Density Giant Set Training: Maintain Muscle During Fat Loss

Man with Abs
The density set training system is a perfect workout for someone looking to drop fat, hold on to muscle, and train hard and heavy. Each session is brief and intense, but extremely effective!

Workout Summary

Lose Fat
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, Medicine Ball
Male & Female

Workout Description

Density trainingMax Out and Cut Fat

I hear it every time I ask someone their opinion on fat loss.  I see it every time I go online.  Looking to lose fat? Cardio, cardio and more cardio!  Well I have a problem with that, and I think every other muscle-bound guy out there does as well.  I don’t like killing myself on the stationary bike in the gym while wearing a garbage bag and having the thermostat cranked up into the triple digits.

Also, another problem I have with this method, is the loss of muscle size and strength during cutting phases.  So why not lose some fat while lifting heavy?  I’ve devised a density program to reduce or eliminate strength and size loss during a hardcore cutting phase by placing emphasis on the powerlifts.

I promise, you won’t have to touch an elliptical, treadmill, or stationary bike.  This program should be a favorite among heavy lifters because it allows you to have a max effort on a powerlift every day, even though it’s a cutting cycle. Because of its uniqueness and difficulty to adapt to, you may even see gains in size and strength while simultaneously cutting fat.

This program is designed as a full body workout with emphasis on a powerlift each day.

Core work is not included, but can be done as a warm up or cool down.  However, stay away from erector muscles, they get plenty of training during the actual workout, and any more activity may lead to overtraining and injury.

A sample day may look like this:

  • 5 Minute Dynamic Stretching/ General Warm Up (Done to stretch muscle fibers while raising heart rate)
  • 5 Minute Specific Warm Up (Ex. Bench on bench day, etc…)
  • Max Effort 1RM on Powerlift
  • 5-10 Minute Core Work
  • Density Workout
  • 5 Minutes Static Stretching/Cool Down

Constructing the program for you:

  • Each of the powerlifts should be done at 80% of your 1RM.
  • Assistance exercises should be done with 70-75% of your 1RM (possibly more or less depending on your strengths and weaknesses).
  • When med balls are called for, use a weight you are comfortable with, if the med ball is too light, you might not receive benefits of that exercise; too heavy, you may be placing emphasis on the wrong muscle groups, or you may experience too much joint stress.
  • During the max effort portion, don’t make any more than three attempts at a lift, this will too greatly hurt performance in the later density circuit.

Rules of the Program

  • Plyometric/bodyweight exercises can be done with dumbbells if an exercise feels too light.
  • Weights should not be increased throughout the program unless a weight feels drastically too light/too heavy.
  • Exercises in the program should be repeated through for 25 minutes NO MORE, NO LESS.
  • Each exercise in the set should be done back to back, any rest needed should be taken between sets.
  • The goal is to add a set done every time through the workout.
  • Separate each workout by at least a day to avoid overtraining.
Day 1
Bench Press Day
Exercise Reps
Bench Press 5
Push Up 20
Push Press 10
Medicine Ball Jump Snatch 15
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 10
Chest Dip 15
Day 2
Deadlift Day
Exercise Reps
Deadlift 5
Back Extension 20
Barbell Curl 10
Close Grip Chin Up 15
Dumbbell Lunge 10
Split Squat 15
Day 3
Squat Day
Exercise Reps
Squat 5
Tuck Jump 20
Upright Row 10
Inverted Row 15
ATG Front Squat 10
Dumbbell High Pulls 15

So there it is.  If you want to lose some fat, put down the cell phone and stop texting for 25 minutes to get in the best shape of your life.  You’ll look better, and still be able to bench an impressive load.  Try this program for a month or two, and then come back and do it again the next time you want to lose a little fat.  Have fun maxing out on the powerlifts, but be ready to sweat your ass off when it’s time to work.

About The Author
Although a swimmer at the division 2 level, John’s passion lies in weight training, from bodybuilding to powerlifting, as well as Olympic lifting and all forms of training.

