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Program Overview  ⋅  Weeks 1-3  ⋅  Weeks 4-6  ⋅  Weeks 7-9

Strength training is chock-full of variables: Sets and reps. Volume and intensity. Weight lifted, rest taken, the frequency of training sessions — the list goes on. One variable that can get a little lost in it all is density, which describes the amount of work performed in a time frame.

Focusing on density when lifting weights — an approach known as Escalating Density Training (EDT) — can maximize workout efficiency and minimize fatigue without sacrificing powerful strength gains.

“You get more done in a shorter period of time,” explains Life Time master trainer Joe Meier, CSCS, PN2.

This is what EDT looks like in practice: Select an exercise, set a time limit, and complete as many good-form reps as you can within that allotted time. Note your total reps, and in your next training session — without increasing weight — try to do more reps in the same amount of time.

Density increases — and pretty soon, so does your strength.

Meier designed the following nine-week EDT program, composed of three weekly workouts of one hour or less, to help you get seriously strong without compromising recovery.

Ready to get started? Grab your timer and let’s go!

The 9-Week Program

The program is divided into three three-week blocks. For the first three weeks, you’ll do the same workout — Workout A — three times a week. For weeks four to six, you’ll perform a different workout — Workout B — three times a week. And for the final three-week block, you’ll complete Workout C three times a week.

You’ll do each workout a total of nine times; each time you repeat a workout, the goal is to perform more reps than the time before.

For each exercise in the program that requires a weight, choose one that allows you to do 10 reps — and no more — with great form. This weight is known as your 10-rep max, or 10RM, and varies significantly from person to person and exercise to exercise.

If you’re not sure what your 10RM is, spend time at the start of the first workout of every training block to test which weight is best. Remember: This is the weight that you’ll stick with for the full three-week block.

Begin each session with a five-minute warm-up. Then set your timer for the indicated length of time (10, 15, or 17 minutes). Once the clock is running, alternate between the two moves in a set of exercises in a circuit fashion, performing five repetitions of each move (or five reps per side, as indicated). Move with control and rest as needed.

When your timer goes off, rest only as long as it takes to set up for the next set of exercises. Make sure to note how many total reps of each exercise you completed. The sample chart provided with each workout can help you track your progress.

In each subsequent workout, try to perform more total reps with the same weight in the same time period.

Weeks 1-3: Workout A

  • Repeat the following workout three times a week for three weeks.
  • Perform the paired movements in a circuit style, doing five reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in the 10-minute time allotment.
  • Using the same weight from session to session, attempt more rounds — and hence more total reps.

Sample Chart

Exercise Weight Time Total Reps
1A: Dumbbell Bench Press 10 minutes
1B: Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
2A: Kettlebell Goblet Squat 10 minutes
2B: Hanging Leg Raise
3A: Barbell Sumo Deadlift 10 minutes
3B: Barbell Shoulder Press
4A: Pull-Up 10 minutes
4B: Cable Pallof Press

Weeks 1-3: Workout A

→ Perform 1A and 1B in a circuit style, doing five reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.
→ When your timer goes off for each pairing, rest only as long as it takes to set up for the next set of exercises. Make sure to note how many total reps of each exercise you completed.

Interested in doing this workout?

Access it now on the Life Time app.
Simply open the app, go to Explore, and find Workouts & Programs to enroll.

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We’ve also condensed the program into an easy-to-follow PDF. Download it now.

1A: Dumbbell Bench Press

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Lie on your back a flat bench, holding two dumbbells near the fronts of your shoulders.
  • Press the dumbbells toward the ceiling, squeezing your pectorals (chest muscles) at the top of the move.
  • Slowly return to the starting position. You’ll feel a stretch in your pecs at the bottom of the move.

1B: Dumbbell Bent-Over Row

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Stand holding two dumbbells by your sides.
  • Bend your knees slightly, and, keeping your back flat, fold forward at your hip joints until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your arms close to your sides and your torso still, simultaneously bend your elbows and draw your shoulder blades back, squeezing your back muscles at the top of the move.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells to arm’s length.

