Conquering The Giant: Giant Set Workouts For Hypertrophy & Fat Loss

Mike Samuels
Written By: Mike Samuels
January 13th, 2014
Updated: June 13th, 2020
198.9K Reads
Learn how giant sets and density training can help ignite fat loss and spark new muscle growth. Feature includes sample push, pull, leg and fat burning workouts.
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
    Single Muscle Group
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration6 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout30-45 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Recommended Supps

Workout Description

Your lungs are burning, blood is pumping through your temple so fast it feels like your brain’s about to burst and your muscles are on fire. Gasping for air, you drop the barbell, fall to your knees and pray for the end.

Still shaking 60 seconds later, you lift your head and catch sight of yourself in the mirror. Paper-thin skin, bulging veins, and abs so ripped you could grate cheese on them. You glare at the weights and detest the prospect of another set, but the results are worth it, and hey – the masochist in you loves the pain this type of training brings.

Say hello to the giant set.

Cable Tricep ExtensionsGiant Sets 101

Anyone who’s ever picked up a bodybuilding magazine has probably come across supersets, and you’ve probably included these in your routine now and again. Maybe you thought they’d be beneficial, maybe it was just to save some time, but most of us are familiar with the concept of performing two exercises back to back with no rest in between.

Tri-sets take this a step further, by grouping three exercises back to back.

Thinking of ramping it up a notch and going for four or more exercises? Well then you, my friend, have yourself a giant set.

The premise of a giant set is that you perform four or more exercises back to back, taking minimum rest between each. You can do all the exercises for one muscle group, have several exercises for a couple of body parts, or mix things up and perform a total-body giant set.

Benefits of giant sets

Weight training has an awesome metabolic effect. If you’ve spent any time reading about the iron game, you’ll know about the massive impact weight training has on EPOC (Excessive Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) – and how the damage caused to your muscle fibers by lifting weights raises metabolic rate and calorie burn to a greater degree than cardio training. Well, with giant sets, this effect is amplified further, as you’re combining the anaerobic element of weight training with the aerobic nature of cardio.

You’ll also burn more calories during your session than you would with a traditional weights workout involving straight sets and lengthy rest periods.

End result = faster fat loss.

As for muscle mass, giant sets not only increase your total training volume, but also raise your time under tension – a key factor in any program designed to build serious slabs of prime beef. Plus, if giant sets are a new addition to your training, this stimulus can be the catalyst for new growth.

Giant sets: examples

How do you go about designing a giant set?

First up, decide whether you want to hit your whole body, or just a certain area, and work out your repetition ranges. For strength you’re looking at lower rep ranges, with fewer exercises and a focus on performing explosive movements. There will be more of an emphasis on full-body training, as this gives each muscle group adequate rest.

For hypertrophy, we’re talking more of a split-style giant set, with slightly higher reps to increase the time under tension on each muscle group.

For fat loss, both these approaches work great, and actually, including both is your best option.

Total Body Strength Giant Set:
Strength Giant Set Workout
Total Body
Exercise % of 1RM Reps
Conventional Deadlift 85% 3
Dumbbell Lunges N/A 5 each leg
Weighted Chin-ups 80% 5
Flat Dumbbell Press 80% 5

Rest for 3 minutes and complete five rounds.

Upper Body Pushing Giant Set for Hypertrophy:
Giant Set Muscle Building Workout
Upper Body Pushing
Exercise % of 1RM Reps
Incline Bench Press 75% 8
Incline Dumbbell Flyes N/A 12
Seated Dumbbell Press 70% 8
Dumbbell Lateral Raises N/A 12
Close Grip Pushups Bodyweight Failure

Rest for 90 seconds and complete 4 rounds.

Upper Body Pulling Giant Set for Hypertrophy:
Giant Set Muscle Building Workout
Upper Body Pulling
Exercise % of 1RM Reps
Barbell Rows 75% 8
Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns N/A 12
Dumbbell Chest Supported Rows 70% 8
Dumbbell Shrugs N/A 12
EZ Bar Curls Bodyweight 12

Rest for 90 seconds and complete 4 rounds.

Lower Body Giant Set for Hypertrophy:
Giant Set Muscle Building Workout
Lower Body
Exercise % of 1RM Reps
Paused Back Squat 65-70% 6
Barbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift 80% 6
Leg Press N/A 15
Lying Leg Curls N/A 15
Seated Calf Raise N/A 15

Rest for 90 seconds and complete 4 rounds.

* For the exercises with no load guidelines, pick a weight that’s tough, but just about manageable for all the prescribed reps. If you’re shooting for 12 reps on incline dumbbell flyes for instance, use a weight that you’d hit failure at around 15 reps with. Due to fatigue, you may even hit failure before the prescribed reps in rounds three and four.

^ The paused squats are performed in exactly the same manner as regular back squats, but with a strict 2-3 second pause in the whole.  Use 65 to 70% of your normal back squat 1RM for these.

Intensity with Density

Giant sets are brutal enough as it is, but you can ramp up the intensity further by turning a normal giant set workout into a density session.

When switching over to density training, instead of finishing each set, then taking a break and repeating this until you’ve completed your desired number of rounds, you work against the clock for a set period of time.

In theory, you have no planned rest breaks, and only take a breather when you need to. Therefore, if you’ve only had 2 minutes rest after your strength circuit and want to go again, you can jump straight back into deadlifts.

