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Density Training: Performance Results In Less Time

Time is likely never on your side when it comes to scheduling your fitness routine. So how can you maximize your workout efforts to see performance gains? Welcome to Escalating Density Training…

What is Escalating Density Training

First, Density Training is a measurement of workload vs time. Escalating, in the sense of this training, is taking one of those components, and increasing (workload) or decreasing (time) in order to escalate the effect on your training. Rather than focusing purely on the weight you lift, this will target sets and reps to perform as much work as possible in the amount of time you allot for your workout.

Let’s go over this using a simple barbell bench press:

Say you can press 150 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps, in 5 minutes. So in this, your density is 150x3x10 = 4,500 lbs in 5 minutes.

The escalation can occur in various ways:

  • Sustain the time, and work in an 11th rep on each set. 150x3x11 = 4,950 lbs in 5 minutes
  • Shorten your rest interval, and do the same weight in 4:30 minutes.

This is to give you an example of how the density math works. However, the reality is this is going to be applied to your entire workout. When implementing this, you will measure and apply this to each exercise throughout the whole workout.

Density Training Application

Implementing the process into your routine is simple – but beware of underestimating the intensity of this process. It’s going to involve pushing your muscle groups, and as you want a decent rep range, focus on the technique.

Follow the process below, and you will see improvements in your performance:

  • You’re going to have to do a workout at least once, to establish the baseline for your density measurement – keep a good journal for this, either on your phone or old school pen and paper.
  • Start with a weight you can complete full sets, for the first 2-3 sets – you do not want to be hitting failure in your first couple of sets, but it is okay if you do hit failure in later sets of your routine.
  • Use opposite pairing for your muscle groups for Density Training; for example, if you are going to work on the chest with dumbbell presses, then pair it with a leg extension or seated row. Mix it up – you need to be able to keep pushing your muscle groups throughout the whole workout.
  • Get a wide range of reps into the program; do not stick with the same rep ranges or set counts throughout your routine.
  • This is about reps and time driving density volume – not adding weight. If you feel you have more in the tank, do more reps, or shorten the rest intervals.
  • For each session, plan on rep increase, or time decrease to target density escalation, and record your results. Do not figure it out as you go.
  • Remember, even 1 rep is an improvement – if all you get is one more rep in the same amount of time – celebrate, you increased your density. Same with time – if you could only do the same volume in 10 seconds less, you still increased your density.

5 Key Training Benefits

Following the Escalating Density Training process, you should find improvements in 5 key areas:

  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Hypertrophy
  • Fat burning
  • Time (more efficiently spent in the gym)

You can build your entire program around this for a whole cycle, but this is very taxing to your body, so we do not recommend this as your standard training regime. Use it as an effective tool to boost your fitness performance, but as with all intense programs, give your body proper rest and recovery before resuming another cycle.

– Train Hard!

Rate of perceived exertion done by woman at the gym

Rate of Perceived Exertion: Breaking Your Performance Plateau

If you are looking to get past a training plateau to improve performance, rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is a solid process to use in your routine development. Combined with Micro-HIIT efforts, and you can develop time-efficient programs to drive your performance to new levels.

RPE emerged in the 1970s and early 1980s as a subjective method to gauge exercise intensity. It helps focus on exertion to promote increased exercise performance, rather than simply working from a traditional percentage of 1RPM.

The RPE method will work for about 90 percent of people. There is a small population that is so sedentary, that any amount of physical activity will seem hard – and the opposite end of the spectrum of those so well-trained that it takes a lot of exercises to reach sufficient intensity levels.

For the majority, the program is easy to implement and is a method of monitoring the combined intensity and duration to create an optimal experience with proper levels of overload to improve athletic performance.

