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 Sun, 01/01/2012 - 04:09

Just a quick question, if we are following this workout plan in order to lose weight and gain muscle bulk, what should our diet consist of?

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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 12:04
John Matulevich

It all depends on the body. Make simple healthy decisions, and eat when your body tells you to

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Posted Fri, 12/30/2011 - 18:13

Hey John,
Just a quick question, I work 12 till about 9 or 10 at night everyday of the week for the next 3 weeks, is it better to do the workout in the morning before I go to work or after I get back at night.

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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 12:03
John Matulevich

Definitely in the morning, it raises your metabolism all day and burns more fat. However, if this doesnt work, or you feel too fatigued during the day after workouts, it doesn't hurt to workout at night.

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Posted Fri, 12/30/2011 - 02:15

Sorry for the double post, can I use dumbbells instead of med balls? I don't own a med balls. =)

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

Dumbbells can be easily implimented into the program in exchange for medballs.

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Posted Fri, 12/30/2011 - 02:09

Can someone please explain this?? THNX. =)

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

-I really don't understand on what it means. =(

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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 12:00
John Matulevich

Sorry if it seems a little complicated, but its quite simple. Say your bench press 1 rep max is 200 pounds, then you would take 200 x .8 = 160 and that would be your working weight for the reps. So to calculate the correct weights, you need to know the highest weight you can do for one rep. You can also be less scientific about it if you'd like and just guestimate.

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Posted Thu, 12/29/2011 - 14:22

I'm always looking for new routines to supplement my diet. I'm currently on the Isagenix 30 day cleanse and I've lost significant weight, but I'd also like to add some muscle, so thank you.

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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 11:57
John Matulevich

Thanks and good luck.

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Posted Thu, 12/29/2011 - 10:32

For the moment I cant do 15 chin up, is there something I can do instead? or would you suggest to do them negatively, keep control on the lowering part.

I am 6,4 235lbs and need to loose some fat, i have 27%bf, will this routine help or should I add cardio to it?


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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 11:55
John Matulevich

As long as you keep the intensity high, this should be a good place to start. After the first week or two, if you feel more is necessary, add in some running, or whatever. Just don't jump the gun and put too much on your plate at once. You want to avoid overtraining which can cause injuries, which can take you out of working out for a long time. so just ease into it.

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Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 20:58

I am pretty excited to begin this after work tomorrow. I am not looking forward to the New Years Resolution crowding that will start next week and this looks like something i can beat the crowd with as well as lose my Holiday Chub.

Currently i'm 6'1"/200lbs. My chest, lower back and stomach are in the poorest shape. With a smart diet i'm hoping for positive response come February....!

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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 11:52
John Matulevich

Best of luck to you. This should do the job. Feel free to comment with results after you finish the cycle.

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Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 19:11

Great workout - leaves me feeling accomplished! Question, I'm trying to stay away from Dead Lifts and Squats to help a bulging L5/S1 disc heal (may not ever really be able to do those types of heavy lifts again). Can you suggest alternatives? Thanks!

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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 11:51
John Matulevich

Possibly leg presses depending on the injury. As far as deadlifts, do deficit dead lifts from a box with a hexagonal bar. That way the weights are significantly lower and less tension on the back while still working the appropriate muscles in the same movement pattern

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Posted Fri, 12/23/2011 - 10:30
Just Me

Just finished Day 1...
This routine ain't no punk!

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Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 20:52

starting it tomorrow. thanks for the warning! lol

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Posted Thu, 12/22/2011 - 18:40

I hurt my ankle and I cant do the squats properly do to pain. What would be a good alternative to doing them??

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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 11:47
John Matulevich

There are many things that can be done instead of squats but it depends on the injury type. A hack squat on the machine is a good alternative or leg press.

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Posted Thu, 12/22/2011 - 15:03

This would be great if all the stations were in one spot. My gym is busy so it's tough to put 3-4 stations on hold while running from spot to spot for 25 minutes. ;-(

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Posted Fri, 01/06/2012 - 11:46
John Matulevich

You can also just use this as a template by finding what your gym has available and planning it accordingly to match similar exercises in the workout to keep the intensity and tempo high while still targeting the appropriate muscle groups.

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Posted Mon, 12/12/2011 - 04:53

i get the reps and the circuit...but how many sets do we have to perform?

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Posted Sat, 12/17/2011 - 11:54

If you read the instructions and the comments you'll notice this question has been answered. It's a 25 minute work out. Rest between sets as needed. Complete as many sets as possible in the 25 minutes.

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Posted Mon, 12/12/2011 - 03:08

If i am 6'0 and 186 lbs looking to shred fat and still get stronger with minimal bulk is this for me?

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Posted Mon, 12/19/2011 - 20:30
John Matulevich

More than likely yes, give it a go, if it doesnt work after a month move on. But give it time to see results.

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Posted Sun, 12/11/2011 - 04:16

I have a bit of a gut and am not very strong for a 20 year old. Is this workout still an effective starting point for both muscle build and fat loss as long as I don't overdo it and push myself too far? If not, what would you recommend? Thank you.

