The Savage 4x4: Strength/Hypertrophy Hybrid Workout

Steve Shaw
Written By: Steve Shaw
October 12th, 2009
Updated: June 13th, 2020
347K Reads
This powerbuilding routine may just turn your life around, and unleash something beastly! Workouts cycle between hypertrophy training and strength training.

It’s time to get insane! Your current workout is boring, and you’re hungry for a change.  You want something that isn’t the same old, same old grind? Well, here you go brothers and sisters of iron. Lock and load, it’s time to rock.

The Savage 4x4 is a strength and hypertrophy workout system. You will get strong and big. It will turn weak hardgainers into powerful, muscle gaining machines.

And no, this isn’t hype. This program works.

Savage 4x4 Core Principles

Savage 4x4 Strength Hypertrophy WorkoutTo gain strength and muscle on the Savage 4x4, here are the core principles that MUST be followed:

More Reps!

You must, must, must push for more reps on every set. You must live and breathe extra reps. The desire for extra reps should consume your life. You should become a single-minded, extra-rep zombie. You must always train for more, more, more reps!

More Food!

So you’re a hardgainer, huh? Time to talk about food then. Bud, if you’re not making gains, you need to eat more. If you’ve been shoveling 4,000 calories per day into your gullet, and you not gaining weight – eat 4,500 calories each day. And, if that doesn’t work, try 5,000 per day. Do you get the picture?

This is no time for excuses.

If you have a hard time eating that many calories, buy a weight gaining supplement, and go gonzo in the supermarket. Purchase healthy, high calorie foods like whole milk, and nuts and seeds. And start shoveling that fork. Scoop, insert, repeat!

More Savage!

The Savage 4x4 is much more then a workout. It’s a take no prisoners lifestyle. You need to get savage; you need to feel completely drunk on the desire to get strong and big. You need to alert your girlfriend, employer and mother. Put them on notice that things are going to change. It’s time to become a beast; a creature that lives for food and training. Get Savage!

Motivated yet? I thought so! Let’s get moving.

Savage Nuts and Bolts

Here’s how it works…the Savage 4x4 is made up of 4 workouts per week: Back, Chest, Legs and Shoulders. On each of these days, you will alternate between 2 workouts: the Savage 4x4 strength workout, and the hypertrophy workout. Here is how each workout breaks down:

Savage 4x4 Strength Workout.

On this day, you will be performing 4 sets of each major exercise. The goal is to perform MORE then 3 reps on ALL sets. When you can do that, (hitting 4 or more reps on all 4 sets) you will add 5 pounds to the bar the next time you work the same exercises in the Savage 4x4 style.

So, let’s say two weeks ago, your Savage 4x4 bench press looked like:

And today, you hammered out the following:

Because you hit a minimum of 4 reps on every Savage set, you will use 215 pounds on the bench press the next time you hit the gym and get savage.

You will also be performing rep work on Savage 4x4 days. Rep work consists of 3 sets by 6 reps for non-major exercises. When you can perform a minimum of 6 reps for these exercises, go up in weight on your next rep work workout day.

Savage 4x4 Workout is Intense

Hypertrophy Workout.

Though you will be pushing for more weight on hypertrophy days, the approach is much different. A hypertrophy day set will have you performing 4 sets of each exercise, but with slow, 4 second negatives, and only 30 seconds of rest between sets.

Sets will be mentally tough, intense, and gut-busting. You may just cry out for your momma to help you. The intensity of hypertrophy days will create strength endurance, forcing muscles to strain for a longer time under tension (TUT).

On hypertrophy days, you goal is to hit a minimum of 6 reps for all 4 sets. This will be insanely tough, and picking the right starting weight is paramount. You will not be able to use heavy weights on these days. I recommend starting with 60% of your one rep max. You may have to tweak this weight, depending on how well your body “enjoys” hypertrophy day.

So, to recap, on hypertrophy days you will:

  • Perform 4 sets of each exercise
  • Every rep will be performed with a slow, 4 second controlled negative
  • Rest 30 seconds between each set of the same exercise (rest-pause)
  • Rest 3-5 minutes between different exercises
  • When you can perform a minimum of 6 reps for all four sets, increase the weight for that exercise by 5 pounds

Savage Split

You will be working out 4 days a week, alternative each workout between the Savage 4x4, and the hypertrophy workout. It will take 2 weeks to complete a full savage cycle of 4x4 strength and hypertrophy. Here is the split:

Day 1: Back – Savage 4x4

Day 2: OFF

Day 3: Chest - Hypertrophy

Day 4: OFF

Day 5: Legs – Savage 4x4

Day 6: Shoulders – Hypertrophy

Day 7: OFF

Day 8: Back - Hypertrophy

Day 9: OFF

Day 10: Chest – Savage 4x4

Day 11: OFF

Day 12: Legs – Hypertrophy

Day 13: Shoulders – Savage 4x4

Day 14: Off 

Notes on the Savage 4x4

When possible, don’t train to positive failure. If failure occasionally occurs, don’t sweat it. You can continue this cycle as long as you’d like. It’s best to keep pushing forward as long as something is working. So if the Savage 4x4 if working for you, keep plugging forward.

