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.

431 Comments+ Post Comment

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

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

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

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

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

Best of luck to you.

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Posted Sun, 12/02/2012 - 12:59

What exercise can I do besides chin-ups. I do not have the right equipment.

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Posted Sun, 12/02/2012 - 12:57

What exercise can I do besides back extension. I do not have the right equipment.

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Posted Sun, 12/02/2012 - 12:54

Anyone know what exercise I could do instead of a chest dip? I don'y have the right equipment.

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Posted Tue, 11/27/2012 - 21:15

I'm really interested in trying this workout. I have bad knees, so can squats, lunges, and dead-lifts also be substituted? Thanks.

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Posted Thu, 11/29/2012 - 08:52
John Matulevich

Ideally you should be doing these exercises to actually strengthen and help fix your knee. Just make sure you are using proper form. I could show you many studies that actually show that squatting will actually help fix knee problems. Also be sure to stretch your hips and ankles, which may actually be the real problem behind your knee pain.

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Posted Sun, 12/02/2012 - 17:53

I'll keep form in mind and start light. My knee just gives sometimes, so I'll have to use a Smith's Machine starting out...would hate to come crashing down if you know what I mean. Thanks for your time.

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Posted Sat, 11/24/2012 - 15:07

WOW.............. did day one. my first set i did the recomended reps and was strong into the second circut with no rest between cicuts I got constantly lower in reps and weight . I did the circut five times in 25 min. weights and reps droped dramatically.............. did I really get a workout??

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Posted Tue, 11/27/2012 - 20:48
John Matulevich

You want to allow yourself enough time between sets to make sure you recover enough so that you can finish all of the prescribed reps... And make sure the you are using a low enough weight for all of the exercises. The name of the game here is fat loss, not tossing around the biggest weights. You just need to look at your means and make sure its helping you reach your ends. The way you described your workout sounds like you need a weight reduction as well as a slight dial down in intensity.
I hope this helped,
John Matulevich

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Posted Fri, 11/23/2012 - 22:20
Grant Ross

Been using this routine for almost 8 weeks now 3 days on 1 day off some days 2 off. During the first week i coue weeks.i was lucky to.get through 3 sets and was completley spent after. Ive definatley noticed loss of body fat and and an increase in endurance. I can grind through four giant sets plus two regular sets on both chest day and deadlift day. Squats im lucky to get through four sets. Overall great workout. Im used to spending 45 min to an.hour in the gym 6 days a week and the results have been slow. I would reccomend this to anyone who dislikes grinding through hour long cardio sessions or suffering through tortourous hiit sessions. Ive actually been able to increase all the weights i was using at the start of this workout including my max lifts and still progress with the number of sets completed overall all the while losing fat. About 10-12 pounds over the last 8 weeks. Awesome workout.

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Posted Tue, 11/27/2012 - 20:45
John Matulevich

Please email me, as I would actually like to use this comment as a testimony for any other potential people that may be looking at this program. Get in touch at

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Posted Tue, 11/20/2012 - 21:48

What if you cannot do all 15 of the chest dips due to being too heavy? If I do as many as I can is that good enough?

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Posted Tue, 11/27/2012 - 20:43
John Matulevich

You can substitute dips from a bench for these. It will emphasize the triceps a bit more, but it'll allow you to finish all of the prescribed reps and in the same movement pattern. This is what you want. So try to do that instead.

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Posted Sun, 11/18/2012 - 23:17

Can chin ups be substituted with over hand pull ups?
I'm a marine and pull ups are a tested workout, i can do 20+ with over hand pull ups, but not as much doing chin ups, i want to stick with pull ups because with those i can do more for our PFT.

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Posted Mon, 11/19/2012 - 21:09
John Matulevich

You can, but also don't be afraid to just work with slower negatives on pull ups to make it harder. Also, you can vary your hand width for a greater challenge.

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Posted Tue, 11/13/2012 - 19:07

How about if you do the work out for 1 hour

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Posted Wed, 11/21/2012 - 22:12
John Matulevich

That might be a bit much for such an intense workout. More is not always better. For the best results, get in, do a good warm up, get the heart rate going, do the stuff and get out.

