Breaking The Strength Barrier

EDT Solutions For "Average" Lifters


Imagine if there were no barriers to strength attainment: we'd all be power cleaning 500, squatting 1000, and benching 600 in no time.

But all fantasies aside, strength barriers are very real and extremely frustrating. Since this article is about breaking barriers (specifically, strength barriers), we'd like to first define what barriers are. A barrier can be defined as "any condition that makes it difficult to make progress or to achieve an objective."

Training barriers can be as daunting as real barriers.

Because we've all experienced barriers on most if not all of the lifts we've performed, it would be helpful to have a good grasp of what causes barriers in the first place. Then, through Escalating Density Training (EDT) techniques, we will show how to smash through your current strength barriers.

But to begin, here's an important question to ask yourself: When you fail or stall on a given lift, what exactly is the constraint?

As we see it, these constraints to strength development can exist in three primary categories: structural, functional, and psychological.

For the sake of analysis, we'll look at each category individually, but it should be remembered that in any given situation, the strength barrier typically spans all three areas to one degree or another.

1. Structural Barriers: These include muscle mass (cross-sectional area), anthropometric relationships, bone, muscle, tendon and ligament biomechanical factors (stiffness, elasticity, sticking points, and strength).

Simply put, we're all stronger in certain lifts and weaker in others. This is why a particular powerlifter can have a great deadlift but a horrible bench press by comparison. It's important to realize that structural barriers are intimately related to functional (neural) barriers. Through a wide array of propioceptors (i.e. mechanoreceptors in ligaments, muscle spindles in muscle, and Golgi Tendon Organs in tendons), deficits in structure can alert the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of potential threats or danger during any lift or sporting maneuver.

With the exception of life-threatening instances, the response from your nervous system is usually some sort of reflex inhibition. In essence, your body puts the breaks on and shuts down your strength.

2. Functional Barriers: These are barriers dictated by your nervous system. They mostly involve inhibitory processes that decrease neural drive or activation of your muscle machinery – primarily to protect yourself from injury.

Some of these barriers are actually hard-wired into our nervous system in the form of reflexes that have developed over thousands of years of surviving and evolving on this planet.

As many experts have said in the past, our bodies are more concerned with survival than with building a perfect beach physique. Therefore, understanding how our bodies' function can give us insight into circumventing the protective and defensive responses that we'd occasionally like to diminish.

One of the great things about EDT is that whenever fatigue is effectively managed and avoided, the body has less reason to inhibit any given lift. Also, the training loads chosen are usually well within your current maximal capacity so there's no question whether or not you'll make the lift.

Conversely, it's more a question of how you're going to perform the lift (i.e. with focus and acceleration on the concentric stroke). This last point illustrates why many lifters can make better progress on crappy programs than other lifters on excellent programs. If you don't put the focus and effort into the program, it doesn't matter if Milo himself wrote the program, it ain't gonna work!

3. Psychological Barriers: Limitations in this category are potentially the most difficult to overcome. It's been said that whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. While this adage is not literally true, proper mindset is nevertheless crucially important for strength improvements.

When the weights get heavy enough in a given lift, it can get a little freaky under that bar. Any method that can improve your confidence in performing the lift can help with breaking these mental/emotional barriers. This is where Supramaximal methods such as supramaximal holds and heavy 1/4 reps can be very effective. When returning to regular loading parameters after supramixmal loading, the weight feels lighter and may therefore allow you to do more reps, weight, or both in a given exercise.

So let's explore those feelings for just a moment. The importance of how a given load feels should not be discounted because it tells you a lot about what's going on in your body and mind. In fact, we believe that all trainees should record their subjective perception of any given set in their training journal under the heading of RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion).

A scale of 1-10 works nicely here with 1 representing ultra-light or almost no loading, and a 10 signifying an all-out maximal effort. Shooting for loads that elicit a 6-8 RPE seems to correlate with better psychological management of the training session. RPE's in the 9-10 range should be reserved for all-out efforts done sparingly, maybe once or twice a month at most.

EDT training techniques work very well in the management of psychological barriers since the loads are almost always sub-maximal and typically elicit moderate RPE's. However, later in this article we will unveil how to incorporate supramaximal methods into an EDT program geared towards maximal strength development.

