You Have Got to Try This: Escalated Density Training

November 23, 2015 — 2 Comments


Volume is a key ingredient in training for the tough demands of the backcountry. Hiking with a pack for hours on end over multiple days is a high-volume activity. Step after step after step with weight that doesn’t get lighter… That is volume.

When it comes to training, volume refers to the total amount of weight that you lift in a given workout. However, you do not have to have a high one-rep max to lift high volumes. Instead, you need to incorporate volumetric techniques over the course of your workout. The is where escalated density training comes in.

Escalated density training (EDT) seeks to increase the volume of weight you lift from week to week, improving your muscle’s ability to keep pushing even after you are exhausted. Here is how it works:

Select a multi-joint exercise (squats, deadlift, bench press, shoulder press,  leg press, etc.) and choose a weight with which you can perform about 20 reps. Then, set a timer for 15 minutes. Your goal: do as many reps with proper form as you can in 15 minutes. Obviously, you will have to take breaks throughout (and you should!). The point is not to go the full 15 minutes without stopping. The point is to do more reps with the same weight each time you do this workout, thus increasing the volume you are able to lift.

This technique is effective and tiring. You will reach a point of wanting to stop around 8-10 minutes, but keep pushing! This technique is a fantastic way of pushing yourself to the next level.

A few notes about EDT:

  • Do not do more than 1 exercise per muscle group in a given day.
  • If you train multiple muscle groups per day, do opposing/unrelated muscle groups (chest and back, legs and shoulders, etc.), not exceeding 2 EDT sets in a given workout
  • Focus on the types of moves that will improve performance in the backcountry (squats, lunges, hang-cleans, cable rows, etc.)
  • Rest as long as you need between reps when you start reaching exhaustion to protect against injury. Proper form is crucial.
  • Make sure you do not re-train the same muscle group for a week; over-training will occur if you try to exercise a given muscle group too frequently.
  • After 4 weeks of EDT training, cycle off for 3 months. This is not a long-term technique; instead, it is a shock technique that will help you break through training plateaus.
  • After doing an EDT workout, finish off with 20-30 minutes of HIIT cardio with 5 minutes of slow speed to warm-up and 5 minutes t cool down with 10-20 minutes of working intervals in between.

If you have never given EDT a try, do it for the next 4 weeks. I think you will be pretty pleased with the results.

2 responses to You Have Got to Try This: Escalated Density Training


    I’ve tried this, and thought it was fantastic. A good way that I found to structure this is to superset it. Like you said, choose two exercises that work different muscle groups, and alternate between the two exercises for the 15 minutes. The time you spend on one exercise is basically your rest period from the other. For example, I might do dumbbell rows and push ups. I’ll do about 15 reps of rows, then do as many push ups as I can, then go back to the rows, and so on, for 15 minutes. It’s great, because by the end, you might only be doing 2 push ups, but you are grinding through those 2! Just a thought!



      That’s a great technique Paul. I’d say that is more advanced since those who try this for the first time will need the true rest between sets, but there is definitely nothing wrong with pushing it once you are ready. I think I just might try the superset technique on my own soon.


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