This 4-day program will help intermediate and advanced trainees gain size and strength. Rest-pause set, drop sets, and negatives will kick your muscle gains into high gear!
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration8 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Recommended Supps
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

Summer is in the past, and people are now looking to gain some mass – healthy mass that is. After dedicating months to getting leaner and looking better, you might be ready to devote some time to heavier weights and filling out some of those t-shirts and hoodies. If that reads like I’m talking about you, then keep reading because we have the plan right here.

Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

MASSter Class Is In Session

Over the next eight weeks, the goal is to build muscle and get stronger. This will be done with an eight-week program that requires you to hit the weights four days a week. These workouts will be intense and challenging if you do them right, so there will be no need to double them up or find additional time to train. When you’re not working out, you should be eating, sleeping, or living life outside of the gym.

Who Is This For?

This is a program that will help intermediate and advanced trainees gain positive size and strength. Beginners and rookies may find this program to be too intense, and they could still learn more about form and execution before taking on a program like this. Don’t worry, though. M&S has plenty of programs for those that are just starting out.

Principles of the Program

In order to gain something that you don’t have, you need to do something that you don’t typically do. That means pushing yourself beyond what you normally perceive to be “failure.” That’s why some intensity boosting methods are going to be a part of this program.

Rest-Pause Sets

During one of these sets, you will push the set to failure within the recommended rep range, rest for 10-15 seconds, and then perform as many reps as you can. So a set of barbell curls may look like this:

Barbell Curls – 70lbs for 8 reps, 15-second rest, 70 pounds for 4 reps.

Even though you took that brief rest, you actually did four reps more than you normally would have. Those extra reps will help you take your training to the next level.

Drop Sets

This is when you reduce the weight you’re using after failure so you can continue to train. There is no additional rest taken. Once you hit failure, you immediately reduce the weight and keep going. A drop set of incline dumbbell presses may go like this:

Incline Dumbbell Press – 60lb dumbbells for 10 reps, 30lb dumbbells for 12 reps.

Yes, you reduced the weight, but that was still enough to challenge the muscles in a safe way. So the goal will still be accomplished – you're tearing down muscle fibers so they can recover and grow.


This is when you take the weight from the lifted phase to the stretch phase very slowly. It may take you one second to lower the dumbbell on a curl normally. With negatives, you can take as long as five or ten seconds. This program will include five-second negatives at different points in the workout. The goal is to maintain control of the weight and force the muscle to work harder.

Muscular man doing dumbbell shoulder presses in the gym

How Much Weight Should I Use?

This is one of the most common questions we see in the comments section of our articles, so let’s address it here. If 10lbs is all you can use for an exercise, use it. If you’re capable of using 80lbs, use 80lbs. The point is that the weight should be challenging enough for you to execute the desired reps within the recommended rep range. If you’re supposed to do six to eight reps, but can do 12, it’s too light. Conversely, if you can’t do more than four, it’s too heavy. There is no magic formula to help you figure out the weight you need. It’s going to be a matter of trial and error.


As hard as you’re going to be training, you’re going to need to eat in order to recover and grow. That doesn’t mean you get to go crazy and eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Having a sound nutrition plan will be very beneficial. M&S actually has a great guide that can work well with this program. You can consider it or any of the other nutrition programs here designed to help you get bigger and stronger. I will offer two pieces of advice here:

  1. Eat Protein First – Protein is the nutrient that plays the biggest role in your recovery and growth. If you get full before the meal is completed, you don’t want protein left on the plate. This can also help you keep your blood sugar in check.
  2. Take Your Time – It's food, not flavored oxygen. Take the time to properly chew and enjoy the meal you’re eating so it can be digested properly. Overwhelming your stomach by pounding down a lot of calories at warp speed won’t help you, and it will make you uncomfortable as well.


Cardio is about more than burning calories and increasing metabolism. It’s good for heart health. So I don’t think you should ignore it completely. You can do three or four sessions of moderate level cardio a week at 20 minutes per session. You can do these in the morning or post-workout. Get them in when you’re able to get them in.

