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.

431 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Tue, 02/07/2012 - 00:41
Jonathan

this problems stems from the fact that I'm not too familiar with the bodybuilder lingo. on a certain day, say deadlift, are we doing 5 reps at 80% our 1RM and THEN our 1RM? this is my main source of confusion. thanks!

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Posted Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:34
Chris

What is a dumbell high pull? Is it like an upright row, using dumbbells?
Thanks.

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Posted Sun, 02/05/2012 - 00:32
Brent

Is there any other exercise I can complete besides the Dumbbell High Pulls? Can i do a Kettlebell Sumo High Pull?

The reason I am having trouble finding out how to do this Dumbell High Pull exercise correctly doesn't seem to be much information about how do it?

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Posted Sun, 02/12/2012 - 22:02
John Matulevich

The kettlebell exercise is very compatible and has very good carry over into the program.

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Posted Sun, 02/05/2012 - 00:18
Brent

Hi John,

Program looks like I am going to do a trial run with it this week see how I go just a question

If I find myself waiting for a a bench or equipment what should i do while waiting? should I move onto the next exercise and come back to it you say get through it as many times as possible in 25 minutes but if there are delays should you bump the time upto 30 minutes?

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Posted Sun, 02/12/2012 - 22:01
John Matulevich

Bump up the time if you must, but if at all possible, try to avoid rush times in the gym for the best success.

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Posted Fri, 02/03/2012 - 12:39
Aaron Moore

Is this a good workout for workout for an endomorph body type?

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Posted Sun, 02/12/2012 - 22:00
John Matulevich

It's great for endomorphs. Many endomorphs have done this and had great success.

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Posted Fri, 02/03/2012 - 01:59
Michael

Here is my situation. I'm in the military and im a pilot in training so I am very busy. This workout seems great since it requires only 3 days a week and 25 mins total. But my current physical situation was that I used to be big into mass and in college. I was big not super cut or anything, but I worked out alot so I have proper experience. After college I went into military lost a lot of weight and lost a ton of muscle that I gained. After that training I went to pilot training which I havent gotten to work out for almost 6 months now and have gained fat. So im about 187 and want to get in good very cut physical shape and look good too. IS THIS THE WORKOUT FOR ME to get those goals? Also just restating the question above me if I run and do cardio or abs on the off days will that be ok? And on a side note I know diet is half the battle. What kind of diet plan do I need to have on this workout plan? Thanks for the help.

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Posted Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:08
John Matulevich

Diet is relatively simple. Red meat is your enemy, as is simple sugar. If you can avoid that, you're doing pretty well with yourself. This is a good workout for those goals, especially with having a large time span since you last worked out. Keep me posted on your results and success.
-John

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Posted Thu, 02/02/2012 - 14:01
David

What is a good substitute for the med ball jump snatch if you dont have one?

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Posted Mon, 02/06/2012 - 11:05
John Matulevich

Any small object with a decent amount of weight. I just like the med ball for its grip. Objects like free weights, plates or even a brick can work. I used to do ab work with paint cans before i got my first dumbbell set.
-John

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Posted Sun, 01/29/2012 - 11:09
Shane

What do you mean by reps?for example you say to do 5 reps on the bench press does that mean lift a comfortable weight. 5 times? Or 3 sets of 5

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Posted Tue, 01/31/2012 - 15:26
John Matulevich

5 repetitions once through a round. Then for every round you complete, one set.
-John

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 20:27
Joe

Is the time for this 25 minimum or if it's not enough can we continue on to at least 45-60 minutes?

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Posted Tue, 01/31/2012 - 15:22
John Matulevich

If done properly, the 25 minutes, with appropriate weights and rest times, should suffice. But if you're looking for a longer duration, i suppose adding time could be helpful, but may put extensive strain on the central nervous system. But I suppose it wouldn't hurt (a lot) to give it a try.
-John

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 18:23
Simon

This is hard if you put your sole into it. Managed 6 sets of the routine which wiped me out, harder than any weights routine. 10 secs between each exercise then 30 secs bet each set...I am a competitive martial artist and was looking for a routine to keep my muscle and strength but increase my anaerobic ability. I also notice there is a blood shift which max's the heart, where you hit the legs, then upper body. Excellent routine. ADVICE - you get out what you put in!!!

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Posted Tue, 01/31/2012 - 15:20
John Matulevich

Thanks for the support. This has a lot of science backing it. Good luck in your martial arts career.
-John

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 00:29
anthony

Sorry for the comment I read others and found the answer

Thank you,
Anthony

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 00:26
anthony

Hi, I am looking to start this program but I have one question. What does RM stand for?