More on Barriers... A Lesson From Track and Field Sprinters

Arguably one of the most frustrating phenomenon that occurs in sprinters is the development of a speed barrier. In his informative text Science Of Sports Training, Thomas Kurz explains that the speed barrier occurs when the athlete performs numerous repetitions of the same speed exercise, which forms a dynamic stereotypein the central nervous system.

This basically means that the athlete adapts to the specific characteristics of the speed drill or event and locks in those parameters as the norm. Eventually, the speed barrier sets in and the athlete can no longer improve upon his or her times. In order to break this speed barrier, the athlete must slightly disrupt the stored characteristics of the barrier (i.e. space, time, and frequency characteristics).

In essence, the athlete must find a way to get the body to exceed the current maximum or forget that the barrier even exists by taking a short layoff (10-14 days) from the event while continuing to perform other general types of strength and conditioning exercises.

Methods by which an athlete can exceed his or her current maximum speed include running with a tailwind, running down a slight grade (approximately 3-5 °) or running with very light towing assistance to decrease the current best time by 0.2 or 0.3 seconds. Assisted techniques that provide greater forces than this will disrupt the spatial and temporal characteristics of the sprint, potentially teaching the athlete to "break" while on the ground.

Not only will this fail to break the speed barrier but it will actually slow the athlete down. Fortunately, improving strength (as a motor quality) is not as difficult as improving speed, but the message is still the same: too much training at the current maximum creates a pathway that eventually becomes a barrier to further improvement.

It's our contention (and this is one of the most salient points to take home from this article) that to effectively overcome strength barriers, very little work should be done at the current maximum. Remember, we're trying to avoid habituation and stagnation in those neural pathways. Just as speed barriers are best improved by suparamaximal or submaximal techniques, so to are strength barriers.

Are You Average?

Most of you reading the title of this article were probably a little turned off by the word "average." Let's face it, who wants to be average? We sure don't. In reality though, most of you reading this (including the authors) aren't elite lifters and thus might not respond to the programs of elite and champion strength athletes.

Since most trainees have multiple barriers from each of the three categories listed above, it makes sense to find a training process that systematically over time, raises the thresholds of those barriers so that new PR's can consistently be made.

Only the rare genetic anomaly that seemingly has little to no structural, functional, or psychological barriers can make continued progress on a hard and heavy all the time workout program that would overtrain and burn out any other mortal. Enter EDT maximum strength parameters

Most people who have used or are aware of EDT associate it with hypertrophy and body composition training, but are less aware of its applications for maximal strength development. However, EDT may have even greaterimplications for maximal strength training because it minimizes the arch nemesis of strength... .fatigue and fear of fatigue!

Additionally, EDT principles emphasize and ensure the ultimate allies to strength, psychological readiness, movement speed, and freshness. As discussed in Charles' past articles on EDT, concentric bar speed is what really determines the intramuscular tensions that the muscle fibers will be exposed to.



In order for training to be effective, however, these higher bar speeds must be attempted against relatively heavy resistances. We've all seen the newbs flinging around light weights in the gym; the problem is that more than half of the movement is spent trying to decelerate the bar so it doesn't fly out of their hands or excessively distract their joints.

Dumbell Punches = Stupid Exercise!

This type of training is sub-optimal and actually teaches your body to slow down, which results in less tension on the working muscle fibers. This is why intelligent powerlifters like Louie Simmons and Dave Tate of the infamous Westside Barbell Club use accommodating resistance (i.e. chains and bands) techniques when performing their dynamic effort work with relatively lighter work loads.

The bands and the chains add more resistance to the end-range of motion, allowing for maximal acceleration to occur over a greater portion of the lift. When working with heavier loads (>80-85% 1RM) however, you should really make a conscious effort to accelerate the load since it won't move that fast anyway. This is where EDT comes in very handy.

With EDT geared towards maximal strength, we're going to be using moderately heavy loads (80-85% of 1RM) for very low (1-2) repetitions and many sets (10-15). The rest periods are conspicuously short (45-60 seconds between sets) for various reasons:

1. Metabolic: Since you're not training to fatigue or muscle failure, you really aren't exhausting all your metabolic reserves and thus don't need the standard "3-minute" rest periods to fully restore your high-energy substrates.