The idea is to get as much work completed in the time limit as possible. Setting yourself a 10, 15 or 20 minute time limit is the best way to go about this.

Get dense, get hench

Density training is a highly effective way of monitoring progress and giving you a real kick up the butt to keep on killing it in all your sessions. This leads to greater strength gains, more muscle mass, a higher calorie burn and faster fat loss.

To illustrate the point, let’s look at a sample giant set for the upper body to see how you can progress it from one week to the next.

Week One:
Giant Set Density Workout
Upper Body
Exercise Weight Reps
Barbell Bench Press 185lbs 8
Barbell Row 185 lbs 8
Seated Dumbbell Press 30 lbs 8
Chin-Ups Bodyweight 8

Four rounds completed in 15 minutes.

Week 2:

There are several ways you can progress the above workout to lead to gains in size, strength and performance.

Progressive overload typically relies on increasing weight or reps. You could do that here, either by adding 5 to 10 pounds to all the exercises, depending on how they felt in week one, or by increasing your reps to 9 or 10 each round.

Unlike traditional routines though, the goal of density training is not necessarily to lift heavier or add reps per set, but simply to perform more work in the given time.

That means in week two, you could aim to get five rounds completed in the time, or even aim to get the same four rounds done, but slightly quicker than 15 minutes.

Kick-start fat loss with density training

Any type of giant set or density routine works like a charm for losing fat and will enable you to maintain strength and size while getting lean. But sometimes you just need that little extra to shift your last bit of blubber. This is where density circuits for fat loss come in. These are based more around conditioning and cardio type drills, but still with a focus on increasing your volume and workload within a given time.

Try this one on for size

  • Kettlebell Swings - 15 reps
  • Mountain Climbers - 30 reps
  • Medicine Ball Slams - 15 reps
  • Prowler Pushes (Substitute plate pushes on a towel if you don’t have a prowler) - 20-40 yards

Repeat as many times as possible in 15 minutes.

The Wrap Up

Density training is a great way to play around with the parameters of your workouts, and find ways to push yourself harder each session without necessarily feeling like you have to increase the weight on the bar.

One final pointer is that to truly succeed with density training, you need to be analytical. Keep a stopwatch with you during your sessions to maintain strictness on timings, and note down everything you do - exercises, weight lifted, reps, total number of rounds or sets performed and so on. You may also find it beneficial to make notes on how difficult the weights are feeling, so you can adjust these as necessary moving forward.

Giant sets really are for anyone, regardless of your goals, they just require a little tweaking to perfectly suit your objectives. They’ll give you that kick to burn stubborn body fat, or shake up your training to build new muscle when you hit a plateau.

The question is – are you man enough?

Posted on: Mon, 01/30/2017 - 10:50

I did today throughout the gym card and I realized that lacks the triceps.

Posted on: Mon, 10/13/2014 - 07:08

does somebody know how to break this workout into 3 days?

Dash Dillinger
Posted on: Fri, 11/28/2014 - 22:35

I'm assuming that you would repeat a workout per week. Week 1 Upper, Lower, Upper. Week 2 Lower, Upper, Lower.

Posted on: Mon, 08/01/2016 - 16:05

Maybe back and shoulders one day, chest and triceps another day, and then legs, biceps, and traps on the third day

Posted on: Sat, 06/14/2014 - 09:21

I am pretty sure this is called CrossFit.

Posted on: Fri, 06/13/2014 - 20:53

I do a version of this but I call it a giant circuit. 10 exercises per round (11 every other workout I add db squats) all with dumbbells, 4 rounds total. I do all upper body and core exercises with minimal rest between rounds. First circuit starts with 10 reps each exercise and light dumbbells, adding 5 lbs per round. Second circuit done with day off for cardio, I drop to 8 reps same exercises and weight scheme. Third circuit is after another day off with cardio but rounds are 12,10,8,6 and starting dumbbells are 5lbs heavier than first two circuits. I take two days off and start again. I finish all three circuit days with 4 straight sets bench press, either incline or decline and Ab work every other circuit. Burns 700 to 900 depending on rep scheme.

Frank b
Posted on: Thu, 06/05/2014 - 22:41

I really like the structure of this workout, but the only thing I see missing is isolation moves for the arms. I know compound moves always trump isolation, but don't you need at least a few isolation sets in there? Or some dropsets at the end?

Adam P
Posted on: Fri, 06/13/2014 - 20:25

Isolation sets can be harder on the joints, tendons, and ligaments. What are you goals? You're going to get work on the arms when you're doing your push/pull exercises. If if you're building the perfect body, yeah go for it. If you're training for athletic/sport performance, not a huge deal to miss a few isolation lifts on the arms.

Freddy B
Posted on: Tue, 02/04/2014 - 12:43

How do you break this workout into 3 days???????

Posted on: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 15:06

How do u break this workout up into 3 days

Posted on: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 09:06

How do u train with the upper body push an pull. Do both on the same day an legs on a different day how would I break this up in three days a week

Posted on: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 11:55

Started this today - it's a killer and I love it. It has re-invigorated my training. Thank you!

Freddy B
Posted on: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 21:58

Hey how did you break this down into 3 days.

Posted on: Mon, 10/13/2014 - 05:15

how did you split this into 3 days?

Posted on: Mon, 08/06/2018 - 22:01

How do I break this up into 3 days????