This 4 day split by Steve Shaw is a powerbuilding system designed to propel intermediate lifters towards faster muscle mass and strength gains.
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration16 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout60-75 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, Machines
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

This is not a routine for beginners. You must have decent form on your heavy compound lifts before engaging in any form of heavy strength training. If you have spotty form, or do not have at least an 800 pound total for deadlift, squat and bench press, I recommend sticking with a more basic beginner routine.

This routine focuses on density days utilizing rest-pause training, and strength days which utilize low rep sets. It's a routine I love, and is fairly close to what I have personally run for a good portion of 2009. I had great results with this program, and didn't stall all year. For the record, even the split is my split.

It's time to become a beast. By improving your strength and your hypertrophy, you will hit your goals and then some. Stick with this routine for at least 4-6 months, and if it's stick working - keep going!

The Density & Strength Workout Split

You will need 2 full weeks to finish a complete cycle of this workout. During these 2 weeks you will workout 8 times, performing 4 strength workouts and 4 density workouts. The split is as follows:

Week 1

  • Monday - Rest
  • Tuesday - Rest
  • Wednesday - Chest Day (Density)
  • Thursday - Back Day (Strength)
  • Friday - Rest
  • Saturday - Shoulder Day (Density)
  • Sunday - Leg Day (Strength)

Week 2

  • Monday - Rest
  • Tuesday - Rest
  • Wednesday - Chest Day (Strength)
  • Thursday - Back Day (Density)
  • Friday - Rest
  • Saturday - Shoulder Day (Strength)
  • Sunday - Leg Day (Density)

Note regarding ab training: Add in abs or calves once or twice per week if you wish - on any training day.

Do not add in more training days. Naturals do not need training overkill. This is a very taxing routine, and you need your rest. Make sure workouts aren't running longer then one hour. If you are finishing in well under an hour, and want to add in pertinent complimentary exercises, by all means do so.

Core Workout Principles


All of my workouts focus on progression. On every set of every workout, you must be trying for more reps. If you waste sets, there is no point in using this routine. Do as many reps as possible, training shy of failure on each set.

Density Sets

Total Sets. Perform 7 sets per exercise.

Rest Between Sets. Rest between each set is...30, 30, 60, 60, 90 and 120 seconds. The rest periods get longer as you go deeper into total sets. This allows for your strength to come back.

Failure. Don't train to failure. Only do as many reps as you can.

Progression. When you can do 30 reps in 7 sets, add weight to the bar. For some exercises, you may increase this number up to 35. I also prefer to do higher reps for certain leg exercises - such as leg extensions. You could aim as high as 40 to 50 reps for exercises such as this.

Strength Sets

Total Sets. You will start by doing 8 sets of 2 reps, and will be pushing to get 8 sets of 3 reps.

Rest Between Sets. Rest exactly 2 minutes between sets.

Progression. When you can perform 8 sets of 3 reps, add weight to the bar.

Warm-up as needed. After about 3 to 4 weeks on this program, you will notice your strength endurance is improving, and you should start to progress on a consistent basis. For some of you, it may take more then a month for your body to adapt to limited reps. Also, I find that my joints tend to handle limited rest sets much better. This could be due to keeping the joints and muscles moving, instead of cooling them down with 3+ minute rests. Your mileage may vary.

The Density & Strength Workout

Wednesday - Chest and Triceps

Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Bench Press 7 30 Total
Chest Dips or DB Bench Press or Incline Bench Press 7 30 Total
Close Grip Bench Press 7 30 Total
Barbell Bench Press 8 2 to 3
2 Chest Exercises of Choice 3 6 to 10
1 to 2 Tricep Exercises of Choice 3 6 to 10

Thursday - Back

Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift * Singles 10 minutes
Barbell Row or Yates Row or Seated Cable Row 7 30 Total
Pull Ups or Lat Pull Down or T Bar Row 7 30 Total
Deadlift 8 2 to 3
2 to 3 Back Exercises of Choice 3 6 to 10
Optional: 1 Traps Exercise 3 6 to 12


  • * Do as many deadlift singles reps as you can in 10 minutes. When you hit 15 total reps for 10 minutes, add weight.

