T Nation

Focused EDT?


If I take you to the local chicken ranch and tell you that you have 20 min to enjoy yourself, are you going to wander around looking at the fancy furnishings and asking the girls what their Zodiac sign is . . . or are you going to focus on taking care of business?

Or suppose I take you into a bank vault and tell you that you have 20 min to take all you can. Are you going after paper clips and rubber-bands . . . or the green stuff?

So why, when given 15 or 20 min to work a muscle according to EDT principles, do you want to screw around with ?antagonistic muscle pairings??

Now, people sometimes get pissy when I bring this up because I?m ?attacking? Coach Staley?s work. Please understand, that I have nothing but respect for him and EDT. I think it?s a brilliant way to train and one that will survive long after other methods have faded from popularity.

But experiments have shown me that focusing on one body part is more efficient and effective than alternating between two. Don?t take my word for it, try it for yourself.

Do a 20 min workout using antagonistic muscle pairings . . . say bench press and seated row. (I did 62 reps on the bench.) Now, wait 2-3 days and do a 10 min workout focusing only on the bench. (I did 75 reps)

The same results happen again and again. Why?

Well, some people have written about the advantage of antagonistic muscle pairings . . . that they ?help the muscle recover faster.? Others have talked about the ?flushing effect? of blood rushing to one area and then another.

I?m sure there?s truth in all that . . . but I think these answers all miss the 600 pound gorilla in the center of the cage.

What?s really happening is that antagonistic muscle pairings force you to rest longer between ?sets.? For example, if I?m doing bench and rows, it?s going to take me 60-90 seconds to get up from the bench, do the other exercise and come back.

But if I only focus on the bench, I can completely control my rest time. I am in complete control of the exercise. I rest shorter between sets (30 seconds or less) and I do more reps in a given period. It's a harder, faster workout.

Let?s call it FEDT (Focused EDT) versus AEDT (Antagonistic EDT).

Typically, with AEDT, you would do three 15 min PRs. Each PR consists of one chest and one bicep exercise (just an example). Total time spent 45 min plus rest between PRs . . . 45-60 min.

With Focused EDT, however, you would do 20 min of just chest . . . for example, 15 min of bench press, 5 min of inclines. Or 10 and 10. Or just spend all your time on the bench. Then you would rest and attack the biceps or other body part. Total time spent 40 min plus rest between PRs . . . 40-45 min.

So the workout is slightly faster (more efficient) and you?re doing more reps (more effective). Seems to me that Focused EDT is the way to go.

Just my two cents worth on this subject.



Hey John,

Intelligently done. I like to read a post made by someone who actually tests what they are stating.

I've experimented with the same type of thing and got the opposite results. For me, I got more done with antagonistic pairings. I really pushed the rest envelope down to as little as possible and compared the total reps in the PR zone. I found that when I did one muscle with two exercises, both at 70% of 1RM, I got less reps (rep count including both exercises) than when I did the same but with antagonist pairings.

So for me, I think that I could get more out of my chest if I just focus on chest for a PR zone, but I'll need to add another PR zone to focus on horizontal pulling, and that means that I'm actually doing less overall per unit of time, because I now need to double my PR zones. e.g. 15 min. of chest gets 90 reps, then add 15 min. of horizontal pulling and get 90 reps. As a total, I've got 180 reps in 1/2 an hour. Divide it out, and the density is 6 reps per minute. Now 15 min. of bench paired with rows gets me say 60 reps for each exercise. That is 120 reps in 1/4 hour, divided out gets you 8 reps per minute which is more bang for your buck than 6.

One could argue, so what? You still did more with the FEDT. Well, if you want to do more with AEDT, just do longer PR zones, or add another one. Either way, you still get more done in less time, so the question is then one of recovery.

My conclusion, based on what I experienced (may be different than others of course) is that I get more bang for the buck by AEDT and if I want to do, and can handle more work, I can extend my PR zone.

Anyone else with different results?



Unfortunately my thoughts are going to be less detailed...

However, I suspect that if you are working like a son-of-a-bitch during a ten minute FEDT PR zone, that you'll start to become generally fatiged. This general fatigue will potentially reduce your ability to maintain intensity for remaining FEDT PR zones.

