T Nation

Training Density Discussion


Hey whatsup T-Nation. I've been an avid member of T-Nation.com for almost 9 months now and I think its one of the most comprehensive and informative training websites on the internet. (Ok enough suckin up) I stopped posting here for a while because after only a few months, the forum topics and answers to questions get very repetitive, and i figured there were so many knowledgeable people out there answering questions that it wouldn't matter if my opinions on subjects weren't mentioned.

Well i miss posting so i decided to come back with a good post that incites discussion, which is where i think one learns the most about any topic.

Ok here goes. Lets say for the sake of discussion, that i completely abide by this observation and i won't here no for an answer unless someone can show me the other side of the argument and change my views.

"Circuit training is the most effective method of training for bodybuilding purposes. It can be optimal for both fat loss and muscle building depending how you tailor it, and NO OTHER TRAINING METHOD COMES CLOSE. Your body (and muscles but body in general), likes to remain in homeostasis and will resist change. The only way to change your body, is to put incredibly high amounts of stress on it so it can adapt. What can put more stress on the body than total body training and/or high density training? Circuit training kills both those birds with one stone. Circuit training is the future of bodybuilding... =P"

Prove me wrong...and fyi for those who don't know, training density refers to the volume of your training in proportion to the time it takes for you to complete that training. Someone who does a volume of 100 reps over 100 minutes, has much less training density than someone who did 100 reps over 50 minutes.


Did you know that training intensity is also important? So why does that argument have nothing about intensity?


The problem is that training density (as you defined it) is inversely proportional to training intensity (measured as a percentage of your one rep max). While it's not a linear relationship, the more you move towards circuit training, the more likely you are to create endurance adaptations rather than hypertrophy, namely increased mitochondria density and ATP storage. Your goals will determine whether that's a positive adaptation or not, but I would venture that if we're talking aesthetic development, the answer is no.


Yet i know of one training coach that focused on density and was considered pretty damn good...Vince Gironda. I remember that that was his big thing, shortening rest periods to as little as ten seconds with his trained bodybuilders. Wasn't he considered one of the better training coaches of his time?


Wow, one coach. Wonderful, that certainly proves your point.

I'll even give you another one: Charles Staley.

Still, you need more evidence.


I agree it is very valuable, especially from a hypertrophy standpoint to be able to do alot of work in a short period of time. It is interesting actually to feel how, week by week your body adapts to be able to do the same work or more in the same or less time. I think everyone can find a point where the rest period is short enough to really ask alot out of them, but long enough to be able to use a decent load.


I'm not trying to start an argument, but increasing density for the sake of it does practically nothing for me. I do much better waiting a bit longer and being able to pour more intensity into the next set. Increasing density just wears me out quicker. By density I am here referring to trying to do the same amount of work in less time, shorter rest periods in a nutshell.


you don't have to be a dick about it. i'm not an idiot and i know that there are definitly more than one form of training. Haven't you ever been in a debate before I'm just throwing in absolute statements for sake of arguments.


Yeah but what i was thinking is what about tailoring the program to keep intesity up. Not supersetsish in the sense that you do straight sets for a muscle but for antagonistic muscles or muscles that don't affect rest time of the other. Ex:

Bench Press x5 reps
Squats x5 reps
Pull-ups x5 reps
Military Press x5 reps

lets say that's a circuit. you could in theory stay at a higher intensity because each exercise's main muscles worked aren't really affected by each other.


In theory yes, but I'd like to see the military press numbers done at the end of that compared to when done fresh. If you are sucking wind from squats are have to slash your weights(you will) then you aren't keeping the same intensity and are not going to grow as much.


You havent given it a chance. If you get into the groove with this style of training you will see a difference. Especially from a hypertrophy standpoint. But there is a bit of lag while your body gets accustomed to doing this style of training and just like you said you basically feel like your getting nothing out of it initially until your body starts to adjust.


That won't work. The key to high intensity is a fresh CNS, and if you lift like that, you'll have a tired CNS when it comes to the last exercise. It may not be like doing pre-fatigue supersets in a muscle group, but it is pre-fatigue as far as the CNS is concerned. Your intensity would still go down the drain.


I tried with rest periods at 1 minute or less for a month one time and it just doesn't fit what I'm trying to do. Actually it wasn't until after I went back to longer rest periods that it really clicked how much better it works for me. I'm not saying it's stupid or that others may not find value in it.


hmm probably true about intensity as function of 1RM percentage..yet intensity isn't EVERYTHING, again.. i'm referring to intensity as a function of 1RM specifically, when it comes to muscle growth... Admittedly, while i am not as "all-about" this idea as i have been for this sake of discussion, i did theorize about its effectiveness and plan to come up with a training program built around this ideal, if nothing, at least to give it a shot....


increasing training density has its time and place. Seems to me the best training approach in terms of benefit and change is the one you are not on. On comment suggested that it didn't work for him, that he improved once he went back to another style. Might it be that circuit training set the table?
A circuit of well placed exercises with different targets and different degree of CNS impact would allow more work in less time.

would be tough to give it your all in a deadlift, chin, high incline or military press or a squat, row, low incline or bench circuit, but being tough isn't a bad thing.


Intensity ain't everything, but it is something. There should be a balance of both, and doing a circuit like that isn't the best way to do so (or at least it isn't proven yet). The extreme opposite of your argument would be that intensity is what causes the most stress in muscles, which is why training with your absolute 100% 1RM all the time is the best way to go, which isn't right either.

It would be useless if you can only do 3-5 reps in a 1-hour workout because of such high intensity. In this case, density goes down the drain.


I think that the main question here is what is more important for hypertrophy development: density or fatigue.

Whith high density trainings we are delaying fatigue (avoiding failure) to increase density.

But, if we are after training fatige, muscle failure is an excelent stuff, cause it increases fatigue significantly.


I do not like, outside of a lab, defining intensity as the % of 1RM. It's not a law and it doesn't make anybody who does an idiot, I just don't like like it. I learned intensity as ferocity of effort, in other words proximity to absolute limitations read closeness to failure.

One small part of my life would be fulfilled if % of 1RM were called something other than intensity, like maybe percentage of one rep max.


Ok. If intensity is equal to a percentage of effort, why not beam sets of 100 repetitions? . They are much more "intense", dont you think? .


Depending on the 100 rep set yes. An actual 1RM could be maximally intense as well, and anything in between.