Saturday - Shoulders and Biceps

Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Press Behind The Neck or Military Press 7 30 Total
Seated Arnold Press or Upright Rows 7 30 Total
Barbell Curl or Standing Dumbbell Curl 7 30 Total
Seated Press Behind The Neck 8 2 to 3
2 to 3 Shoulder Exercises of Choice 3 6 to 10
1 to 3 Biceps Exercises of Choice 3 6 to 10

Sunday - Legs

Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 3 to 4 6 to 10
Leg Extension 7 40 Total
Stiff Leg Deadlifts 7 35 Total
Squat 8 2 to 3
1 to 2 Quads Exercises of Choice 3 6 to 15
1 to 2 Hamstring Exercises of Choice 3 6 to 12


K Ryu
Posted on: Wed, 08/23/2023 - 00:26

Hi, I recently hit approx 900 pounds on the big three and was looking for a 4-day power building program.

I have been playing around with the program before implementing it, and had some questions.

I can see that for squat and bench press the sets and reps are naturally different depending on whether it's a strength day or a density day.

My questions is:
What is the rationale or background for the deadlift up to 15 singles over 10 minutes on the density day? I was particularly curious as to the volumes - say, if you did 8 sets of 2 reps on the strength day whereas on density day you lift 15 reps total in 10 minute; this results in total of 16 reps (strength day) vs. 15 reps (density day)
I was under the impression that on density day you focus on volume of exercises which seems to be the case for the rest of the workouts. However as I explained above the volume of deadlifts seems to be actually higher on the strength day.

Hope I am making sense here :)

Thanks for the insight in advance!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 08/27/2023 - 12:31

Hi, K Ryu. Complete transparency here - this isn't my program so I don't know what the author's intention was. So, this is based on my own educated guesses.

I would draw the same conclusion as you. So, unless it's just to improve technique or get accustomed to doing more volume in less time, I don't know why. If you wanted to do the 8 x 2, I suggest going for it, myself.

K Ryu
Posted on: Wed, 08/30/2023 - 02:09

Thank you for your candor Roger!

Posted on: Fri, 02/10/2023 - 08:08

Is this program ideal if Im going from a 4 day upper lower split? I’ve been lifting for 5 years and have a general understanding of form on compound lifts.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 02/21/2023 - 21:10

It's a great program for you, Malik. If you try it, let us know your results.

Posted on: Wed, 09/15/2021 - 11:23

sorry if this is a stupid question, but is it ok if I narrow the assistance exercises in the "power" portion to the 6-8 rep range? I mean I don't want to overtax my central nervous system, but I always seem to progress faster in 6-8 - I know from experience that once I get over 8 reps per set I just don't seem to gain strength as fast...

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/04/2021 - 21:21

Hey, Em. Don't ever be concerned about a question being stupid. We're here to help you improve, and asking questions is how you can improve. Yes, you can reduce the reps to the 6-8 range if you feel it will help you. Let us know how you do with this program!

Posted on: Mon, 11/12/2018 - 22:34

I am an ectomorph. Can I do this program and go in for sports swimming?

Posted on: Sat, 01/13/2018 - 02:11

why there is no DB lateral raise in shoulder day?
can i add it when im doing shoulder day?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 01/15/2018 - 09:03

Hi Darwin,

Yes, you can certainly add it in if you wish.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Tue, 08/15/2017 - 03:44

what do you mean by
30total - 7 set?
should I do 30reps x 7 set or
4 reps (1st set)
4 reps (2nd set)
4 reps (3rd set)
4 reps (4th set)
4 reps (5th set)
4 reps (6th set)
6 reps (7th set)
total 30 reps

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 08/15/2017 - 08:41

Hi Darwin,

30 total. Your second example is correct.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Tue, 08/15/2017 - 18:34

Basically dude, took some playing around with the right poundage to find the sweet spot. Pick a weight to use for "7" sets. After you warm up, do as many reps for the first set. Rest 30 seconds. Do as many as you can second set. me, you pick the right weight, you'll be hitting 2 or 3 quality reps around set 5.

Posted on: Fri, 08/11/2017 - 20:38

This is the best workout I have ever come across. If anyone is like me and keeps changing plans, this is the go to. Cardio increases throughout without long sessions of never ending strict cardio. I add it HIIT cardio after the lifts. Used this plan when I was a police officer and it did wonders.

Posted on: Fri, 04/01/2016 - 00:34

for the density days, youre only looking to get about 4 reps a set? or should it stagger down like 8 7 6 3 3 3?

