Getting to the gym is challenge enough. Getting to the gym and doing enough work to get the results that you want? Now that is a feat that only a few have mastered. In today's world it is increasingly harder to find the time to take care of yourself, build your body, and improve your mind. But it can be done if you are given the right tools. With the right hammer even the biggest walls can be knocked down.
Whether you can get to the gym everyday for a half hour, or you can only get to the gym a few times a week for an hour – this is the article for you. These are the two methods that I've used for the last decade to help drive better results for my training clients. These are the secrets that you should steal from me to change your body and upgrade your fitness.
Some of my clients travel to and from Europe every week, while another travels around the world spreading the message that nature is worth preserving and investing in. One of my clients works about eighty hours a week as a lawyer for one of the biggest firms in D.C.
They need to get in, get out, and get results. I want to be the Motel Six for their results.
And I have been. I've seen my clients put on more muscle, burn more fat, and improve their coordination and strength under my watch by employing the following to methods in my training programs. I've skipped the noise and focused on what would get the job done!
I'm tired of people missing their goals and so I wanted to open up my playbook and let you see what I've been doing. So, without further lede - let's dive in.
Density Strength Circuits
Density is just another variable in a successful trainee’s toolbox. It adds the consideration of time into the measurements we use to judge the impact of a training session. In the most shorthand terms, it is the volume of work performed divided by the time it took to perform said work. I wrote about them specifically here.
As an equation it would read D = V/T
A person performing a standard 5 x 5 program for deadlifts has loaded 400 pounds on the bar. Each set they move 2000 pounds (400 x 5), thus making their exercise total 10,000 pounds (2000 x 5). Let’s assume that it took them 20 minutes to perform this work.
Their density would be 10,000 pounds divided by twenty minutes, or 500 pounds per minute.
This measure allows us to explore our work capacity by including our cardiovascular output and recovery capabilities into the mix. A person who is capable of training at a greater density can do more work, which means that they possess a better trained cardiovascular system and have improved their metabolic pathway’s ability to meet the demands of exercise.
Using our last example, an improvement in density could be represented by doing more repetitions, more sets, or increasing the load without decreasing the time. Or we can simply aim to perform the same amount of volume in less time – the backbone of many CrossFit workouts.
Density strength circuits are not to be confused with the workouts that are prescribed in the various CrossFit boxes around the world.
Instead, we want to improve the amount of volume you can perform in the same amount of time by increasing the load, the repetitions, the sets, or all the above. Most importantly though, we aim to improve these variables while performing the exercises we select to the best of our abilities. We never sacrifice quality or form in favor of output.
Another way that D.S.C. workouts are different than traditional CrossFit prescriptions is that the circuits are designed to feed back into themselves by gradually decreasing the intensity of the accessory movements to begin accommodating the recovery for the primary exercises.
Instead of trashing the trainee from the beginning of the circuit until the end only to have them need to go hands-on-knees for sixty seconds, density strength circuits aim to keep people moving for the entire time they are in the gym.
The structure of a Density Strength Circuit is as follows:
Primary Lower Body Exercise (Heavy)
Primary Upper Body Exercise (Heavy)
Secondary Exercise 1 (Light)
Secondary Exercise 2 (Light)
This format allows for you to knock out a lot of birds with just a few stones. You'll want to train your primary movements heavy, your secondary movements light, and emphasize core stability. The corrective exercise should be low to no intensity and be specific to the greatest challenge your primary exercises bring to the workout, or a need that you uniquely possess.
Quick Rules -
Choose loads that remain constant throughout the workout. Heavy enough to challenge you, but light enough to not require you to take plates off.
Account for fatigue by subtracted 5-10% from your typical rep-load. (i.e. a person who can deadlift 405 for 5 would load up 385 instead).
Choose a time frame that works for you. Thirty minutes is a great place to start, but this can be adjusted to fit your needs or if you’d like to do multiple density strength circuits in the same workout.
Forget about “sets”. We are doing the best repetitions we can for each exercise until we run out of time. Count your rounds at the end for tracking purposes.