2. Activation/Neural Potentiation: With the heavier loads used, each set will impart a stimulation that will further prepare you for further "disruptions" to your homeostasis. If you wait too long in between sets, however, you lose this potentiation. The real key is to find the sweet spot between fatigue and activation so that you're in an optimal mental and physiologic state for the next set.

3. Psychological: With only 45-60 seconds in between sets, you don't have time to psyche yourself out of performing well. There simply isn't enough time between sets to do anything other than prepare for the next set. This is also why we prefer prescribing singles instead of doubles for timid trainees because it doesn't give them a chance to "test the waters" so to speak.

It forces you to perform now and gives you only one chance (1 rep) per set. This develops a type of "preparedness" that a more conventional type of training does not give you. There is a sense of urgency in EDT training that makes you get things done by keeping you on target and focused. Isn't that what skill training is all about anyway? After all, resistance training is just another motor skill that abides by all the rules of motor learning.

4. Average Talent: When a guy like Dave Tate lifts a maximal weight, it's truly maximal... meaning, he's exerting an effort that corresponds with a high percentage of his true potential. So he needs fairly long rests to recover from these attempts. When YOU lift a maximal weight however, it's a different story. Although the weight feels maximal, it's likely not even close to your true potential. You need the activation more than you need the rest.

EDT Versus Conventional Max Strength Parameters

The primary benefit of using EDT for maximal strength development (as opposed to more conventional rep/set approaches) is the same reason why you should use EDT for hypertrophy. In both cases, fatigue is minimized while technique and bar speed (freshness) is maintained.

When bar speed is maintained, force output stays higher for longer durations. This is why EDT tends to induce a lot of soreness: there's simply more average force per rep on the trained muscle fibers. To explain more thoroughly, here is an excerpt from Charles' book, Muscle Logic, about reps and force production:

Force Measurement During 1 Set Of 10 Reps...

Imagine a hypothetical lifting "contest" between two lifters: one lifter (we'll call him Jeff) performs 3 sets of 10 with the heaviest weight he can manage (let's say its 135 pounds), and he completes all 3 sets in 10 minutes. The other lifter, Mark, does the exact opposite – he performs 10 sets of 3 reps, also with 135 pounds, and also completes his 3 sets within 10 minutes. Here's the question – who gets the better result?

In my seminars, most people will argue "Well, of course Jeff will get the best workout – after all, if you're only doing sets of 3 with a weight that you can lift 10 times, you're not working hard enough to get a good workout!" But let's examine the numbers: each lifter performed 30 repetitions with 135 pounds in 10 minutes. Another way to put it is that they both lifted 4050 pounds in 10 minutes. Put very simply, both lifters did exactly the same amount of work in the same amount of time.

You might now think that it's a trick question – Jeff and Mark obviously got the same benefit from their workouts, right?

Wrong: since Mark (the 10x3 lifter) organized his workload in a way that managed fatigue, he was able to apply more force on the bar for each repetition. And that's critically important.

Let's take a look at Jeff's set of 10 reps with 135 pounds for a moment. How much force (expressed in pounds) did he exert on the 10th rep? Well, clearly, it's at least 135 pounds, or he wouldn't have successfully completed the rep. And just as clearly it wasn't much more than 135 pounds, because if it was, he'd probably get an 11th rep, correct?

So, just for the sake of argument, let's say that Jeff created about 136 pounds of force on that 10th repetition.

Next question: How much force did he exert on the 9th rep? Well of course, clearly, Jeff wasn't quite as fatigued on rep 9 as he was on rep 10, so therefore he was able to produce a bit more force on the 9th rep – we'll say he produced 138 pounds of force. If we continue this pattern for the entire set, it'll look something like this:

Rep 1: 154 pounds of force
Rep 2: 152 pounds of force
Rep 3: 150 pounds of force
Rep 4: 148 pounds of force
Rep 5: 146 pounds of force
Rep 6: 144 pounds of force
Rep 7: 142 pounds of force
Rep 8: 140 pounds of force
Rep 9: 138 pounds of force
Rep 10: 136 pounds of force

Now, as you examine these numbers, don't get too hung up on whether or not they're exactly accurate – they're probably not. What is accurate however, is the pattern. Specifically, with each rep, force output decreases due to accumulating fatigue. And when force output goes down, so does the result of your workout.