By pairing antogonists together, you may be able to give fairly equal priority and intensity to the muscles during AEDT PR zones. Though I have no way to be sure, there may be benefit to wiping out antogonist muscle sets with similar fatigue and intensity levels.

However, in a situation where you find it difficult to sequester the needed gym equipment, FEDT may have benefits outside of density, volume and fatigue considerations.



This is a solid thread.

First, for the record, I think EDT is better than sliced bread. EDT is slicing the bread AND the brisket simultaneously ... a really tasy antogonistic pairing that is.

Yes, agreed. But it's training "density" and "economy". You will get more TOTAL work per unit time with antogonistic parings when you sum up everything done in the lifting session. Granted, by splitting them out, you will bench more in 15 minutes and then curl more in another 15 minutes. But it just took (at minimum) 30 minutes.

Yeah, all the science ... studies support that muscles recover faster while the antagonist is being worked. OK. Cool. I believe Waterbury used a 5% number when referring to improved performance. This is all fine and dandy, BUT ...

Where you are going ... is that a lot of people aren't grasping the metabolic fatigue encountered by antagonistic pairings and ESPECIALLY with big compound movements. So, you limit yourself ... but what does it mean?

Of course ... Staley doesn't necessarily advocate that. He often pairs a compound movement with an antagonistic auxillary movement. Bench with curls. Pullups with tricep extensions. Etc.

Note also that he is a fan of 10x3 or 5x5 or similar protocols for core movements and EDT for the other stuff. Also, he does not say that EDT is the holy grail, just that it is really effective. Primarily he designed it for hypertrophy ... and out of it came body composition and strength carry over. He also notes how quickly it can fry the CNS.

Now, back to your question ...

Q: which one is better ... EDT with one lift or two?


If you are after ultimate training density and training efficiency, antagonistic EDT is hard to beat. (How can you?) Body composition.

If you have only an hour a day 3 times per week, again a great application.

If you can train more frequently, I think the one lift PR zones are better.

I too am a fan of only one lift for 15 minutes. I've raved time and time again of one big compound lift a day for 15 minutes. You take two pals' (DJ and CS) ideas and bastardize them into one simply beautiful and effective concoction ... IMHO, the best of both worlds.

Right now I am engaged in a custom program from one of the masterminds in the iron game. He's trying to fix me. When I get done, it's OLAD415MAD for 8 weeks with before and after pics. Hold me to it?

So maybe I didn't add anything new for or against EDT here. Charles loves this kind of thing though ... people challenging his ideas. He doesn't care if we like or dislike HIS ... only that we always think about OURS, progress, and have fun along the way.




Why are you doubling the time? See how many reps you can get in 15 min doing two exercises and then see how many reps you can get in 7.5 min doing just one exercise.

In your example, yes . . . if you double the amount of time spent exercising (from 15 to 30 min) while reducing the work you do (8 reps to 6 reps per minute) then you will get a more inefficient workout. You are better off with Antagonistic EDT versus Focused EDT.

But my experience is just the oppopsite and I think if you test if for yourself, you'll get the same result I do.

The key is the REST period between sets. With antagonistic muscle pairings you lose control of the rest factor.

The problem in your argument is that your numbers appear off. You're doing 120 reps in 15 min (900 sec). That's 7.5 sec per rep . . . execution + rest + moving between stations. That's pretty fast.

I seem to be stuck at around 90-120 sec per exercise pairing. So, if I start the bench at 0, then 90-120 seconds later, I'll start the next set of bench.

However, if I only focus on the bench, I can start the next set 60 sec later. (Works out to around 30 sec exercise : 30 sec rest). That's a significant reduction in rest and allows for a far more efficient (and like I said, effective) workout.



Hey John,

I covered that in my post, maybe I can improve my writing skills, but I think that if you re-read it you'll see what I meant. Basically Bastard and I said almost exactly the same thing.



Alright, I'll be clearer.

I doubled the time, because I still need to do the antagonist. You said you do more work by focusing on the body part; well you still need to do the antagonist. Sure do it after, but you still need to do it, so your time doubles.

Numbers seem off, and I need to try it. Well I did, I stated that in the first part of the post. Those numbers include both exercises. I do hit in the 90s when focusing on two exercises for the chest, and do hit in the 120s when focusing on two exercises but antagonists. That is 60 for each exercise.

