The Muscle Building Power of High Volume Density Calisthenics Training

The spring and summer of 2022 were largely about fat loss for me. After I finished the cut, which involved reduced meal frequency and sticking mainly to real food (one large and one small meal per day separated by 3 to 4 hours), I changed direction. To be honest, I finished the cut because it finished me. I lost 20 lb. in about 10 weeks. That weight came off quickly and steadily. Until it didn’t. At the 10 week point there was a, well, weak point. The weight loss stopped and I felt chronically tired, drained, cold even. I knew at this point that I needed to make a change, and I decided to go with High Energy Flux. That is likely not an official term but it should be. That is, high energy input, high energy output. Eat more, move more. I moved back to regular eating. Or rather, I ate when hungry. Knowing I naturally favor real food over fake and not being too full, I wasn’t worried. For training I switched from my usual three hard sets of push, pull and squats daily to a high volume density training approach.

Density Training

I knew I needed a lot more movement to address all the new calories, and I knew an HIT approach is good for fat burning. But I don’t like burpees, mountain climbers, or jumping rope. I like calisthenics. So I thought density training would be a good way to combine the two. Density Training, or Escalating Density Training, is a concept developed by Charles Staley and described in his book Muscle Logic. I had the pleasure of interviewing Charles on the subject via email a while back. The idea of density training is to build muscle by doing more work in the same amount of time, or by doing the same amount of work in less time. Traditional set and rep schemes go out the window. With density training, the trainee generally chooses two opposing exercises (such as push-ups and rows) and alternates sets of each within a given amount of time (such as 12 minutes), completing as many reps of each in that amount of time. Progress is made when it either takes less time to complete the same number of reps, or more reps are completed in the same amount of time.

Calisthenics Density Training In Action

I consume quite a bit of calisthenics content, and I’ll be honest with you: the athletes working out in the parks in New York City have the best physiques. There, very high volume workouts are the norm, and there I learned the technique of EMOM. Every-Minute-On-the-Minute. 25 dips EMOM, 20 push-ups and 20 squats EMOM. And the most iconic routine is the 5MD or the five minute drill. 100 push-ups and 50 pull-ups in five minutes. (No, I can’t do this.) These are examples of density training in action. Some of the best channels are here, here, here, here, and here’s the 5MD. And how about THIS? And I am relentlessly dazzled by this athlete. And here’s my own humble contribution.

You Can Be Creative

If you keep the volume high and try to keep consistent with your times and rep counts (and feel) you can be creative. No two workouts need be the same unless you are a stickler for measuring progress. Here are a few pages from my shambolic workout journal.

I Gained 2.6 lb. of Muscle Mass in Four Months Using Density Training

In August after my cut, I had an InBody scan at my doctor’s office. I did density training from August to November. I had another InBody scan on 11/17/22 and had increased skeletal muscle mass from 81.4 lb. to 84 lb. Unfortunately my weight and body-fat percentage also increased, so for the current cut I am making a point to keep protein high and calories lower.

An increase of 2.6 lb. of skeletal muscle mass in four months is a strong indicator that density training is a powerful tool for building strength and muscle.

Published by FormIsEverything

Primal health and fitness coach

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