Analyzing these numbers we can quickly see that the average force output for this set of 10 is 145 pounds per rep. If Jeff performs 3 sets of 10 over a 15-minute time period, here are his numbers:

Bar Weight: 135 pounds

Total Volume: 4050 pounds (135 multiplied by 30 reps)

Average Force Per Rep (Expressed In Pounds): 145

Now let's take a look at Mark's workout. We'll assume that he has exactly the same strength as Jeff. During each set of 3, his numbers will look the same as Jeff's first 3 reps:

Rep 1: 154 pounds of force

Rep 2: 152 pounds of force

Rep 3: 150 pounds of force

Here then, are the statistics for Mark's workout:

Bar Weight: 135 pounds

Total Volume: 4050 pounds (135 multiplied by 30 reps)

Average Force Per Rep (Expressed In Pounds): 152

As you can see, the numbers are identical, save one exception: Mark's average force is 152 pounds (compared to Jeff's 145). This higher average force per rep will make an important impact on the results Mark gets from his workouts – the higher forces will lead to greater muscular tensions, which will in turn lead to greater strength and hypertrophy (lean mass gain).

An additional benefit is that, since Mark will never lift to failure (or even close to it) he won't be as reliant on a spotter for safety. His workouts will also be psychologically less stressful, which means he'll recover faster than Jeff.

All in all, the benefits of this "contrarian" approach to lifting clearly outweigh the more conventional approach. True, many "fatigue seekers" just won't be able to see how less-painful workouts can be more effective, but if you can see the logic, that's all that matters.

Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of force production and concentric bar speed, here's a synopsis of the primarymethods used for attaining high levels of muscle tension.

How Do we Get Stronger?

We can basically get stronger by identifying and then elevating primary constraints in the three major categories of barriers discussed earlier:

1) Structural/Physiological:

2) Functional/Neurological

3) Psychological/Mental

More About Functional/Neurological Improvements

In order to increase any type of strength quality, the body undergoes some well-known neurological phenomenon that should be mentioned at this point. The two primary neural strategies by which we get stronger are improvements in intramuscular coordination and intermuscular coordination.

Intramuscular Coordination: the nervous system's control of fiber activation in a single muscle. This is further broken into rate coding, recruitment, andsynchronization.

Rate Coding: This is the control of the firing rates of the involved motor units within a muscle. By increasing the firing rates, strength can be improved.

Recruitment: This involves the activating or deactivating of motor units. Better intramuscular recruitment of fibers can help increase force output. Since untrained individuals have a hard time activating all of their muscle fibers, rapid strength increases are known to occur during the first few weeks and months of training. This is most likely due to the improved coordination of just learning how to recruit more fibers.

Synchronization: the activation of motor units by synchronizing or sequencing their activation. Usually, due to the "size principle", motor units are activated in a sequence in which slow-twitch (Type I, low-threshold) motor units are activated before the fast-twitch (Type II, high-threshold) motor units.

With explosive type of training however, it may be possible to change this sequence with high-threshold motor units being activated before low-threshold ones.

Intermuscular Coordination: Besides the improvements in intramuscular coordination as addressed above, the real gravy in getting stronger lies in the improved synchronized effort between multiple muscles acting over several joints. Improvements in the communication between agonists, antagonists, stabilizers and neutralizers all contribute to improved force output.

The end result (hopefully) of improving strength in a given lifts is decreased Inhibition. Inhibition is like a governor on a car that kicks in at a certain RPM or speed. It simply limits your maximal driving speed. Our nervous system has certain governors on our strength capacity as well (including speed, flexibility, and Ron Jeremy-like performances in a given night).

All bow to the Hedgehog!

