Day 2: Chest/Back
Day 3: Shoulders

Week 3

Day 1: Lower Body/Arms


Day 2: Chest/Back
Day 3: Shoulders

Face Pull

Week 4

Day 1: Lower Body/Arms
Day 2: Chest/Back

Wide-Grip Cable Row

Day 3: Shoulders

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.

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