Steve's Density And Strength 4 Day Split

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

Build Muscle
16 weeks
60-75 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, Machines
Male & Female
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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 And 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

  • Wednesday = Chest Day (Density)
  • Thursday = Back Day (Strength)
  • Saturday = Shoulder Day (Density)
  • Sunday = Leg Day (Strength)

Week 2

  • Wednesday = Chest Day (Strength)
  • Thursday = Back Day (Density)
  • Saturday = Shoulder Day (Strength)
  • Sunday = Leg Day (Density)

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.

Barbell Deadlifts

Core Workout Principles

Progression. 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.

For Density Sets:

  1. Total Sets. Perform 7 sets per exercise.
  2. 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.
  3. Failure. Don't train to failure. Only do as many reps as you can.
  4. 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.

For Strength Sets:

  1. Total Sets. You will start by doing 8 sets of 2 reps, and will be pushing to get 8 sets of 3 reps.
  2. Rest Between Sets. Rest exactly 2 minutes between sets.
  3. 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.

Workout Schedule:

Wednesday - Chest and Triceps
Density Workout
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
Strength Workout
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
Density Workout
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
Strength Workout
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.

Friday - Rest Day

Saturday - Shoulders and Biceps
Density Workout
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
Strength Workout
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
Density Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 3 to 4 6 to 10
Leg Extension 7 40 Total
Stiff Leg Deadlifts 7 35 Total
Strength Workout
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

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

Monday and Tuesday - Rest Days

589 Comments+ Post Comment

mnsjason's picture
Posted Fri, 02/15/2013 - 17:41

More times than not, it's your diet that can keep you stuck. You may want to take a closer look at how many calories you're eating, as you need to eat more than you burn in order to build muscle mass. Also, try changing up your routine with either lower reps/higher weight or higher reps/lower weight. It's good policy to change up when you hit a plateau.

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Posted Mon, 02/11/2013 - 20:53

Hey steve,
Do I follow this routine for a good 6 months or just continue to do it till I get the results I want. And when should I throw in abs?

Joey's picture
Posted Thu, 02/14/2013 - 12:46

Throw in abs whenever it's convenient for you. Stick with it for as long as you'd like. As long as you're getting results there's no reason to switch routines.

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Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 18:41

Just completed week six of this routine. Highly recommended, just make sure your muscles are conditioned before beginning the program! Strength gains starting increasing between week 4 and 5. Had to take a week off due to work, but upon my return the gains increased significantly more, guess I needed the rest. Actual mass grains were decent, they could be really good I just let my nutrition slip.
Only thing I changed was adding more tri lifts after completing pecks, reason being, I have terrible shoulders and it is nearly impossible for me make through the chest density days let alone adding more weight on the strength days. All in all, the density days can be tedious but it is well worth it and I recommend this program. Thanks for posting!

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Posted Wed, 01/23/2013 - 21:56

I am only able to work out around 3 days per week, is their a way to restructure this as a full body program

mnsjason's picture
Posted Fri, 01/25/2013 - 18:13

Hey Will! You might want to look into some routines that are specifically designed with a full body approach in mind. There are a few great routines for your consideration here:

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Posted Wed, 01/23/2013 - 19:29


How many sets do you like to warm up with for muscle groups such as legs, chest, shoulders, back? How's my sets, and how many reps im each set. Would really appreciate guidance. Thanks

mnsjason's picture
Posted Fri, 01/25/2013 - 17:24

Hey Chris! Feel free to add a couple of warm-up sets (at a light weight, of course) if you're more comfortable doing so. As for sets and reps, look to the article for guidance. The templates clearly define what you need to do on strength days vs density days.

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Posted Fri, 01/25/2013 - 17:32
Chris Allen

Thanks for the response! As far as sets and reps I was looking for how many sets, and how many reps during warm-ups. There is so much varying information that I'd like to see your take. Do you increase the weight on every warm up set, or stay static. How many wa up sets do you perform and is there a rep range you like. Thanks again.

mnsjason's picture
Posted Fri, 01/25/2013 - 17:38

Oh, sorry! It depends on what you're comfortable with. I personally will start with a very low weight, push 8 reps, add weight, push 8. I also do some light cardio for about 5 minutes before I begin any workout.

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Posted Mon, 01/14/2013 - 17:54

Hey Steve. Even though I read through the comments, I still don't get the "deadlidt single" thing on the density workout. Could you explain it more thoroughly? Thanks in advance. Nice workout by the way!