Most people are vastly stronger than they think they are; they simply don't know how to push back those governors and tap into that unused strength. Caution must be taken however – many of these governors are in place to protect your joints, ligaments, and tendons. Since supramaximal techniques invoke far greater tensions than one would normally be exposed to there is a greater risk for injury. Gradual progression is the key.

OK, now that we've explored strength production from a neurological perspective, let's switch gears and have a look at the primary methods typically used for increasing strength:

Method #1- Submaximal Efforts: Lifting a submaximal load either to failure or not to failure. EDT for hypertrophy is a modified version of this method.

Method #2-Maximal Efforts: Lifting at or near your present maximum in a given lift.

Method #3- Supramaximal Efforts: Lifting, lowering or supporting a load greater than your 1RM. Supramaximal holds (heavy Supports), heavy 1/4 reps, heavy eccentrics, and even maximal plyometrics (i.e. "shock methods,"see below*) are all forms of supramaximal efforts.

A note on The "Shock" Method (aka the Plyometric Method): This method utilizes potential energy in the form of a falling object (the body or other implement), which imparts a fast eccentric muscle action on the muscle(s) involved. This fast eccentric action, also known as the "stretch-shortening-cycle," results in a higher force output during the subsequent concentric muscle action due to stored elastic energy from the involved tendons..

This method also activates various reflexes (i.e. the stretch reflex), which assist in a faster concentric muscle action. The goal with plyometrics is to spend as little time as necessary either on the ground (during depth jumping for example) or with the implement (i.e. medicine ball in hands). Think of the surface or implement as "red hot" and that you'll get burned if you spend too much time in contact with the surface.

Walking on a red hot surface doesn't seem to bother this guy, but you get the idea!

EDT Solutions For Strength Acquisition

The program we'll present to illustrate the principles discussed in this article will involve 3 distinct phases of training:

Phase I- Armor Plating Phase: This phase will last 1-2 weeks and will involve slow eccentric-only muscle actions of the major muscle groups of the body. Research has shown that a small "break-in" period with slow eccentrics can help prepare the body for further insults to its homeostasis. Since this program is highly demanding, this break-in period is a must. There will also be a series of easy introductory jumping exercises to prepare you for the more strenuous ones to come in the later phases.

Phase II- Separation Phase: In this 3-week cycle, EDT strength training parameters will be introduced over 4 sessions per week (2 lower body & 2 upper body). Each session will be dedicated to either submaximal or supramaximal methods and will also include some auxiliary EDT pairings for hypertrophy or trunk strength.

Phase III- Consolidation/Realization Phase: This phase is where peak performances are realized.

The Plan, Phase By Phase

Phase I: 1-2 weeks

Note: If you get sore from the eccentric workouts from week one, then do an additional week. If you don't get sore, then go ahead and begin Phase II on the second week.






Full-Body Eccentric

Light aerobic activity to taste

Full-Body Eccentric

Light aerobic activity to taste

Full-Body Eccentric

Exercise Menu: For each workout, pick one exercise from each category below: Use a different variation for each day.

Sets/Reps: 2-3 sets of 6-8 eccentrics. Aim for 5-7 seconds per eccentric rep. Minimize the concentric; see if you can do eccentric only repetitions.

Rest: 60-90 seconds. You don't need a lot of rest here because these loads are submaximal.

Loads: choose a load that you could probably get 12-15 reps if you did them conventionally. The loads are maybe around 50-60% of a given 1RM of any given lift.

**Don't get too fixated with the specific program variables here. The goal is just to put some accentuated eccentric stress through your muscles and tendons to prepare them for the more strenuous weeks to come.

Exercise Categories


Eccentric push-ups: Emphasize slow lowerings. Make the concentric phase as easy as possible (speed, partner assistance, etc.).

Machine Bench Press: Use a machine with a foot lever to raise the weight and then lower the weight eccentrically.

Dumbbell Push Press: Use maximum body English to lift the weight and then lower slowly

Eccentric Dumbbell Flys/Concentric Press: This is a hybrid movement where the dumbbells are lowered in a fly motion and then lifted using a pressing motion.

California Press: From a supine position on a bench, lift the weight in a standard pressing motion, and then lower it like a lying triceps extension.


Eccentric Chins/Pull-Ups: Start in a fully completed position and slowly lower from there.