Sorry for my ignorance

Thank you,
Anthony

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Posted Tue, 01/31/2012 - 15:18
John Matulevich

1rm= 1 repetition max = a weight you can only do successfully for one rep.
-John

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Posted Mon, 01/23/2012 - 20:30
Steve G

John This workout is no joke. You have me doing it Monday Wednesday - Thursday due to my schedule. It is working out well for me. On Tuesday doing some core work and running. On the days i workout after the routine depending on how i feel i do some cardio for about 15- 20 mins. You dont see nothing wrong with that do you ? Anyway thanks for the routine and your input keep up the good work. Also one more question about supplements do you think it would be ok to take creatine while I am on this routine. Once again Thanks

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Posted Tue, 01/31/2012 - 15:18
John Matulevich

Creatine is fine during almost any type of athletic cycle. Cardio on top of this, is a smart idea. Core work is good anytime and i did the program with running myself. Thanks for the support
-John

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Posted Sun, 01/22/2012 - 16:36
John

Hi there I'm just About to start your program, just a quick question what weight do you star on? For each exercise? Because you state "don't increase or lower weight"
Thanks.

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Posted Sat, 01/21/2012 - 15:04
Adam Kelly

i am a rugby player would this be suitable for gaining strength and muscle but also trimming a bit of the old fat

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Posted Sun, 01/15/2012 - 23:13
Laoise

Does one do this work out on consecutive days or every second day?

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Posted Fri, 01/20/2012 - 12:47
Benjamin Clapp

He stated that its best to do every 2nd day i.e. mon-wed-fri

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 13:24
John Matulevich

Either or, depending on personal preference.
-John

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Posted Thu, 01/12/2012 - 03:49
Salem

Hi, it seems to be a great program, but i need to get to know about two exsercises; the Inverted Row & the Dumbbell High Pulls, if possible to have a video or photos for the same.
thanking you in advance.

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Posted Wed, 01/18/2012 - 09:39
Adam

Salem, just google them or look them up on youtube.

Cheers.

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 13:24
John Matulevich

I can't control media content, but i'll do my best to explain them by way of word. DB high pulls are a plyometric movement where you start in a deadlift position and explosively pull all the way to the chest.
Inverted row is a pull up where the body is nearly horizontal to the ground and resting on an object equally as high as a bar to which you will pull your upper body. Sort of like a row done upside down, hence its namesake.
-John

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Posted Wed, 01/11/2012 - 17:52
Steve G

Hi
My question is why are there not alot of back excercises in this routine. No lat pulldowns or rows of any kind. What is the reason? Thanks

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 13:20
John Matulevich

First of all, lat pull downs are a garbage exercise. Secondly, the reason for the lack of back exercises is that this program tries to consist of "bang for your buck exercises" more back work can be added, but the idea is to keep volume/intensity high with heavy weights while trying to lose weight and maintain strength, which together is hard enough. By adding in more back exercises you create a tertiary goal of back hypertrophy which almost brings the goals of the program to a standstill by creating to many goals for such a program. Add some pull ups if you want more back work to help manage the lowering bodyweight better that is created by the cutting aspect of this program. Size, strength and fatloss can not exist simultaneously unless you're juicing or have the best genetics on the planet.
-John

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Posted Mon, 01/09/2012 - 16:05
abdul hafeez rabbani

my exercise regime is as this:
20 reps squats-40kg (5 sets)
12 reps deadlifts-50kg (5 sets)
10 reps incline bench press-40kg (3 sets)
10 reps flat chest press-40kg (3 sets)
i take one day rest in between exercise days.

and i keep in check my diet,i wanted to know if this enough to lose
weight ?

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 13:16
John Matulevich

You should definitely add in more hardcore back work. If the intensity is high, it should do a decent job, along with a very well-tuned diet, in weight loss.

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Posted Mon, 01/09/2012 - 10:52
craig

Going to start this routine tonight but just have a couple of quick questions.

A medicine ball jump snatch. I understand what it is from reading the other comments and replies, but just s little unsure of one thing. When you are raising the ball over head, are you swing it out in front of you and then over head? Or is it a from ground to chest and then pressing it kind of motion?

The dumbell high pulls. Never heard or seen this before. So you deadlift the weight and then do an upright row kind of motion. Am I aiming to do it all in one fluid motion (getting the weight up to shoulders all while still doing the deadlift aspect), or do I deadlift and then do the upright row portion once I am standing upright?

What's a tuck Jump?

I'm also just a bit confused after reading the "a sample day may look like" and "constructing the program for you". Is this workout meant to be just done at the 25 minute circuit, or is it meant to be done like the sample day? ex the 1RM lift followed by the circuit workout?

