Pile on Muscle Faster than Ever


  • Density Training is a great way to build muscle in less time
  • Time-Restricted Density Training (TRDT)  is a way of cramming workouts into tighter workout schedules
  • By lifting weights with less rest, you’re relying on metabolic stress to signal faster muscle growth
  • Fit the workout to your schedule, and not the other way around

“Be sure to eat your veggies and get some sleep tonight! We’ll do this again next week,” I say with a grin and send my client off. I grab my gym bag and head for the locker room, excited for my workout.

“Oh, tell me about that movie you saw. Any good?” My client stops me on the way. Maybe I’m too chatty, but I indulge. “Yeah! It starred that one guy…”

While we’re chatting all I can think about are the precious seconds being stripped away from my workout. Seconds turn to minutes.

By the end of our discussion, my training time has shrunk from 60 minutes down to 45 minutes.  I really needed that extra 15 minutes. And now it’s gone.

But if I truly want to build a stronger and bigger body, I gotta make it work.

Not enough time…

We all complain that we don’t have enough time in the day. Between work, family, friends, and other obligations vying for our attention, it’s difficult to find time to squeeze in those workouts.

As our days become more and more crammed with stuff, how do we balance high-level training with less and less time? Can we still build incredible amounts of muscle in shorter, more dense workouts?

Yes. Let me show you:

Enter Time-Restricted Density Training (TRDT)

TRDT was born out of necessity: I’m forced to cram 60-minute workouts into smaller and smaller time frames every day due to competing demands.

TRDT is a form of Density Training, a training method designed to increase workout density, as measured by the total amount of work you complete in a certain amount of time.

There are several methods of Density Training to choose from (check out Charles Staley’s article on Escalating Density Training HERE, or my friend and fellow coach Travis Pollen‘s article HERE).

Today, though, I’m going to discuss Time-Restricted Density Training. This method forces a workout to fit a predetermined time frame, like 45-60 minutes, regardless of the demands of the workout.

Density Training is one of my favorite styles of training for one simple reason:

I don’t like to work out for more than 45-60 minutes. (Nor do I  have the luxury to.)

Frankly, I get anxious if my workout requires more than 60 minutes to complete, and that’s including changing clothes, warming up, lifting weights, cooling down, and changing again. This is because my schedule revolves around training other people, and often 45-60 minutes is all I have to get work done.

Although I’m a fitness professional, I am still human: I don’t always want to lift, and sometimes even dread working out.

So if I can get it done faster, you bet I’m taking that challenge. 

Maybe you find yourself too busy for regular workouts. Maybe the thought of an hour or more workout is the very thing keeping you from being consistent.

Workouts don’t need to take more than an hour. Hell, you can get super jacked and sexy in half that time.

Instead of the workout controlling your time, you’re in command. With TRDT,

  • Your workouts will take far less time
  • You’ll build more muscle faster than ever
  • You’ll burn more calories and shed fat faster
  • You’ll be challenged beyond your imagination

There are two ways you can set up your training program to accomplish these goals:

  1. Same workload, done in less time
  2. More workload, done in the same time frame

Let’s say you’re training squats, and your workout calls for 5 sets of 5 squats. As you load up the bar and rest between sets,  it takes you about 15 minutes to complete this part of your workout.

Your workout density is 25 squats in 15 minutes.

If we’re going to increase training density, then we need to either

A) do more work in the same time frame, like 6 sets of 5 squats (30 total) in 15 minutes


B) keep our 5 sets of 5 squats, but this time we’d shave our total work time by a minute or two. For example 5 sets of 5 (25 squats), in 15 minutes in week 1, and then complete the same workout, with the same weights, in 14 minutes in week 2.

In either case, we’ve increased our workout density, and we’re still on track to get in and out of the gym on time.

Putting TRDT practice: 60 minutes or less to Super Sexy

The workout you printed at home looks great. It has titles like “Leg Day” and “Back Day” and “Holy-shit-you’re-gonna-hurt-after-this Day.”

But if the workout is asking for more of your of time than you can commit, do you think it will benefit you? Can you, or will you, get results from a program you can’t complete?


However, if you employ TRDT in your workouts, you may be able to complete that laundry list of exercises, get a great pump, and build an incredible amount of muscle in half the time (give or take).

Fit the workout to your schedule and lifestyle. Don’t bend and break your lifestyle to fit the workout.

How to do it: Same Work/Less Time

I like strict timers: I’ll pick two or three exercises and put strict rest intervals on each exercise.

For example:

A1) Barbell Bench Press 4×4

A2) DB 1-arm Row 4×6

Superset, with 30s between exercises and 2 minutes between bench press sets

This keeps me on task:  every two minutes I’m benching again. This helps me track the clock, keep a tab on my total workout time, and get through my workout faster so I can get back to helping other badass people build badass bodies. Additionally, by supersetting two opposing movements, I’m able to get two exercises done in the same time frame.