Seated Low-Cable Row: Pull with two arms, eccentrically return with one.

Eccentric Bent-Over Rows: Take a loaded barbell from the rack (mid-abdomen position) with elbow fully flexed. Slowly bend into proper position and then lower barbell. Deadlift it back up and repeat.

Inverted Bar Pulls: Up with two, down with one.


Leg Extension: Raise with two legs, lower with one.

Single-Leg Squats To Bench (lower with one leg, squat up with both legs).

Dumbbell Box Squat: Release dumbbells before standing up again.


Leg Curl Machine: Raise the weight with two legs, lower with one.

Poor Man's Glute-Ham Raise: While kneeling on a soft surface with feet anchored, slowly lower your torso towards the ground with your hamstrings until you have to "free-fall." Catch yourself at the last moment with your hands in the push-up position. This is a very challenging yet effective exercise for the entire posterior chain.

Eccentric RDL's: Grab a loaded barbell from a power rack and slowly lower until you reach a set of pins at a pre-determined height for you. Raise the bar one end at a time to the start position and repeat.

Elbow Flexors:

Dumbbell Hammer Cheat Curls: Using your legs, clean the dumbbells in a hammer (neutral) grip to the fully flexed position (of the elbows) and then slowly lower towards your sides. Repeat.

Close-Grip Eccentric Chins: Besides toasting the lats, these provide great eccentric stress on the elbow flexors.

Elbow Extensors:

Eccentric Dips: Jump up a into fully extended position on a set of dip bars and then slowly lower yourself until your elbow are safely flexed for you. Put your feet down on the ground and then jump back up and repeat.

Close-Grip Eccentric Push-Ups: With hands close together, slowly lower yourself towards the floor from the fully extended push-up position. Allow your legs to hit the ground then come up to a kneeling position to prepare for the next rep. Repeat.


Eccentric Bar Rollouts: From a kneeling position (or standing, if you're well-trained and very strong in this movement) grasp the bar with a pronated grip and then slowly roll the bar away from your body while keeping your glutes and abs braced hard. Go as far you can safely manage and then allow your legs and torso to touch the ground. Kneel and set yourself back up in the starting position and repeat. Tip: For extra security & safety, you can position yourself such that the bar hits a wall or other fixed object at the end of each rep.

Eccentric Reverse Crunches: Start by sitting on the ground. Using a rocking motion, go forwards and then backwards to get the knees towards the chest. From this position, slowly lower your legs (bent at the knee the entire time) towards the ground. Repeat.

Force Absorption/Joint Strengthening:

Jumps in Place: As a submaximal form of plyos, repeated jumps can serve as a great form of preparation for more intense plyometric methods to come in the later phases. Using a slight flexion at the hip and the knee perform around 20-25 jumps in place. Do NOT focus on maximum height but rather a smooth and rhythmic coordination between the landing and taking off phase.

As you feel better with these you can slightly increase the height of each jump; but again, remember, these are supposed to be submaximal and fairly easy.

Medicine Ball Catch and Throw: Lying supine, throw a light medicine ball (6-15 lbs.) straight in the air. Catch the ball with a quick yielding movement and then project it back into the air. Repeat for 12-15 repetitions. This exercise will help prepare the upper body for the plyometric exercises to come in the later phases.

Phase II (3 Weeks)






Upper Body


Lower Body



Upper Body


Lower Body


Monday: Upper Body Sub-Maximal

PR Zone #1 (30 minutes) Directions: Perform 2 reps with A-1, rest 1 minute, then 2 reps with A-2, and repeat until the time period has elapsed, or until you miss. Goal: 14 doubles of each exercise in the allotted time.

A-1: Log Push-Press.

A-2: Pull-ups/Chins.

PR Zone #2 (12 minutes). Use conventional EDT parameters: sets of 5 reps with a 10 RM load. (Enter PDF)

B-1: Dumbbell Flat Bench Press: Perform 5 Reps and then rest just enough as you feel necessary before moving on to B-2.

B-2: Seated Rows (Pronated, medium width grip)

C: Low-Cable Scarecrows: 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps with 60-90 second rest intervals.