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Posted Mon, 12/19/2011 - 20:29
John Matulevich

This is good because it adds in additional training factors most workouts dont consider such as time, intensity and combinations of bodyweight to weighted exercises. It can be a good starting point to get a solid strength and physique base.

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Posted Sun, 12/11/2011 - 01:32

hey there,
what's dumbell pull? and isit very strictly have to stick with the reps of every exercise?

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Posted Mon, 12/19/2011 - 20:28
John Matulevich

The reps are done in accordance to their importance and frequency in the workout. If you feel change is neccessary then go for it.

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Posted Sat, 12/10/2011 - 22:08

Hi, friends i am new here and my weight is 65 will this exercise lose only unnecessary fat from my belly and built ripped chest can i use nutritional supplements during the period.thanx plz rply

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Posted Mon, 12/19/2011 - 20:27
John Matulevich

This will be a good workout. I'd stick to protein and creatine as your main supplements.

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Posted Sat, 12/10/2011 - 09:01
omar hobeika

Hi John,
I have knees issues due to running and crossfit. I can't do lunges or any leg exercises that requires lots of bending. Your advice on alternative exercises is appreciated.

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Posted Mon, 12/19/2011 - 20:25
John Matulevich

I'd stick away from hinging movements. Id try to substitute leg curls and hamstring isolation exercises in the place of hinge movements. but be sure to get plenty glute work to make up for the lost of bending movements and hamstring isolation such as running and squats.

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Posted Sat, 12/10/2011 - 07:08
Darren Moore

I am tall and slimmer built, I have a little fat around my midsection that I've been trying to get rid of for 6 months now. I guess that’s a part of turning 40. I want to tone up and add a little more muscle while trimming the fat around my midsection. I am certainly going to give this program a try – thank you for posting this!

I've been in boot camp class for 3 days a week for the past 6 months and I am not seeing the results I want. So I am going to cut my boot camp to 1 day a week and add this program.

Question about diet while on this plan...I've been eating 5 to 6 meals a day for the past 6 months. Of course I've cheated from time to time and maybe for a week while on vacation. Can you shed more light on what we should be eating? I know protein is King and carbs are a no no.

Typically this is what I eat daily. What’s your thoughts on my diet?

4:30 am -pre workout – glass of water, banana or protein bar

6:30 am – post workout – protein shake made with 2 cups of organic spinach, 8oz of filtered water, ¼ cup blueberries, 2oz Acai berry, 1 tbls flax seed oil (sometime I will substitute organic almond butter instead of flax seed oil), 1 scope of protein power (30 grams), 4 to 5 cubes of ice. (I know the spinach sounds gross but TURST me it’s not. You don’t even taste the spinach at all, it’s a good way to get your greens in for the day. But just make sure you have a good blender(I use the Nija and it works GREAT!) and blend the spinach and water first to help liquidify the spinach then add all your other goodies)

9:00 am – eat hand full of almonds and an apple

11:30 am – protein bar

1:30 pm – lunch (turkey sandwich, or ground turkey with small amount of pasta)

3:30 pm – mid snack – cheese and crackers, almonds or I will sometime make a double batch of my post workout protein shake and bring it work for my mid afternoon snack.

6:30 – Dinner – fish, or turkey sandwich, or chicken with vegetables.

Also I will drink 64 oz of water throughout the day. I buy a case of 64 oz size water and take one to work everyday and I finish it before I leave. I feel like I need to have a catheter on because I have to go pee all day long! I think just getting up going to the restroom is a workout itself. Maybe that is the real reason why they say if you drink lots of water you’ll lose weight….LOL just kidding.

My challenge is I get bored real easy with my food choices and would love to hear what everyone else eats and if I should change up my plan. I think I am eating too many almonds! LOL

I am hitting the gym first thing tomorrow with this plan.

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Posted Mon, 12/19/2011 - 20:23
John Matulevich

Some of your meals are similar to mine. I think the eating is great. Id say more than anything eat lots of fish. Supplements are great and all but only get you so far. I'd say give this workout a go and ill be posting more in the future for you to try.

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Posted Fri, 12/09/2011 - 14:56

Hey fellas, just wanted to leave my two cents on this after running the program for 2-3 weeks:

Feels very lower-body centered to me. Bench day leaves me blasted, but lower body looks like it gets the better amount of the work for the other two days. Squat day is by far the most challenging, always seems to really destroy my quads. I personally feel the back muscles don't get quite as much attention as I would prefer, however when considering the goal (cutting/fat loss while retaining muscle) I think it is overall better to focus on the lower body and heavier lifts. They really get the blood pumping.

The main difficulty with this program lies in logistics of implementing it into a public gym. There are almost always SOME minute change that has to be made on the fly (I have to spend almost two minutes every Deadlift set walking from the big weight room to the upstairs where there is acceptable equipment to do back extensions on, therefore I give myself an extra 2 or 3 minutes on that day)

Overall, John, I love the program so far. It's extremely challenging. I'm continuing the program for a total of six weeks. More progress reports to come. Great work!

