EDT or Escalating Density Training What is it?



Do you find yourself wandering a bit too much when at the gym? Maybe you hit the bench press, get a drink of water, say hey to someone and then head over to the chest fly machine. 

A gym is a great place for working out, but there are pitfalls with using the gym as well.

Distractions are one of the top problems.

However, if you confine yourself to timed sets, where you need to work certain muscles for certain lengths of time, you’ll be more inclined to focus on hitting the weights hard and fast. While not necessarily designed to cut out distractions, Escalating Density Training, or EDT, is one form of working out designed to boost strength while maximizing your time.

If you’re interested in switching up your workout routine or simply want to know more about EDT, we’ve got all the answers for your questions.

Charles Staley

The man behind EDT is not who you might picture. 

When you hear of a new training method for building muscle and improving size and strength, you probably picture a large individual with muscles upon muscles, bulging out of every corner of the body. Charles Staley is very far from it. If you were to bump into him on the street you wouldn’t think anything of it. He’s the classic example of the kid who struggles in sports and fitness programs throughout high school and instead looks more like the coach of a high school soccer program than anything else.

However, with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in physical fitness, he has revolutionized different ways in working out.

This includes Escalating Density Training.

Don’t take his more slender appearance as a sign the workout method doesn’t work. It does. In fact, most professional trainers with experience in EDT will say it is one of the most beneficial methods for building muscle as it forces muscles to work harder than the previous workout session, which in turn spurs muscle fatigue faster, eventually leading to muscle growth.

What is EDT?

What is probably the biggest excuse you’ve ever heard regarding why people don’t workout?

Outside of “I don’t want to,” it probably is “I don’t have the time.” Sure, finding time to fit in certain workouts can be difficult.

You can customize an EDT workout to last long periods of time, just like any other workout.

However, the basis of EDT and the example workout created by Charles Staley are short and to the point.

With this in mind, nobody can use the excuse of not having enough time to workout.

So how exactly do you improve strength and size?

Ask anyone at the gym, any bodybuilder or even any professional athlete and they’d likely give you a long, drawn out answer. Realistically though, it all boils down to you doing more work this time than you did last time.

Instead of looking at your reps or intervals or how long your muscles are placed under tension, it all comes down to did you put in more work today than you did the last time you worked out? 

If you answered no, you likely are not going to improve your strength and size. You’ll still burn calories, which is great, as you won’t always be able to put in more work (you may actually not have the time to do everything, but hey, putting in a partial workout is better than no workout when time is shorter than usual during the day). EDT is about forcing you to put in more work in the same amount of time as the last time you worked out.

Escalating Density Training’s title is rather straight forward and more or less explains what the workout is. You’ll escalate, or increase, the amount of work you put in during the same amount of time. So, for example, you have three 15 minute intervals.

One is for chest and back, the second is for your shoulders and the third is for your triceps and biceps (the original EDT workout is a bit different and we’ll get into that later).

During the first 15 minutes, you focus on standard pushups and pull ups. Two moves you can do at home, with little more than a pull-up bar. The first-day training, you’re able to do five sets of 40 reps and then, with your pull up bar, you do five sets of 15.

Take note of this.

Write it down so it can be easily identified. If you workout at home, tape a sheet of paper to the wall and write down your results. The next time you workout this area of the body, you need to do more reps.

Push your body to do more. So maybe you hit five sets of 42 reps of pushups and five sets of 16 pull ups. You just put in more work this time through than the last time though in the same 15 minutes. That is EDT. Increasing the amount of work you do during the same amount of time.

So maybe you hit five sets of 42 reps of pushups and five sets of 16 pull ups. You just put in more work this time through than the last time though in the same 15 minutes. That is EDT. Increasing the amount of work you do during the same amount of time.

Escalating Density Training

 Performing Your Reps and Sets With Escalating Density Training

You’ve probably heard many times to work your muscles to failure to see maximum results. After all, if you have anything left in the tank for that particular lift, you’re missing out on potential strength and size gains.

The same will be true with EDT, but you don’t want to shoot for failure early on. If you simply crank out 60 pushups in your first set and can’t do anymore, the rest of your sets will struggle and it will be hard to do anything else. Instead, it is better to shoot for fewer reps while you repeat your sets.

This way, the earlier on sets will feel easy, but as you progress through the designated amount of time, each set will become more and more difficult to do.

