Power 8 Muscle Building Workout – 3 Day Split

Steve Shaw
Written By: Steve Shaw
February 22nd, 2013
Updated: November 16th, 2017
651.6K 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
    Split
  • Training Level
    Intermediate
  • Program Duration8 weeks
  • Days Per Week
    3
  • 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.

149 Comments
E. A.
Posted on: Mon, 05/16/2022 - 10:16

Hi Steve,

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

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 05/25/2022 - 19:02

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

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/5-day-muscle-and-strength-bui...

Avi
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 !

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Roger
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.

Patrick
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!

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Roger
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.

Caio
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?

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Abigail
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.

isaac
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?
Thanks!

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Abigail
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?
Thanks,
C.T.

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Abigail
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!

Nico
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.

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

Hello

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

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

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

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

No Shoulder Lateral Raise?

orly
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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JoshEngland
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!

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

Thank you for your response. Excellent website.

Sav
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?

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JoshEngland
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!

Amer
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

Evan
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?

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

How many minute can I rest between sets?

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JoshEngland
Posted on: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:48

Hi Mahammad,

Rest periods are 60 seconds.

Hope this helps!

MAHAMMAD
Posted on: Sat, 12/02/2017 - 09:40

After Skullcrusher I am doing cable trisep extencions,but I can't feel my trisep.Can I use first trisep cable extencions then Skullcrusher?

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JoshEngland
Posted on: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:49

Hi Mahammad,

Sure, I don't see why not.

Hope this helps!

MAHAMMAD
Posted on: Tue, 11/21/2017 - 03:33

CAN I ADD ANOTHER EXERCISE INSTEAD Straight Arm Pull Down?

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JoshEngland
Posted on: Tue, 11/21/2017 - 08:45

Hi Mahammad,

Sure, I dont see why not.

Hope this helps!

Prabir Khulputeea
Posted on: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 12:24

Does it work for ectomorphs ?

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JoshEngland
Posted on: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 14:24

Hi Pabir,

Body types is a dated theory. This workout will help you build muscle when performed in conjunction with a solid diet and adequate sleep each night.

Read this for more information on why body types are a dated theory and strategies to maximize your lean muscle potential: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/muscle-building

Hope this helps!

Mario
Posted on: Tue, 12/13/2016 - 23:05

Hi!
I have a question regarding volume. So I would do #1 exercise for 5x5 then #1 exercise for 8x8 and then #1 exercise for isolation? For a total of three exercises. Am I correct?

Also for back, would I do deadlift 5x5 and then chest 5x5? Is that it?

Thanks

Ronnie
Posted on: Wed, 03/04/2015 - 13:49

I'm not very good at pull ups yet so I am using a resistance band at my feet to help me get through all those reps. I was wondering if I should stick to one grip through all 8 sets or if it okay to change it up.

josh
Posted on: Wed, 02/04/2015 - 16:35

Steve,
Great workout, how could I go about turning this into a push, pull, legs program? I just prefer working chest shoudlers triceps, back biceps, and legs on their own

Ryan
Posted on: Thu, 12/11/2014 - 16:04

How would you go including bodyweight progression into this training?
I'd like to improve a bit on my pullups/pushups and eventually try go for a muscle up and a human flag
I also love forearm work, farmer walks, leverring, how would you implement those ? thanks :)

kevin
Posted on: Tue, 10/07/2014 - 11:25

up until now i have been doing my 3 day split using machines because they show which muscles are being worked and i didn't know what free weight exercises worked which muscles apart from the obvious ones..... this article has now gave me the chance to go in and lift heavy and know i am working only the muscles needing worked and the video links show me the exercise and form.... thank you very much.

Pavan
Posted on: Wed, 08/20/2014 - 13:36

Hey, Steve I was wondering what the difference is between this workout and the Power Muscle Burn Workout?

Greg
Posted on: Wed, 07/30/2014 - 06:21

Hey Steve, just a quick question, forgive me if it has been answered already. Is it possible to train Monday chest and back, Thursday shoulders and arms and on the Friday legs ?

Binny
Posted on: Tue, 03/25/2014 - 13:49

I really like this workout, but.. I am concerned about the the time in the gym as I can only really go during my lunchtimes at work.

I was previously doing the bulldozer workout (again isnt this a Steve Shaw workout) which was 7 exercises. I was pushed for time but manage to do it, whereas this one looks like it may take me longer.

I suppose I should not cut out any of the exercises here ?

Binny

Brandon
Posted on: Tue, 02/11/2014 - 11:00

Is there a way to work deadlifts into the system?

Percy
Posted on: Mon, 02/10/2014 - 11:47

What is trhe difference between this split and this split (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/3-day-power-muscle-burn)

Jordan
Posted on: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 14:27

I'm going to start doing this workout split. I'm getting married in six months and would like to put on some muscle and drop body fat. Would it be overkill to do some HIIT cardio 1x2 a week on a non-lifting days to help cut down some fat since I'm in a time crunch to get ready for the wedding??
Thanks,
Jordan

Mike carey
Posted on: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 06:46

Done 2/3 days of this split and I already love the intensity and feeling of power you get from this routine. Found my routine for the next 3 months over winter. Great article.

Chris
Posted on: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 14:31

Hi Steve,
I am 51 years old, will being in the gym for more than a hour doing this routine be ok? day one seems to take about 90 minutes. Also how many weeks should I do this routine before changing to a different workout routine.
thanks ,
Chris

Paul
Posted on: Sun, 09/08/2013 - 15:06

I like this workout--I'm looking to build mass over the next six months; I've been working out consistently for years but looking to up my game. I wanted to alternate the three days with CrossFit WODs. Is that a good idea? That would give me one day of rest (or maybe yoga?) a week.

Tyler
Posted on: Mon, 09/02/2013 - 17:04

Could I add a clean and press to this workout? And if so, which day would you suggest it?