Power 8 Muscle Building Workout – 3 Day Split

Steve Shaw
Written By: Steve Shaw
February 22nd, 2013
Updated: November 16th, 2017
685.8K Reads
Power 8 combines a 5x5 protocol with a brutally effective 8x8 exercise. This system is perfect for the intermediate lifter who wants to continue to maximize gains.
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration8 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout45-60 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Recommended Supps
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

Power 8 is a muscle building workout system that attacks major muscle groups in 3 different ways:

  • Power - Each major muscle group is first hit with a ramping 5x5; the same style of 5x5 made famous by classic bodybuilder Reg Park.
  • 8x8 - Following the power sets, major muscle groups are then taxed using an 8x8 protocol. Rest between each of these sets is kept to 60 seconds maximum.
  • Isolation - Major muscle groups are "finished off" using an isolation exercise that focuses on a strict rep cadence.

Smaller muscle group are worked in a similar manner, but do not contain power movements. In addition, instead of performing an 8x8, you will target minor muscle groups with a 6x8 before finishing them off with an isolation movement.

  • 6x8 - Minor muscle groups are first targeted with an 6x8 protocol (6 sets x 8 reps). Rest between each of these sets is kept to 60 seconds maximum.
  • Isolation - Minor muscle groups are "finished off" using an isolation exercise that focuses on a strict rep cadence.

Power 8 - Three Day Split

This 3 day split should be performed with at least one day of rest between workouts, if possible. You can rotate this 3 day split over the course of 6 or 7 days.

7 Day Variation

  • Day 1 - Chest and Back
  • Day 2 - Off
  • Day 3 - Leg and Abs
  • Day 4 - Off
  • Day 5 - Shoulders and Arms
  • Day 6 - Off
  • Day 7 - Off

For the 6 day variation, simply do away with "day 7" and start the rotation over again. If your schedule forces you to workout 2 days in a row, the following schedule is recommended.

7 Day Variation - Back to Back Variation

  • Day 1 - Chest and Back
  • Day 2 - Leg and Abs
  • Day 3 - Off
  • Day 4 - Off
  • Day 5 - Shoulders and Arms
  • Day 6 - Off
  • Day 7 - Off

You want to keep rest between pushing days (chest - shoulders and arms) to a maximum. Keep those days in the same place, and adjust your leg training day as needed.

Selecting Exercises

Don't shy away from hard exercises. If you do, you're only selling your results short. A sample template is included below. If you need to change exercises because of limited equipment, choose the best possible substitutions. Try to make equal exercise swaps. Power 8 is set up as follows:

Major Muscle Groups
  • Power - A 5x5 using a heavy compound lift.
  • 8x8 - An 8x8 using a less impactful heavy compound movement, or a machine exercise.
  • Isolation - A 3x8-12 using an isolation style movement.
Minor Muscle Groups
  • 6x8 - A 6x8 using a challenging isolation or machine exercise.
  • Isolation - A 3x8-12 using an isolation style movement.

As mentioned, 5x5 exercises are ramped. The first 2 sets are working warm up sets.

  • Set 1 - 60% x 5 reps
  • Set 2 - 80% x 5 reps
  • Sets 3-5 - 100% x 5 reps

Set 5 is an AMAP set, meaning you will perform as many reps as possible. Do NOT train to failure. Stop set 5 when you feel like you might fail on the next rep, or if your form starts to severely deteriorate. When you reach 7 or more reps on set 5, it is time to add weight. The next time you hit the gym, add 5 pounds to the bar.

8x8 and 6x8 Exercises

Rest between sets for these exercises is kept to a strict 60 seconds. Do not exceed this rest period. If you are unable to hit 8 reps for each set, don't worry. When you are able to perform 8 reps for each of these sets, it's time to add weight to the bar. Add the smallest possible amount of weight the next time you perform this movement.

Isolation Exercises

Perform these movements using a 4-2-4 rep tempo. This means it will take you 4 seconds to compete a rep, followed by a 2 second hold at the point of contraction, and a 4 second eccentric - or returning of the weight to the starting position of the exercise. Add weight when it makes sense for these exercises.

