Power 8 Muscle Building Workout – 3 Day Split

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

Build Muscle
8 weeks
45-60 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
Male & Female
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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.

129 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted 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.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted 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!

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

Thank you for your response. Excellent website.

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Posted 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?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted 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!

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Posted 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

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Posted 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?

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

How many minute can I rest between sets?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:48

Hi Mahammad,

Rest periods are 60 seconds.

Hope this helps!

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Posted 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?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:49

Hi Mahammad,

Sure, I don't see why not.

Hope this helps!

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


JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 11/21/2017 - 08:45

Hi Mahammad,

Sure, I dont see why not.

Hope this helps!

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 10/13/2017 - 12:24
Prabir Khulputeea

Does it work for ectomorphs ?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted 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!

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

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?


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Posted 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.

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

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

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Posted 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 :)

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Posted 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.

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

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

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Posted 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 ?

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Posted 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 ?


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

Is there a way to work deadlifts into the system?

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Posted 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)

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Posted 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??

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

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.

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Posted 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 ,

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Posted 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.

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Posted 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?

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Posted Tue, 08/27/2013 - 09:26

hi, for legs and abs workout, why isn't there abs exercises? everything is for legs

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Posted Tue, 08/13/2013 - 07:48
Jacob Roos

Hi Steve.
I am doing this workout routine at the moment, but was wondering if there are any rest times and for how long between sets for the power(5x5) and isolation exercises?
Thanks Jacob

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Posted Thu, 08/01/2013 - 14:24

hi Steve, i have been working out for over 2 years now I go to gym everyday for an hour and rest 2 days or 1day a week normally. my goal is to get toned and also get muscles however my lower body is almsot impossible to get toned I have tried all the work out that I could. my arm and shoulder got in shape very fast and muscline but my lower body not at all. can I use this work out??? do you think that will work on me. I can't do that much cardio because I am skinny so i do only 10min cardio everyday is that ok??? rest i do weight lift.

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Posted Sun, 07/21/2013 - 11:57

Hi steve I just want to ask if this workout is advisable to ectomorphs like me, cause id really want to try this one. Im 6ft tall and 71kgs.Im not new in lifting and I think i can perform the exercises here correctly.thanks and have a good day.

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Posted Sun, 07/21/2013 - 11:45

Hi steve I just want to ask if this workout is advisable to ectomorphs like me, cause id really want to try this one. Im 6ft tall and 71kgs.Im not new in lifting and I think i can perform the exercises here correctly.thanks and have a good day.

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Posted Sun, 07/14/2013 - 15:25

Hey, I'm a flat roofer and work pretty hard. Even with a 2500-3000 calorie diet I lost 10 pounds in 5 weeks. I'm 25, 5'11 and weigh 190. I want to put on some heavy lean mass. Would you recommend this plan or another plan? I am currently taking 2 scoops of mutant mass plus vegegreens in the morning before work and after any workout that I'm able to squeeze in. I also take bcaas to work and during my workouts. Are there any other supplements I should be taking?
ps; I don't take a multi, my minerals and vitamins are all in my food.

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Posted Wed, 07/03/2013 - 11:03

I've been doing the workout for 3-4 weeks and love it, but I am finding that doing chest and back the same day is nearly impossible. For one thing, it makes for a 70-minute workout. For another, I am nearly wiped out from just doing chest and then I do 5x5 deadlift. At that point, I am usually totally wiped. Am I kind of kidding myself with doing chest and back the same day? Does this need to be a four-day split with chest one day and back on another?

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Posted Wed, 06/26/2013 - 04:37

HI Steve
awesome work out prog
but i have a problem, i dont know how to call that but my shoulders and special arms are barely growing and on other hand - chest ,legs or back in good shape
so it doesn't look good, it's seems like i'm not doing arms
can u give me any advice ?

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Posted Tue, 06/18/2013 - 23:42

Just wondering if lighter squats or front squats could be done instead of leg press? Also should the 8x8 sets be taken to failure? I did the chest and back and think I may need to scale back to 6 sets of 8 or try pushing less weight

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Posted Tue, 06/11/2013 - 15:39

I have a quick question. When you say that if I want to add deadlifts that i should make my next 2 exercises a row and pull up, does that mean do an 8x8 or 6x8 for each of those and then do the pull downs and shrugs?


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Posted Fri, 05/24/2013 - 18:31

How many calories should I consume a day while on this workout? I am 15 years old 5'10" 160 lbs. I am very athletic. I play baseball hockey and football. I am also quite active during the day. Would it hurt to also do speed training during this workout? Also what should I eat pre and post workout to maximize gains?

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Posted Thu, 05/16/2013 - 18:08
Jonathan Demers

Hi Steve, I have too much front delt compared to side and rear delt and I was wondering if I can change the shoulders exercices. Can I do Seated BB press then Lateral Raise for 8 sets of 8 reps instead of DB shoulder press?


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Posted Thu, 05/16/2013 - 11:20

just looking through good workouts to get started in lifting... Would it be a bad idea to use your ''Power 8 Muscle Building Workout – 3 Day Split'' to begin lifting. It seem's to be a good one to start off with but it is intermediate so...?

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Posted Tue, 05/14/2013 - 19:12

Hi there, I've been training for about 3 years now with a few months out last year, thanks to studying mainly for limiting gym time. Currently doing A levels so can't spend more than about 3 evening a week in the gym, possibly one extra at the weekend (usually Sunday) if I have the opportunity, and I tend to use this for the 100 reps workout you wrote about. Specialised nutrition is something that is largely beyond my budget, plus I don't mind having slower results as gym is an excellent stress reliever for me and I really enjoy it, I just do my best to compensate by eating as much meat and fish as possible and I have eggs of some form usually every morning. Combining this with a 30 minute run 5 days a week, what kinda results should I expect and in what time frame? Should I maybe go for a different workout and try and adjust my schedule or will this be suitable?

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Posted Tue, 05/07/2013 - 19:59
Hussain Shaikh

Hi Steve,

First off thank you very much for sharing your extensive knowledge in the area of weight training.

Would you recommend performing this 3 day workout, 3 days consecutively? I just as millions of Americans work during the week and find it best to complete my workout routine Fri-Sun. Also, would you recommend switching up the workout routine every 4-6 weeks? Thanks!

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Posted Mon, 05/06/2013 - 08:33

Is there a way to make this a 4-day split? Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday? How could the bodyparts be split?

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Posted Thu, 05/02/2013 - 04:14

can i work my legs twice a week? for instance, the day after i do arms?

mnsjason's picture
Posted Fri, 05/03/2013 - 17:14

If your diet is on point and you're getting plenty of rest, you could potentially work legs twice. Try and give at least a couple days of rest between leg days.

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Posted Tue, 04/30/2013 - 10:38

Hi Steve I tried to do chest and back the same day but with back first resting 2 minutes between the heavy sets but by the time i am done with the shrugs i have no energy to move on to the chest portion. Is it alright if i split them?

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Posted Mon, 04/29/2013 - 15:11

Steve - Is this mainly for power lifters? I have been working out for along time off and on. 43yo in good shape. I would like to reduce 2% bf separate issue. But will this build size or just power/strength. I am looking to add at least 5lbs muscle.