The Workouts

Now let’s talk about the training. This is a four-day routine. You will perform each workout once a week. The optimal way to do this would be by following this split:

  • Monday – Chest and Side Delts
  • Tuesday – Upper Back and Rear Delts
  • Wednesday – Off
  • Thursday – Arms and Abs
  • Friday – Legs
  • Saturday and Sunday – Off

That would be the best split, but let’s face facts. There are a lot of you that have jobs that don’t allow this to happen, so here’s what you need to know. Do these workouts at times that best suit you. The only rule I suggest you follow is that you don’t train for more than three days in a row before taking a day off. Two would be best, but if you must train a third consecutive day, go for it. I don’t suggest you do this normally. The recovery is vital for you to grow. Training four days in a row without the extra rest may affect the results you see from this. 

Workout 1: Chest and Side Delts

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Incline Barbell Bench Press 3 12, 10, 12* 90 sec
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press 3 12, 10, 15+ 90 sec
Cable Crossover 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec
Seated Lateral Raise 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Single Arm Cable Lateral Raise 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec

* Rest-Pause Set

+ Drop Set

^ 3-5 Second Negatives

Workout 2: Upper Back and Rear Delts

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Bent-Over Barbell Row 3 12, 10, 12* 90 sec
Dumbbell Pullover 3 12, 10, 15+ 90 sec
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec
Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Cable Face Pull 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Dumbbell Shrug 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec

* Rest-Pause Set

+ Drop Set

^ 3-5 Second Negatives

Workout 3: Arms and Abs

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Close Grip Bench Press 3 12, 10, 12* 90 sec
Weighted Dip 3 12, 10, 12+ 90 sec
Rope Tricep Extension 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec
Lying Leg Raise 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Cable Crunch 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Barbell Curl 3 12, 12, 12* 90 sec
Hammer Curl 3 12, 10, 12+ 90 sec
Cable Curl 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec

* Rest-Pause Set

+ Drop Set

^ 3-5 Second Negatives

Workout 4: Legs

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Deadlift 3 12, 10, 12* 90 sec
Lying Leg Curl 3 12, 10, 12+ 90 sec
Walking Lunge 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Front Squat 3 12, 10, 12* 90 sec
Leg Extension 3 12, 12, 12+ 90 sec
Dumbbell Side Lunge 3 12, 12, 12 90 sec
Seated Calf Raise 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec
Calf Press 3 12, 12, 12^ 90 sec

* Rest-Pause Set

+ Drop Set

^ 3-5 Second Negatives

Posted on: Wed, 03/22/2023 - 01:45

Good day! I found this workout routine and it’s speaking to me. I hope to start it tomorrow. I currently tend to do a lot of different things that help keep me in shape-ish, but all that I’m doing lacks focus. To this point, would it be okay to perform a “finisher” routine of no more than 20 minutes after these lifting days? The finishers would include HIIT and circuit training.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/23/2023 - 19:49

Hey there, Justin, glad the workout is drawing you in.

I kept the HIIT and extra cardio out of it because it was meant for helping the person doing it build mass. If you feel the cardio would help you, then by all means, go with HIIT or a circuit workout. Let me know what you do and how it goes for ya. Thanks for reading M&S!

Posted on: Sun, 03/19/2023 - 13:37

Hey Roger, firstly i want to thank you for your afford and sharing this work-out plan with us. I only have one question. Can you share some abs exercises? Leg day is quite short and i want to exercise my abs too. Thanks in advance.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/23/2023 - 19:46

Thank you for reading, Ertan, and I hope this helps you!

I got you for abs. Do this one at the gym or home, whichever works for you.

Let me know how this goes for ya!

