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
Split
Intermediate
3
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.

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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, 01/21/2015 - 15:31
Alan

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 !

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

Hey!
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?

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

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.

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

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:

PROGRAM 1:
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

PROGRAM 2:
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,
Max

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

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

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

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.

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

Can you do this for 40 mins instead of 25 cheers

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

quick question when you say Each of the powerlifts should be done at 80% of your 1RM.by 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?

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Posted Thu, 10/24/2013 - 19:56
H.H

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

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

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

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.

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

What would be a good diet to supplement this plan ?

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

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...

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

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?

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

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!

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

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 .

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

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

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

Then why does it say "Split" routine

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

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

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

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?

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

Is there an alternative to the medecine ball jump snatch?

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

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

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

John,
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.

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

John,
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.

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

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?

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

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.

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

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?

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

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?

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

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?

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

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?

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

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?

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

Are you still answering questions?

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

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 .

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Thanks!

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

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.

-John

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Posted Tue, 01/01/2013 - 13:09
Gorgees

I don't understand, how many sets do you do per exercise?

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Posted Fri, 01/18/2013 - 13:53
John Matulevich

You do one set for each exercise, until you reach the end of the circuit, then you would go back through until you reach the end of the 25 minute period.

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Posted Fri, 12/28/2012 - 19:48
Adeja

What foods should I be eating I I don't want to gain muscle, just lose far and how long will it take to get ripped

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Posted Fri, 12/28/2012 - 19:47
Adeja

What foods should I be eating I I don't want to gain muscle, just lose far and how long will it take to get ripped

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Posted Sun, 12/23/2012 - 05:27
Jonluke

This looks really interesting and I'm going to start it Monday, what is a good start number of sets on your first week? I started working out about a year ago and some of these exercise like Deadlifts and front squats I've never done before.

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Posted Thu, 12/27/2012 - 11:40
Joey

You would really want to take your time with squats and deadlifts if they are new to you. You'll want to work on perfecting your form before using really heavy weight or trying to complete them as quickly as possible.

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Posted Fri, 01/18/2013 - 13:52
John Matulevich

A good number of sets to complete the first time you do it would be between 2-3

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Posted Thu, 12/06/2012 - 10:32
mike

Today will be my third workout (squat day) and my chest, tris, ass, are still sore. It is a good pain and I can,t wait to have done this program for a few weeks.

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Posted Mon, 12/10/2012 - 19:43
John Matulevich

Mike,
Best of luck to you.
-John