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 13:14
John Matulevich

1. The ball goes directly to overhead without a pause at the chest
2. High pulls are a fluid explosive motion similar to a clean with out the wrist flick/weight transfer
3. Tuck jump is a jump from a standing motion where you just vertically and pull your legs up to your core while in the air.
4. Its a 25 minute circuit with additional work outside of the workout for strength.

Hope this helped,
-John

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Posted Tue, 01/31/2012 - 15:20
craig

Excellent. This helped perfectly. I had already started this routine and have been doing it for three weeks now. This first month has been trying to fine tune the weights and everything for myself. It is feeling great so far. I am back on a different routine this week just due to my schedule and time available to me this week (2 day workout routine). It's a routine I was doing before and for the most part I do actually find the weights I was doing in that routine just a few weeks ago already seem a lot easier.

Your routine is beating the crap out of me. I don't think I will have any issue with losing any strength. If anything this will probably even help me gain some strength. Not seeing much in weight loss yet, but midesction is already looking better. Thanks for the great routine.

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Posted Sun, 01/08/2012 - 09:49
Phil

I have two questions, I can't do 15 chin-ups, so i was wondering if there was another exercise i could substitute....also, the gym i work out in doesn't have the back extension machine so could i replace that with a different exercise also?

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 13:10
John Matulevich

Instead of back extensions, you can do deadleg deadlifts (stiff leg), also, for chin-ups, you can do inverted rows, which is where you lay parallel to the ground under a low lying bar and pull yourself up with your feet placed on a chair, bench etc.
-John

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Posted Sun, 01/08/2012 - 08:38
Risha

My goal is to lose about 15-20 pounds in 2-3 months. Do you think I could reach this goal with this workout? I weigh about 160 as of now.

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 13:06
John Matulevich

Definitely. I am in a similar situation to you. When i first conceived this program, I was 172 trying to hit 150. I went down to 149 after some pretty substantial diet cuts and this program in a little over a month. If you don't change the diet as much as i did, it is still very plausible to drop the weight in a time period of 2-3 months.
-John

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Posted Sun, 01/08/2012 - 02:14
Robert

Do you think it would be a bad idea to do Day 1,2,3,off,1,2,3,off. Or would that be over doing it since each day has slight over lap of muscles done.

Cheers mate.

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 13:04
John Matulevich

I have done both variations so this comes down to personal preference. Many times with my clients i suggest a certain amount of individualizing to my workouts. Everyone knows their own body better than I would. So maybe you could try each different weeks and get a feel for it. It also depends on your goals. I have found the back to back days work better at burning fat and days between work better at keeping strength, however both ways complete both goals, just in different ratios. Sorry for the delay.
-John

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Posted Sat, 01/07/2012 - 18:29
Adam

John,

I have been reading these comments, and couldn't find the answers to my questions, so here they are. When doing split squats/dumbell lunge is it 15 reps per leg or 15 reps split between legs so 7 each? Also for the dumbbell high pulls, do I do them at the same time (both arms) or is a single arm motion, 15 each arm? I have tried both, and find the single arm works better, but just thought I would check. Lastly, the 1RM, does that mean for bench/squat/deadlift, we only do one rep at 100%, then move on to the next exercise, or are we doing 80% of our 1RM 5 times (reps)? Again, I have been doing 80% of my 1RM 5 times. Some clarity on these issues would be appreciated.

Other than that, it has been a great work out so far..keeps me sweating..Cheers!

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Posted Tue, 01/24/2012 - 13:01
John Matulevich

I'm going to answer your questions as best as i can so just take the info out of my response here as I do my best. !5 reps each leg on splits, High pulls are meant to be done both arms at once, but switching it can be beneficial. If you want to do a good explosive db movement, a single db snatch could be another replacement. Then 80% 1rm for 5 reps.
Thanks for the support

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Posted Wed, 01/04/2012 - 23:08
Chris

I Have 2 questions first will this help me with fat loss and if so how much can i expect to lose? and Is there a certain age that you have to be to do this

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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 13:22
John Matulevich

Any age 13+ can benefit from high intensity training like this. And the weight loss can vary based on intensity and diet.

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Posted Mon, 01/02/2012 - 19:52
Steve G

Hi
My question to you the upright row and the dumbbell high pulls. They are basically the same exercise right? What makes them different? Thanks

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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 12:06
John Matulevich

They do work close to the same movement but the dumbbell high pulls work the same movement pattern along with the rest of the body in a plyometric movement which promotes higher force production in the same group of muscles.