John, you're obviously intelligent, now slow down and read my first post thoroughly.



yeah ... so what? ... i disagree. for me, the question then is which protocal better helps me (you) achieve my (your) goals? and, i don't know. all we know is that we have two different approaches to EDT. with both we can measure and gauge relative progress. Charles' latest article just stated it: "more is not better ... better is better" (texans always hate that argument) so, what is better?

for me, i think:
strength: 1 lift ...
for size: tie ...
for body comp: 2 lifts or more! EDT/HIIT/etc.

MORE bang for the buck with AEDT

but BETTER bang with FEDT?

what if we got lots of bucks? that's the ability to train all of the time, eat tons, supplement well, sleep and recover?

It depends ...



Rolo, WILCO . . .

OK . . . re-read it. Here's where I'm confused . . . it's this quote of yours:

Could be I'm just reading it wrong. Here's the bottom line. If you normally do a 15 min PR then you're doing approximately 7.5 min of each pairing. So, the comparison would look like this:

15 min Bench + Row antagonistic PR =

7.5 min focused Bench and
7.5 min focused Row.

Total time worked is exactly the same . . . 15 min.

By the way, here's an example program, upper body push/pull, for someone who had little time daily.

MON/THU 10 min focused PR of bench followed by one PR of shoulder followed by one of triceps. Total time = 30 - 40 min in three PRs

TUE/FRI Two 10 min focused PR of back (pull up/row) and one of bicep. Total time = 30 - 40 min in three PRs

Total focused time for the week =

20 min chest
20 min shoulder
40 min back
20 min tricep
20 min bicep

Like I said . . . just an example. Legs and abs, same pattern.


I disagree. I believe this has the opposite effect - ie it allows you to reduce rest periods between sets.

Come on! Unless you're narcoleptic, there's no reason you can't be in just as much control of your rest time when alternating between an antagonistic pairing. Simply plan ahead! Don't pair exercises which are on opposite sides of the gym.

So,according to your example, you might perform the pairing something like:

Rest 30-40s
Rest 30-40s
Rest 30-40s

Compared to a single lift:

Rest 30s
Rest 30s

The flaw as I see it is not inherent in antagonistic EDT but in your ability to apply it. You are simply taking too long between sets - probably wasting time moving from one lift to the other.

Suppose you've just finished a set of flat bench . You'll be physically able to perform a second lift (at the same intensity) which uses different muscle groups sooner than another bench press.

The whole point of the antagonistic pairing as I understand it is to allow you to start your next lift SOONER than if you were performing straight sets. Instead of resting, you're lifting (hence the greater density). You're also helping the antagonist recover faster.

I think you simply need to be a little more organised and you'll find antagonistic EDT works better for you too. Aim for something like 15s between sets (esp at the start of a PR zone) and see which is superior.



I don't think we disagree that much at all actually. Let me say it another way.

If I do 7.5 minutes of one exercise, say bench, then 7.5 minutes of another, say curls; I personally get less work done than if I do 15 minutes of both, together in antagonist fashion. It is the same amount of time, but more reps are done doing antagonistic pairings.

If I do 15 minutes of an exercise, I do more than reps with that one exercise than if I do 15 minutes of two exercises, but I still need to do the other exercise, so actually I'm doing more work, needing more time to do it, but with less density.

Both work well for different goals.

So my position is that if I wish to focus on density, AEDT is more effective. If I wish to focus on fatigue, FEDT is more effective. And no matter what I chose to do, I only have so much ability to recover. As such, AEDT is my choice, because I respond well to more work per unit of time and don't do well to increase work at the expense of time.

Keep in mind that we are talking EDT here, I actually only use EDT for about 25% to 35% of my training. There are numerous training protocols that work well. That is why so many coaches respond to the question "What is the best for _______?" by answering, "It depends."

Hope that is clearer, I really do need to improve my written communcation style. Or maybe I need to read your posts again.




I just posted to Bastard what might actually explain my post better. I think I should go back to school, lol.