There is no need to force heavier weights before you are ready. Also, you may need to drop weight from set to set. These exercises are very deliberate and taxing. Dropping to a lighter weight is perfectly fine. Again, the point is to finish off your muscles, so weight used is secondary. With that said, don't go "too light", this making a set too easy.

Power 8
Chest and Back
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press  5  5
Dumbbell Bench Press or Hammer Bench Press  8  8
Incline Dumbbell Flye or Pec Dec  3  8-12
Barbell Row  5  5
Lat Pull Down or Pull Ups  8  8
Straight Arm Pull Down  3  8-12
Dumbbell or Barbell Shrugs  8  8
Power 8
Legs and Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats  5  5
Leg Press  8  8
Leg Extensions  3  8-12
Stiff Leg Deadlifts  5  5
Leg Curls  8  8
Seated or Leg Press Calf Raise  6  8
Standing Calf Raise  3  8-12
Power 8
Shoulders and Arms
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Barbell Press  5  5
Seated Dumbbell Press or Hammer Overhead Press  8  8
Bent Over Reverse Flyes  3  8-12
Close Grip Bench Press or Skullcrushers  6  8
Cable Tricep Extensions or Seated Dumbbell Extensions  3  8-12
Standing Dumbbell Curls  6  8
EZ Bar Preacher Curls  3  8-12

Power 8 - Frequently Asked Questions

When can I work abs?

You could add in 3 sets per day after each workout. Use whichever exercises you prefer.

Can I add in deadlifts?

Yes, you can use deadlifts on back day for your 5x5 exercise. If you do this make sure to use some form of row and pull up/lat pull down for your next 2 exercises. You may want to rotate weeks, and do an 8x8 for rows one week, and an 8x8 for pull downs or pull ups the next.

What about forearms?

You really shouldn't need to work the forearms directly in the context of this system. Your forearms will receive plenty of quality stimulation.

Can I add in more arm work?

No. Trust the process. This workout system will build plenty of arm size.

Can I add in more chest work?

No. Trust the process. This workout system will build plenty of chest size.

Posted on: Fri, 04/05/2024 - 09:34

Would it be ok to alternate barbell rows and deadlift one week do barbell row following week deadlift

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 04/06/2024 - 06:02

If deadlifts are a big priority for you, then yes. Keep in mind that SLDL are also on the leg day. Using dumbbells for those may be a smart idea on the week you would do the regular deadlifts.

Posted on: Mon, 11/27/2023 - 12:42

Hi I recover very quickly but my schedule allows me to workout 3 days a week and 1 day I do kickboxing. Would you recommend sticking to the plan or would you recommend something where same muscle is being worked twice a week or so? Experience wise I have been lifting for +5 years on and off.

Thank You

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/27/2023 - 19:51

Hey TM. I would suggest reaping the benefits of recovering so well and sticking to the plan as is. If you find this isn't that challenging for you while you're doing it, then we have many other options for you to consider here on M&S. If you run this one through, please let us know how you do!

CT Wade
Posted on: Wed, 11/15/2023 - 18:40

Thoughts on this. I've condensed the workout into 3 days. (just started this)
Week 1: AbA
Week 2: BaB

Workout A:
5x5 bench press
4x8 DB bench
4x8 BB incline bench
3x8 DB fly
5x5 Row
4x8 DB Row
3x8 Lat pulldown
3x15 Incline situps
3x10 hanging knee raise

30 minute row machine

Off Day
60 minute row machine

Workout B:
5x5 squats
4x8 goblet squat
5x3 deadlifts (also incorporates back)
Body weight lunges 3x8
OHP 5x5
Arnold press 4x8,
lat raise 3x8
Bicep curl bar 4x8
DB hammer curl 3x8
DB tricep OH press 3x8
Tricep pushdown 3x8

30 minute eliptical machine

Off Day
60 minute row machine

Trail hiking 3-5 miles (I live in Arizona)

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/27/2023 - 19:49

What's good, CT? If you find this is working for you, go for it. I appreciate you sharing it so others can see it as well. I do suggest one complete day of rest, but if the trail hike isn't too intense, enjoy!