There are no miracle routines. With that said, the Savage 4x4 is one heck of a ball-busting, mass-inducing workout. If you work it, it will work for you. And don’t forget to eat!

Adam Long
Posted on: Sat, 09/12/2020 - 01:59

Hey Steve
Been having a terrible habit of “program hopping” just started Savage 4x4 this week
Def something i haven’t done before
Loving it so far

But realistically, how long can i do this program for?
I’m an athlete
So I’m always looking for new ways to help with my sport
And strength training is always at the top of my list

Rahul Chaudhary
Posted on: Fri, 02/05/2021 - 05:21

Try 5/3/1

Posted on: Sun, 12/13/2015 - 06:25

how much rest in between SETS for the 4x4 strength section?? I read where it's 30 seconds for the hypertrophy but don't find same info for strength thanks !

Posted on: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 17:15

Hi, I've made some great progress in the last 10 months (going from 65-77kg) but have reached a plateu. This program looks good but I'm slightly concerned about the impact on my arm mass. My arms have always been a lagging body part for me and i'm concerned that reducing the amount of work i'm doing on them could increase the problem. Would you recommend any additional arm/abdominal work or would this just lead to overtraining? Many thanks.

Robert Giordano
Posted on: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 13:11

Steve,big fan of this program. On SAVAGE Leg day can I do a zercher squat even though the following day is a HYPERTROPHY shoulder day.My concern is bicep activity and I love zerchers.Also not sure if it matters on shoulder day I perform spider curls. Thanks Steve,this program changed my life.

Posted on: Wed, 11/06/2013 - 20:58

Hi Steve i just want o know if we can apply this principle for a full body workout?
Like bench 4x4 one day and hypertrophy another day.

Posted on: Thu, 10/10/2013 - 22:54

So for all of the different types of sets you do in this program (4x4, negative sets, and rep work) if we can go past the minimum number of reps for a set, how far do we go until we stop? (I ask bc it's been mentioned we are not going to failure)

Posted on: Sun, 08/18/2013 - 17:40

What is the best way to determine the appropriate starting weight for these lifts?

Posted on: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 07:07

Hi Steve Can i perform the savage 4x4 with dumbbells flat bench press and barbell front squats instead of barbell bench/squat. I dont have a rack at home? And secondly can this system be used with a fullbody Legs, push, pull routine 2 times a week. Using compound exersizes ofcourse. Thanx in advance.

Posted on: Sun, 07/14/2013 - 10:49

Hi Steve can i use savage 4x4 with barbell front squats instead of squats and dumbbells instead of barbell bench press since i dont have a rack at home?

Thanx for some great articles

Posted on: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 18:11

I was wondering about if on hypertrophy days when the weight is relatively light i should be limiting how many reps i do on the early sets.. as an example on Arnold press yesterday my reps were:
15, 10, 5, 5
I'm pretty sure if i'd stopped at 6 reps i would have had no trouble at all doing 4 sets of 6 does anyone have any advice?

Posted on: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:22

Then you push the weight up to a weight that you struggle to do 4 sets of 6. If you're smashing 15 on your first set, then you've gone far too light.

Posted on: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 18:49

How long should the rest periods between (rep work) sets on savage4x4 days be?

Posted on: Sun, 11/25/2012 - 07:03

Hi steve been following this program for the last week or so and noticed that the hypertrophy workouts are very short as in they only take like 25 minutes in total, is this right? Thanks

Posted on: Mon, 11/12/2012 - 01:04

Hi Steve,

One thing I noticed (for the 4x4 days) is no inclusion for warm-up sets?

Posted on: Sun, 10/21/2012 - 20:44


I was wondering what day olympic lifts such as cleans & snatches could be put in?

Posted on: Sun, 09/09/2012 - 08:58

for how long should i rest between sets when doing the savage workout?

Posted on: Sat, 08/11/2012 - 14:10

Hi, I have couple of questions about this routine. First, what is the difference between rep work and regular strength workout, I mean, how does the rep work affect the muscles? Second, you say: "So, let’s say two weeks ago, your Savage 4x4 bench press looked like:
Bench Press, 210 x 5, 210 x 4, 210 x 3, 210 x 3..."
I assume that means you don't increase the weight with every successive set. Does the same apply to hypertrophy workout?