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Posted Fri, 11/09/2012 - 16:58

I've been doing this routine now for 2 weeks and it is one tough workout!

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Posted Mon, 11/19/2012 - 21:08
John Matulevich

Glad to hear. If you have any further questions feel free to email me at for any help I can give. Also if you'd like, I'd be more than glad to hear about your results from the program at the same email.


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Posted Tue, 10/23/2012 - 16:04

If I'm understanding this right, the goal is to repeat this as many times as you can in 25 mins?

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Posted Mon, 11/19/2012 - 21:07
John Matulevich

Exactly. Do one set of each then go back through as many times as you can in 25 minutes.

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Posted Wed, 10/17/2012 - 16:50

Great work out just wanted to make sure I am on the right track and ask a quick question. Do you count the warm-up time, and the core time as part of the 25 minutes ore does the the clock start when you do your first set?

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Posted Thu, 10/04/2012 - 18:04

are the lunges on the deadlift day 10 each leg or 10 alternating legs?

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Posted Thu, 10/04/2012 - 00:09


Great set did my first workout out on it yesterday and was dead by my forth set! got a couple of questions though and I'm a bit of basic lifter so please excuse the ignorance.

1, So first day you say start with 1 RM I'm assuming that is one Rep at max weight, is this correct?

2, Power lift would be the Squat or Bench Press. I'm assuming say if i do 110kg on the bench at 5reps then i should be hitting about 85-90kg for that right?

3, About the off days, can I do cardio on those? Getting back into swimming, but having been a boxer I know the risks of over training? thoughts on what intensity I should aim for/avoid.

4, I normally have a protein shake after I train 50/50 split carbs protien with a t-spoon of creatine, which has worked well for me when doing both the

and the strong lift program. would you recommend i maintain supplement in take or try something new?

Please if you have an opinion on anything above please post as I'm always happy to learn from those who know more!

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Posted Fri, 09/21/2012 - 11:38

Thanks for the reply John!

I will give this workout a try as I have been looking for an intense workout that doesn't require being in the weight room for too long.

May I know what your thoughts are on the Arthur Jones concept of lifting/body building?

"Train to failure" with emphasis on controlling both negative and positive of each exercise performed.

Thank you again.


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Posted Sun, 09/23/2012 - 22:02
John Matulevich

Not familiar with the name, but the idea of lifting to failure can be a blessing as well as a fast descent into over training. Whenever I, or any of my clients train to failure, its usually on smaller muscles, if it is for a larger movement, I don't train to failure as often but if i do, i make sure we have ample recovery time afterwards before hitting the gym hard again. Feel free to email me at if you need anything else or if i can help you with anything specifically. I hope i've helped,

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Posted Mon, 09/17/2012 - 15:44
Gunnar Gray

I have a question you or someone may can help me with. Say I start on a Monday and do Day 1. Do I do Day 2 on Tuesday and Day 3 on Wednesday and repeat or do I need to do every other day and have cardio on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Please help me out!!!

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Posted Mon, 09/17/2012 - 17:33
John Matulevich

My best suggestion if you are starting out is to just go every other day, but then the days in between you can do other forms of cardio work if you want.

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Posted Thu, 09/13/2012 - 15:43

Hi John,

I have a question regarding this bullet point?

5 Minute Specific Warm Up (Ex. Bench on bench day, etc…)

What exactly does that mean? A warm up set specific for the exercise? For example I do 15-20 reps of bench press before actuall starting the workout?

Please advise

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Posted Fri, 09/14/2012 - 16:19
John Matulevich

A specific warm up may consist of several reps at lower weights and working up to your work weight. so it may look like barx5 95x5 135x5 185x5 then 200 working weight... or something similar. You could also switch your grip up in between sets, switch incline levels etc. to get the most muscle activation.

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Posted Sun, 09/09/2012 - 15:52
Rocky Chesser

Excellent workout

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Posted Sun, 09/23/2012 - 22:00
John Matulevich

Thank you for the support. If you have any questions about the workout, feel free to email me at and I'll get back to you as fast as i can.

