vertical jump training

Escalating Density Training

Written by Jack Woodrup for

Escalated density training (EDT) is a form of training that is the creation of well known performance coach Charles Staley. It is also the basis used for progression in a number of commercially available jump programs. Continuous progression is after all, an important aspect for any good vertical jump program. The question is whether or not this training method a valid approach to increasing your vertical jump?


EDT is in simple terms a method for systematically increasing work done per workout. The idea is that the more work you do in a certain amount of time the greater the positive adaptations are.

Charles Staley

Charles Staley: Smart Guy. Great Coach

A simple example of EDT in action would be someone squatting 100kg for as many reps as they could in 15 minutes. With EDT you take as much rest as you feel you need between sets and you only count total reps. If that person managed to perform 30 reps in the 15 minutes on their first workout this would be their baseline PR Zone (personal record zone). On your next workout they would try and increase the number of reps they completed with that 100kg weight.

When you have increased your total number of reps performed in the PR zone by 20% than you add.5% more weight. Again using our example, once you could perform 36 reps with 100kg in 15 minutes you would add 5kg to the bar. The idea behind EDT is that in order for your muscles to grow stronger they must be exposed to ever increasing weight.

So how is this any different to normal progressive overload? Good question. As far as I can tell it's not really any different other than the fact it has defined time parameters (15 minutes per PR Zone) and incremental improvements. Basically it is weight training 101 simplified. EDT is a very easy training concept to grasp. Do more total work per workout.


You can use EDT in your training program in two ways. The first is to improve your strength levels in the weight room. In this case you would follow a fairly standard EDT approach of setting a base PR Zone and working from there. For strength you would choose a load of around 75-85% of your 1RM and perform sets of between 1 and 5 reps.

how to jump higher and increase your vertical jump

Progression in this case is fairly easy to monitor as you are using the load as your guide. For your jumping based work progression is a little bit more complicated. The obvious solution is to just do more jumps for each PR Zone however this is in fact NOT the best way to implement it.

The better way would be to base you progress on jump height. One of the real drawbacks about most plyometric drills designed to increase your vertical jump is that in nearly all cases you are not jumping to reach an identifiable target which gives you necessary feedback about how you are progressing. So while you may think you are giving it your all, your vertical jump may not actually be improving.

The way to get around this is to jump for a target. So how do you set up a target that you can easily adjust the height of as your jump improves? There are many ways to do it but a simple trick you can do almost anywhere is to put a tennis ball in a sock and tie it to a high tree branch so that the tennis ball hangs down inside the sock. This is your target. When you can jump and touch the target height 15 times in the 15 minutes, then you increase the height of the target.

Gerald Green vertical jump

Something to Aim For: Having a target to aim for is good. This however is just showing off!

The advantage of this is that if the ground beneath the tree or whatever you choose to hang your sock target from is flat, you can perform running jumps, 1,2 or 3 step jumps, or pure standing vertical jumps. Jumping for a target is a really great way to improve your vertical jump because it provides immediate feedback as to your performance as opposed to specifically measuring it every 7-14 days.


In the introduction to this article I mentioned that EDT was used as the basis of progression for several vertical jump programs. Unfortunately none of these programs applies the principles correctly. The worst offender is the truly horrendous Vertical Project which attributes the process of doubling your work per workout as being the path to doubling your vertical leap. It then goes onto prescribe more sets with less rest per workout to increase total work done.

The huge gaping hole in the logic of this approach is that doubling your total work per workout does not translate to doubling your single effort maximum vertical jump. Simply doing more reps and sets with less rest ends up sacrificing quality for quantity. This is a great way to hinder your vertical jump improvement. Jumping for maximum height requires maximum intensity. You need to rest as long as it takes to recover between sets to ensure you maintain your intensity and effort.


When applied correctly, the principles of EDT can be used as a simple and effective method for ensuring continuous progression with your vertical jump results. However the programs that are based on EDT currently just assume more work = better results. This unfortunately is not the case.

In terms of vertical jump performance the emphasis must be on the quality of the movement, not the quantity. If you start losing out on quality then your results will be less than optimal.

Personally I find EDT to be a great way to train if you want to burn fat or build muscle. In both those activities the quality of the work done is not quite as important as the quantity. For vertical jump improvements, where quality is of paramount importance, sticking to a more traditional progression is probably a safer approach.

If you want a great vertical jump program that is designed around sound training principles, is customized to target your needs, and provides awesome results look no further than Vertical Mastery.

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