Posted on: Tue, 03/24/2015 - 11:12

Hi Steven, I have some questions:
I'm currently 64 kg 5''9. I'm also a hardgainer and I'm looking for a bulking program. Can you give me some advices. And should I use Weight Gainer or Whey Protein ?


Posted on: Fri, 02/27/2015 - 14:09

what rest do you recommend for the assistance workouts on strength days? I'm switching to this program from RP-21 and I know the rest is supposed to be longer to allow strength to come back but I find it difficult to wait.

colin woodberry
Posted on: Sun, 01/25/2015 - 20:10

Going 7sets all out seems like over training to me!

Carl Stem
Posted on: Thu, 11/19/2015 - 12:24

Good, leave me the gains

Posted on: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:48

I want to keep running for my cardio. Is cardio, specifically running recommended while doing this routine.

Michael Corcoran
Posted on: Sun, 12/07/2014 - 23:09

How long should it take for a workout?

Anis Taha
Posted on: Thu, 11/27/2014 - 08:38

Hei steve, a big fan of your workout routines, just one question, would this workout be suitable after a week break after competing to reset my nervous system and gains?

Kris Fassa
Posted on: Mon, 11/17/2014 - 13:32

I'm skeptical as to why behind the neck shoulder press is on a strength day. Wouldn't you prefer to do standing ohp and maybe push presses to command most weight possible at low rep schemes? It just seems behind the neck press would belong in the higher rep scheme. I could be wrong.

Posted on: Sun, 11/16/2014 - 23:59

Steve, what supplements do you recommend for this routine?

Posted on: Tue, 10/28/2014 - 14:25

Hi Steve

I asked a while ago about the 20 rep squat routine. I want to know something else about it. I have some endomorph characteristics... My ability to store fat is my downfall. The "squats and milk" programme should i, having the body that I've been blessed with drink a gallon of milk a day while doing 20 rep squats. I am over 15% bf and the majority of it is in my lower abdoman. I've read some articles that say drinking that much will definitely put on fat

Help please...

Thanks Steve

Posted on: Tue, 10/28/2014 - 12:19

I'm a wrestler and I want to build power, explosiveness, and speed. If I follow this workout program will it increase all three?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 10/28/2014 - 12:23

Yes, absolutely.

Posted on: Thu, 09/25/2014 - 21:41

Hey Steve
I was wondering which one ( Density or Strength) builds muscles mass. Because I overtrained my chest muscles. SO only for the chest muscles I want to do cutting no more, I don't want to get any more mass there. Any suggestions please?
other wise love this workout

Posted on: Mon, 09/08/2014 - 17:50

Can we do standing OHP instead of seated behind the neck presses?

Posted on: Mon, 08/18/2014 - 21:07

It's funny people posting on here expecting a reply. He hasnt responded in almost 2 yrs.

Posted on: Tue, 07/29/2014 - 10:01

hi steve, i was wondering if i could switch out triceps for biceps on the chest density day, i find that my chest/triceps are too fatigued to do the close grip bench press and i would like to do that exercise to my full potential. your reply would be greatly appreciated .

Posted on: Mon, 06/16/2014 - 08:40

we have to do 30 reps one set and 30 for other like this repeat for 7 sets???

Posted on: Sun, 06/15/2014 - 04:20

Hey Steve, I'm currently 49yrs old and have enjoyed your 5-day power split routine & am ready to try this density & strength 4-day program . My question is that I am 18 months removed from a lower lumbar discectomy which worries me with the heavy deadlifts particularly . Any tips?

Posted on: Tue, 06/10/2014 - 21:55

how does the 7 sets of 30 total reps work

Posted on: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 17:08

I've been doing density and strength in the same day for the last two weeks. Is that bad?

Posted on: Sat, 05/17/2014 - 21:28

Hi Steve - 1 question - so on back, strength day, you would be doing between 17 and 20 total sets?

Posted on: Thu, 04/17/2014 - 17:24

What do you suggest if we want to add an abs routine to this work out ?

Posted on: Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:18

Did each comment have to get those thumbs up and down? 1 of Steve comment: "Any time!" and it get 20 up and 24 down, I'm not have a problem with the thumb up, but the problem is the thumb down, it makes no sense! Is this a scam site or people split into 2 sides in this website , 1 for thumb up and 1 for thumb down? I wonder that!

