This 4-day program will help intermediate and advanced trainees gain size and strength. Rest-pause set, drop sets, and negatives will kick your muscle gains into high gear!
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
    Split
  • Training Level
    Intermediate
  • Program Duration8 weeks
  • Days Per Week
    4
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Recommended Supps
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

Summer is in the past, and people are now looking to gain some mass – healthy mass that is. After dedicating months to getting leaner and looking better, you might be ready to devote some time to heavier weights and filling out some of those t-shirts and hoodies. If that reads like I’m talking about you, then keep reading because we have the plan right here.

Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

MASSter Class Is In Session

Over the next eight weeks, the goal is to build muscle and get stronger. This will be done with an eight-week program that requires you to hit the weights four days a week. These workouts will be intense and challenging if you do them right, so there will be no need to double them up or find additional time to train. When you’re not working out, you should be eating, sleeping, or living life outside of the gym.

Who Is This For?

This is a program that will help intermediate and advanced trainees gain positive size and strength. Beginners and rookies may find this program to be too intense, and they could still learn more about form and execution before taking on a program like this. Don’t worry, though. M&S has plenty of programs for those that are just starting out.

Principles of the Program

In order to gain something that you don’t have, you need to do something that you don’t typically do. That means pushing yourself beyond what you normally perceive to be “failure.” That’s why some intensity boosting methods are going to be a part of this program.

Rest-Pause Sets

During one of these sets, you will push the set to failure within the recommended rep range, rest for 10-15 seconds, and then perform as many reps as you can. So a set of barbell curls may look like this:

Barbell Curls – 70lbs for 8 reps, 15-second rest, 70 pounds for 4 reps.

Even though you took that brief rest, you actually did four reps more than you normally would have. Those extra reps will help you take your training to the next level.

Drop Sets

This is when you reduce the weight you’re using after failure so you can continue to train. There is no additional rest taken. Once you hit failure, you immediately reduce the weight and keep going. A drop set of incline dumbbell presses may go like this:

Incline Dumbbell Press – 60lb dumbbells for 10 reps, 30lb dumbbells for 12 reps.

Yes, you reduced the weight, but that was still enough to challenge the muscles in a safe way. So the goal will still be accomplished – you're tearing down muscle fibers so they can recover and grow.

Negatives

This is when you take the weight from the lifted phase to the stretch phase very slowly. It may take you one second to lower the dumbbell on a curl normally. With negatives, you can take as long as five or ten seconds. This program will include five-second negatives at different points in the workout. The goal is to maintain control of the weight and force the muscle to work harder.

Muscular man doing dumbbell shoulder presses in the gym

How Much Weight Should I Use?

This is one of the most common questions we see in the comments section of our articles, so let’s address it here. If 10lbs is all you can use for an exercise, use it. If you’re capable of using 80lbs, use 80lbs. The point is that the weight should be challenging enough for you to execute the desired reps within the recommended rep range. If you’re supposed to do six to eight reps, but can do 12, it’s too light. Conversely, if you can’t do more than four, it’s too heavy. There is no magic formula to help you figure out the weight you need. It’s going to be a matter of trial and error.

Nutrition

As hard as you’re going to be training, you’re going to need to eat in order to recover and grow. That doesn’t mean you get to go crazy and eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Having a sound nutrition plan will be very beneficial. M&S actually has a great guide that can work well with this program. You can consider it or any of the other nutrition programs here designed to help you get bigger and stronger. I will offer two pieces of advice here:

  1. Eat Protein First – Protein is the nutrient that plays the biggest role in your recovery and growth. If you get full before the meal is completed, you don’t want protein left on the plate. This can also help you keep your blood sugar in check.
  2. Take Your Time – It's food, not flavored oxygen. Take the time to properly chew and enjoy the meal you’re eating so it can be digested properly. Overwhelming your stomach by pounding down a lot of calories at warp speed won’t help you, and it will make you uncomfortable as well.

Cardio

Cardio is about more than burning calories and increasing metabolism. It’s good for heart health. So I don’t think you should ignore it completely. You can do three or four sessions of moderate level cardio a week at 20 minutes per session. You can do these in the morning or post-workout. Get them in when you’re able to get them in.