425 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Wed, 08/03/2011 - 20:09
this looks great, but im a bit confused... do you perform each "day" as a circuit with no rest between exercises?
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Posted Wed, 08/03/2011 - 22:17
John Matulevich
Yes, each day is performed in circuit style training. Rest can be taken between exercises, but not so much that it ruins the intensity of the program. Try to avoid taking rest between the sets that work the same muscles, ex. bench with push ups, etc.
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Posted Thu, 11/10/2011 - 16:11
Lee Ketchell
Ugh hello John. I'd like to know if you know how many times I am supposed to repeat the excercise. Is it 3 sets each? Or what? because if I do the workout routine once I'd be finished in 5 minutes. Please help me. Thank you!
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Posted Fri, 11/25/2011 - 22:12
Nate Parsons
You workout for 25 minutes, you repeat until the 25 minutes are up
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Posted Mon, 02/13/2012 - 00:39
Try to avoid taking rest between the sets that work the same muscles, ex. bench with push ups, etc.
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Posted Sat, 03/03/2012 - 14:09
John I am struggling to understand not making sense to me, you mean we have to pick day one and start from bench press with 5 rep once done go to push up 20 until finish chest dips 10 and it should be done in 25 without rest do you have video show us you doing exercise.
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Posted Sat, 08/06/2011 - 19:56
Martin hall
How many days should you work out consectively
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Posted Thu, 08/11/2011 - 22:05
John Matulevich
The program is designed that it can be done up to 3 consecutive days without rest because, although all muscle groups are worked each day, the emphasis on a certain group each day allows for back to back workouts.
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Posted Wed, 08/10/2011 - 07:09
A month training programme?
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Posted Thu, 08/11/2011 - 22:12
John Matulevich
A month is a good place to start, if you like the program, and the results keep coming, dont stop just because the calendar says so
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Posted Tue, 10/11/2011 - 00:24
Michael Agostinelli
i am also confused when it say perform the exercises back to back and add a set every time the group is done, does that mean i do all of the exercises back to back as in EX 1, then EX 2, then EX3 so on until im fished then repeat the exercises thus doing more sets or do like three sets of EX1 then three of X2 until the allotted 25 minutes is up?
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Posted Mon, 04/29/2013 - 14:18
William Chilton
I'm not an expert by no means but because the are working three major muscles, i would say skip a day between them and maybe do cardio. so workout mon,wed,and fri, and tue, and thurs, do cardio.
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Posted Fri, 08/05/2011 - 10:00
i have question you do the circuit just once? and in the two days in between these workouts is there anything you can do without overtraining?
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Posted Thu, 08/11/2011 - 22:08
John Matulevich
To avoid over training, on off days, you can do forearm work, calves, abs or Obliques. Those muscles are extremely resilient and don't get directly trained in this routine, therefore, you can train those on the off days
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Posted Fri, 08/05/2011 - 10:22
How many Circuits do you do on each day?
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Posted Thu, 08/11/2011 - 22:09
John Matulevich
Do as many circuits as you can fit into a 25 minute period per day
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Posted Sat, 08/06/2011 - 00:02
It looks like you just keep repeating the circuit until you reach 25min correct?
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Posted Sat, 08/06/2011 - 16:51
hey i workout like for 5 days in a week so that means i need to do this particular program all five days? i mean circuit every single day for 5 days?
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Posted Mon, 08/08/2011 - 21:49
Ok guys , dont spam someone elses hard work. Read it through properly. It clearly states you limit your rest between the excersises. Treat the whole Day 1 as 1 complete set and for 25 minutes do as many SETS of Day 1 as you can. He also states that you should try NOT to do this on consecutive days as you will probably be overtraining so 5 days straight is most likely going to lead to muscle fatigue and be detrimental to your workout. In terms of how many circuits you do its as many as you can fit in 25 minutes. For some that will be 1 for others that will be 8+. The idea is to keep increasing sets as you go within the 25minute period. Personally I am going to give this a go because I like the princapals it is based around. My idea is to do the programme itself on mon(day1), wed(day2) and friday(day3). On the tuesday I plan on doing A 20 minute sesh of HITT with sprints and jogs and core work. On thursday I will be doing core work say a 1/3 hour sesh and light boxing as I dont want to do too much legs between day 2 and day 3(yes I am aware there is a lot of legs involved in boxing hence the light). A light jog on Sat because I always enjoy my saturday morning jogs and I feel for me that it helps with recovery in the legs dept. hope this helps answer questions and feel free to correct me anywhere I have gone wrong John. Thanks for the programme looking forward to strating it :)
