Escalating Density Training

From Mike Mahler, a strength coach and certified kettlebell instructor based in Southern California:

How Does EDT Work?

Here is how EDT works. Take two antagonistic muscles for each workout such as the quads and hamstrings. For example, let’s use squats and stiff-legged deadlifts to illustrate. Go back and forth between squats and stiff-legged deadlifts for as many sets as you can in a designated time period such as 20 minutes. Charles refers to this 20-minute period as a “PR Zone.” Choose a training load you can complete 10 times with solid form and do multiple sets of three to five for as many sets as possible in each “PR Zone.”

While training to failure should be avoided, feel free to take your final sets to the limit in order to achieve as many reps as possible. Just do not compromise form to do so. Keep the rest breaks short in between each set and only rest as long as you need. I recommend that you use a stopwatch to stay on track. Make sure to take advantage of a training journal and record the number of total reps you complete for each exercise after each “PR Zone.”

For example, if you completed 40 total reps on squats with 315 pounds, your goal at the next squat workout is to achieve a minimum of 41 reps. As long as you are doing more reps at each workout, you will make progress and increase strength and size. Here is an example of an EDT program that I tried with kettlebells:

Note: Choose a training load you can complete 10 times with solid form and do multiple sets of 3-to-5 for as many sets as possible in each “PR Zone.”

Day 1: Upper Body

PR Zone 1 (20 Minutes)

PR Zone 2 (15 Minutes)

Day 2: Lower Body

PR Zone 1 (20 Minutes)

PR Zone 2 (15 Minutes)

I took a day off in between each workout. For example, I would do workout 1 on Monday, take Tuesday off, and then do workout 2 on Wednesday. Then I would repeat workout 1 on Friday. Prior to doing EDT, my personal best on kettlebell military presses with two 72-pound kettlebells was six reps. After only two weeks of EDT, I nailed nine reps with perfect form. On front squats, my previous best was ten reps with two 72-pound kettlebells.

After two weeks on EDT, I nailed 15 reps and felt like I could have done much more. In addition, here is what one of my clients had to say about the EDT program that I designed for him after only one week: “I just had to write and tell you that the program is kicking ass for me. I tried to get a 2-arm military press with the 72’s two weeks ago and could barely get one rep. Today I got 12 sets of triples and probably could have gotten four or five for the first few, which I’ll try next week.”

In addition to being an effective program, EDT is also enjoyable and it is probably a lot different than any program you have tried. Give it a shot for four weeks and let me know what happens. Also, if you find that two “PR Zones” is too much volume for you, just try one “PR Zone” or take some extra days off between workouts.

For more information on Charles Staley and EDT, check out his articles right here on, click here!

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