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Density Training Program

Do more reps on bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, push-ups, and dips with this weekly density training routine.

density training program for more push-ups, pull-ups or dips

Most people would love to be able to bang out more reps on bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and dips. 

These are classic movements, after all, popularized by our great soldiers in the military; impressive athletes like boxers, mixed martial artists, and gymnasts; and even the "Italian Stallion" himself, Rocky Balboa! 

These exercises aren't necessarily the best measures of pure strength. It's actually "strength-endurance" that they test, since the goal is to complete the most reps possible. That said, calisthenic exercises are great for building muscle, gaining functional strength that carries over into the real world, and even developing some grit. Best of all, bodyweight movements are convenient and can be done with little to no equipment, making them ideal for times when you're stuck at home or traveling with only a bare-bones hotel gym at your disposal. 

As basic as these exercises are, however, they're not easy. Many fit people are able to bang out at least 5-10 pull-ups, 10-20 dips, and 20-30 push-ups, but at some point you hit a ceiling that won't seem to budge. Once you're stuck at a number, it can get frustrating. 

So how do you break through a stubborn barrier to where you can do more consecutive reps of push-ups, pull-ups, dips, or other bodyweight moves? I have one proven method for this: density training.

Details On Density Training

Density training is a technique I like to use for bodyweight exercises, where you complete more reps of the exercise in less time over the course of a weeks-long (or months-long) program.

Let’s say you’re weak at push-ups and have a goal to work up to 20 consecutive reps. Here's how the density training protocol would look...

First of all, your rep goal in each workout will be to complete double the number of reps as your goal – so in this case, 40 push-ups per density training workout. Why 40 instead of your goal of 20? Because if your goal is to do 20 consecutive push-ups, you’ll want to overshoot that in your workouts to build the necessary muscular endurance. If your goal was 10 straight pull-ups, you'd do 20 pull-ups total per workout. If it was 30 dips, you'd do 60 total. And so on. 

And how will you do that, seeing is that you’re not even doing 20 reps consecutive? (Or 10 or 30 reps, depending on the specific goal.) By resting throughout the workout. Yes, it’s 40 push-ups, but not consecutive.

You’ll start in Phase 1, where you’ll break up the 40 total reps of push-ups into 10 sets of 4 reps. And there’s a time limit here: You have 10 minutes to complete the 10x4 set/rep scheme.

With the same number of sets as minutes allowed (10), it’s pretty easy to figure out how you’ll do this. At the start of each minute, do 4 push-ups, then rest the remainder of the minute (50 seconds or so) until the top of the next minute, when you’ll do the next 4 reps. CrossFitters would call this an EMOM, short for each “each minute on the minute.” This EMOM format will be present in all phases of the density training program, regardless of your rep goal.

Once you’re able to get all 40 reps done in 10 minutes or less (doing 4 reps at the top of each minute), you’ll move onto Phase 2. As the phases progress, you’ll do the same 40 total reps, but in less time; this means you’ll be doing fewer sets, more reps per set, but with shorter rest periods.

In Phase 2, for example, you’ll have 8 minutes to do 40 push-ups. You’ll...

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