The interview covers all kinds of questions about EDT…how it works, how your
mindset is absolutely CRITICAL to your success, what training "density"
actually IS and how you can use it to FORCE your body to build muscle and
strength, and much more!
NN: First off, Charles, please give us a little background on yourself so people
know what kind of experience you have in the strength training field, e.g.
how long you've been training, coaching, educational background, athletes
you've coached, their accomplishments, etc.
CS: I've been coaching and teaching in the fitness/physical preparation arena
since about 1983, although at that time the word "personal trainer" wasn't
really in widespread use.
I have a B.Sc in Sociology of Sport from the State University of New York,
and I've trained many thousands of people during the past 20+ years, many of
them high-level, elite athletes in a variety of sports.
I can't reveal the names of some of my more famous clients, as I'm bound by
confidentiality clauses in those cases. However I've trained or consulted to
several prominent MMA (mixed martial arts) athletes, as well as several
Olympic-level winter sport athletes (luge, bob-sleigh), Olympic-style
weightlifters, powerlifters, judo-ka, and golfers. But I also train
non-athletes, and we enjoy working with beginners at my live-in facility in
Gilbert, AZ (Bed & Barbell)
NN: Charles, you're probably best known for your revolutionary program
"Escalating Density Training". I've used EDT and it is downright AMAZING how
well it works and how much it actually simplifies the whole muscle and
strength-building process. Could you give people a quick explanation of what
EDT is and how it works?
CS: EDT is a method where you attempt to accumulate more and more training
volume while holding the duration constant.
EDT workouts consist of 15-minute time-frames called "PR Zones" (PR=
personal record). We're VERY focused on PR's - quantifiable indicators of
Much like Shakira's hips, numbers don't lie. And when your numbers go up, so
does your metabolism, strength, and fitness capacity. At my facility, we
actually have a "PR bell," which we ring to celebrate client PR's, whenever
NN: Now, in many of your articles and on your website, you talk about having an
"athletic mindset" rather than an "exerciser mindset." Could you explain a
little about this and why it's so critical?
CS: Many people think like an exerciser when they, well....exercise. This
mindset is characterized by pain and deprivation, and it has its roots in
the age-old "no pain, no gain" mantra.
Exercisers tend to think in terms of thermodynamics: "OK, if I hit the
treadmill for 90 minutes, I'll burn at least 400 calories...and then if I
only eat 1400 calories a day, I should burn at least 2 pounds of fat a
week!" It's all about seeing how little you can eat, and how to make
exercise as painful as possible... kinda reminds me of the way anorexics
Athletes don't exercise, they TRAIN.
When you go to the gym or training hall to train, your mindset revolves
around performance and PR's. You're trying to improve your performance...
you're trying to improve your technique. And when you think like THIS, your
gym time becomes very uplifting and self-motivational, which leads to
consistency and results.
Bottom line: when you think and act like an ATHLETE, you tend to LOOK like
an athlete. And I think THAT is what most people are ultimately looking for.
NN: I've also read in your articles about EDT that the focus should be on
"performance" and not "fatigue". What do you mean by that and how does a
focus on performance translate into better muscle-building results?
CS: Well, I've already alluded to this, but to delve into it a bit more, many
people instinctively equate pain with progress.
It's much like the entrepreneur who mistakenly confuses motion with
results - just because you're moving...just because it hurts, doesn't mean
you're making progress or getting a result.
Now, it's true that getting out of your comfort zone will involve some
degree of discomfort, but that discomfort is a SIDE-EFFECT of the work you
did - it shouldn't be the goal. Because when pain becomes the goal, you lose
sight of the REAL goal, which is increasing work-capacity and hitting new
NN: One of the key concepts with EDT is increasing the "density" of the
training. What do you mean by training density and why is it so important to
be constantly trying to increase the number of reps you're doing with a
CS: Density refers to the work-to-rest ratio of your training sessions - it's
basically how many reps of an exercise you're doing within a certain set
timeframe (e.g. 50 reps in 15 minutes). Many people mistakenly focus
exclusively on increasing training intensity, or the amount of weight you
can put on the bar.
When you use EDT, you have to "earn" the right to increase your weights by
first increasing your training density (performing more sets and reps within
that set timeframe).
So in other words, density represents the BASE, while intensity represents
If you try to build too high without a strong base, your structure will
fall. Same thing with training. THAT is why EDT is all about focusing on the
base and increasing your overall workload - it's just more effective for
maximizing strength and muscle growth. The bigger the base, the higher the
peak you will be able to achieve.
NN: You've mentioned in articles that EDT is a "self-correcting" system. How
does the system know how to do this and how does it simplify training?
CS: EDT guides your progress through the use of "rules."
One of these is the 20/5 rule: whenever you're able to increase your
training density by 20% or more, you earn the right to increase the weight
by 5 pounds or 5% (whichever is less). However, failure to meet the 20%
milestone means that your current weights are still appropriate.
