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
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
Male & Female

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.

About The Author
Muscle & Strength's Content Team is a group of fitness industry experts dedicated to publishing the highest quality articles, workouts and guides on the M&S Website.

113 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Fri, 02/22/2013 - 23:52
Hey Steve, your my favorite writer here, 1st of all ty for all the good workouts and information. Im not new to weight training, i trained for years with a personal trainer wich was a friend of mine and thought me a lot about proper exercise form (i still picture him yelling at me everytime i deadlift...) I moved to college and for several stupid reasons after years of training i quitted... About 3-4 months ago i camed back to a gym, i did a general full body routine to get back in shape for a month and im getting amazing results using ur reg parks routine, standart 5v5, im up 16 pounds in weight and my gains in strenght were really nice, 3 major lifts around 700 pounds atm, up by a lot since the program started. Im gonna change things a bit now that im starting to have dificculties adding weight and im getting tired of the same program, i was considering himl 20 rep squat to stick with a full body aproach, doing a power hypertrophy routine like your 4 days power muscle burn or adding up this aproach with the 8x8 sets. What would you think would be the best path for me atm? im 5.9, 165 pounds and although i wasnt blessed with awsome recovery skills, i do care a lot about proper and well timed nutrition and supplementation. Sorry for any mistakes or unclear ideas, english is not my main language. Cheers
Steven's picture
Posted Sat, 02/23/2013 - 09:27
Hi Monta, If sounds like you've been making very good progress. I might suggest trying the 3 day Bulldozer program for 8-12 weeks. It might be just what you need: http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/bulldozer-training-rest-pause-muscle-building-system-tool
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Posted Sat, 02/23/2013 - 00:21
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Posted Sat, 02/23/2013 - 10:56
Could u make this routine into a push/pull/leg routine ? And run it like Day1: Legs Day2: Push Day3:off Day4:Pull Day 5:off Day6: start over with Legs again
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Posted Sat, 02/23/2013 - 13:45
hey steve i wanna thank you for this, im getting back into the gym and im glad i found this website and plan to follow this regiment to the letter. Im just a little confused about the compound movement could you just explain that a bit for me please? Also when do i change up the workouts im doing? do i change them every month or when i plateau etc? thanks again! nizar
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 09:19
There is no need to change up workouts. That's a myth, and unnecessarily for all but advanced lifters. What is your question regarding compound movements?
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Posted Sat, 02/23/2013 - 15:57
Steve, what type of nutrition would you reccomend for this workout regimen? I currently eat about 2300 - 2500 calories (+500 calories of whey) per day keeping it roughly 35-40% protein, 40-45% carbs and around 20% fat. Im fairly certain im an endo body type. Im just about finished doing 8 weeks of Doug's 4 day split and am considering this workout. My ultimate goal is to get 3 times bigger than I am right now, think 185lb office type person. I know that will take time. I currently use assault as my preworkout and whey after. Just want to make sure im going about this the right way. Thanks for the information on this workout.
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 09:18
Hi Kevin, What's you age? Ultimately I would probably aim for about a 30 pound gain over 3 years while also getting brutally strong.
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Posted Sat, 03/02/2013 - 12:03
I'm 35 years old. I havent lifted like this since high school and the proper nutrition for gaining muscle while staying lean has always confused me. With so much information and countless opinions about what to eat when where why and how, just want to make sure ive got the arrow pointed in the right direction.
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Posted Sun, 02/24/2013 - 15:01
Could this be used for cutting?
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 09:15
You can use any muscle building workout for cutting.
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Posted Mon, 02/25/2013 - 03:37
Hey i was just wondering how long will it take till i can see results from this workout? and thank you! Personally i used to workout and gained alot of muscles but i stopped working out consistently for almost a year (on and off). i realized i lost alot of muscles mass (weight ) soo i was just wondering will i also be able to gain back muscle faster if i start doing this workout? or is it a new start all over again slow and steady...
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 09:15
What results are you after specifically?
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Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 15:26
I am trying to become bigger in size and gain around 20 pounds.. I was around 144 but now I lost 10 pounds so I'm trying to gain back my 10 pounds and add an extra 10 ... I would also like to look lean and cut at the end... I love to workout my arms the most... and seems to struggle alot with chest for some reason even with low weights idk why .... at the moment I'm liking your program alot.. . Except the after soreness I got the next day after much 1st workout ... Lol but anyway thanks alot!