A sample circuit:
Sumo Stance Barbell Deadlift 315 x 5
Standing Dumbbell Overhead NG Press 45 x 8
Band Pull Apart (color x 20)
Foot-Elevated Glute Bridges x 20
Barbell Rollouts 315 x 10
World’s Greatest Hip Opener x 5
Barbell Bench Press 225 x 6
Bulgarian Split Squats (DB) 60 x 8
Supinated Lat Pulldowns 110 x 10
DB Romanian Deadlifts 60 x 12
Banded Deadbugs x 20
Wall Angels x 10
As you go forward, you’ll look to improve your load prescriptions, improve how many rounds you fit into the same block, or include more challenging exercises. In doing this format you’ll see improvements in every aspect of your fitness. Most notably you’ll torch calories, build muscle, and increase your capability to perform work.
The 5 Set Pyramid Circuits
Many lifters are familiar with the idea of setting up their repetitions in a pyramid during a workout to ensure that they work each type of muscle fiber. A popular bodybuilding template, pyramids ensure that you apply stress to the powerful type II fibers as well as the fatigue-resistant type I fibers.
This can be a very effective method for building muscle. Yet, most busy people don’t have the time to do traditional bodybuilding work anymore. More importantly, a lot of people need to improve their cardiovascular fitness, decrease their fat composition, and increase their total fitness level.
This is where the 5 Set Pyramid Circuit comes to play:
Set 1 – x 10
Set 2 – x 5
Set 3 – x 3
Set 4 – x 8
Set 5 – x 15
To perform, you’d write out another full body program such as the two examples in the density strength circuits. Now, instead of accounting for time by keeping your load constant – you’ll adjust load each set to ensure that you land right on your target, thus providing a specific stimulus to your muscles each round. Each set you perform should end in relative muscle failure at the repetitions that you are targeting, so choose the appropriate weight.
Choose 5 to 8 exercises and perform them in circuit fashion
Choose loads that allow you to land no more than +1 or -1 of your target repetitions.
Aim to improve the load you work with in these sets over time.
Our final circuit is the simplest. You’d design a workout much like the one in the density strength circuit and perform the exercises from first to last prior to taking a rest period. Then, instead of resetting at the beginning you’ll go back through the set backwards, thus flipping which exercises are performed against fatigue. You’ll exercise in the same way that you’d draft your fantasy football team.
Flipping the script like this makes the first exercise the hardest and the last exercise the easiest since you've done them in reverse order. This sort of design keeps you engaged in your workout and drives up your metabolic rate as your body works to navigate the stress you've placed upon it.
The exercises you choose with snake sets should be ones you can perform well. – don’t “learn” a new movement while fatigued.
Choose no more than 5 exercises per circuit and take sixty seconds between sets – you want to train each one at least three to four rounds.
Keep your loads modest, but challenging. You don't want to try and set new PR's while fatigued.
You can choose to measure these sets against time, like you do in density strength circuits. Or you can choose your sets, reps, and load and simply perform the snake in each direction until you’ve met your expectations. That choice is yours.
A sample snake circuit would be as follows:
Trap Bar Deadlift 315 x 10
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 55 x 12
Reverse DB Lunge 40 x 10
Prone Incline DB Row 55 x 12
Prone Incline T and Y 10 x 8.8
REST AND REVERSE
Keeping it Simple. Keeping it Effective.
Life requires you to focus on a whole lot of things at once. In fact, with social media, twenty-four hour news cycles, and a whole host of other distractions - it has only gotten harder to focus on what really matters. Your family and friends, your profession, and your health are paramount.
Don't stress yourself researching every type of workout known to humanity. Don't try this and try that and hope for better results. Take my secrets - the very ones that have helped some of my busiest clients achieve great things - and implement them today.
Stop letting your fitness plans stress you out and start living your life. Enjoy the freedom that comes from getting more work done in less time. Think about that classic adage that gets passed down from generation to generation...
"Work smarter, not harder".
Don't know if they'll work for you without some guidance?
Then drop me an email here and we'll discuss EXACTLY what you need.
Be sure to check out Live your Life and Lose your Fat - a free e-book that has helped thousands simplify their weight loss programs.