Posted on: Thu, 11/02/2023 - 17:44

How much should I rest for 5x5, 8x8 and 3x8-12?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 11/15/2023 - 18:14

90 seconds on 5 x 5, 60 for 8 x 8 an 3 x 8-12

Posted on: Sun, 05/14/2023 - 19:05

Can I add lateral raises for shoulder

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/29/2023 - 08:21

Sure can!

Posted on: Sun, 08/27/2023 - 15:51

How many reps and sets if ill add lateral raises?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 08/28/2023 - 09:24

3 sets of 8

Posted on: Mon, 01/23/2023 - 06:45

Hi thank you for creating this program. Just had a question, I do Kickboxing Tues and Fri, BJJ and MMA on Wed and Sat. I have got decent size and strength but I am looking to get stronger while maintaining/gaining size. What would be the best way for me to schedule this routine?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 01/25/2023 - 09:00

Try this and see if it works.

Day 1 - Chest and Back
Day 2 - Kickboxing
Day 3 - Leg and Abs, BJJ
Day 4 - Off
Day 5 - Shoulders and Arms, Kickboxing
Day 6 - BJJ
Day 7 - Off

I don't know about building size, because you're doing a lot of training, but you could still get stronger and maintain.

Posted on: Fri, 12/23/2022 - 03:39

I have a couple questions.
Can I start this program if I am on a calorie deficit? Is this the best choice for 3 days a week plan that has 2 back to back days?

Thank you!!!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 12/28/2022 - 18:24

You can start this on a calorie deficit, and this is a great program to work with, even with the back-to-back days. If you use this one, let us know how it goes for you.

Posted on: Fri, 08/19/2022 - 14:03

Any exercises using dumbbells to sub out the seated barbell shoulder press? i don’t have access to barbells in my home gym

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 08/20/2022 - 14:53

Seated Dumbbell Press, Standing Dumbbell Press, Dumbbell Front Raise, all of those would work.

Posted on: Thu, 08/11/2022 - 12:28

hi, exercise can i sub out for machine rows? thanks in advance!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 08/14/2022 - 09:46

Either barbell row or straight arm pulldown. I would prefer to keep the barbell rows, myself, but whichever one you want to swap, go for it.

Posted on: Sun, 08/07/2022 - 02:39

Hi, any abs exercises that train the front and obliques recommended? if so, on which days? Thanks in advance!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 08/14/2022 - 09:44
E. A.
Posted on: Mon, 05/16/2022 - 10:16

Hi Steve,

Is there any 5 day workouts for muscle building? Thanks!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 05/25/2022 - 19:02

Hi, E.A. Roger here, but I got you covered. Check this one out!


Posted on: Wed, 03/09/2022 - 22:34

Hi Steve,

I enjoy doing Farmers lift - do which day can I add it?

Do you have any updates for this program?

Thanks !

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/15/2022 - 17:54

Hi, Avi. Perform Farmer's Lifts on leg day. No updates on this one at this time, but a new program may be out in the future.

Posted on: Wed, 09/01/2021 - 07:15

Hello, I just did this program for 8 weeks and liked it. What workout plan would you recommend after this one, as you should change every 6-8 weeks right? Thanks in advance!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 09/13/2021 - 20:32

Hi, Patrick. After a week off, you could run this one again if you want. What are your goals now? That could help us pick a solid workout for you.

Posted on: Mon, 07/26/2021 - 08:49

Can I run this workout plan as long as I want? If so, when and how will I do the download week?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/26/2021 - 12:06

Hey Caio - yes you can. You can take a deload week in between the end of the program and when you start the program again.

Posted on: Mon, 05/31/2021 - 12:20

I like to work out a lot, so would it be possible if I do chest/back, legs, arms on Mon, Tue, Wed take a rest day as Thurs then continue the same routine on Fri, Sat, Sun?