Similarly, if for some reason your performance declines, the system dictates
that you reduce your loads to prevent overtraining. So again, when
performance improves, you are "rewarded" with bigger challenges…but not
until you're physically ready to take full advantage of the increased
NN: I know of the questions a lot of people have is if EDT is only for advanced
trainers or big-time athletes or bodybuilders. Is this a program that can be
used by anyone?
CS: Actually, it's just as appropriate for novices - perhaps even more so.
With EDT, YOU are in charge of how much or how little you do in any given
session. If you're a lazy good for nothing...oh sorry!
Seriously though, let's say you've never trained and you don't have much
pain tolerance. No problem. First time out, you just do whatever you feel
like doing, and you end up with a number - your PR for that session.
When you go back to repeat that session later in the cycle, your goal is to
BEAT that number…your PR. So now you have a target.
And if you have even a speck of competitive instinct, you won't be able to
help yourself - as you go though the PR Zone, set by set, you'll get close
and closer, and you'll find a competitive streak you didn't even know you
And THAT is exciting. THAT is what makes training fun!
NN: Another question I hear a lot is whether you need to be a member in a gym in
order to use EDT. Can it be done at home or you do you have to get a full
gym membership to really get the most out of the program?
CS: I'm actually a big proponent of training at home. If anything, EDT may be
even MORE appropriate for home-gym training. You can use tried-and-true
barbells and dumbbells, as well as bodyweight exercises for EDT.
In fact, if you ever visit my facility you'll see we have no true machines
at all - it's all free weights.
NN: I know EDT is excellent for building strength and muscle mass…can it also be
targeted for fat-loss as well?
CS: Well first, I'd like to make an important point here: when you gain muscle,
your bodyfat percentage decreases - you're now leaner - even if you didn't
lose any fat per se.
That's because when you gain muscle, the fat you have is now a percentage of
a LARGER total. But that aside, we don't call EDT "The Cardio-Free Workout"
for nothing. It will give you DRAMATIC results in fat-loss and body
NN: So here's the bottom-line question…what sort of results have you gotten from
people using EDT?
CS: It's so gratifying really, because I have just so many letters from people,
from around the WORLD, from all walks of life... I'd hardly know where to
Here are just a few e-mails I've received recently - I've chosen these
because they are fairly representative of what I hear from people who've
used the EDT system:
"I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed the results of EDT. I
cannot be happier with my interim results. I have packed on 20 lbs over
three EDT cycles. As hard gainer, I have NEVER gained weight so quickly. I
remember the conversation we shared at Dianna Linden's place several years
back when you mentioned your EDT methodology and I should have picked up on
what you told me then. I would have been well ahead of the game by now."
Thanks again for all your help.
All the best,
San Juan, Puerto Rico
"EDT is truly one of the hardest, yet most enjoyable ways I have ever
trained. I love the fact that somehow you start 'competing' with yourself in
ways no other system has ever forced me to do. The program is very effective
at motivating you and progressive overload is pretty much a given. It's an
addictive form of training as well since every other method seems somehow
I've tried a variety of other training systems and I either got minimal
results, kept getting injured or could not fit the workouts into my
schedule. Finding EDT has been like finding the key that unlocks all the
I don't have a lot of time to workout and I travel a lot so I need something
that I can fit into my day or easily take into unfamiliar gyms across the
country. I also need something that is backed by reason and science and
produces results. And lastly, I need something that would test my 'mental
toughness' and would stay motivating over time. It seems EDT has fulfilled
I bought your EDT package and watched the DVD and read the book through in
one day. On my first workout the weights were too light, but I was still
pretty sore. The workout was fast and furious, but I had more energy
throughout the rest of my day than anything I had been doing. I've being
going at it for three weeks now and have dialed in the right amount of
weight for the exercises.
You had said that you really need to experience EDT to 'get it,' kind of
like riding a bike or falling in love. Your right! This morning's workout
kicked my butt while I was doing it, but I felt good walking out of the gym.
What's interesting is when I have gone out to run, I am running harder and
faster without meaning to. In other words my body just seems to want to go
faster. To try to slow down would take more 'effort' then to just go with
what my body is wanting to do.
My strength is going up and my body is already looking different, better.
And these results are just after three weeks! I can't wait to see what I'll
look like and feel like at the end of my first 8 week program, and the next
one, and the next...
Thanks, Charles, for putting together a program for the thinking man with
A Complete Video Guide To Escalating Density Training - DVD and Online Videos
Your muscles will get bigger if you force them to work harder, not longer.
That's the breathtakingly simple concept behind Charles Staley's Escalating
Density Training (EDT) system. In this video series, you'll get an in-depth
look at how to build the most muscle and strength from EDT...you'll learn
what EDT is all about, but how to make it work best for YOU.
Be sure to sign up on the EDT page to get your sample videos (pulled straight from the
Are you tired of busting your butt in the gym and your arms still don't look like you even lift? If so, consider Coach Staley's unique EDT training method that has even hardened gym veterans amazed as they break out of their plateaus and experience new growth.