Realistically, 10 reps is a good, easy number to remember. It is easy enough to shoot for and allows you to put in more sets as you increase the density of your workout. Now, there are some trainers, when it comes to EDT, who instead of increasing the number of sets they perform in the amount of time, they will decrease the amount of time instead. Now, that does force you to train faster, similar to how you’ll need to pump out more reps in order to beat your previous number of sets from the last time you performed the routine.

There isn’t a wrong way to go about it, but there is only so much time you can kick out of a 15-minute routine. Instead, it usually is better to shoot for more sets and then, eventually, more weight.

When to Add Weight?

If you’ve trained your body in a similar manor for some time, you probably have two set goals. If you’re going for strength gains, you’ll want to shoot for heavier weight at one to four reps (with three or four sets, depending on the muscle group). If you’re going for size, you shoot for eight to 12 reps (again, of three or four sets, depending). Once you hit the 4 or 12 reps it is time to increase the weight. That’s easy enough to do.

However, when you’re trying to increase the number of sets you’re performing in a given amount of time, how do you know when to add more weight?

This is where keeping track and writing down what you do at the gym is important. Even if you’re at a gym and don’t have paper/pencil handy, take a note in your phone. When you’ve seen a 20 percent increase in your reps and sets, now is the time to increase your weight.

When you increase your weight you more or less “begin again” with the EDT. And you’ll continue to monitor your reps/sets and add more weight when you see another increase of 20 percent.

Combining Exercises

Each 15-minute “zone” you perform should consist of two different exercises.

With two exercises you can cycle through each, giving enough rest to the previous exercise while not letting it go cold. Adding more lifts to a zone prevents you from maximizing your effort. Additionally, you don’t want two lifts that work the exact same muscle in the same way (for example, don’t do a standard curl and then move to a preacher’s curl).

This reduces the amount of rest during the next exercise, which hampers your potential results. While you should still target the same basic area, focus on different lifts that affect the region in different ways to help maximize your effort.

An EDT Workout

As you would with most workouts, you’ll want to split your lifts into two different days.

Focus on upper body for the first day, move to lower body on the second, rest on the third, then repeat on the fourth and fifth days (but with slightly different moves). You can then repeat the circuit zones in subsequent weeks.

Of course, you don’t need to limit your entire weight lifting workout to just the two different zones performed during a day. Feel free to lift more and perform other workouts (or add other zones) to your days. These zones are designed to maximize your time and give you the best results possible. So, if you only have 30 minutes a day to workout, EDT is the way to go.

For the first day, your zone 1 should be a barbell bench press and a dumbbell chest row.

This works because with one move you’re pushing the weight away from you and the second you’re pulling the weight towards you. This way, you’re working your upper body in both a push and a pull movement. Set your timer for 15 minutes, then perform 10 reps of one, followed by the other, and repeat. Take note of your results.

The second zone will be an incline dumbbell press and a seated low cable row (again, one push and one pull exercise). If you add more lifts and more zones, try to combine a push and a pull movement. Perform 10 reps of each and continue to repeat until the time is up.

On the second day, perform a barbell glute bridge and a ball leg curl for the first zone.

If you want to lift heavy with the glute bridge, shoot for five reps instead of 10. You don’t have to aim for 10 reps on every exercise. That’s more or less a guideline. If you want to lift heavier weight, cut down the number of reps you perform before switching to the opposite exercise. The second zone should be a dumbbell squat and a back extension.

After a rest on Wednesday, your Thursday returns to the upper body.

Perform a barbell curl and a dumbbell overhead press. You’ll likely lift heavier for the dumbbell overhead/shoulder press, so reduce the number of reps per set.  The second zone will be hammer curls and triceps pushdowns.

The final day of your EDT workout is another leg and back day. The first zone should be a leg press and then a one arm dumbbell row. As you’re probably lifting big with the leg press, the one arm dumbbell row is an excellent pairing exercise as you’ll need to do each arm, one at a time, which gives your legs a bit more rest time.

The second zone should be a dumbbell reverse lunge and a dumbbell floor press.


EDT has a straight forward workout design, or you can alter it to fit your specific needs with varying lifts and moves. However you decide to implement EDT, you’ll find it to be a helpful means of improving your productivity at the gym while boosting your results.

So, if you’re tired of the same old workout routines and don’t like how much time you waste while at the gym, now might be a great time to start testing the waters of Escalating Density Training.

-Terry Asher

Follow Me

Terry Asher

Owner & Founder at Gym Junkies LLC
After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!
Follow Me



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here