Tuesday: Lower Body Supramaximal

PR Zone #1 (15 minutes): Perform 2 jumps every 45-60 seconds. Goal = 14 doubles in 15 minutes)

A. Depth Jumps: Start with a height just above mid shin level or lower. Don't jump off the box/step/bench but rather "fall" off. Your heels should not hit the ground. Energetically propel yourself upwards upon hitting the ground. Think of the ground as "red hot." For heavier trainees (250 pounds+), consider doing jumps onto a box instead of depth jumps. Maximal plyos are not always wise to perform for heavier trainees/athletes.

PR Zone #2 (15 minutes): Perform 2 reps every 45-60 seconds. Goal = 14 doubles in 15 minutes)

B. Heavy 1/4 rep Deadlifts: Start with 110-115% of you current or estimated 1RM Deadlift off the floor (conventional stance preferable). Set up some pins in a power rack so that the bar is at mid-thigh level. Using a locked and slightly lordtic spine think of "pushing through" the floor as you slide the bar up the remainder of your thighs until lock out. Lower the bar quickly to avoid straining. Use a mixed grip or even wrist wraps if you need them.

C-1 Dumbbell Lunges (left): 3-4 sets of 6 reps (Use a 12 RM weight as a buffer)

C-2 Dumbbell Lunges (right): 3-4 sets of 6 reps (Use a 12 RM weight as a buffer)

Rest- 45-60 seconds between each leg.

Thursday: Upper Body Supramaximal

PR Zone # 1 (15 minutes): Perform 2 reps every 45-60 seconds; Goal = 14 doubles in 15 minutes)

A. Depth Push-Ups: start with each hand on an elevated surface like an aerobic step or some other type of box. The height of the box/step should be somewhere between 8-15 inches, depending on your current shock absorption abilities. It's better to start with a conservative height in week 1 and then slowly increase the height if you feel compelled to do so. Ensure enough room between the steps so you can comfortably accommodate the pushing distance you feel strongest from.

Usually a moderate width between the hands (slightly wider than shoulder width) feels strongest for most trainees. Starting in the up position, slightly propel your hands off the step so you can drop vertically down towards the floor. Spend minimal time in contact with the floor to maximize the plyometric effect. Perform only 2 repetitions per set.

PR Zone # 2 (15 minutes): Perform 1 rep every 45-60 seconds. Goal = 14 singles in 15 minutes)

B. Overhead Supports (i.e. "Jerk Recoveries"): Borrowed from the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, overhead supports allow a much greater amount of weight to be used than in traditional forms of overhead lifting. You'll need a power rack that allows you to pry the weight off of some high pins while in a semi-lunge position.

C-1 Inverted Bar Pulls: 3-4 sets of 6 reps (Use a 10-12 RM weight as a buffer)

C-2 Close-Grip Bench Press: 3-4 sets of 6 reps (Use a 10-12 RM weight as a buffer)

Friday: Lower Body Submaximal

PR Zone #1 (15 minutes): Perform a double every 45-60 seconds until time elapses. Goal: 14 sets of 2; use approximately 85% of 1RM as a starting point.

A: Front Squats

PR Zone #2 (15 minutes) Use conventional EDT parameters: 5 rep sets with a 10RM weight)

B-1: Single-leg Deadlift (left)

B-2: Single-leg Deadlift (right)

C: Prone Iso-Holds: 30 seconds x 2-3 sets with 60 second rest intervals.

Phase III (3 weeks)






Upper Body


Lower Body



Upper Body


Lower Body


Monday: Upper Body # 1- Push-Oriented

PR Zone #1 (30 minutes) Directions: Perform 1 rep with A-1, rest 1 minute, then 1 rep with A-2, and repeat until the time period has elapsed, or until you miss. Goal: 14 sets of 1 for each exercise in 30 minutes.

A-1: Log Push-Press

A-2: Depth Push-Ups: Use slightly higher position than that used in week three of the Phase II program.

B: Seated Rows (Neutral Grip): 3-4 sets of 6 reps (Use a 10-12 RM weight as a buffer). Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.

C: Dumbbell Cuban Press: 2-3 sets of 10 reps (Use around a 15 RM weight as a buffer). Rest 60-90 seconds in between sets.

