Long ago I got bored will all the traditional & typical pyramid-type sets of 8-12 reps, chest day & all those other things you find in the fitness & bodybuilding magazines. Fortunately I came across a system that looked and sounded so simple, that it couldn’t get old. To this day I still call it my simplest workout plan for those times & days I just want to go and push/pull stuff around without over analyzing anything. With this plan you great results for building muscle and burning fat!
As we all know the best way to burn fat is to build muscle and get those fat releasing hormones like GH going - along with eating right of course!
What is this plan you ask? Here it is...
Staley’s Escalating Density Training (EDT)
I came across this concept long ago reading an article on Escalating Density Training (EDT) which was created & developed by Charles Staley. The article was about his style of training and how he has had remarkable success with many big name clients with putting on muscle. Staley is very well known & respected within the fitness community, and you'll actually see more things that closely resemble an EDT style of training. Why? Because it works and it's simple. So what exactly is EDT?
According to Staley, he gives some good insight in this interview:"Now, in my opinion, if you’re interested in growing muscle, that statement contains everything you’ll ever need to know. Muscle is in fact a biological system, and it grows (or atrophies) in direct proportion to the amount of work it is forced to do. Every training principle you’ve ever heard of, plus most of the ones you’ve never heard of, are designed to allow you to do more and more work over the weeks and months. In fact, let me be the first to say that there is absolutely NOTHING new here. The only thing that’s new is the way I’m “framing” or presenting the information. In a sense, the EDT system is just a foolproof way to ensure that you perform more and more work in each workout that you do. EDT involves doing a workout, measuring how much work was done, and then consistently and gradually increasing that amount of work. When you do, muscle will grow, metabolism will increase, and you’ll have a leaner, more muscular body. Now, as it turns out, there’s a paradox at work here. Because good fatigue management strategies allow you to do a lot more work The EDT details."
That’s pretty much the 'nuts & bolts' of how the program works. So how exactly does the EDT program work? Take 2 antagonisitic mucles (a muscle that relaxes while another contracts) for each workout - such as quads & hamstrings. An example could be performing squats and the Romanian Deadlift (RDL's).
The premise behind EDT is to perform squats & RDL's back-to-back for as many sets as you can for a designated time period - say 20-minutes. Staley refers to this time period as a "PR Zone", which stands for "personal record".
Here are some things you may need to know about the EDT system:
In EDT verbiage, the PR Zone specifically refers to the total amount of reps you're able to perform for 2 antagonistic or opposing exercises within a strict-timed frame - about 15-20 minutes per PR Zone.
There are usually 2 “workout” periods Staley likes to call “PR1” & “PR2”; resting 5-min or more between workout A & B. Within each PR , you have exercise "A1" & "A2".
In each workout period you get 2 exercises, usually of opposing muscles (push/pull or upper/lower).
You put on a load that is about 10-12 RM (rep max) of an exercise and use it for all reps/sets.
The goal - get as many reps as you can in the time period (15-20 minutes) alternating between the 2 exercises (for workout period A, you do exercise A1 for x reps, then go to exercise for A2 for x reps, taking a break between sets and going back and forth till time is up).
Try not to go over 5-6 reps per set in the beginning and NEVER take a set to failure - 'fatigue management'. While training to failure should be avoided, feel free to crank out your final sets to the limit in order to achieve as many reps as possible without sacrificing form. Keep the rest intervals between each set short and rest as long as you need. This is where a stopwatch or an interval timer can come in handy - just be make sure you stay on track.
Keep a training journal handy and record the total number of reps for each exercise at the conclusion of each "PR Zone".
Within each workout, you should notice a progression of reps until you get an increase (usually 20% or more) and then add weight for the next workout.
A word of caution - This program can get pretty intense based on the loads and exercises performed. You may be sore for a few days but this is where a great foam roller and flexibility plan come in handy!
The EDT system is about utilizing the most “bang for your buck” exercises. No, I'm not talking about single-joint isolation movements like tricep kickbacks or calf raises. I'm talking about using as many muscles as you can under the heaviest of loads. The beauty about this means less time in the gym and more time getting real world results. Using compounded (multi-joint) movements is a great booster for the hormones if building muscle and burning fat are your goals. Below is a list of compound (multi-joint) exercises - this list doesn't have to be limited to, but can include the following:
- Squats and Deadlifts
- Overhead Barbell Press
- Olympic lifts like Clean or Snatch
- Bench Press or Weighted Dips
- Bent-Over Rows or Weighted Pullups
- Bodyweight movements like lunges, pushups or more
Again, the goal is to pick 2 exercises of opposing muscle groups and then crank out either a specific number of sets or time with the same load. When you see increases in performance, increase the weight and go again. This type of simple progression with the right exercises will be sure to get your muscles stronger!
Is it possible to make your own rules? Sure you can! You don’t have to do it just one way, but you can take the basic concept of EDT and make it your own. You can make endless workouts such as: Doing 3 different exercises which adds variety or focus on strength and endurance.
Here are some 'out of the box' examples:
- Using bodyweight exercises only
- Using higher reps and shorter rests for more fat burning/conditioning purposes
- Using lower reps and longer rests for more strength focused gains
- Counting Sets and not reps (like 5×5 or 10×2…you up the weight when you can complete the desired set/rep scheme)
- Only doing one 20min workout (or PR zone) for days you are crunched on time
- Alternate high and low rep workouts
Here are some examples of EDT workouts with either time or sets your goal:
EDT workout #1 – Strength and Hypertrophy: Workout for 20-min. (rest for 5-min. between workouts A & B)
- Workout A – Bench Press and Pullups for sets of 4-5 reps max (10RM load)
- Workout B – Bent Rows (barbell) and Squats for sets of 6-7 rep max (12-15 RM load)
- On the next workout, switch A & B order and the rep max
- Exercise #1: Deadlift
- Exercise #2: Weighted Dips
- Exercise #3: Overhead Press
- Increase the load when you can complete all 5 sets of 5 reps
- Workout A – Pushups (5 reps), Squat Jumps (10 reps)
- Workout B – Inverted Rows (angled pullups -5 reps), DB/KB snatch (10 reps alternating R & L sides
Train hard & crank it!