→ Perform 2A and 2B in a circuit style, doing 5 reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.

2A: Kettlebell Goblet Squat

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Hold a kettlebell “by the horns” (the sides of the handle) in front of you, with your elbows close to your sides and the kettlebell resting on your upper chest.
  • Keeping your chest up, your lower back in its natural arch, and the kettlebell against your chest, slowly descend into as full a squat as you can.
  • Pause for a moment, and stand to return to the starting position.

2B: Hanging Leg Raise

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Take an overhand grip on a chin-up bar high enough that your feet don’t touch the floor when your arms are fully extended.
  • Engage your core and raise your knees to your chest.
  • Hold for a moment, then lower to the starting position while maintaining a neutral spine and core engaged.

Make it easier: Raise your knees only to hip height.

Make it harder: Perform the move with straight legs.

→ Perform 3A and 3B in a circuit style, doing 5 reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.

3A: Barbell Sumo Deadlift

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Place a loaded straight bar on the floor and assume a wide stance behind it with your toes turned slightly out and the bar touching your lower shins.
  • Keeping your chest high and your lower back in a slight arch, bend your knees, fold forward at the hip joints, and take an overhand, shoulder width grip on the bar. This is your starting position.
  • Stand fully, lifting the bar from the floor.
  • Pause for a moment, then return to the starting position.

3B: Barbell Shoulder Press

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Stand upright, holding a barbell with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width, at shoulder height in front of you.
  • Smoothly press the barbell to arm’s length overhead.
  • Slowly reverse the move with control.

→ Perform 4A and 4B in a circuit style, doing 5 reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.

4A: Pull-Up

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Take an overhand, shoulder-width grip on a pull-up bar and hang from it with your arms straight.
  • Without swinging, pull yourself upwards until your chin clears the bar.

Make it easier: Loop a large resistance band around the bar and use it for assistance.

4B: Cable Pallof Press

Perform 5 reps per side.

Full Instructions
  • Anchor a resistance band (or a D handle if using a cable machine) at shoulder height and stand with your left shoulder pointed toward the anchor point and feet at least shoulder width apart.
  • Grasp the band with both hands at chest level and step far enough from the anchor point to create light tension on the band.
  • Brace your core then press the band straight away from your chest until your arms are fully extended. With control, return the band to your chest.

Perform the paired movements in a circuit style, doing five reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in the 10-minute time allotment.

Repeat Workout A three times a week for three weeks for a total of nine workouts.

Use the same weight from session to session, attempt more rounds — and hence more total reps. 

 

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Weeks 4-6: Workout B

  • Repeat the following workout three times a week for three weeks, for a total of nine times.
  • Perform the paired movements in a circuit style, doing five reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in the 15-minute time allotment.
  • Keeping the weights the same from session to session, attempt to complete more rounds — and hence more total reps.

Sample Chart

Exercise Weight Time Total Reps

1A: Dumbbell Incline-Bench Press

15 minutes

1B: Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

2A: Dumbbell Thruster

15 minutes

2B: Dumbbell Pullover

3A: Barbell Romanian Deadlift 

15 minutes
3B: Triceps Dip 

Weeks 4-6: Workout B

→ Perform 1A and 1B in a circuit style, doing five reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes.
→ When your timer goes off for each pairing, rest only as long as it takes to set up for the next set of exercises. Make sure to note how many total reps of each exercise you completed.

1A: Dumbbell Incline-Bench Press

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Lie on your back a bench elevated 30 to 45 degrees, holding two dumbbells near the fronts of your shoulders.
  • Press the dumbbells toward the ceiling, squeezing your pectorals (chest muscles) at the top of the move.
  • Slowly return to the starting position. You’ll feel a stretch in your pecs at the bottom of the move.

1B: Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

Perform 5 reps per side.

