Density Giant Set Training: Maintain Muscle During Fat Loss

John Matulevich
Written By: John Matulevich
August 3rd, 2011
Updated: June 13th, 2020
866.5K Reads
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
  • Main Goal
    Lose Fat
  • Workout Type
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration8 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout30-45 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, Medicine Ball
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

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
Overhead 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.

Posted on: Thu, 02/11/2021 - 21:39

Hi There,

Going to try this program shortly after my bulk, what should i do on the off days? Just walks? No cardio at all?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 02/12/2021 - 10:18

Hey Conor - you can add in cardio on your off days.

noel perera
Posted on: Fri, 10/30/2015 - 07:39

Could you please explain how a typical Bench day would be. I'm a little confused as to what are the reps given and repeating which part for 25mins? Please explain. Thank you

Posted on: Tue, 06/23/2015 - 09:42

the workout is great and i had fun, but doing it first time i wasnt able to pull much weight, what diet should be followed with this? also can we swap the sequences of the exercises mentioned?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 06/24/2015 - 10:00

Your nutrition will depend upon your goals (muscle gain or fat loss). If you're looking to gain muscle then you'll need a caloric surplus. Alternatively, if you're looking to lose body fat then you must maintain a caloric deficit.

There are some exercises which could be swapped but it would depend. Which ones were you looking to move around?

Posted on: Thu, 06/25/2015 - 15:55

can you explain properly what you meant by calorie deficit? u mean eating less?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 06/25/2015 - 16:38

A calorie deficit means you're burning more calories than you're consuming.

Posted on: Thu, 06/25/2015 - 17:10

thanks, i will cut down on my carbs, n include more of fibre, n protiens but reducing carbs will also make me reduce the weights in this programme

Posted on: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 15:31

as someone who has a hard time shedding fat and gaining muscle, I can say this program is amazing. I did it a couple of years ago. I was expecting it to not be as good as it really is. I went from 216 lbs to 194!! This program, mixed with a good diet is amazing for results. Thanks John !

Jessica Villanueva
Posted on: Tue, 06/23/2015 - 10:05

What was your diet like?

Mangat Rai
Posted on: Tue, 07/08/2014 - 07:29

This workout looks sound but I have couple of questions for me. Could you please help?

1. I don't have medicine ball at my gym. Can I replace that particular exercise with something else?
2. I can't do chin-ups. I know its embarrassing, but the maximum I can do since my childhood is too hold the bar. I can do 50 pushups instead. Any suggestion here? Either to replace workout or to make my strength for the chin ups?

Posted on: Tue, 04/29/2014 - 12:33

It sounds to me that I need to be at the gym all by myself to be able to performe this exercise correctly, without having to wait at every station.

Posted on: Thu, 03/13/2014 - 09:07

Hi John,
I'm thinking to try this workout soon but I have a question about how schedule my week workout.
I would add 2 sprints days with Tabata system (20 secs on + 10 secs off, repeated 4 minutes) but i don't know if add them on workout days or another days; what do you suggest??
I post you 2 different programs, tell me what is the best in your opinion:

Mon -> Density w/o (day 1)
Tue -> sprint (tabata system)
Wed -> Density w/o (day 2)
Thu -> rest
Fri -> Density w/o (day 3)
Sat -> sprint (tabata system)
Sun -> rest

Mon -> Density w/o (day 1) + sprint (tabata system - AFTER density workout)
Tue -> rest
Wed -> Density w/o (day 2)
Thu -> rest
Fri -> Density w/o (day 3)
Sat -> sprint (tabata system)
Sun -> rest

NOTE: in program 2 I put the second sprint day on Sat; it's an arbitrary choice, if you have better ideas please modify it.

Thanks a lot,

Posted on: Mon, 02/24/2014 - 09:03

It's crazy, it's insane, it's effective!

Posted on: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 14:30

im still a little confused. i plan on doing this workout three days a week as suggested but when you say, Exercises in the program should be repeated through for 25 minutes NO MORE, NO LESS, does that mean i spend 25 min on each specific execise then move on to the next, or is the entire workout including all the exercises, for that day, supposed to be done in 25 minutes? plus warm up and cool down.

Posted on: Sat, 12/21/2013 - 13:50

Can you do this for 40 mins instead of 25 cheers

Posted on: Thu, 11/07/2013 - 20:40

quick question when you say Each of the powerlifts should be done at 80% of your powerlift do you mean the 5 rep ex on the specific day? so bench, deadlift and squat
and by assistance ex you mean any other exercise which isn't the 5 rep ones?

Posted on: Thu, 10/24/2013 - 19:56

Can you give more information about the diet that could be effective with this workout for fat loss while maintaining or even gain muscle?

Posted on: Tue, 10/22/2013 - 18:33

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Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2013 - 14:50

Starting my fifth week of this program. Although I've had to substitute a couple of exercises due to lack of equipment, I've been loving every minute of it. My only question is: why so adamant regarding the 25 minute time frame? I realized early on that I couldn't finish much more than 2 circuits in 25 minutes, so I just took as long as needed to finish 3 circuits - usually 30-35 minutes. This week I expect to be able to finish 4 circuits in that amount of time. I feel great with this routine, but would it be more effective if I compress more of a workout into a shorter period of time? Thanks.

Posted on: Thu, 10/10/2013 - 01:21

What would be a good diet to supplement this plan ?

Posted on: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 13:34

This workout is very effective..I added a Tabeta session at the beginning of the workout, and did 3 sets of 3 Abs (upper, lower, obliques) exercises, then I jumped into this workout...awesome results..thanks John...

Posted on: Sun, 09/29/2013 - 08:38

So if I understand this correctly....refereeing to sample workout at the top... I would warm up ... Do a max effort 1rm say bench on bench day then do the 25minute circuit?

