I get asked this all the time. So instead of answering anew with each request, I thought I'd write a quick post explaining what a Density Cycle (DC) is. I was first introduced to the DC by Coach Scott Sonnon. I remember reading about his "Double Density" program (another post...) in one of the old RMAX Magazine issues, and thinking that it was a very cool way to set up a training program. It's one of the things that first got me interested in Clubbells actually!
So what is a Density Cycle? The quick answer is, a DC is a scheme for incrementally progressing a training program by doing the same amount of work (volume) in a shorter and shorter time frame (duration). The most common target for a DC is 100 reps of a given exercise without stopping. In Circular Strength Training®, we'll often see this set-up used with Clubbells, but it can be done for any exercise. And 100 is not the only objective that you can use. I'm currently working on a modified "Heavy Density" cycle of Bruiser Clubbell® Swipes.
And how do you organize a Density Cycle? The first step is to figure out how many reps of the chosen exercise you can do comfortably. This would mean you can do that number of reps while experiencing a Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE) of 5 or 6 on a scale of 1-10. You would then divide your objective (let's say 100) by that number of repetitions. The result would be the number of sets you'll do of that exercise. So, if you calculate that you can do 8 reps at an RPE of 6, then you would do 13 sets of 8 (104 reps).
Each set starts at the top of the minute. So if you are doing 13 sets, it's going to take you 13 minutes. The progression would look something like this:
13 sets of 8
11 sets of 9
10 sets of 10
9 sets of 11
9 sets of 12
8 sets of 13
7 sets of 14
How do you know when to progress along the Density Cycle sequence? It is entirely dependant on your RPE. If you move up a notch, and your RPE for that session is at a 7 or above, you want to get it back down to a 6 or less before progressing on to the next level.
Eventually, you will get to the point where you only have 10 to 15 seconds between rounds. It is at this point that you are ready to start thinking about trying for the "Century." This is one continuous set of 100 reps and is the whole point of the Density Cycle.
I did my first DC with Double Clubbell Pendulums. Then I went to a Double Density of Double Swipes and Double Swings to Torch Position. My next DC was Clockwork Squats with the Bruiser and on to what is now my favorite exercise, Clubbell Mills. I've also done many variations on the DC, like when I was ramping up for my various PRs in the Trial-by-Fire.
Density Cycles are an extremely powerful tool for incremental progression. Every time I do one I am amazed at the progress in such little time, and without pain and injury! If you want to try it out but don't have Clubbells, consider a bodyweight exercise like the Leg Swoop (follow link for free tutorial).
If you take one on, keep me posted on your progress in the comments!