Full Instructions
  • Hold one dumbbell in your right hand and stand in front of a knee-high bench or box.
  • Bend your knees slightly, and, keeping your back flat, fold forward at your hip joints until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Brace your left hand on the bench/box. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your right arm close to your sides and your torso still, simultaneously bend your right elbow and draw that shoulder blade back, squeezing your back muscles at the top of the move.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell to arm’s length.

→ Perform 2A and 2B in a circuit style, doing 5 reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes.

2A: Dumbbell Thruster

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height.
  • Keeping your chest up and your lower back in its natural arch, squat down as far as you comfortably can.
  • Reverse the move, forcefully pressing the dumbbells overhead as you come up.
  • Lower the dumbbells to shoulder height with control.

(For additional variations on this move see, “How to Do the Thruster.“)

2B: Dumbbell Pullover

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Holding a single dumbbell, lie back on a bench with feet up.
  • Engage your core and flatten your low back into the bench. Hold one end of the dumbbell with two hands and straighten your arms up toward the ceiling.
  • Extend your arms back behind your head, lowering the weight as you keep your core engaged and maintain a flat back. Keep your arms straight but not locked.
  • Return the weight to the starting position.

→ Perform 3A and 3B in a circuit style, doing 5 reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes.

3A: Barbell Romanian Deadlift

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Stand tall grasping a loaded barbell in both hands.
  • Maintaining a flat back and a slight bend in the knees, hinge at the hips and allow the bar to trail down the front of your legs, keeping it as close to your body as possible.
  • When you reach the end of the range of motion — typically felt as a stretch in the hamstrings or a change in back position — reverse the movement and stand up.

3B: Triceps Dip

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Sit on the edge of a bench or curb. Plant your palms on the bench or curb so they sit just outside your hips. Your feet can be flat on the ground with your knees bent 90 degrees, or you can extend your legs out in front of you so your weight is on your heels. Then, scoot forward until your butt clears the surface and you’re supported by your arms and legs only.
  • Bend at the elbows to lower your hips toward the ground. Stop once your elbows reach 90 degrees or you can’t lower your hips any farther.
  • Push through your palms to return to start.

Perform the paired movements in a circuit style, doing five reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in the 15-minute time allotment.

Repeat Workout B three times a week for three weeks, for a total of nine times.

Keep the weights the same from session to session, and attempt to complete more rounds — and hence more total reps.

 

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Weeks 7-9: Workout C

  • Repeat the following workout three times a week for three weeks, for a total of nine times.
  • Perform each trio of movements in a circuit style, doing five reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in the 17-minute time allotment.
  • Keeping the weights the same from session to session, attempt to perform more rounds — and hence more total reps.

Sample Chart

Exercise Weight Time Total Reps
1A: Barbell Bench Press 17 minutes
1B: Side-Plank Hip Dip
1C: Dumbbell Reverse Fly
2A: Barbell Back Squat 17 minutes
2B: Chin-Up
2C: Arnold Press
3A: Barbell Sumo Deadlift 17 minutes
3B: Stability-Ball Body Saw
3C: Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension

Weeks 7-9: Workout C

→ Perform 1A, 1B, and 1C in a circuit style, doing five reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in 17 minutes.
→ When your timer goes off for each trio, rest only as long as it takes to set up for the next set of exercises. Make sure to note how many total reps of each exercise you completed.

1A: Barbell Bench Press

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • With either a full squat rack or bench-press-specific bench and rack, set the barbell at an appropriate height so you can unload the bar from the hooks while lying down on a flat bench.
  • While seated, set your feet, then lie back so your shoulders and head are on the bench. Allow your upper back to arch away from the bench as you squeeze your glutes and brace your abs to protect your lower back.
  • Grasp the bar and unrack it from the hooks. Lower the bar to your chest, directly across the nipple line or slightly below the sternum, with control.
  • After a brief pause, press the bar back up in a straight and stable path.