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Posted Tue, 01/08/2013 - 16:55
Nick Traina

Whats up Steve, i was just wondering is this workout going to put major size on me? like will it put a lot of mass on? or will it just improve my strength, because i'm trying to get a lot of size plus strength. Please get back to me thanks

Joey's picture
Posted Wed, 01/09/2013 - 15:00

Hey Nick - This routine will help build muscle, but that will be more dependent on your diet. Here is a helpful muscle-building guide:

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Posted Sun, 01/06/2013 - 13:53

i have a low back injury(herniated disk) and i can't do deadlifts.Another exercise for the session of back and legs ?thanks

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Posted Fri, 01/04/2013 - 16:42

I have a problem with lower back pain(herniated disk) and i can't do deadlifts for singles enen thought for reps...what i can do for back and legs in the position of deadlifts? keep up the good work!

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Posted Fri, 01/04/2013 - 12:09

On density and strength workout days, what should the weight difference be for workouts such as bench, squat, deadlift, etc.?

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Posted Fri, 12/28/2012 - 12:00

Am I supposed to do 210 reps in total of each exercise during the density training? I mean 7 x 30 = 210

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Posted Thu, 01/24/2013 - 08:58

NO...30 reps total for the whole 7 sets.

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Posted Thu, 12/27/2012 - 02:16


I'm currently doing P90X classic and I'm thinking about switching to another program. I see that this program has a good rating on this website but in my opinion it seems a little too short. Could this be used as a stand-alone program or do l have to combine it with another program?

Joey's picture
Posted Fri, 01/04/2013 - 11:22

Definitely stand-alone. Believe me, this will be plenty of work. Focus on progressing with weight.

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Posted Fri, 12/21/2012 - 15:59
Big Bob

For the 8 sets of 2-3 reps on strength days, do you use the same weight for all 8 sets?

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Posted Wed, 12/19/2012 - 05:42
Chris Walker

Absolutely one of the best muscle building, strength enhancing, complete weights programs i have ever used. I have used very similar, albeit a few diff exercises, over the years and managed to put on circa 15 kgs of lean muscle whilst maintaining 12-13% BF.

Steve, brilliant job!

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Posted Tue, 12/18/2012 - 21:52

I was wondering about the squats on density days. Could you follow the same format as the other exercises? Why did you change it up?

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Posted Mon, 12/17/2012 - 00:05

for the strength workout, how long do you recommend that I rest between the assitance exercises?

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Posted Mon, 12/10/2012 - 18:14
Big Bob

On the strength days, when it says pick 2 exercises for 3 sets does it mean 3 total sets or 6?
So each exercise for 3 sets or a total of 3 sets between the 2 exercises?

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Posted Sun, 12/09/2012 - 22:45

Is it alright if I add more workouts to this routine, so instead of 2 chest and 1 tricep on the density day, maybe 3 chest and 2 triceps

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Posted Wed, 12/05/2012 - 21:34
Big Bob

On strength days you say 1- 2 or just 2 exercises of a muscle for 3 sets. Does this mean 3 sets total when you use 2 exercises or 6 sets?
For ex: for chest it says 2 exercises of choice 3 sets
Does this mean 3 or 6 total sets?

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Posted Tue, 12/04/2012 - 20:42

So for this routine. For example it says density days starting with chest to do 7sets of 30 total reps. So Im a moderate weight lifter, so Ill start with 135lbs on my bench press. So do I use that same weight for 7 sets at 30 reps each because I think that would be the only weight I could use to even make it to 30 reps, and if I do so. I add at least ten pounds total weight the following week right? What happens if I cant even do 30 reps each set? I think I might be able to do it for the first 2-3 sets but then what? Can you please explain to me what I should do, because Im really interested in this routine!

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Posted Thu, 01/24/2013 - 08:56

Its 30 reps for the whole 7 sets and NOT for an individual set..if you do more than 30 total, then add weight next time you do this workout.

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Posted Thu, 11/29/2012 - 22:57

Hi Steve when u say 30 reps for 7 sets would that be a total of 210 total reps before adding weight?

Joey's picture
Posted Wed, 12/05/2012 - 11:40

No - 30 reps total

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Posted Tue, 11/27/2012 - 20:50

Hey Steve, I am on my 4th week and seeing some decent results in size and strength, while maintaining a high caloric clean diet. I'm curious as to what of the speed of each rep be for the positive and negative of my lift. For example, I've been counting 3 seconds positive then 3 seconds negative on the contraction? Great workout so far!

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Posted Fri, 11/23/2012 - 13:05

Hi Steve! I have a question to do for your routine! Im going to do your workout next week, but for density set i have to do fast reps till i do 30 each set, or just normal move?

