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Density Conditioning.

Wiggy wants you to strive to either do more work in the same period of time each workout, or do the same amount of work in a shorter period of time each workout.


A few years ago, a relatively well known strength coach by name of Charles Staley created a program called Escalating Density Training. Since that time, other trainers have created programs and written articles about their own versions of Density Training.

Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Wake Forest University Ethan Reeve, Senior Kettlebell Instructor Mike Mahler, and Endurance Lifter & Personal Trainer Bryce Lane have all put their own little spin on Density Training with great results. Even my own Singles & Doubles training is a sort of variation of Density Training.

An Interview With Ethan Reeve.
Ethan just can't seem to get enough of this strength and training stuff. He has two strength certificates: United States Weightlifting Federation and the new Strength and Conditioning Coach certified through the Collegiate Strength...
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In case you're unfamiliar with the concept of Density Training, the basic idea is pretty simple: either do more work in the same period of time each workout or do the same amount of work in a shorter period of time each workout. For example, let's say you're performing Sandbag Clean & Press with a sandbag that weighs roughly 50% of your bodyweight.


In your first workout, doing many sets of 2-5 reps, you perform 42 reps (total) in 20 minutes. The next workout, you'd want to perform at least 43 reps. If you get 43 reps, then shoot for at least 44 in your next workout, and so on.

Coming at it from the opposite direction, instead of adding reps, you could decrease rest time and, in turn, overall workout time. Continuing with the example above, let's say in your first workout you got 42 reps in 20 minutes even (20:00). In your next workout, you'd want to still get in 42 reps, but make sure you get them in a time under 20:00 - say 19:45. The workout after that, you'd shoot for 19:30, and so on.

Density Training is very beneficial because, depending on how it's "tweaked," it can accomplish a fairly wide variety of goals at one time. Coupled with extra calories, it can result in muscle and overall weight gain. Used with high sets with low reps, brute strength can be increased.

If rest periods are kept short, strength-endurance is benefited. If a fair amount of reps are used (say, perform 50 reps of a compound movement in 20 minutes), work capacity and overall conditioning are increased.

In the past, the majority of all programs written with the Density Training protocol have been oriented toward strength training. Density Training hasn't really been used in conditioning training…until now.

It's become relatively well-known in recent years that anaerobic (i.e. - interval) training is much more beneficial than aerobic (i.e. - long slow distance) for MMA. This is largely due to the fact that MMA is an anaerobic sport. Another major factor is that many studies have found that anaerobic training increases both anaerobic AND aerobic capacity in trainees, while aerobic training usually only results in increases in aerobic capacity (not anaerobic).


In other words, you get benefit in two cardiovascular systems instead of just one. Anaerobic training is also known to let trainees keep strength and muscle, as well as improve quickness, speed, as well as a whole host of other benefits. So the question is really, "How can one mix anaerobic training with Density Training?"

It's pretty simple, really. You'd start off just like you would with a strength training-based Density Training program. First pick a time that will be your work period - 20-30 minutes is usually more than enough. The next thing to do is to pick what activity you'll be using.

For this article, we'll use sprinting (running). Next, pick a distance or time that is adequate for sprints. I recommend 50-100 yards (I wouldn't go over 150 and have actually used as low as 30) or 15-30 seconds.

Once you've got your parameters established (e.g. - 50 yard sprints for 20 minutes), go ahead and do the workout. Do your sprints in "wind sprint" fashion in that you sprint 50 yards, turn around, and walk to the starting point (when you get in better shape, you can lightly jog instead of walk).

Once you reach the starting point, turn around and sprint 50 yards again. You get no "rest" periods, per se, in that you never get to stop and do nothing. Walk back to the starting point is your "rest." For 20 minutes nonstop, perform as many sprints as possible. In true "Density Training" fashion, try to get at least one more sprint in 20 minutes in your next workout. The next workout after that, try to get at least one more, and so on. So, if you got 19 sprints in your first workout, go for 20 in your second workout, 21 in your third, etc.


Now that we've looked at an example from a "distance" point of view, let's look at it from a "time" point of view. Say, instead of sprint for 50 yards, and then walking back, you'd sprint for time. For example, sprint for 20 seconds, walk for 20 seconds, sprint for 20 seconds, walk for 20 seconds, etc. for 20 minutes nonstop. To measure your progress, measure how far you're sprint during all the 20 second sprints (in total).

Your next workout, try to increase that distance. The next workout, increase it again. (NOTE - In case you're wondering how to do this, try this: sprint for 20 seconds, and then turn around and go the opposite direction when you walk. When it's time for your next sprint, turn around and sprint in the original direction again. At the end of 20 minutes, measure how far you are from your original starting point. Try to increase that distance every workout.)

If it seems simple, that's because it really is. Either use the same time period and get more work done, or do the same amount of work quicker.

So how will this help your MMA conditioning? Well, we already discussed the benefits of anaerobic training, but let's look at a practical example. As previously stated, most MMA matches are anaerobic in nature, in that there might be a short period of intense action, followed by easier action, followed by intense action again. Intense action won't just happen at the beginning of a round or fight. It might happen at the middle, the end of a fight or anywhere in between. You have to be ready to give it your "all" at any time.

MMA Success.
A brief article on the benifits of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) from writer Jamie Hale. This article includes multiple sections that go from basics to more detailed informations of MMA.
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By using Density Conditioning, you will be preparing your body to be able to give highly intense efforts even after it's done a lot of work and fatigue has already set in.

Despite the examples above, running isn't the only exercise that can be used with Density Conditioning. Rope Skipping, biking, various cardio machines such as climbers, rowers, or elliptical trainers, weight dragging, and even skill work such as sparring, grappling, or hitting a heavy bag could all work well. Bodyweight circuits could be used, but programs would take more planning and structure.

Be sure to use proper form in all exercises throughout your entire workout. As you tire, proper form will be harder to maintain due to fatigue, so be sure to concentrate on using proper form to avoid injury. This isn't really an issue with cardio machine, as they "lock" you into proper form, but with running, rope skipping, sparring, or the like, proper form MUST be maintained.

As for frequency, perform Density Conditioning sessions 2x-3x/week, depending on your training schedule and other physical demands.

Sample Programs:

Program #1:

  • Sprint (run) 50 yards
  • Walk back to the starting line
    *Repeat for 20 minutes nonstop. Try to increase number of sprints performed each workout.

Program #2:

  • Intense rope skipping x 30 seconds
  • VERY easy rope skipping or walking x 30 seconds
    *Repeat for 25 minutes nonstop. Try to increase total number of jumps performed overall each workout.

Program #3:

  • Intense ground pummeling drills on heavy bag (punches, elbows, knees, etc.) x 30 seconds
  • VERY easy ground pummeling drills or walking x 20 seconds
    *Repeat for 15 minutes nonstop.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via my website -

Train Hard, Rest Hard, Play Hard.

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