The RPE Scale

ScaleLevel of Effort (Aerobic)Level of Effort (Resistance)/Reps in Reserve (RIR)
10Feels almost impossible to keep going. Completely out of breath, unable to talk. Cannot maintain for more than a very short time.No more reps capable; maximum effort.
9Very difficult to maintain exercise intensity. Can barely breathe and speak only a few words.One rep left in the tank.
7-8Borderline uncomfortable. Short of breath, can speak a sentence.Tougher to lift; could push 2-3 more reps.
4-6Breathing heavily, can hold a short conversation. Still somewhat comfortable, but becoming noticeably more challenging.Normal warm-up set/beginning of routine; 8-10 reps without issue.
2-3Feels like you can maintain for hours. Easy to breathe and converse.Light warm-up weight level; no real exertion.
1Hardly any exertion.No exertion; can lift “endlessly”

The model can be used in a limited and indefinite capacity to push you through your training plateaus and improve your athletic performance. Notably, while the scale was designed initially for endurance training, it is readily incorporated into resistance based training, as we note below.

How to Apply

Sprinter improving performance

To Improve Cardio Performance

  1. Perform your basic cardio activity: running, treadmill, elliptical, bike, etc.
  2. Using the RPE scale, assess your performance rate of perceived exertion – the talk test is a good method to use.
  3. Using your RPE, adjust either the duration of your effort or its intensity so the majority of your workout rests between 4-6 on the RPE scale.
  4. To improve performance, focus on HIIT intervals that push your RPE to 7-8. The intervals should be of fixed time or distance. You need to be able to maintain 7-8 RPE for the duration or distance of the intervals – this is where you adjust the routine to maximize performance gains.
  5. As your routine progresses, you will notice the same intervals trigger lower RPE levels.
  6. When this occurs, you need to either increase the overall activity duration or the interval intensity to raise your interval RPE back to 7-8.
  7. Maintain this pattern of increasing your activity effort through RPE assessment for three weeks. For the fourth week, return to steady-state cardio to give your body time to recover in order to maximize your performance development. See our article on rest and recovery to understand its benefits.

Woman adding weight to improve fitness performance.

To Improve Resistance Training Performance

  1. Decide the rep range you want to use for the exercise. Compound lifts will typically use fewer reps than isolation motions – but it’s dependent upon your routine.
  2. Determine your RPE and RIR. Here, you will not want to go to failure as part of this methodology, as it prevents you from pushing your muscles into states of growth. We recommend an RPE of 7 to 8, with an RIR of 2-3.
  3. For the exercise, recall your last amount lifted: weight, reps, and RPE (Note: This is why we recommend you always keep a log of your routines).
  4. Use this online RPE Calculator to work out your weight levels for your sets; this tool will show you how much you should lift, based upon your target RPE and set count.
  5. Adjust this as needed, to factor in your resistance training. That is, use the calculator as many times as needed, to dial in your RPE for each session. The weight and sets of one session may not be the same for the next – but this is the benefit of RPE training, it ensures you are targeting proper exertion levels, not blindly following numbers on the sides of weight plates.
  6. When you can reach the top of the rep range for your RPE goal, move up in weight.
  7. Perform this routine for three weeks, before moving to a de-load routine on the fourth. This will help give your body proper rest and recovery in order to benefit from the performance rate of perceived exertion.

Your performance can improve using this method by either increasing RPE levels over the course of your training program; or through intensity, where the increase is on the load lifted. Flow High Performance offers a great, and easy to follow breakdown video here.

-Train Hard!

Best Triceps Exercises to Develop Size and Strength

The best triceps exercises to trigger growth and development are old fashion staples – ones you’ve seen in the gym dozens of times. But in a sea of online workout fads, we wanted to get back to basics and call out five exercises to develop your triceps.

The triceps muscle is the triceps brachii and is located in the back of the arm between the elbow and the shoulder. It consists of three heads and makes up about 75 percent of the arm. For most, it responds well to resistance training, it with reasonable work, you can add shape and size to your arms through triceps training.

So let’s get to the exercises:

close grip bench press

1. Close Grip Bench Press

This will put the emphasis on your triceps, although your chest is still working on this. Proper form is to keep your elbows in, hands closer together on the bar, and focus on the extension and squeeze of your triceps.

Recommended tempo (starting with the lowering phase): 3010

triceps push down

2. Cable Tricep Pushdown (Extension)

This will put the emphasis on your triceps – the key is to keep elbows by your side and not jerk the cable when you start the motion. It should be smooth, up and down, all triceps. Focus on contraction when extended, and slow eccentric motion as you allow the cable to raise.