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Posted Mon, 12/19/2011 - 20:19
John Matulevich

Thanks for the support.

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Posted Tue, 12/06/2011 - 01:10
Alfonso Navarro

What does the ideal meal plan look like for someone thats on this workout plan?

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Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 12:04
John Matulevich

That depends on your body. Eat when hungry and don't when not.

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Posted Mon, 12/05/2011 - 18:11

I was just wondering what an ideal calorie intake while on this program would be. I understand everything from your directions just am not too good with dieting

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Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 12:03
John Matulevich

It all depends on your body composition. Personally, I say eat when you feel you should eat and don't when you don't think you should. Your body is far too complex to satisfied by some caloric formula.

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Posted Sun, 12/04/2011 - 06:39

Hey John. I think I am going to give this a go but I have a couple of questions.

Every time I switch stations I have to fiddle with the bars (change the weights etc) or wait do you think some variation of this could be designed where you are using the weight for all the exercises?

what days would you put in a powerclean and a snatch.

What do you think about reversing the order of the bodyweight exercise with the heavy one so that the bodyweight one acts as a warmup. For example doing the jump squats before the heavy squat.

Thanks in advance.

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Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 11:58
John Matulevich

To answer your first question, i suppose it could be done in a fashion where all weights are the same. This would be a form of a barbell complex which has its strengths and weaknesses. One thing I don't like about it is the chain of exercises have to be done at a weight low enough so that it accommodates for the weakest body part, which leaves bigger groups untrained.
Powerclean and snatches should be done on the lower body specific days, because they are, although full-body encompassing, lower body exercises. I would pair Power cleans on deadlift day and snatches on squat day, because here they best replicate those movements.
Switching the exercises is an interesting concept, and if you feel that you could do those exercises easily enough so that they don't tax the muscles for the weighted movements, then i suppose no harm is done.

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Posted Tue, 11/29/2011 - 12:45

John love this workout did day one and feel so pumped today...i have been working out over 20 years this has to be one of the best workouts I have ever done....look forward to my should maybe let people put up before and after photos....appreciate that you take the time out to respond to us LITTLE PEOPLE.....few questions im 38 years old 5'9" 212lbs normally around 190-195lbs nice looking physique when in shape have been lazy lately have an anatomy class that is a killer but anyway....just started cardio....i do on treadmill at 15 degree incline 3.5 to 4.0 mph for 30 minutes....burn anywhere 500 to 600 it okay to do this on my days i workout and on my off days as well? i plan on doing the workout mon, wed, fri, and dont want to tues, and thurs cardio and doing abs and calves...will this be okay dont want to over train...trying to get my 8 pack back? also how long of a rest period should i take after doing all of the exercises ex: after doing dips on day 1 should i rest 1 min or 2 min before i start bench press i dont rest when doing the circuit go straight rest is when im walking to the other machine....last question can you post another 3 day workout i like to change up every 4 to 6 weeks....thanks look forward to your reply

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Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 11:51
John Matulevich

Sorry it took so long to respond. I'm going to say to you what i say to most people when they ask me about supplemental training, just follow your body. So if you feel you can train more, go ahead and train more, it'll offer you nothing but good things. But as soon as you feel like you shouldn't push anymore, stop. Then maybe its time to reduce the workouts. When going through the cycle, don't worry about a set time between the dips and bench press. Just go when you feel you can successfully complete all of the repetitions. If you want a set time, id say start at where ever you feel comfortable i.e. 1 minute, and try to reduce it by 10-15 seconds until you get down to just the time of switching machines like you would between other exercises.
Hope this helped.

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Posted Tue, 11/29/2011 - 03:07

Im 14 and im trying to workout and lift for baseball. I was wondering should I use lighter weight and do more reps or do heavier weight with less reps? I'm trying to get cut and build lean muscle, not trying to get big and bulky.

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Posted Tue, 11/29/2011 - 13:08
John Matulevich

Do the reps as listed. This program isn't necessarily designed for growth and size. So follow the workout as is with the weights and reps. If the weights are too heavy, feel free to lower them to achieve more sets in the allotted time.

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Posted Sun, 11/27/2011 - 10:54

Hi, this is an amazing program and I've been using it for the last one week. However, there's one major problem. My gym is quite busy and rarely is a bench free. I'm always asking someone to let me do a quick set, but when it comes to the bench press this is difficult, as there are always quite a few guys using it with heavy weight. So last time I used the Smith machine, although I know I need to avoid it. Are there any other free weight alternatives for bench press exercises? Another question, can I reduce the weight during the workout if it feels too heavy to complete the set? Many thanks

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Posted Mon, 11/28/2011 - 11:06
John Matulevich

A reduction in a weight can be a good thing. If you feel it is too heavy, it is always better to get every rep with a lower weight, then a higher weight for less quality reps. Instead of the bench press, I'd say a military press. This allows you to use the bench and still train the upper body with a big compound movement.