T Nation



How is it do you get muscle density? I see these guys in the gym, there not huge but they have great density and lean thickness...I know in time with a good exercise routine and nutrition things will happen. Can I have without doing a bulking,strength and the cutting programs to get that look.


Muscle "density" is just a term given to someone who has built enough muscle to look solid. Many younger lifters don't have this look. They look soft, even if they are carrying some size. In reality, that look comes from TIME, being lean enough to see muscle seperation, and having enough size for the other factors to matter. No, you can not have that without building the size, working out for a long time and being defined enough to see the muscle you built.

"Density" is also used to describe that mature look that many bodybuilders in their 30's have. The muscles just look more solid as if they aren't going anywhere even if the guy started skipping meals. Vince Taylor has that look to him. Very rarely, younger bodybuilders will have it as well. Edgar Fletcher was one who always looked very dense.


Prof. X That is me!!! I'm strong but look soft. I want that dense look. Do you have any suggestions? I know If anyone does, It's you.



You have two choices, either work on gaining more muscle, or work on losing fat to see whatever muscle you have. That is all there is. It is not more complicated than that. If you aren't carrying much muscle, assuming you aren't overfat to begin with, you need to be working on gaining some size.


While hand in hand with getting bigger, I've read a couple places on this site that lifting in the lower rep ranges will help as well.


It's all about muscle maturing and low bodyfat.


Joel Marion:

"There are two types of muscle tone: myogenic and neurogenic. Don?t get thrown off by the sciency words; the first simply refers to your muscle tone at rest. It is affected by the density of your muscles; the greater the density of your muscles, the harder and firmer you will appear. Heavy training increases your myogenic tone through the hypertrophy (growth) of the contractile proteins myosin and actin (myosin and actin are by far the most dense components of skeletal muscle). Training in higher rep ranges promotes more sarcoplasmic (fluid) hypertrophy, which in turn yields a "softer" pumped look. If you want to be hard, firm, tight, etc, the latter is certainly not the way to go. The second aspect of a muscles' tone is neurogenic tone, or the tone that is expressed when movements or contractions occur. Again, lower rep training comes out on top as training with heavy loads will increase the sensitivity of alpha and gamma motor neurons, thus increasing neurogenic tone when conducting even the simplest of movements (i.e. walking, extending your arm to point, etc)."


I disagree with what he wrote. There are several bodybuilders who appear dense but don't train with low reps. That is a huge mistaken generalization that we have discussed on this forum. The studies used to perpetuate this "sarcosplasmic growth" have been misrepresented. There is no such finding in humans.


Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy debate:


Lifting in the lower rep ranges as well as explosively can improve muscle tonus-how tense your muscles are at rest and when not flexing. It has an impact on appearance. It doesn't mean you should never do higher rep work.


What rep and set range should I use? I have no use to be super strong but would like that dense look..I'm starting to feel lost in the gym. Need guidance. Should I just lift as heavy as possible for 2 sets for 5reps and then 2 sets for 12reps for a total of 4 sets 3-4 exercises per muscle group going to fail on the last set. Suggestions please..


Lifting in the 3 to 5 rep range as opposed to lifting in the higher rep ranges will increase the tonus of your muscles giving them a much denser look.

I believe that using heavy weights and longer rest periods will produce much denser looking muscles. It will also put muscle on you at a faster rate than any other method.To illustrate this point here is a before picture of a person that I trained for exactly 1 year. I had her training with low reps (3-5) about 70% of the time, even during contest prep. The after shot will be in my next post.


Here is the after shot. Note that besides obviously having more muscle, the muscle has a denser look to it than in the first picture.
I would also like to point out that this muscle was produced completely drug free.
So, if you want denser looking muscles I would spend most of the time training in the lower rep ranges.


NO WAY. Im not buying it. In a year? Ive got more than 15 years experience at this and Ive seen one or two men respond like that never a woman. MAtter of fact, I don't think Ive seen a drug free woman that big.


Mmm...sounds like you need to work on building muscle and strength. Your approach does not seem like it will give you the physical results you want. I suggest a mix of high and low ranges. Perhaps a Waterbury program like ABBH. What does your current lifting and diet look like...


What could you POSSIBLY be talking about? That's not at all an unreasonable amount of muscle for a MAN to put on in a years time. I couldn't really tell you if it's possible for a woman to do it drug free.


Well she looks good anyway. I take it that the leaness is due to diet. So 3-5 reps heavy, what about sets? Do I do a split or what?


Density? She's boasting more muscle in that "after" pic, period. Looks leaner too.


I personally don't care if your buying it, sunshine. The point of these posts is to present empirical evidence that lower rep training increases density and is by far a superior method for hypertrophy.

As a matter of fact, if you think these gains were drug induced it proves my point, and you are right it wasn't a year. I started training her in November for the next Provincial championships held the following October, so it was actually only 11 months. If you don't believe these gains are possible then I think it's time you started training using the suggested protocol.


ridiculous. what reason does someone have to show off pics of someone they trained, and then lie about whether or not it was drug free. i would suspect after a year of heavy lifting in the 3-5 rep range, with chemical assistance, a person- man or woman, could produce more dramatic results.