Recommended tempo (starting with the triceps contraction phase): 1130

triceps dips

3. Dips

Another triceps motion that also activates the chest, but also your shoulder (deltoid) muscles. Whether you use a regular dip bar as pictured or an assisted machine – be careful on this one, as lowering too far can strain your shoulder joint. Keep this one focused on your triceps, and squeeze with each raise.

Recommended tempo (starting with the lowering phase): 3010

 

overhead triceps press

4. Overhead Dumbbell/Barbell Extension

This really isolates your triceps and gives them a good full stretch during each repetition. Proper form is to keep your elbows in and forward; an e-z grip bar will work best for this if you want to use a bar versus a dumbbell. For a dumbbell, recommend using one, holding with both hands, as shown. You can also use a cable machine if you have the proper attachments. Focus on the contraction when you reach full extension.

Recommended tempo (starting with the raising phase): 1130

5. Diamond Push-Ups

diamond push-ups

This really isolates your triceps and gives you an option to keep working on your knees if you hit failure using a full plank pose. As with the other exercises, focus on the contraction when you reach full extension.

Recommended tempo (starting with the lowering phase): 3010

Triceps appear to benefit from weights between 30 to 85 percent 1RM range, which comes to a weight that will enable 5 to 30 reps on a first set taken to failure. Working all the triceps heads, by varying exercises will also add to growth and size. Vary between low to moderate weight with higher reps, vs heavier weight for fewer reps. Additionally, try to keep your triceps exercises to no more than three per session – more is unlikely to add substantial development, and risks delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Whether you combine triceps into your “push” routine, or an “arms” workout, is up to you.

– Train Hard!

Great Abs and Core Exercises

Your core – abs, lower back, and hips. A key zone for stability in functional fitness, and one you should incorporate into your regular training regime using great abs and core exercises.

So let’s get to it, and here are five key core exercises for your routine:

Plank

Plank exercise outdoors
Basic plank position

Simple, but it works. Variations keep the boredom away – side plank, reverse plank, knee tuck, etc. Hold for 30-60 seconds, and shoot for three intervals.

Bridge

Floor hip raise exercise lying on floor
Bridge, up position

Key is to focus on keeping your hips tucked under and lower abdominals engaged. Three sets, 10-15 reps.

V-Ups or V-Hold

V-Up motion, pausing at top
V-Up, top position

Static abs V Hold exercise
V-Hold

Perhaps not a beginner core moves, but ones you want to master. Already mastered them? Try holding a medicine ball or other weight with outstretched arms during the V-Up motion, or above your head during the V-Hold. Three sets, 8-12 reps.

Leg Raises

Leg raises at the gym
Leg raise, top position, with crunch

Hanging leg raise at park
Hanging leg raise

No gym, then keep you back on the floor. Normally you want your arms at your sides, but, place your hands under your lower back if you have issues. Too easy? Add a crunch motion. Have access to a hang bar, or captain’s chair? Use those for leg raises, and up the work. Three sets, 8-12 reps.

Superman (also known as Cobras)

Superman pose, arched position
Superman, arched position

Face down, arms in front – and arch your body up (like you’re flying). Add a twist, and bring your arms back as you arch – return them to forward as you lower your body to reset the motion. Three sets, 5 reps, hold for each up position. Be careful not to strain your lower back; listen to your body.

Keep these in your kit for great abs and core exercises, and add them to your routine. You will keep your core strong and tone – which is key to so many other areas of your fitness progress. If you are going to take on these exercises outside, be sure to maintain proper hydration as you crush your core workout!

-Train Hard!

 

Bigger Shoulders – 6 Exercises For Your Routine

Shoulders, for men or women, is a key part of the body to define your physique. They can show off strength and tone, and when sized right, create the taper that enhances the appearance of a slimmer waistline. Moreover, good shoulder muscle health and balance is key to good spine and neck posture.

All that said, they are also a muscle group many struggle to develop, despite being used in so many of our exercise motions and daily life.

Deltoid Muscles

Depositphotos_28192883_l-2015
Anterior (front) and Lateral (side) Deltoid Muscles.

Depositphotos_28192973_l-2015
Posterior (rear) Deltoid Muscle.