Alright... I think we agree on the value of focusing on just the chest for a PR zone. That is something I've done and will do again. I think the only part we disagree is in which method allows for more work per unit of time. In my first example, I compared doing 15 min. of AEDT to 15 min. of just chest training. I was trying to say that if I do 15 min. of chest, I'll still need to do 15 min. of horizontal pulling to balance the program. In doing so, I train for 30 minutes and get less work done per unit of time. You are right to correct my comparison; I should look at 7.5 x 2 compared to 15. Actually I did just that in the gym, it was my example in my first post that was flawed. And I still got more density out of the AEDT.

You make a good argument, and I suspect that many people would conclude as you have. I think part of it is work tolerance and muscle fiber type. Some people respond better with less rest and maybe FEDT would be better for them. Some would respond better with the additional rest that they receive by alternating the exercises.




Your example is close, but off slightly.

Antagonistic pairing looks something like this:

Bench time period A
Rest/Move time period B
Row time period C
Rest/Move time period D
Bench time period A

Focused effort looks something like this:

Bench time period A
Rest time period E
Bench time period A

The 600-pound gorilla is that time period E is always going to be less than B+C+D.

Antagonistic EDT is a powerful technique . . . not arguing that. But it is just a technique and probably contradictory to EDT principles.

If you want to really blast your muscles and get the most efficient workout possible (which is what EDT is all about) then you need to reduce rest between sets as much as possible.

Focused EDT allows you to do it. AEDT forces you to spend more time between sets.




I liked your response to MOOK, it cleared up your position for me. I agree that rest E will be less, however because of fatigue, I get less reps out per "set" doing FEDT. The rest is less, but the reps are less too.



Ten-four. 6 of yours ... half-dozen of mine. It's all semantics and our collective inability to actually get our points across while simultaneously rehashing the same crap. ;]

... must ... take ... Dan John writing lessons

ahh [that's the part where i just croaked]



Rolo . . . well, that's an interesting obssrvation. I think Coach Staley and others would agree with it . . . but it hasn't been my experience, and frankly, it's counter-intuitive.

Short story . . . back in the 80s, it became popular for runners to run a set TIME instead of a set DISTANCE. Before that, runners would talk about going for a 5-mile run. After that, they would talk about going for a 40 min run. (Maybe it had to do with the new sport watches or something.)

The idea, of course, was to run farther in the same amount of time . . . basically EDT.

Now, if you ran for 40 min and did 5 miles, you'd have a measure of fitness . . . (one miles / eight min) . . . to beat the next time.

But if the next time you ran 40 min and stopped every so often to do push-ups and pull-ups . . . you'd get a great workout but you wouldn't be pushing the envelope on your running. And you certainly wouldn't finish your five miles in those 40 min . . . or run farther.

Again, that doesn't make it a bad workout. But it's not your optimum running performance if you define optimum as being the max distance you can run in a given time period.

This is the problem I have with antogistic muscle pairings and EDT. I can't explain why you're getting the results you are . . . like I said . . . it's counter-intuitive. Focusing on one exercise and thus reducing the interval between sets should give you a more optimum performace.

I agree that fatigue is a factor as the PR progresses. But here again, antagonistic EDT seems less effective. It is probably better for the trainee to improve conditioning so he can do more reps in a focused PR . . . than to taken the easier road and work another set of muscles.

Bottom line, though, like it has been said, both ways kick your ass!




Damn you, you made me think, and that hurt a bit... I guess I'll have to retry FEDT with a new frame of mind. I am changing my program soon anyway, so, FEDT for some exercises it is.

Gotta go to work, damn late shifts.



Hmm, I'm not sure an endurance activity is a good comparison to a strength activity. ..

I don't think EDT will be comparable unless the weights start to get light enough that cardiovascular endurance itself is becoming your limiting factor.


VROOM . . . true . . . but just a dumb example . . .

Here's another . . . you enroll in a pie-eating contest that will be on ESPN. Your goal is to eat as much pie as possible in 15 min.

But you decide that along with the pie-eating, you will engage in antogonistic eating . . . in this case hard-boiled eggs.

So . . . competition begins and you eat the pie, then reach for the eggs. Eat more pies, eat more eggs.

At the end of 15 min, your stomach will have a hell of a workout . . . but you haven't optimized your pie-eating. You haven't exercised that capability to its max potential.



John, sorry but I don't see it is a better example. The above is like saying you are doing all the pressing AND pulling with pecs.

Geek boy