C.T. Wade
Posted on: Mon, 03/15/2021 - 01:14

With the 3 day split. Should I do the 5x5, then 8x8 and then set of 3?
For the leg day, my doctor has advised me to stay away from any heavy lifting for now (DVT). Could I incorporate body weight exercises for legs? Which would be best?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/16/2021 - 11:05

Hey C.T. - you'll do all sets of one exercise before moving on to the next. For bodyweight leg exercises, bodyweight squats, lunges, split squats, stiff leg deadlifts, and bodyweight calf raises are all great options!

C.T. Wade
Posted on: Tue, 03/16/2021 - 11:10

Hi there,
Thank you. Would you recommend doing the 5x5 first, then 8x8, then 3x8-12? Or would you recommend going in sequence of the workout as is?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/16/2021 - 11:14

You should follow the workout as it's written.

C.T. Wade
Posted on: Tue, 03/16/2021 - 11:15

Awesome. Thanks!

Posted on: Sun, 02/16/2020 - 14:55

I started this workout 2 weeks ago. I only have 3 days to go to the gym, and also have herniated disc. I came back to the gym last year, but was getting boring with always the same way of doing exercises, reps and weights.
This new plan, is giving me an additional motivation in the morning (I workout at 6am..), and have good feeling.
I will probably go for a 3-days full body workout after the 8 weeks of this one.
Thanks to BB for the ideas!
Cheers from Madrid

Justin sheets
Posted on: Thu, 12/26/2019 - 12:05

Hey this is a great routine and I’m seeing results again from strength and size I would like to get your opinion on what would be a good routine to continue to maximize my gains after this 8 weeks I do 3 days a week because of work and family

Joseph Colón
Posted on: Sun, 05/12/2019 - 12:07

I am fairly new to lifting just started this routine 2 days ago and will be doing legs today. I will be doing the 6 day cycle. When I start the cycle over and go back to chest and back how much of a change do I need to make to the types of lifts I am doing? Or can I keep them the same each week? I am having trouble getting a plan together for the weeks to come because I am still failry new at this and I don't know what would be good lifts. If there's anywhere I can pay for someone to put together a workout plan for me any recommendations would be appreciated. Or simply a nudge in the right direction on what workouts to do each week.

Posted on: Tue, 03/05/2019 - 06:57


I also have a question about the weight % 60; 80. Is it of 1RM max or the weight you are using for working sets?

Posted on: Tue, 11/06/2018 - 02:09

No Shoulder Lateral raise? or can I replace bent over lateral raise to Lateral raise?

Posted on: Sat, 07/28/2018 - 03:11

No Shoulder Lateral Raise?

Posted on: Sun, 04/22/2018 - 11:38

This workout looks great but I see it is a once per week program. How effective is once a week? According to science it is not as effectice as twice a week.

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Posted on: Mon, 04/23/2018 - 09:24

Hi Orly,

It's still effective and more so than 0 times per week. A lot of people see great results hitting muscle groups once per week. The science doesn't factor in enjoyment level which leads to consistency. And consistency at the end of the day is the main driver of progress.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Mon, 04/23/2018 - 20:03

Thank you for your response. Excellent website.

Posted on: Mon, 02/05/2018 - 14:44

Hi, can we change the Dumbbell Bench Press or Hammer Bench Press with another exercise? What other exercises do you recommend?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 02/05/2018 - 16:02

Hi Sav,

Any press variation will do the trick. Incline, decline, flat, dumbbell, barbell, machine, take your pick.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Tue, 01/16/2018 - 15:33

Hi guys, am currently following this program, once it's finished what should be my next program for. Mass? Any suggestions? Thx

Posted on: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 10:13

Is the 60%, 80%, 100% on the 5x5 percentages of the weight you using for that day? Or of your 1 rep max?

Posted on: Sat, 12/02/2017 - 09:44

How many minute can I rest between sets?