The Workouts

Now let’s talk about the training. This is a four-day routine. You will perform each workout once a week. The optimal way to do this would be by following this split:

  • Monday – Chest and Side Delts
  • Tuesday – Upper Back and Rear Delts
  • Wednesday – Off
  • Thursday – Arms and Abs
  • Friday – Legs
  • Saturday and Sunday – Off

That would be the best split, but let’s face facts. There are a lot of you that have jobs that don’t allow this to happen, so here’s what you need to know. Do these workouts at times that best suit you. The only rule I suggest you follow is that you don’t train for more than three days in a row before taking a day off. Two would be best, but if you must train a third consecutive day, go for it. I don’t suggest you do this normally. The recovery is vital for you to grow. Training four days in a row without the extra rest may affect the results you see from this. 

Workout 1: Chest and Side Delts

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Incline Barbell Bench Press 3 12, 10, 12* 90 sec
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press 3 12, 10, 15+ 90 sec
Cable Crossover 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec
Seated Lateral Raise 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Single Arm Cable Lateral Raise 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec

* Rest-Pause Set

+ Drop Set

^ 3-5 Second Negatives

Workout 2: Upper Back and Rear Delts

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Bent-Over Barbell Row 3 12, 10, 12* 90 sec
Dumbbell Pullover 3 12, 10, 15+ 90 sec
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec
Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Cable Face Pull 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Dumbbell Shrug 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec

* Rest-Pause Set

+ Drop Set

^ 3-5 Second Negatives

Workout 3: Arms and Abs

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Close Grip Bench Press 3 12, 10, 12* 90 sec
Weighted Dip 3 12, 10, 12+ 90 sec
Rope Tricep Extension 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec
Lying Leg Raise 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Cable Crunch 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Barbell Curl 3 12, 12, 12* 90 sec
Hammer Curl 3 12, 10, 12+ 90 sec
Cable Curl 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec

* Rest-Pause Set

+ Drop Set

^ 3-5 Second Negatives

Workout 4: Legs

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Deadlift 3 12, 10, 12* 90 sec
Lying Leg Curl 3 12, 10, 12+ 90 sec
Walking Lunge 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Front Squat 3 12, 10, 12* 90 sec
Leg Extension 3 12, 12, 12+ 90 sec
Dumbbell Side Lunge 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Seated Calf Raise 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec
Calf Press 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec

* Rest-Pause Set

+ Drop Set

^ 3-5 Second Negatives

577 Comments
Mitch
Posted on: Thu, 02/22/2024 - 12:22

HI Roger looking forward to starting the program!
am I supposed to use the same rep range the entire 8 weeks? or can I up the weight and start with 8 reps then progress until I reach 12 reps per exercise?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 02/24/2024 - 07:48

Hey Mitch, the plan for this was to start with the rep range listed, but if you're pumped to go heavy, go ahead with the 8 rep plan you outlined. Just make sure you stick it out and don't jump weight too soon. Not until you get 12. Keep me posted because I want to hear how you did!

Matt
Posted on: Wed, 02/21/2024 - 22:49

I'm really new to weight lifting and I like the idea of this program but I was wondering if I should wait to do this program unit I gain more strength and experience in lifting? Would you recommend I wait to this program? I'm doing this program at the moment https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/3day-beginners-workout.html. to get the basics down and to gain some strength. I can only do light weights at moment and I was thinking drop sets might be pointless for me right now.

Thanks for any advice you can give

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 02/24/2024 - 07:46

Hey Matt, thanks for being a part of M&S community!

This is where you can start testing yourself and your instincts. I would say keep going with the 3-day program until you start to feel it is too easy. At that point, you can graduate up. If you got any questions along the way, come on back. We want to go on the ride with you.

patrick rezmovits
Posted on: Wed, 02/21/2024 - 22:48

i love this. four days per week and a split to keep me rested

Mikey
Posted on: Sat, 02/17/2024 - 05:59

Hi Roger, do you recommend warm-up sets prior to the 1st working set of each exercise? Cheers

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 02/19/2024 - 11:29

Sure do, Mikey. Even if you need to do multiple warm-up sets, play it safe before you start going hard. Good luck!

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 02/25/2024 - 07:15

Pretty much. Also, the posterior chain is neglected very often, which is why I have deadlifts first.

Mikey
Posted on: Thu, 02/22/2024 - 18:29

Thanks for the response. I've not lifted weights on a regular basis for a few years now and have decided to get back into it using this program. Tonight I worked legs, I moved squats to the 1st exercise, however, I put so much into the 3 sets that I really struggled with everything thereafter, is this the reason squats are further down the pecking order on the leg day plan? Cheers

OC
Posted on: Mon, 02/12/2024 - 18:35

Is this 3 sets of 12/12/12 or indivisible sets?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 02/19/2024 - 11:29

Set 1, 12 reps. Set 2, 12 reps, and so on.