So whether seeking to enhance your physique, or develop muscles that assist in proper body mechanics, here are techniques to help get you bigger, fuller shoulders:

First, prioritize shoulders in your workout. If you want to focus on developing any particular body part, it needs to be a priority. Sometimes that can be done in the gym, and sometimes in the kitchen – often it is a mix of both. Bottom line, if you want to develop shoulders, you need to focus on them.

Try hitting shoulders twice a week, while limiting every other muscle group to one session, if you really want to blast their growth; this will force them to adapt and grow more than the other muscles. However, remember to strike a balance in your workout plan. Targeting shoulders, or any part is fine for a 5-10 week plan, but should not be the permanent design of your fitness routine.

Standing Barbell Press

Target Muscles: anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids

Set Up: Approach a racked bar, with weight already loaded. Unrack the bar and step back. The bar should be resting in your hands right around your collarbone.

Motion: Tighten your core, tilt your head back, drive the bar above your head with equal exertion on each side. Exhale at the top. In a controlled manner lower the bar back to your starting point. (If too heavy on the lift, or you reach failure, step back, allowing the weight to come in front of your body, and perform a controlled drop of the weight; do not stay with the weight as it goes down, just control it away from your body, and let it go. Do not try and save heavy weight in these types of moves – let them go – it is not worth the risk of injury)

Arnold Press

Target Muscles: anterior, lateral and posterior deltoids

Set Up: Hold a pair of dumbbell weights in front of your shoulders, palms facing your body – as if you had just finished a dumbbell curl.

Motion: In one fluid motion, press the dumbbells up and rotate the palms of your hand to face forward — keep lifting until your arms are extended straight above you. Exhale; pause and lower the weight back to the starting position.

Lateral Raise

Target Muscles: lateral deltoid

Set Up: Stand, or sit, with your core stable, arms extended down your sides, holding light to semi-moderate dumbbell weights. Palms face in, and elbows slightly bent.

Motion: Tighten your core, and raise your arms away from your body until your elbows are as high as your shoulders. Keep palms towards your body. Try not to squeeze during this motion – it can shift the focus onto your trapezius, which one, is not the focus of the exercise, and two, can risk neck strain if done incorrectly. Return your arms to the starting position.

Bent-Over Reverse Fly

Target Muscles: posterior deltoid

Set Up: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other, stand with your knees slightly bent. Bend at the hip joint, keeping your back flat, and core stable.

Motion: Lift both arms to the side with a slight bend in the elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Exhale. Control the weight back to the start position. This exercise does not require a lot of weight to be effective, if proper form is applied to full concentric peak motion, and slow controlled eccentric return to start position.

Upright Row

Target Muscles: anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids

Set Up: Stand upright, holding a barbell using an overhand grip (palms towards your), or dumbbells in the same position.

Motion: Keeping core upright, raise the bar or weights to your shoulders, leading with your elbows. This needs to be a smooth motion; do not jerk, or over-exert in this motion, as it will risk shoulder injury. Pause in this top position; concentrate on the muscle contraction, and then slowly lower the weight back to the start position.

Front Raise

Target Muscles: anterior deltoid

Set Up: Stand upright, with feet about shoulder-width apart. Your arms holding weights should hang down, across your thighs, with palms facing down.

Motion: Tighten your core, and keep your elbows slightly bent, raise your arms upward, keeping them in front of you. Finish the concentric motion when your arms are parallel to the floor/should hight. Exhale, and perform a controlled eccentric motion back to the start position. Be careful with moderate to heave weight on this exercise, due to the leverage stress the motion places on your shoulder. It does not take heavy weight for this exercise to be effective.

As with any weight training program, ensure you properly warm up the muscles and joints prior to the actual weighted portion of the training. This will assist in injury prevention. As always, pain and discomfort in a motion is an indictor your should stop the motion. Consult your physician if you have any specific concerns about exercise.

Lastly, remember the gym is only part of your training. Proper nutrition and rest are also needed to develop, maintain, and achieve your goals. You cannot out train negligence in those areas. “Killing it in the gym” should also mean “killing it in the kitchen” and “killing it in recovery.”

-Train Hard!

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