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Posted Mon, 02/25/2013 - 07:55
Love the workout format I will try today. Just to verify all that chest workout is enough to work the upper chest as well right? No incline work needed? Also you obviously have excelled in the strength game... Is this somewhat a similar training format you have used? I wanna get bigger but also increase my strength as we so I'm hoping this program can do that
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 09:14
Hi Mike, There is incline work. The upper chest will be worked plenty hard.
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Posted Mon, 02/25/2013 - 08:10
Jim Ryan
Hey Steve, Awesome workout. I have been struggling slightly over the last couple of months with my gains and found that this workout style has smashed that plateau. It's brutal stuff as I have been mostly working a 5x5 protocol however, I will be recommending this to my list and facebook followers. Many thanks.
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Posted Mon, 02/25/2013 - 11:39
awesome schedule..........can i do 1 muscle per day with same set of exercises i.e chest on day 1 and back on day 2 and so on. and get good results i have been training for 5 years my height is 5'11 & weight is 200lbs
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 09:12
You can really do any type of workout as long as consistency and progression are in the mix, but I do recommend some rest days.
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Posted Mon, 02/25/2013 - 13:06
And some things I don't understand what's the 8x8 on ham curls for that seems a bit odd for an isolation exercise to be doing that many reps ham curls not even a slight compound like you mentioned
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 09:11
You don't have many compound movements that target the hamstrings. The ones that do tend to also work the lower back hard.
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Posted Mon, 02/25/2013 - 20:09
Hey Steve, Would you recommend doing cardio and abs on the off days? And if so, how long and intense for cardio? Thanks
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 09:03
You could work abs several times per week on any day that is convenient. Cardio can be performed 3-4 times per week either on off days or after lifting.
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Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 11:20
jacob mehr
steve i am 15 my bench max at 320 and my arms flexed are 18 inches im wondering if thats good.
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Posted Sun, 03/03/2013 - 18:20
Dude thats veryyyyyyyyy good ! how long you been lifting ?
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Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 21:58
Just did the first workout today, doing it on T, TR, and Sat, and damn.. It is way different than what im used to.. I worked out about 6 hours ago and I can still feel the pump! Looking forward to seeing what comes on Thursday! Good stuff!
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Posted Wed, 02/27/2013 - 02:45
Do you think it would be a good idea to begin and still do cardio like running?
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Posted Fri, 03/01/2013 - 14:09
Would it be ok to put Shrugs on my shoulder days?
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Posted Tue, 03/05/2013 - 21:32
of course
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Posted Sat, 03/02/2013 - 19:43
donovan depoe
Steve, whats your thoughts on making this a 2 day on 2 day off split?
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Posted Mon, 03/04/2013 - 20:15
Hi, I am 19years old and I just want to increase my muscle mass and strength while losing fat. I have been lifting for about 2 years and I am in good shape compared to my peers but not compared to people in their mid to late 20s. What is the best workout you'd recommend? I am aiming to become a fitness model and any advice you have for me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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Posted Tue, 03/05/2013 - 06:38
hi steve i read your Articles i learned from you a lot thank you bro i greatful to you very very much i have a question for you please ? i work 5 days routine if i want to add some methods like ( cluster sets or drop set ) example arm day 3 Exercise 4 sets for Biceps i want do cluster set for 8 set 30 sec rest ;4 reps now how my routine become look like please teach me the role to add any method to my routine how many sets & how many reps to any method and any muscle thanks again bro :)
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Posted Tue, 03/05/2013 - 11:05
Hey Steve, I have just started this program yesterday and I was wondering, on the 8x8 sets are they ramping up in weight increasing each set, or starting with a fairly challenging weight and trying to complete with the same weight? Also I have the same question for the isolation 3 sets of 8-12. Thanks for your help.
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Posted Tue, 03/05/2013 - 21:31
why not include traps and forearms? not many workout routines you find online do, i always have to add them in.
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Posted Wed, 03/06/2013 - 14:20
Steve, I am wondering if it would be effective to split this as a 3 day full body workout? For example: MONDAY Bench Press 5 5 Seated Dumbbell Press or Hammer Overhead Press 8 8 Rows or Pull Ups 8 8 Cable Tricep Extensions or Seated Dumbbell Extensions 3 8-12 Squats 5 5 Leg Curls 8 8 Standing Calf Raise 3 8-12 WEDNESDAY Deadlift 5 5 Dumbbell Bench Press or Hammer Bench Press 8 8 Bent Over Reverse Flyes 3 8-12 EZ Bar Preacher Curls 3 8-12 Leg Press 8 8 Seated or Leg Press Calf Raise 6 8 Dumbbell or Barbell Shrugs 8 8 FRIDAY Seated Barbell Press 5 5 Incline Dumbbell Flye or Pec Dec 3 8-12 Pull Down or Row 3 8-12 Close Grip Bench Press or Skullcrushers 6 8 Standing Dumbbell Curls 6 8 Stiff Leg Deadlifts 5 5 Leg Extensions 3 8-12
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Posted Fri, 03/08/2013 - 18:39
Do you do the same workout for 8 sets then move to the next or do you do each one then repeat?