Posted on: Wed, 04/16/2014 - 00:44

hey Steve, program looks solid I did about two months of the power,muscle,burn 4 day split but progress plateaus so I figure I try this out right now I'm 23 wiegh 165 bench225, squat315,deadlift435. so I read the article thoroughly and one question comes to mind that I didn't see answered on density training day after I complete the 7 sets for 30 reps. how long should I rest to start the next 7 sets for 30 reps if you can respond ASAP it would be much appreciated!

thanks, tim

Posted on: Wed, 04/09/2014 - 01:12

This is an excellent and challenging routine. It's not exactly for beginners, you'll be doing lots of Calisthenics over lifting barbells. It's exhausting as well, though, I made it a month and I think I am burnt out. The gains are sweet gains though and I'm feeling quite mighty, just burnt out doing 7 sets of 30, it wears on the mind.


Posted on: Sun, 03/30/2014 - 16:43

Would you recommend this for a beginner? Or should beginners do full body 3-6 months before attempting more advanced routines

Piotr Lachowicz
Posted on: Mon, 03/03/2014 - 22:42

Hey Steve. I am wondering weather i should do your strength and density program or the program for ectomorphs. I do consider myself an ectomorph. I weigh 165, i am 5"11, I and really skinny though i can lift a decent amount. I started working out sophomore year of high school, though never took it seriously till a bout a year ago. I also approached working out the wrong way so never had allot of gains. I did gymnastics for 4 years. Now i am a freshmen in collage and i have been doing hte 5x5 strength program and have seen great gainz. My current 5x5 weight for my bench squat and deadlift combinded is 780.
Which program would suit me better, the strength and density, or the ectomorph one.

Also i have always eaten very little, and i am working on eating more

Piotr Lachowicz
Posted on: Mon, 03/03/2014 - 18:08

Hey Steve. I am wondering weather i should do your strength and density program or the program for ectomorphs. I do consider myself an ectomorph. I weigh 165, i am 5"11, I and really skinny though i can lift a decent amount. I started working out sophomore year of high school, though never took it seriously till a bout a year ago. I also approached working out the wrong way so never had allot of gains. I did gymnastics for 4 years. Now i am a freshmen in collage and i have been doing hte 5x5 strength program and have seen great gainz. My current 5x5 weight for my bench squat and deadlift combinded is 780.
Which program would suit me better, the strength and density, or the ectomorph one.

Also i have always eaten very little, and i am working on eating more

Thank you, i may have accidentally posted this question twice.

Posted on: Tue, 02/25/2014 - 18:24

Dude i know this isn't a routine for power-lifting but I'm a power-lifter and i got to tell u after one week of trying this routine I'm more than satisfied, thank you!

Posted on: Sat, 02/22/2014 - 17:10

im 49 yrs old can i do this???ive lifted inconsistently for years looking for direction.

Posted on: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 14:53

Steve, I really enjoyed this workout when I was overseas. I made awesome gains. However, I am now working full-time and in school full-time. How can I turn this into a 3-day routine without cutting too many corners?

Posted on: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 16:05

so say if you're doing barbell bench press for density; is this how the work out would look like? set 1- 30reps, set 2- 30reps, set 3- 30reps, set 4- 30reps, set 5- 30reps, set 6- 30reps, and finally set 7- 30reps?

Posted on: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 22:32

I'm looking forward to trying this routine out, but I have a few questions. In your opinion, how many days of cardio can I get away with during this cycle? I usually like to get 30 min of sprints, jogging, or elliptical in at least 3-4 days a week, but I don't want to risk over training by minimizing rest days... I train in the mixed martial arts 3-5 days a week, which does provide cardio in itself, however I like to stay as physically well-rounded as my programs will allow me. Also, should this routine strictly stay at two weeks or can it be prolonged to four?

Posted on: Mon, 01/27/2014 - 07:10

Is it possible to use only the density part of this schedule?

Posted on: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:22

hey steve. first i want to say this program is really great, i used it about a year ago for 6 months, best program i've used yet. Now, for my first question, i have been doing sports of the last 6 months, but i stopped going to the gym, is this program still suitable for me? and my second question is, if i change the exercises on back day to more compound bicep exhausting exercises, could i skip the bicep workout? i don't have time for a full fourth day of this workout. Thanks a lot for the program.looking forward to your reply.