Posted on: Sun, 07/29/2012 - 18:12

would it be possible to combine two days together into one, for example - chest hypertrophy and back savage? if you dont have as much time for the gym as before.

Posted on: Mon, 05/14/2012 - 17:11

I have a hard time (read impossible) getting my workout partner to the gym on weekends. Can I do this as a wook-work-rest-work-work-rest-rest schedule?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 14:45

That should work.

Posted on: Tue, 03/20/2012 - 20:23

Hi Steve,

When performing the Deadlift on SAVAGE day, would you recommend one working set with 3 sets working up to that weight? Or warm up then do 4 working sets?

Posted on: Sat, 02/04/2012 - 14:42

Do you add any cardio to this program or is it not necessary?

Posted on: Thu, 02/02/2012 - 17:52

Would it be possible to include pushups somewhere in the 14-day cycle? If so, how many days/sets/reps would you recommend? Many thanks!

Posted on: Fri, 12/16/2011 - 23:01

I've worked out before in the past, but nothing serious. I wish to gain strength and mass and have about 18 months to achieve this goal. Would I be able to do this workout or should I focus more on Starting Strength for a bit?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 13:34

I would use Starting Strength for at least 6 months first.

Posted on: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 10:52

Would it be possible to do both the Savage and Hypertrophy workout in the same day?
For example doing the Savage 4x4 Back workout in the mourning and doing the hypertrophy workout in the evening?
Are the rest days mandatory or would you just be able to go to the next workout so one cycle would only take you 8 days?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 13:33

I don't recommend that. Rest is just as important as hard training.

Posted on: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 05:00

Great workout! but, what about bi and triceps?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 14:59

It is included int eh workout, on chest and shoulder days.

Posted on: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 23:00

What are you referring to by big lifts? I have good form when performing, bench press, squats, barbel rows and deadlifts (to me those are the big 3). Other than that, I have experience in performing the snatch and clean. As of right now I try to incorporate kettlebell work, it's a good experience.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 11/01/2011 - 15:35

Squats, bench and deadlift.

Since your form is solid, you could use this program.

Posted on: Sat, 10/29/2011 - 17:34

Would you recommend this for a teen? Specifically 16?
I have been working out for two years now, squat 275, dead lift 305
and bench press 185. I think I am capable but I'd like your opinion.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 14:37

With our lifting experience this would probably serve you well. How confident are you with exercise form on the big lifts?

Posted on: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 09:45

Hi Steve,
Can you recommend some cardio that will compliment this program, getting a little round.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 17:14

Hi Colin,

Fat loss is almost all about diet. You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eating to maximize muscle retention while cutting fat. Here are two articles that can help:

Posted on: Fri, 07/29/2011 - 07:31


I was wonering what the recommended rest periods are for the savage portion of the workouts for both the srength training sets and the repwork sets. Also how much rest between the exercises themselves. Thanks.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/04/2011 - 16:25

Hi Eric,

In general I recommend 2-3 minutes between 4x4 sets, or a bit longer if need be.

Posted on: Thu, 01/20/2011 - 10:13

hey sorry for asking so many questions, ive been doin this program for a while, i like it, i was just wondering, after i finish the program, could i continue and and do eight weeks of just the savage part of the workout? thanks,

Posted on: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 15:53

what are rack chins?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 14:11

Hi Dylan,

You place a bar at about squat height in a rack, place your feet on a bench, and perform a pull up style movement.

Posted on: Mon, 12/20/2010 - 23:30

hey what could i substitute for low pulley or t bar rows?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 12:20

Hi Dylan,

You could use pullups or rack chins.

Posted on: Sat, 12/04/2010 - 17:55

hey could you please explain pin presses to me? thanks

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 13:32

Hi Dylan,

Pin presses are bench presses performed in a rack, or off pins. The bar is placed at varying heights away from the chest. With pin presses you start the lift from the bottom position.

Posted on: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 08:49

im currently doing steves 5 day power muscle burn split, i was wondering if this would be a good program to do next, i would really like to gain strength but muscle would be nice too,

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 13:21

Hi Dylan,

This program would be a great choice.

Posted on: Mon, 11/15/2010 - 10:18

this workout program looks cool, i was just wondering if this would help out my deadlift, my squat, and most importantly my bench press max out? just wondering thanks,

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/15/2010 - 13:25

Hi Dylan,

Absolutely. This workout focuses on adding reps/weight when possible.

Posted on: Thu, 07/01/2010 - 20:29

Quick Question- On the savage days with Rep Work, should we be doing the 4 sec negatives (30 secs bewteen sets) for the rep work portion?