Posted on: Wed, 08/14/2013 - 15:25

Diet: Should I go on a calorie deficit during this workout? I have done that while lifting heavy before and I felt very tired all the time and malnourished. Just wondering what you do during a workout like this... Thanks!

Posted on: Thu, 08/01/2013 - 16:53

Just started the program . Great workout, not use to 25 min of 100 percent out put. Been doing it with my son he's 24 iam 52 we are drenched when were done. I like it because its quick and intense . Going to keep doing it,great change up .

Posted on: Tue, 07/23/2013 - 19:16

do i take a rest day between workout days and will this make me overtrain

Posted on: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 16:13

Then why does it say "Split" routine

Posted on: Mon, 05/20/2013 - 06:23

alternate exercise for Medicine Ball Jump Snatch cause there is no medicine ball in the gym

Posted on: Tue, 05/14/2013 - 21:10

I am interested in starting this workout routine. I am 32 yrs old currently and weigh about 235. I want to get down to about 205-215 but gain muscle mass while getting lean. Will this type of routine help?

Posted on: Fri, 05/10/2013 - 03:35

Is there an alternative to the medecine ball jump snatch?

Posted on: Wed, 05/01/2013 - 10:38

I'm currently doing the "Insanity Program," which is basically a max interval cardio type training to lose weight. Do I risk over training if I do the program alongside it? Thanks for the input

Posted on: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 21:07

Did day 1 today and WOW, talk about a burn. Have a question though, from start to finish (warm up, specific warm up, 1RM, density workout) all suppose to be done in the 25 min time frame? I didn't start the 25 min until I finished the 1RM, was smoked after 3 rounds and still had 5 min left.
Thanks for any advice. I've currently lost 40lbs and have plateaued. Still have about 10-15lbs to go.

Posted on: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 20:36

I recently came across your workout and I'm thinking it's going to be great. Just one question, is everything from general warm up, Specific Warm Up, Max Effort 1RM on Powerlift, Density Workout to cool down suppose to be done within the 25 min. time frame? After doing the warm up, specific warm up, 1RM then 25 min of the density workout, I was smoked. After 3 rounds I couldn't finish the dips anymore and still had 5 min. left. Thanks for any assistance you can give. I've lost 45lbs this past year and down to 200. I'm looking to get to about 185-190 and think along w/ my cardio it'll do the trick.

Soren D
Posted on: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 19:53

Okay I've got a a question. So for example, day 1 (bench press day). If I finish before 25 minutes, do I repeat the whole entire workout again until my 25 minutes is up?

Posted on: Thu, 03/07/2013 - 08:28

Hi there,

I need to try this, but i am also going to ride my bicycle to the gym. which is 20 mins way from gym.
so i will give it a go.

Plus I am planning to start with a good diet this upcoming week.

My body has gained extra fat and its preety annoying cause i am still young.
Thought i would start cardio but this seems better to keep the muscle i still have.

anyhow thanks for providing this.

I will defentely let you know about my progress a month or 2.

Posted on: Fri, 03/01/2013 - 09:42

I'm curious: After I am done the 25 minute workout, what else can I do? 25 minutes seems a little short to be at the gym and I was wondering what I should do after I am through with the circuit? Or should I not do anything at all?

Posted on: Mon, 02/25/2013 - 00:37

Hi Alex here. Im 18 and i started weight lifting 4months ago but i mostly did cardio to lose fat i weighed 210 and now i weight 165 and i have been trying to get muscle and lose the rest of the fat couls this be done for mon, tues, and wed, then thrusday we rest then we can do it again friday saturday and sunday?

Posted on: Mon, 02/25/2013 - 00:36

Hi Alex here. Im 18 and i started weight lifting 4months ago but i mostly did cardio to lose fat i weighed 210 and now i weight 165 and i have been trying to get muscle and lose the rest of the fat couls this be done for mon, tues, and wed, then thrusday we rest then we can do it again friday saturday and sunday?

Posted on: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 17:15

I don't have access to any medicine ball at my gym. Are there any workouts I can use to replace Medicine Ball Jump Snatch?

Posted on: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 21:56

Currently, I am trying to shred some fat while improving my cardio, speed and overall strength for both soccer season and spring break. Is this an appropriate plan? Also, 25 minutes seems like a very short time?

Posted on: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 21:35

Are you still answering questions?

Posted on: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:57

i did this workout today en pffff what can i say its verry intense i am *$%ed:P this was my first day i wil be back when i see changin in my bodyy respect for this workout .

Posted on: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 09:10

I can't do bodyweight chinups. can i just do it on a machine?

John Matulevich
Posted on: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 14:00

Yes, this program relies more on hitting the appropriate rep ranges than it does on the weight, so yes, you can use the machine, but set it at a weight so that all of the sets are demanding.

Posted on: Sun, 01/13/2013 - 05:49

hey.....I just want to know if i can do cardio during the program (40min running each day)?? thanks

John Matulevich
Posted on: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 13:57

Cardio can be done in addition to the program, but should be done after the workout, in a completely different workout, or on off days.

Posted on: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 11:28

Sorry but should i do i first do max bench then when i start the program do 5 reps?

John Matulevich
Posted on: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 13:56

You can max first to get a gauge where you are starting at, but it is not mandatory to see results

Posted on: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 00:58

Hi, just started this program today, so far I'm loving it. I've tried other programs over the years with little success mainly due to the amount of time needed to complete the routines and the boring cardio. I have high hopes for this program. One question though, is there a nutrition program that goes best with this lifting program?


John Matulevich
Posted on: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 13:54

There hasn't been one established yet, but I am in the planning stages of creating a fat loss guide which can be used in conjunction with this program. So look for it in the near future.