Tuesday: Lower Body # 1- Squat-Oriented

PR Zone #1 (30 minutes): Perform 1 rep with A-1, rest 1 minute, then 1 rep with A-2, and repeat until the time period has elapsed, or until you miss.. Goal: 14 sets of 1 for each exercise in 30 minutes.

A-1: Front Squats (start with approximately 87.5-90% of 1RM, or slightly higher than you ended in week 3 of Phase II).

A-2: Depth Jumps (use slightly higher height than used during week 3 of Phase II). Upon hitting the ground emphasize jumping violently straight upward.

B: RDL's: 3-4 sets of 6 reps (Use a 10-12 RM weight as a buffer) Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.

C: Reverse Crunches: 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps. Rest 60-90 between sets.

Thursday: Upper Body # 2- Pull/Row-Oriented

PR Zone #1: (30 minutes) Perform 1 rep with A-1, rest 1 minute, then 1 rep with A-2, and repeat until the time period has elapsed, or until you miss. Goal: 14 sets of 1 for each exercise in 30 minutes.

A-1: Pull-Ups: Increase loading slightly from week 3 of Phase II.

A-2: Dumbbell Rebound Rows: This movement is like a depth jump for the shoulder extensors (lats, teres major, rear delts, etc.). To perform the movement take a light dumbbell (10-20 lbs.) and assume a quasi bent-over row position (with feet staggered: opposite foot forward of hand with dumbbell) with the dumbbell close to the side and elbow fully flexed. From there, release the dumbbell by suddenly opening your fingers so that the dumbbell starts to free-fall towards the floor.

After a split-second, quickly follow the dumbbell with your hand and catch it before it hits the floor. (Make sure it's OK if the dumbbell hits the floor because this will happen!) Immediately upon grabbing the dumbbell pull back up to the start position in an explosive manner.

B. Dumbbell Incline Press: 3-4 sets of 6 reps (Use a 10-12 RM weight as a buffer) Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.

C. High Cable PNF Pattern (shoulder flexion, adduction, and internal rotation): 2-3 sets of 10 reps (Use a 20 RM weight as a buffer). Rest 60-90 seconds in between sets.

Friday: Lower Body # 2- Deadlift-Oriented

PR Zone #1: (30 minutes) Perform 1 rep with A-1, rest 1 minute, then 1 rep with A-2, and repeat until the time period has elapsed, or until you miss. Goal: 14 sets of 1 for each exercise in 30 minutes.

A-1: Deadlifts (conventional): off the floor. Use around 85% of your known or estimated 1 RM in this lift. The percentage here is a little less than that of the front squat since the deadlift (off the floor) was not included during Phase II.

A-2: Depth Jumps: Horizontal Emphasis. The only difference between this type of depth jump is the emphasis of the subsequent take-off after hitting the ground. Think of jumping up AND out on this one.

B. Dumbbell Step-Ups: 3-4 sets of 6 reps with each leg. (Use a 10-12 RM weight as a buffer.) Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.

C. Dumbbell Windmills: 2-3 sets of 5 reps (use a moderate load here).


There you have it, a real-life example of how to incorporate EDT parameters for gains in maximal and even explosive strength. We want to again clarify that it's important not to get too caught up in the exact exercises, loading parameters, etc., but rather, gain an understanding for how the body reacts to time efficiency principles and their effect on resulting muscle tension.

Most people are too caught up in what the workout feels like, rather than what they achieved during that workout. With EDT-based training cycles, you have a quantitative system for ensuring continued progress. This is VASTLY different than most current training programs offered today.

We also want to note that EDT should not be the only training methodology you use. Due to the intense neuromuscular stimulation and volumes attained during an EDT cycle, it is important to switch to a more conventional style of training after 6-8 weeks of EDT. We hope you enjoyed the article and would enjoy hearing your feedback.

Charles Staley is an accomplished strength coach who specializes in helping older athletes reclaim their physicality and vitality. At age 56, Charles is leaner than ever, injury free, and in his lifetime best shape. His PRs include a 400-pound squat, 510-pound deadlift, and a 17 chin-up max. Follow Charles Staley on Facebook