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Advanced training methods for hypertrophy – Escalating Density Training

Hadyn Luke posted this on Wednesday 13th of September 2017 Hadyn Luke 13/09/2017

Tags: Training methods

EDT training large

Advanced methods of hypertrophy training can provide a fast track to increasing your muscle mass to and improve your muscle strength and power.

Our blog on Hypertrophy Training gives an overview on factors to consider when trying to 'build mass' and our blog on Advanced Training Methods for Hypertrophy – German Volume Training focuses on one particular training approach. In today’s blog, we are looking at another method: Escalating Density Training.

What is Escalating Density Training?

A high-performance antagonist/agonist training method, Escalating Density Training (EDT) pairs movements in supersets within a strict time limit, divided into segments called PR Zones. The aim is to perform a maximum amount of work in a short time frame.

A key part of the technique is pairing antagonist exercises. This “tricks” your body and enhances recovery.

This training method focuses on the total workload performed in your gym session, rather than individual sets and reps. Over the PR Zone (time limit), you count the number of sets carried out and multiply this by the number of reps in each set. So, if over your set time you carry out 10 sets of 15 reps of your exercises, this would be 10 x 15 = 150 total repetitions.

You can reduce the number of reps you complete as you become fatigued at the end of the time period, as the goal is to achieve a high overall number of total reps.

As you progress, you will increase this total number of reps in subsequent work outs.

Who is it suitable for?

Anyone from regular gym-goers to amateur athletes to those competing at the top level of professional sports can use this technique – ideally under the guidance of a personal trainer or other fitness professional.

EDT can be used on its own or as part of your existing training programme.

Who devised Escalating Density Training?

EDT was created by innovative American strength coach Charles Staley, a specialist in inspiring and educating older athletes who want to “reclaim their physicality and vitality”.

What would be a typical EDT training session?

First, pick two antagonistic exercises. Second, plan the number of reps you will perform (normally between 6 - 15 reps). Third, plan your PR zone (this could be 5 minutes or 15 minutes!). Then start!

Superset between the two exercises, performing the planned number of reps on each exercise for the planned PR zone.

The weight you use will depend on the number of reps and the length of the PR Zone, but should be between 50 - 80% of your one rep max (see our blog on How to Work Out Your One Rep Max).

Examples of exercises pairing antagonist muscles could include:

  • Biceps curl with triceps pushdown
  • Bench press with bent row
  • Leg extension and leg curl

 To progress, you could:

  • Keep your time frame the same but increase your workload
  • Reduce your time frame but keep the workload the same

What to avoid when using EDT 

Try not to do too much too soon. If you seek failure at the start of your session, you’ll achieve fewer overall reps.

Avoid working synergist muscle groups, as exhausting one group will affect the number of reps you can do with the other. Instead pair antagonist muscles in each PR Zone.

Don’t stay on a plateau. When you have increased the number of reps by 20% in a set time, increase the weight you are using by 5%.


This training method can bring fast and impressive results if correctly followed, whether you devise your own programme or seek guidance from a personal trainer.

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