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Posted Sat, 11/17/2012 - 09:55

hi dear Steve , why the shin exercise isn't in leg workout ?
thank you

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Posted Tue, 12/04/2012 - 00:31

Your shin isn't a muscle.

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Posted Tue, 11/13/2012 - 16:04

Hey steve, been on this workout for nearly 2 and a bit months now! All i can say is fantastic. My atrength is up but not only that i have put on some serious muscle mass. Especially around the shoulder area. This beats generic 8-12 reps any day

Thanks once again

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Posted Mon, 10/29/2012 - 11:31
Jon Lawrence

currently doing 5/3/1 but really want to start this workout after christmas. I was wondering what the starting percentages (of my 1rep max) should be for both the strength portion and the density portin of the routine. thanks

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Posted Sun, 10/28/2012 - 16:00

In your opinion what is the minimal and maximum gains you can make in one month for your bench and squat using this program?

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Posted Mon, 10/22/2012 - 11:31

Big fan of your articles and workouts. Did the Power, Muscle, Burn 4 day split for more than 18 months. Most recently I've been doing my own 3 day split based a lot on what I've learned researching and doing your workouts. But where I've had the biggest muscular and strength growth is on a 4 day split. This workout here seems to fill my desire for both impressive strength and muscle gain. Unfortunately my deadlift/squat/bench total is only 750. Would I see optimal results from this workout?

PS. I'm a 6'5 ectomorph. If that helps.

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Posted Fri, 10/19/2012 - 12:56


You mentioned that you recommend doing cardio for 20-30 minutes post-workout. However, several muscle building programs strongly suggest that you consume an adequate protein source within 30 minutes after completing training to re-build broken down muscle. How would this work if your doing cardio post-workout and missing this critical 30 minute post-workout protein consumption window? Any feedback would be helpful. Thanks.

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Posted Fri, 10/19/2012 - 05:01

In regards to the squats on density day, how long shall I rest between each set?

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Posted Thu, 10/04/2012 - 08:19

Hi Steve, I tested others routines yours previusly and have been ok. I want to try this, but I have a question, if I raise p.e. 100 kg bench press, How many kilograms 7x35 I start your routine "Density and strength"?

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Posted Wed, 10/03/2012 - 15:43
Ozioma Ejim

Hey steve I wanted to know if i could get on this program for i have not lifted in over a couple of month now. (I participate in football and I known to be one of the strongest on the team)

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 10/03/2012 - 16:33

It should serve you well.

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Posted Wed, 10/03/2012 - 16:58
ozioma ejim

good to now. I want to also ask about the rep, how much weight do I put on (and if it deponds on max do I go off of my offseason max or do I start over)

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Posted Mon, 10/01/2012 - 21:46

Hi Steve,

I tried finding the answer in the comments section...but after a couple pages, this might be easier.

I just started this program today and I'm excited to see where it goes. Could you clarify one piece for me: Am I supposed to be going up in weight on each set? I read that you said you should use your 8 rep max for both strength and density... I feel like if you're going for 30 reps in density, but 16 for strength, you're either supposed to go up in weight, or I'm missing something.

e.g. Today I did chest (density), so my sets were:
10x140lbs, 5x145lbs, 5x145lbs, 5x150lbs, 3x160lbs, 1x175, 1x175.

did do this wrong?


Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 10/03/2012 - 16:33

You use the same weight for all sets. The weight will be different on strength days and density days.

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Posted Mon, 10/01/2012 - 02:06

hey, on the strength days for the chest, after im finished with my heavy benching and I go onto the assistance exercises, if in addition to the two other exercises you say to pick, if i throw 3 sets of dips in, will that cause any harm?

so basically my asistance exercises are as follows:
3x incline db press
3x dumbell flyes
3x dips
3x skull crushers/close grip bp or something

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 10/03/2012 - 16:32

I don't recommend adding any extra work. This workout will serve you well as designed. Extra work does not equate to extra results. Progression is most important.

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Posted Fri, 09/28/2012 - 14:26

Hi Steve very good workout I gonna give it a try!!!

I'm bodybuilding from almost 5 years, always lifting heavy and hard training.

I'm thinking about this training and what do you say about doing the following split:

Week 1

Wednesday = Back Day (Strength)
Thursday = Chest Day (Density)
Saturday = Leg Day (Strength)
Sunday = Shoulder Day (Density)

Week 2

Wednesday = Back Day (Density)
Thursday = Chest Day (Strength)
Saturday = Leg Day (Density)
Sunday = Shoulder Day (StrengthI

This way my biceps rest one more day in the middle of the week.

Please let me know what you think about this.

Thank you,
Good trainings