The other day, I found myself short on time for a training session.
I got on campus at around 7:45 a.m. and had to teach at 9 a.m.
Given the time needed to get to the gym, get changed, work out, shower, and make my way to my classroom, I had maybe 40 minutes to spend on actual training. Heavy lifting necessitates long rest periods, so that was out. I didn’t want to spend half of my 40 minutes resting.
I settled on moderate weight with short rest periods as being the best choice for the day.
In a past post, I described the mechanical drop set. This is a brutal technique that allows you to maximize your volume by changing the angles you utilize for a given exercise. Instead of using less weight, you simply change the biomechanics of the movement with each drop set to make it easier. Done right, this allows you to pack serious amounts of volume in a small window of time, making it an effective way to pack on muscle.
A mechanical drop set might look like this: Move right from a Close-Grip Bench Press to a Wide-Grip Bench Press, or from a Dumbbell Press to a Decline Dumbbell Press.
How can we take advantage of this type of drop set to develop a high training volume protocol?
The High-Density Drop Set
Training density refers to training volume completed over time.
For example, a training session with 20,000 pounds of volume (which is calculated as a total number of reps x weight used for those reps) has a greater volume than a training session with 10,000 pounds.
However, a training session where 10,000 pounds of volume is completed in 30 minutes has a greater training density than one that took 60 minutes with the same volume.
Selecting moderate weights ( 60-75% of 1 rep max), short rest periods (30-45 seconds), and moderate rep ranges (6-10) is an effective way to achieve high training density.
For the high-density drop set, we will need to pick an exercise, and then select 2-4 “mechanical drops” of the exercise.
For example, I may start with an Incline Press, then move to a Flat Press, then move to a Decline Press.
We will stick with 30-45 seconds rest between sets and do 8 repetitions. After the third or fourth set, do a mechanical drop on the exercise.
For pulls, your mechanical drop set may look something like this:
With this routine, allowing for approximately 30 seconds per set, you can achieve 12 sets in a little over 12 minutes. Pair this with any subsequent routine and you can do 24 total sets in under 30 minutes. Obviously, the exact numbers you’re capable of will depend on your specific strength levels and the exercises you’ve selected, but if you scale it appropriately, high training density should be achievable.
An Overhead Press variation may look like this:
- Standing Overhead Press
- Seated Overhead Press
- Slight Incline Overhead Press
- Incline Press
As long as the angles are changing to make the exercise biomechanically easier with each drop set, you are following the guidelines for this routine.
This tactic allows you to get in a fantastic workout in minimal time.
Rather than taking a day off because you perceive 20 or 30 minutes as “not being enough time” to train, take full advantage of that opportunity using this routine.
Try pairing an upper-body routine (the high-density Pull drop set outlined above) with a lower-body routine (the high-density Squat drop set outlined above), as this can train nearly the entirety of your musculature in around 30 minutes. Be sure to keep the rest periods short and the weight on the lighter side!
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