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Posted Fri, 03/08/2013 - 18:41
Im 6' weighing 142 will this workout help a skinny guy like me?
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Posted Sat, 03/09/2013 - 15:35
I wanted to know you guys think this is good for me. I am currently trying to loss wight . I started at 300 lbs I'm now at 275. I have been going 531 Max's Bp 285 DL 425 Sq 400 Ohp 185 I want to keep as much strength as possible while getting down to 200 lbs . I think it would be but I'm open to other more advanced opinions
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Posted Sun, 03/10/2013 - 06:37
Hi Steve, Can I substitute the standing dumbbell curls with standing barbell curls? Thanks!
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Posted Mon, 03/11/2013 - 08:05
hi steve do you do all 5x5 all in one go meaning 1x5 60% no break 1x5 80% no break 1x5 100% no break 1x5 100% no break 1x5 100% finished first exercises. then break? is that with all exercises? thanks alz
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Posted Mon, 03/11/2013 - 10:28
James Gray
hi steve, i am taking serious mass on these training days. Should i be taking it on the 4 non training days ?
mnsjason's picture
Posted Tue, 03/19/2013 - 19:47
It depends on what your diet looks like on off days. If you're hitting your daily calories, then there's no need.
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Posted Mon, 03/11/2013 - 18:54
Considering my college schedule and my occupations in life in general I believe it would be better for me to do it Tuesday - Wednesday - Thursday, so basically 3 days in a row. Would it be a problem? Should I have at least some kind of break to let my muscles relax and regenerate?
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Posted Mon, 03/11/2013 - 20:03
Hey Steve, Awesome workout, just started it last week and i feel great. i was just wondering about doing the deadlift and squats on two consecutive days, is it not taxing for the nervous system?
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Posted Mon, 03/11/2013 - 21:16
Hey Steve this program sounds great and I am looking for a program to build up muscle! My only concern is that I play football and I am an explosive agile player and I don't want to get to big and heavy but at the same time build up muscle and get cut is this program suited for me?
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Posted Tue, 03/12/2013 - 00:18
I've been doing a 3-day Beginner split (3 exercises per muscle, 4x10) and decided after two years, I was ready for an intermediate routine. So, I started this one. Did day one Yesterday. The DOMS... Oh, the doms...
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Posted Tue, 03/12/2013 - 10:03
Again an excellent program Steve, In just 3 weeks I am gaining weight. This is my first shot at a 3 day program and I must say for mass gain its working out great. The different rep ranges/timing really tax your muscles, I would not add any exercises to this program as it is more than ample when done properly. Kman
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Posted Wed, 03/13/2013 - 11:40
Todd C
Hi Steve. I'm a former state powerlifting champ (albeit 22 years ago in 165 lb weight division). In May of 2012, I was 6'3" 227 pounds, not the "good pounds" either! Using good nutrition and cardio I dropped to 175 pounds. I was going through a divorce at the time, and with the all of the stress, I took it a little too far...down to 152 at Christmas time!! I started working out again using the full-body 5x5 and have seen excellant strength gains. Bench 275, squat 350, and deadlift 385. I'm also back up to around 200 lbs. I know...50 lbs in just over 2 months is tremendous for weight gain. My question is. I would really like to add more bulk than I'm seeing with the 5x5. Would the 8x8 be better for this? Am I even ready for that? I'm almost 40 now, and my recovery just ain't what it used to be. Or should I just be patient with the 5x5 and be pleased with the results for someone who hasn't picked up a weight for 18 years? Sorry for the novel...I really value your opinion! It's got me to this point in 2 short months, Todd
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Posted Thu, 03/14/2013 - 09:50
dave bhudial
Hi, I'm 5ft 6" weighing 180lbs... I'm doing mass and strength training and I really need help. At the moment I can only bench 225(2reps) shoulder press 140(3reps) dead lift 400(2reps) squat 400(5reps) how can I improve? Please help me.... ( I don't use supplement but I try to keep my diet good with lots of protine and so on....
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Posted Thu, 03/14/2013 - 19:36
Hi steve, this workout don't have decline bench press exercise?