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Use an old-school training technique to boost muscle size with this 8-week program.

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It’s easy to imagine Joe Weider as having been supremely satisfied when he came up with the name “Giant Set.” Joe was big on buzzwords, and giant was the perfect descriptor of a training technique that would help turn a skinny young man into a fully grown young man. Joe thought the concept of the giant set made perfect sense, too: Overload a single muscle group with four or more exercises done consecutively to maximize blood flow to the area and spark new muscle gains. He documented the practice, making the giant set one of his Weider Principles, and he used the technique himself over and over, then advised bodybuilders on employing it. Significant size was added by all, and the giant set has been utilized by gym rats for at least the past 50 years.

Here we give the giant set a makeover, but the goal remains the same: hypertrophy, and lots of it. This eight-week program will not only help you pack on size but will also promote fat-burning and give your cardiovascular system a boost. Rest assured, giant sets are just as relevant and effective today as they were many decades ago when Joe Weider first stumbled upon them.

The Low-Down on Giant-Set Training

Your training will consist of three days of resistance training per week, with hypertrophy as top priority. The training program will follow this simple equation: High Volume + Short Rest = Size. Stubborn muscle growth is a problematic issue that all trainers and trainees come face-to-face with at some point. This program forces the muscles to either get big or go home. It takes the old-school volume approach and combines it with the latest scientific studies to create the ideal eight-week hypertrophy program. Giant sets will be performed for all large muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, quads) using the standard four exercises per. (Giant sets for smaller body parts like biceps, triceps, or calves would be overkill.) The sequence of four exercises within each giant set will be this: a power move, a strength move, a stabilization move, a size/ shape move. This order of movement patterns will cut various new micro tears into the muscle fibers, allowing them to grow with proper rest and nutrition.

The progression of exercises through each giant set has a lot to do with joint movement. Take the chest giant set in Workout 2 as an example. With plyo pushups, three major joints (wrists, elbows, shoulders) are going through a big range of motion. On incline presses, it will be two joints–the elbows and shoulders. On flyes, just the shoulders are going through a full range of motion. Finally, the isometric plank involves no joint movement, only muscle contraction.

Getting Big With Power Moves

Let’s focus for a moment on the power moves, which will lead off every giant set. Generating power requires the most energy, so putting these movements at the beginning of the set will ensure that 100% effort is given. On back giant sets, the power moves will be hang cleans and power shrugs. These may not seem like direct back exercises, but both are pull-dominant moves that heavily involve the major muscles of the back.

The power moves will also spark the metabolism to promote fat burning. In fact, this volume-based program as a whole will ignite a strong metabolic effect. It’ll also increase athleticism and a unique type of cardiovascular capacity. I have used this and other programs just like it for hypertrophy goals as well as off-season training for contact-sport athletes.

So get going on your giant sets to build some serious size and turn up the heat on your metabolism. Train hard. And train smart.

Workout Notes

  1. Do the three weekly lifting workouts on whatever days you prefer. That said, taking one day off between workouts is recommended—i.e., a Monday, Wednesday, Friday training schedule.
  2. Perform a 15-minute stair-stepper or incline treadmill warmup for all three workouts.
  3. Allow 75–90 minutes for each training session. Take full advantage of the allotted time to recover between sets. It’s very important that every set is done with 100% energy.
  4. If you’re concerned about adding excess body fat (particularly during the holiday season), 30–40 minutes of low-intensity cardio can be added to off days.

Weeks 1-8: Follow this routine for 8 weeks straight to see serious gains.