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Posted Thu, 08/11/2011 - 22:15
John Matulevich
I appreciate the support on this! And a lot is open to interpretation and individual abilities, but I think your approach is perfect.
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Posted Tue, 08/09/2011 - 05:34
With intermediate level how many reps can be done
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Posted Sat, 12/17/2011 - 11:52
From my understanding you want to complete all reps. Lower your weight to complete the full reps and sets.
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Posted Tue, 08/09/2011 - 13:28
I have a question relating to this. Would anyone be able to advise on a workout plan during the cross country season? I have tried and tried again my workouts that I have been doing but my body is just to fatigued to complete a workout. Thanks any help would be appreciated.
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Posted Wed, 08/10/2011 - 23:08
Great workout. I'm currently on this and enjoying it. Different from all the other excruciating, time devouring, cutting work outs and I'm enjoying pretty good results already after just one week. As for everyone else READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. IT IS ALL OUTLINED IN THERE.
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Posted Fri, 08/12/2011 - 08:29
I just have a few questions about exercises. what is the medicine ball jump snatch and the ATG in front squats? Thanks
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Posted Fri, 08/12/2011 - 10:27
John Matulevich
A med ball jump snatch is a motion from bringing a medicine ball from the ground to overhead in one explosive jumping motion. ATG front squat is an "ass to grass" front squat. The idea behind this is to go as deep as possible, ideally, your hamstrings should be touching your calves at the lowest position.
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Posted Sat, 08/13/2011 - 02:08
question is it good to do situps every day for fat loss around the stomach
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Posted Fri, 09/30/2011 - 23:54
negative, targeting your abs will not eliminate abdominal fat, stomach fat is usually the last to go and the hardest to get rid of, continue working your whole body and sticking to a leaner diet and have some patience, sooner or later you will get the results, but dedication is the key here
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Posted Fri, 09/30/2011 - 23:54
negative, targeting your abs will not eliminate abdominal fat, stomach fat is usually the last to go and the hardest to get rid of, continue working your whole body and sticking to a leaner diet and have some patience, sooner or later you will get the results, but dedication is the key here
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Posted Sat, 08/13/2011 - 11:56
okay, im 15 and i have worked out for almost 6 months then i had to stop for a while, ive gained some fat that i would like to lose and i think this program is impressive as i dont want to lose my hard earned muscle while cutting down the fat. now i cant understand how this program works so could you please explain to me how it works ? and what excersices to do recomend for fat loss around the stomach area ? thanks for all your help appreciated
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Posted Sat, 08/13/2011 - 16:56
John Matulevich
The details of the program are all outlined within the article. If after reading it, you still can't figure it out, I'd be glad to help.
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Posted Sat, 08/20/2011 - 10:22
Hi! Jarem here. I'd like to ask if this kind of workout would be okay with me, considering that I am a bit chubby now. Fat in the midsection, but the upper body seems fine. I just need to be in a best shape I can, and not be bulky. plus, what is the minimum time where I can see results? Thanks in advance!
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Posted Wed, 08/24/2011 - 10:09
John Matulevich
This program would be great for you as long as you've already been introduced to weight lifting. Result times can vary based on your diet. With proper nutriton, within two weeks you should be able to see change.
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Posted Sun, 08/21/2011 - 03:09
just wanted to ask if anyone currently on this workout areseeing desired results, cheers
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Posted Mon, 08/22/2011 - 04:28
Sounds good to me. However, i have a few questions. 1.) if i cannot complete all the reps on a given exercise (e.g. i get to 10 pull-ups instead of 15) do i move on to the next exercise or do i wait until i can finish the full 15? 2.) When you say "assistance exercises", do you mean he barbell curls, push press, etc.?
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Posted Wed, 08/24/2011 - 10:13
John Matulevich