Using TRDT, here’s how I would manipulate the timer to do the same amount of work in less time:

  • Week 1: 2 minutes rest between sets
  • Week 2: 1:30 rest
  • Week 3: 1:00 rest
  • Week 4: 30-45s rest

Here’s another example:

B1) Seated Shoulder Press 3×8

B2) Seated Shoulder Lateral Raise 3×15

B3) Chin-ups 3×8+

  • Week 1: 60s between all exercises
  • Week 2: 45s between exercises
  • Week 3: 30s between
  • Week 4: 15s between

By shortening the rest periods you’re able to complete the same workout in less time. In week one this workout may take you 60 minutes. By week four, you’ve shaved enough time to buy back 10-15 minutes.

TRDT leaves NO TIME to fart around on social media or take #gymselfies. We’re here to do work! Let’s go!

More Work/Same Time

There are two ways I’d like to discuss this one:

First, let’s cap our workout at 60 minutes max.

One way of making progress is to do more total work, either by increasing weight, reps, sets, or some combination.

Let’s say in week 1 your workout calls for 3 sets of 10 reps on all exercises. To continue making progress, in week 2 you choose to do 4 sets of 10 reps. In week 3, 5 sets of 10 reps.

That’s a 60% increase in total volume from week 1 to week 3, and we have to stick to our 60-minute timeframe.

The only way to complete the workout is to increase density, in this case by shortening your rest periods between sets. For example:

  • Week 1: 3×10 with 2 minutes rest between sets
  • Week 2: 4×10 with 1:30 between sets
  • Week 3: 5×10 with 60s between sets

And so on.

By shortening your rest intervals, you stick to your 60-minute workout time frame while increasing your density and workout volume.

Density Circuits

Another form of Density Training is Density Circuits, which I love for a fat loss phase. You set a timer for 10-15 minutes and you complete as many rounds as possible in that timeframe. I’ve written about Density Circuits before, but here’s an example:

Set a timer for 10 minutes, and complete as many rounds as possible of the following:

  • 10 Push-ups
  • 10 BW Squats
  • 5 Reverse Lunges per side
  • 5 Chin-ups

Your objective is twofold: keep moving throughout the 10-minute time frame, and beat your previous best number of rounds, like 4 total rounds instead of 3 rounds from last week (thereby increasing your workout density).

Another example: set a timer for 8 minutes and complete as many rounds

  • 10 inverted rows
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 Kettlebell swings

In order to complete more work in the same time, your objective is to complete more rounds of this workout in the same time limit.

How this helps you build more muscle

By virtue of using TRDT, you’re shortening your rest periods and limiting your recovery. You’ll find that by training this way, you’ll not only get a great pump, but your muscles are also going to burn like hell.

This burning sensation, or metabolic stress, is one of three mechanisms needed to trigger muscle growth. The metabolic byproducts of training this way signal protein synthesis, which in turn helps to build more mass.

Amazing, right?

Density Training Pro Tips:

Pick opposing muscle groups, or non-competing exercises, when organizing your program:

  • Squats + Pull-ups (a spinal compression and decompression combo)
  • Deadlifts + Bench Press (a pull and a push)
  • Row + Push-ups (a pull and a push)
  • Deadlift + Ab Wheel + Shoulder Press (a hinge, an ab, and a shoulder exercise)
  • Push-ups and Farmer’s walks (non-grip and a grip exercise)

With Density Circuits, choose “safer” alternatives to your favorite exercises, as fatigue will disrupt your technique, and may lead to injury:

  • Push-ups instead of bench press
  • Trap bar deadlift instead of barbell deadlift (or even a dumbbell version)
  • Jump rope instead of Olympic Lifts
  • Goblet Squats instead of barbell squats

You get the picture…

Lastly, when performing TRDT in your workouts, there will be a careful balance of “how heavy” and “how much” you can do.

For example, a “heavy” set of 4 squats will take your body longer than 2 minutes to recover. This is what makes TRDT a less-optimal option for improving limit strength, or the max amount of weight you can move.

Go too heavy without full recovery, and your performance will suffer, your body will hate you, and your injury risk increases.

The objective with TRDT is to stay on target with your time. So choose a weight that challenges you, but allows you enough recovery to hit the exercise again and stay within your time constraints.

Keep this in mind as you choose your weights (hint: go lighter than you think).

Closing Thoughts

We’re all busy and often don’t have the time we’d like to train the way we want. But truthfully, there are plenty of people who could use a real kick in the ass, which TRDT can deliver.

Too many gym-goers get caught up checking their social media feed or chatting with their neighbor to get real work done.

This is a shame, because if they used TRDT to their advantage, they would reach their muscle building and fat loss goals faster than ever.

Put in the headphones, choose your exercises, choose your loads, set your timer and get to work.

You’ll build more muscle and burn more calories in far less time. Making you one hella strong, muscular, and sexy beast!

Further reading on density training by guys much smarter than me:

Roger Law

John Romaniello

Charles Staley

Travis Pollen

Andy Van Grinsven

About Andy Van Grinsven

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