Ben
Posted on: Wed, 02/07/2024 - 07:26

Hi Roger,

Firstly thanks for posting this workout - It has been a complete game changer for me in so many ways. I intend to run it for 3 months then switch but what would be your recommendation to look at next?
thanks
Ben

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 02/15/2024 - 18:42

Hey Ben, love the kind words and congrats on your progress! Once you finish the three months, reassess your goals and then you could find the best workout possible. I've seen too many people pre-plan then pivot because priorities change. That is my advice. If you are pretty confident you will stick to the goal you have in mind, let me know what it is and I will find a program.

Brian
Posted on: Mon, 02/05/2024 - 13:40

Hi I started this workout routine. I notice the day after chest my arms and chest has soreness. So on Tuesday I do legs and move Tuesday to Friday. I think that works.

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 02/15/2024 - 18:40

Let us know how it goes, Brian. Thank you for reading M&S, and good luck on the program!

Matt
Posted on: Wed, 01/03/2024 - 09:27

Hi Roger, I’m on week 3 of the workout and enjoying it so far, before I started this workout I was performing Chest and bi, back and tri routines…4 exercises each and 4 sets of each, looking for 6 or so reps…this in comparison feels less of a workout but I think I was doing too much and my goal is growth not strength so probably focusing on the wrong approach. These programmes although much less in terms of number of exercises and reps are leaving me much more sore the next day in a good way, probably the drop, rest, and negatives pushing the muscle. My only question is day 3 and 4 seem much heavier going than 1 and 2….when performing the exercise to get 12 good reps I’m looking at around 80% 1 RM, would you say for hypertrophy form is more important than weight, some exercises I perform 12 nice reps good form, stopping with maybe 1 or 2 more in the tank, if I up the weight even by only a couple of kg I can feel my form slipping and I get 8 reps of poorer form. Would you say stick at the same weight for all 3 and keep form, or still go for the extra weight and focus on 6/7 good form?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/07/2024 - 19:44

What's good, Matt? Thanks for reading M&S!

I'm always going to advocate form over weight. So anytime it comes down to making a choice, go with form. Proper form will eventually lead to heavier weights eventually. Hope this helps, and keep me posted on how you're doing.

Dan
Posted on: Sat, 12/30/2023 - 08:10

Hi - i see toning type exercises for shoulders (lateral raises) but dont see any strength exercise for shoulders (military press, DB press etc) so just wondering how the shoulders are getting hit from a strength perspective?

Thanks

Dan

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 12/30/2023 - 20:47

Hey Dan, the Incline Press and Flat DB Press both also work the front delts as well as the pecs. Many readers have asked about direct shoulder work, so you can either add Machine Shoulder Presses in if you like. Follow similar sets and rep schemes as the other exercises.

Ali Gammazi
Posted on: Sat, 12/23/2023 - 07:48

Hello,
I started working with this programme since the last week and I have a question about the 90 sec rest, should I take it between sets or between exercises, for example if am doing squat should it be like that 12 then 90sec rest then 12 then 90 sec rest then 12 then 90 sec rest and I move to the next exercise?

Thanks for you're quick response.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 12/27/2023 - 20:24

Hi, Ali. 90 seconds between sets and exercises. Hope this helps!

Johnny Muscles
Posted on: Wed, 12/13/2023 - 12:20

love this workout!

Johnny Muscles
Posted on: Wed, 12/13/2023 - 11:51

Thanks for posting the workout! For sets with a 12,10,12* i am increasing on set 2 (so the rest-pause makes sense to me and the weight progression between sets). for the drop sets, like 12,10,12+ for the third set should i start at a lower weight (vs set 2)? like same weight as set 1? going up doesn't make sense and honestly using the same weight as set 2 doesn't necessarily make sense either, i understand the concept of a drop set but the increase in reps is throwing me off.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 12/27/2023 - 20:23

Set 2 should not be a failure set, so go lighter on set 2 and use that weight for set 3. Hope this clears that up, Johnny.

Elad
Posted on: Wed, 12/06/2023 - 09:31

Hi
I just started and it’s a very cool workout
One question please …
I understand that I wait 90’sec between sets but How long is the rest between the drills ? ( I did 90 sec) is that ok or should I wait longer ?