If you can not complete all 15 reps, you should stay on that exercise until they are all finished for the program to work as intended. Also, assistance work would be any of the non-powerlifts (squat, bench press, deadlift)
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Posted Mon, 08/22/2011 - 19:39
This looks like a fantastic workout, just wish the gym was quiet enough for me to access the different areas quick enough to really push myself in the 25minute period; waiting for someone to finish with a machine kills it!
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Posted Wed, 11/02/2011 - 01:34
haha very true!
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Posted Tue, 01/17/2012 - 05:36
brian parker
Just keep your heart rate up while waiting, When I do circuit training and I need to wait for a machine I make sure my heart rate doesn't drop below 160, your's may vary depending on age. I'm 22 so 160 keeps me breathing.
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Posted Wed, 08/24/2011 - 08:34
I've been running this program for 5 weeks now (and I'm seeing great results!) and I plan to change to a new program. Would you advise a rest period before moving on to another program? Thanks, Patrick
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Posted Wed, 08/24/2011 - 10:16
John Matulevich
Do what your body tells you. If you are at all sore or in need of rest, take it. But on the oppososite end of the spectrum, after I ended my last cutting cycle using this program, I was onto a different workout the very next day!
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Posted Wed, 08/24/2011 - 21:19
Hey John, thanks for the great workout. I have a question. What about the greater back muscles like Trapezius and Rhomboids? I know that Deadlifts are good for the Glutes with Traps/Rhomboids being slightly worked as stabilizers. I wonder if that's enough though? I don't want to create an imbalance between my back and my chest, so should I include a row exercise or something on deadlift day? Also, instead of dumbbell high pulls, would barbell high pulls work equally well? Thanks for a response.
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Posted Thu, 08/25/2011 - 10:08
John Matulevich
I can understand where you're coming from with the rhombiods and the possibility of an imbalance... However, if the chin ups are done correctly, at the uppermost portion of them the rhombiods will be engaged. Also, I tried to incorporate as many multijoint movements as I could to eliminate the need for more isolated movements (like back flyes to activate rhombiods) because if I had to add an additional movement for all deep muscles the workout would go from being 25 minutes to an hour which would totally compromise the idea behind this. And barbell high pulls are an option, but perhaps instead of that, I'd just subsitute it for a power clean/ snatch
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Posted Fri, 09/02/2011 - 18:24
Yeah, I definitely love this workout because of the 25 minute limit (on a tight schedule). Thank you for compiling it. Regarding the power cleans, should I follow the same rep count - 15? I can power clean about 165 for about 5 reps... and that wipes me out. So I might have to lower the weight significantly to do 15 reps. Is that going to effect the workout. The reason I don't want to use dumbbells is because my gym can get packed sometimes and moving around from the squat rack to other stations is a big waste of time. Thank you for your help!
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Posted Fri, 09/02/2011 - 20:24
Also, what could you provide a sample of a quick core workout? Like, Incline Reverse Crunch, Hanging Leg Raise, Oblique Crunches etc. type stuff or something else?
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Posted Sat, 09/03/2011 - 22:44
John Matulevich
You would not believe how inclusive this workout is in terms of core work. But of you want to add additional work, as I did when doing this workout, I'd do bicycle crunches. They're one of my favorite and work obliques and abdominals. Hanging leg raises as well as planks are among my favorite.
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Posted Thu, 08/25/2011 - 07:57
Hi, what is an Inverted Row and what is a Dumbbell High Pulls ? Thanks!
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Posted Thu, 08/25/2011 - 10:54
John Matulevich
Inverted row is done usually on a power rack where the body is pulled up towards the bar. So basically the exact opposite of a bench press and a high pull is an explosive movement from the ground to the chest. So it's basically a combination of a deadlift with an upright row
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Posted Mon, 08/29/2011 - 01:08
Hi I was just wanting to know what the push press, ARG front squat, split squat, chest dip, and medicine ball jump snatch is haha sorry for so many things and does this show great results?
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Posted Tue, 08/30/2011 - 14:00
John Matulevich
A push press is a front squat combined with a military press at the top of the lift. ATG front squat is a squat means ass to grass, so you want to squat as low as possible. A split squat is where the legs are separated front and back. Chest dip is just a standard body weight dip. A med ball jump snatch is a movement from bring a med ball from the ground to over head in an explosive jumping motion.