1B: Side-Plank Hip Dip

Perform 5 reps per side.

Full Instructions
  • Assume a side-plank position on your right side: right elbow stacked over right shoulder, right elbow and hand on the floor, right shoulder stacked over right elbow, feet flexed and stacked on top of one another, and your body straight, head to heels. This is your starting position.
  • Lower your right hip a few inches toward the floor.
  • Reverse the move with control.

1C: Dumbbell Reverse Fly

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Stand tall, holding a pair of light dumbbells.
  • Maintaining a flat back and a slight bend in the knees, hinge at the hips and allow the dumbbells to hang down towards the floor, palms facing one another and elbows slightly bent. This is your starting position.
  • Breathe out forcefully as you raise the dumbbells out to the side, keeping your palms down and strongly contracting your upper back and the backs of your shoulders.
  • Hold the contracted position for a moment, then reverse the move.

→ Perform 2A, 2B, and 2C in a circuit style, doing 5 reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in 17 minutes.

2A: Barbell Back Squat

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Place a loaded barbell in a squat rack, with the bar set just below shoulder height.
  • Take an overhand grip on the bar with your hands wider than shoulder width on either side.
  • Duck your head under the bar and situate yourself beneath it so that it rests on your upper trapezius — the meaty part of your upper back between your neck and shoulders.
  • Stand carefully, step back a few steps, and slowly descend into as full a squat as you can.
  • Pause for a moment and stand to return to the starting position.

2B: Chin-Up

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Take an underhand grip on a pull-up bar and hang from it with your arms straight.
  • Without swinging, pull yourself upward until your chin clears the bar.

Make it easier: Loop a large resistance band around the bar and use it for assistance.

2C: Arnold Press

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Standing upright, hold two dumbbells at shoulder height in front of you, with your palms facing you.
  • Smoothly press the dumbbells to arm’s length overhead. As you press, rotate the dumbbells so your palms face away from you at the top of the move.
  • Slowly reverse the move with control, rotating your palms to face you as you lower the weights.

→ Perform 3A, 3B, and 3C in a circuit style, doing 5 reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in 17 minutes.

3A: Barbell Sumo Deadlift

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Place a loaded straight bar on the floor and assume a wide stand behind it with your toes turned slightly out, and the bar touching your lower shins.
  • Keeping your chest high and your lower back in a slight arch, bend your knees, fold forward at the hip joints, and take an overhand, shoulder-width grip on the bar. This is your starting position.
  • Stand fully, lifting the bar from the floor.
  • Pause for a moment, then return to the starting position.

3B: Stability-Ball Body Saw

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Assume a plank position on a stability ball: elbows and forearms brace against the ball, legs extended straight behind you, body straight from your head to your heels.
  • Keeping your body straight, roll the ball forward as far as possible.
  • Pause in the extended position, then slowly return to the starting position.

3C: Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension

Perform 5 reps.

Full Instructions
  • Hold a dumbbell vertically with both hands straight overhead.
  • Keeping your biceps as close to your ears as possible, slowly bend your elbows, allowing the dumbbell to hang straight downwards, until you feel a deep stretch in the backs of your upper arms.
  • Pause in the stretched position, then slowly return to the starting position.

Perform each trio of movements in a circuit style, doing five reps of each to complete as many rounds as possible in the 17-minute time allotment.

Repeat Workout C three times a week for three weeks, for a total of nine times.

Keep the weights the same from session to session, and attempt to complete more rounds — and hence more total reps.

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Guided Experience

Access the 9-Week Escalating Density Program now on the Life Time app. Simply open the app, go to Explore, and find Workouts & Programs to enroll.

download on the app store
Photography: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Models: Becca Rigg, Lindsay Ogden, Nehemiah Owusu
Andrew
Andrew Heffernan

Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. These are great workout programs for people in their 20s, 30s or 40s. But people in their 60s or 70s can’t do most of these exercises. We still want to be strong and fit. Please create a program for the Boomers!

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