Density Training for Healthy Shoulders Helps You Look Good Too

Today I’d like to share with you a key part of the training program I used a few years back to correct my posture and get my shoulders feeling better than they had in over 15 years.

It’s worth mentioning that this program also caused my body fat to drop and my shoulders looked pretty darn great too.

What got me thinking about this? I was was chatting with my friend Mike the other day (the same guy from the Push/Pull Ratio conversation) about how his shoulder pain was coming along.

Just as a reminder, he had been doing far more pushing than pulling for years and it had created a muscular imbalance that resulted in shoulder pain and poor range of motion when reaching overhead.

After our first conversation, Mike went and saw the Rolfer I referred him to, who helped free up much of the restrictions in his connective tissues. Mike also stopped all push-ups and bench pressing while adding more pulling exercises like the Batwing and Single Arm Dumbbell Rows.

Mike told me that this had helped a lot but things were not perfect yet. He also backed off his training intensity a bit for the healing process and was eager to kick some butt again.

I told him not to put push-ups back into his training yet, but I had a suggestion that would give him the non-stop intense pace he loves. It would also accelerate the rate at which he was correcting the muscular imbalance caused by his old push/pull ratio.

The type of program I’m talking about is called density training. There are many ways of playing with the variables, but the main idea is that for each exercise you; track the weight you used, the exact number of total reps performed and the amount of time it took you to do them.

The following week your goal is to either do more reps in the same time, or the same number of reps in less time. You are therefore, increasing the density of the work you perform.

Density training is great for gaining strength and lean muscle while burning body fat. And because you do so much of one movement, it’s perfect for correcting imbalances.

density training for healthy shoulders

Combo #1

  1. Chest Supported Rows – 5 reps per set
  2. Lateral Raises – 5 reps per set

You’ll notice I grabbed a second bench and placed the dumbbells on it to make grabbing them easier. It might seem trivial, but the difference between the floor and the bench is huge when you perform 30-40 sets in a row with zero rest.

Combo #2

This next combo goes very quickly because you barely even have to let go of the rope between exercises, just change your stance and weight.

  1. Face Pulls – 5 reps per set
  2. Tricep Rope Pushdowns – 5 reps per set

You can do these combinations for 15 or 20 minute blocks.

Here’s how it works..

  • Pick 2 exercises that work different muscle groups and are different movement patterns . Other combos I’ve done (not shoulder health related) were Back Squats/Pull-Ups, Deadlift/Bench Press, Overhead Press/Bicep Curls, Alternating Lunges/Seated Cable Rows.
  • Set them up as close to each other as possible. Every second counts when you transition from one to the other.
  • You’ll need a timer or stop watch and your training log close by to track your reps. You can also place your water bottle and towel close by to use when marking your reps.
  • Use a weight that you could normally get about 15-20 reps with. It should feel light at the beginning and tiring but still doable by the end.
  • Perform 2 sets of 8 reps for each exercise as a warm-up and practice moving from one exercise to the other smoothly. Make any adjustments to the equipment now, you won’t have a chance later.
  • Start your timer and GO!
  • When you’re done, tally your sets/reps and write down if the weights were too light, too heavy, or just perfect. Should you adjust the weight next week?

I personally like to keep the time the same and change one of these 3 other variables each week:

  • As I just mentioned, you can take the weight up.
  • Try to do more sets.
  • Or you can do more reps per set but shoot for the same number of sets.

If you want to get fancy you can use a leap frog method. Here’s an example:

  • Week 1 – 20 lbs., 5 reps per set, 20 sets (100 total reps)
  • Week 2 – 20 lbs., 6 reps per set, 19 sets (114 total reps)
  • Week 3 – 20 lbs., 7 reps per set, 17 sets (119 total reps)
  • Week 4 – 25 lbs., 5 reps per set, 20 sets (100 total reps)

Once you’ve done your first week or two you’ll start getting a sense of what a good pace feels like. Go too fast, you’ll burnout early. Go too slow, you won’t get enough work done. Get into a rhythm, know how many seconds each round should take, bust butt to stay on track.

There’s usually more to a training session then 1 of these combos although you could do it by itself to keep things quick and simple. Once my pre-session stretching, mobility and dynamic warm-up is done, I’ll generally go about things in one of two ways:

  1. Perform a density combo for 20 minutes, rest and then perform a different one for 15 minutes.
  2. Perform a main strength lift with full rest and no clock running, finish with a 15 or 20 minute density combo.

Density training is a fun way to change up your training…especially if you have a training partner to do it with.

I’m thinking about creating a fully laid out 6-8 week training program with density training as the core modality.

If this is something you might be interested in, tell me below in the comments box. If there’s enough interest, I’ll get started sooner rather than later.



  • Hi Jamie,
    A wonderful informative post as always. I look forward to reading your emails and posts and even have a designated email folder for them. This allows me to dip in and out of the exercises or spot-tone areas.
    Yes, I would be interested in a routine. Given that it has neen years since I used a gym or weights, these exercises would be adjusted by me for my stature and ability, i.e. lighter weight, less reps.
    Keep up the great work! Have a good weekend.
    P.s. I hope you post exercises for plantar fasciitis soon.

  • Thanks Jaqui! So cool, a folder just for my e-mails. I’m flattered. I’ve finally found research for a protocol for plantar fasciitis that is proven to work. I just need to carve out some time to put it together for you.

Comments are closed.