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Posted Mon, 09/03/2012 - 00:28

Hey, I'm 15 and I don't want to stunt my growth. Therefore, can I replace squats and deadlifts with any other exercises?what can I do instead o chest dips? Cuz I can't do it at home lol

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Posted Mon, 09/10/2012 - 23:10
John Matulevich

At 15, generally you are past the point of stunted growth plates etc... However, if you physically appear to like like you are 12, then avoid general weight training, other wise, id do the rep scheme and exercises and designed. instead of chest dips, try doing as deep of a decline press as you can

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Posted Fri, 08/24/2012 - 05:28

John, I'm going to start doing this routine. I use a small app to follow it and track results, I copied the routine and gave credits where needed. Question is, can I share this routine with the rest of the community?


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Posted Mon, 09/10/2012 - 23:07
John Matulevich

Share it with anyone and everyone! If you have further questions, feel free to contact me at for the fastest responses to questions.

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Posted Tue, 08/21/2012 - 08:32

Hi John. On the offdays, how long should the running, (minimun) be? Is 20-25 minutes okay? Or should it be more like 1 hour?

Training programme for me; monday, wednesday, friday (your program). Running/jogging thusday and saturday. Walking 1 hour on thurday. Sounds ok?

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Posted Mon, 09/10/2012 - 23:03
John Matulevich

You honestly don't even need to run that long. Doing hill sprints, or just sprints in general for multiple sets is a great training stimulus and doesn't wreck the body like distance running. If you have any more questions, i can respond faster at sorry the response took so long. -jm

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Posted Thu, 08/16/2012 - 14:56

Hi John, i just read youre a swimmer, thats awesome. i was a swimmer too. im retired now but i m thinking to take on masters swimming next week.

i was wondering would this workout be a good complement for swimming or do you think or would one burn out the other?

thanks a lot. its great to have a fellow swimmer around here

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Posted Mon, 09/10/2012 - 23:00
John Matulevich

Great to hear you swim! And sorry for the delay. I missed a lot of comments on here and wasnt paying very close attention to the articles to be honest because i had some other projects going on. But if you are still interested, yes. This workout works great in conjunction with swimming. Sometimes when i ran through this program, I was swimming. If you every have any questions or anything I can help you with (strength and conditioning for swimming is becoming my specialty) feel free to email me at my gym email I'll get back to you extremely quickly through that.

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Posted Mon, 09/10/2012 - 23:06
John Matulevich

Hope you saw my reply to your last comment. Very excited to hear from swimmers.

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Posted Wed, 08/15/2012 - 10:07

Hello John. I have a question; What exercices can I do between the programme, like thuesday/thursday/saturday?
I have a basic muscle strength, but also has too much fat. If I really want too lose fat here, would the best be to jog/walk/cycling on the "rest day"?

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Posted Sat, 08/11/2012 - 21:04

This is a fantastic workout and pretty tiring. I went overseas for a 4 week holiday and put on a few kgs so this is a perfect re-introduction to lose some of that annoying looser fat for awhile before i move onto muscle building. The great part is the fact that there is a heavy element already built into this so there's no muscle loss. Losing fat and maintaining / gaining muscle was a golden discovery!!!

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Posted Tue, 07/24/2012 - 17:35

I don't understand how anyone could do this workout who doesn't have there own gym, all of the days circuits require various equipment. For example the first day, built around chest, requires bench press station, parallel bars and another bench inclined for dumbells, it's not possible to be monopolizing all those bits of equipments for 25 minutes without pissing every other person in the gym off.

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Posted Mon, 07/23/2012 - 15:11

I'm on my second week and loving this routine. I'm not able to maintain my wait on the major lifts. For example, on bench I found my max to be 255lbs and I set up 205lbs to do my 5 reps. I'm able to do 5 reps on my first time around but when I start my second circuit, I'm unable to do even one rep. Today on my third circuit I had 155lbs and was only able to do 3 and needed help on the last two.

Are you expecting us to keep the weight at 70-80% of the 1RM?