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 12/27/2023 - 20:22

It is 90, but if you need 2 minutes, take it.

Revan Rebin
Posted on: Thu, 11/16/2023 - 09:01

Hi Mr.roger and muscle and strength team
Thanks for the workout it works perfectly
I gained a lot of muscle while losing fat
Some of these exercises are hard to get the
Form but they work wonders I want to stay on
muscle building workout and I am 16 with 6-7
Months of gym experience I did this one and it
Was incredible what do you guys recommend thanks
Again.

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 11/19/2023 - 19:20

So glad this helped you, Revan. This link should help you find that next program.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-choose-your-next-train...

Nilou
Posted on: Wed, 11/15/2023 - 18:51

Is this routine exclusively for hypertrophy.Will there be no strenth gains as there is no 3-5 rep sets that increase strength?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 11/19/2023 - 19:19

You may notice some strength gains, but this is primarily focused on hypertrophy.

Mahir
Posted on: Sun, 11/12/2023 - 15:13

Could you explain what i am supposed to do for Negatives?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 11/19/2023 - 19:19

On sets with negatives emphasized, all reps are with 3-5 second negatives.

Russ
Posted on: Thu, 11/09/2023 - 17:37

Hi Roger,

For the last set negatives, should the entire final set be negatives or should we finish the third set as normal and then do negatives to failure afterwards? Thanks.

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 11/19/2023 - 19:18

On sets with negatives emphasized, all reps are with 3-5 second negatives.

John
Posted on: Thu, 11/09/2023 - 17:34

Training legs one day a week? Is that enough? What’s the theory or reason for only 1 day a week? Thank you!

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 11/19/2023 - 19:17

Lot of work on that one day and the extra recovery will help stimulate growth.

José Gil
Posted on: Mon, 11/06/2023 - 16:18

I have been in a coma for a month and 3 months hospitalised, I have lost 53Kg, which means that I lost all my muscles, since I started with your plan I have built muscles again :-), thank you so much and have a great day.

From Portugal, Porto with love.

José Gil

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 11/16/2023 - 21:14

WOW! Jose, first off, I hope you're in much better health. Second, if this program actually helped you, then I'm honored! Thank you so much for sharing. Keep us posted on your progress going forward.

Ben
Posted on: Wed, 11/01/2023 - 06:23

Hi. I find it difficult to understand the difference between rest-drop set and negatives. You reduce the weight for both the inly difference i see is that the drop set has longer rest. If its more could you please explain me with an example. I know you jump from set 2 to set 3 with no rest.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 11/15/2023 - 18:04

Rest-pause set. You perform reps to failure, rest briefly without reducing the weight, then try to do more reps until you reach failure again.

Example: 60 pounds for 8 reps, rest 15 seconds, 60 pounds for 4 more reps.

Drop set. You perform reps to failure, rest while reducing the weight, then do more reps with the reduced weight.

Example: 60 pounds for 8 reps, reduce weight to 40, 40 reps for 8 more reps.

arthur
Posted on: Mon, 10/30/2023 - 20:24

what should i do if i want to work abs more

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 10/31/2023 - 08:28

Feel free to pick any of these and work them in once or even twice a week whenever it suits you best.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/abs

Christian Lugue
Posted on: Fri, 10/27/2023 - 22:46

Can I replace the dumbbell side lunge with another leg workout? Like leg press maybe. What are your suggestions?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 10/28/2023 - 07:23

You can, Christian. Let me know how this helps you and what your results are from the program. Thanks for reading M&S!

dune
Posted on: Mon, 10/23/2023 - 22:24

Yo! This workout routine is fire. I am seeing result after 6 weeks of following the workout routine above and I didn't pay a penny for it. Thank you so much!

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 10/24/2023 - 08:55

Love it! Thanks for the feedback and congrats on the results! We appreciate you reading M&S!

Arthur
Posted on: Fri, 10/20/2023 - 20:45

when doing a rest pause set should i perform as many full sets as possible and then as maybe half sets as possible ?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 10/22/2023 - 11:28

Full reps only. When you can't do a full rep with proper form, you should be done.

Sohail
Posted on: Fri, 10/13/2023 - 12:36

Hey Roger, why there is no bicep curls exercise ??

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 10/22/2023 - 11:28

Um, did you not see Day 3? I have three of them in there.