Posted on: Sat, 03/18/2023 - 19:59

Hi Roger,
I'm about to start this program but I'm wondering if I'm supposed to keep the same weight for the 3 sets?
For example I don't see how I can do the Dumbbell pullover 12/10/15+ with the same weight. Either the first two sets are too easy or the third will be 8 reps if I use the same weight.
Should I adapt the weight during the sets? Same for the negatives sets I don't see how I can do negative for 5sec with the same weight.
Thanks for the answer, beside that concern the program looks great.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/23/2023 - 19:45

Let's use the dumbbell pullover as an example, Lionel.

Set 1: Should be easy. I would use 60 pounds.
Set 2: Should be moderate. I would use 80 pounds. You should NOT hit failure at rep 10.
Set 3: Same weight as set 2, but this time, I am using the intensity booster. This would be when you hit failure with 80 pounds, then drop or do rest-pause.

Hope this helps!

Alexander Correia
Posted on: Mon, 03/13/2023 - 15:38

Hey question about the drop set and negatives. Are they for each rep or for the last set of reps to the workout you have tagged for negatives and drop sets. For example = 3 x 12,12,12 +/^ on the last rep or 3 x 12+/^,12+/^,12+/^ for each one. Thank you again. Workout is really good!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/23/2023 - 19:43

This way is correct. 3 x 12,12,12 +/^

Save the drop set and negatives for the final set of each exercise.

Glad you like it, let me know how it goes. Thanks for reading M&S!

Posted on: Mon, 03/13/2023 - 03:12

Hi Roger,

Thank you for replying to all this comments, I really appreciate that.

I have one more question. How much time under tension do you recommend for one series? How about the entire exercise? I’ve tested 20s working time with 1:30’ pause x 3 and also for another excercise 30s/1:30’ x 3.

What is your opinion?


M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/23/2023 - 19:42

30 seconds would be better. I like to focus on making sure I can control the weight I'm using. Using the incline dumbbell press as an example, I will get more out of doing 10 reps with 100-pound dumbbells if I do 30 seconds of work over 20 seconds. Make sense?

Posted on: Fri, 03/03/2023 - 16:22

I can complete al the exercises in this workout except the lying leg curl and the leg extension, no machines. What would be a good substitute for those exercises using what I have (Smith machine & cage trainer, cables, DB and BB). Can you give any advice on what exercises I can add to work on my glutes which badly need the extra attention.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 03/12/2023 - 19:11

Going to handle the leg extension and glutes question with one movement, Nathan. Sumo Smith Squats. The wide stance will target the glutes, but the quads will work as well.

Single leg curl with the cable will replace the lying leg curl. You can also do leg curls on a flat bench with a dumbbell between your feet.

Posted on: Thu, 03/02/2023 - 22:52

Are drop set performed on set 3 or all 3 sets and is that the same for rest pause and negatives

Thank you in advance

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 03/12/2023 - 19:09

Only Set 3, and yes, the same for rest-pause and negatives. Thanks for the question, Steve.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 02/25/2023 - 22:48

So, a quick comment from me as the writer to say thank you to everyone that read and applied this program to help achieve personal fitness success. This is my second M&S article to have 1,000,000 reads, which I'm humbled for. Thanks to all of you for supporting M&S!

Posted on: Sat, 02/25/2023 - 22:23

Hi, what % of 1rpm should I use for each of these workouts?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 02/25/2023 - 22:45

It will vary between different people. 65-75% would be a range I suggest starting with to find what works best for you.

Posted on: Sat, 02/25/2023 - 22:50

Hey thanks for the quick response! Say I do 65% and it starts getting too easy would I increase it to 70%? and if thats true once 75% starts getting too easy do I increase my 1rpm or do i increase it to 80%? Thanks again.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 02/25/2023 - 22:51

That is how I would approach it. Let us know how it goes for you. Thanks for reading M&S!

Dipanshu dubey
Posted on: Sat, 02/18/2023 - 12:01

Hi Roger
I am following this from 8 weeks but i didn't take the rest given in the program i did 6 days chest back legs and chest back legs again then took one rest day i did this for 8 week but now i have some what elbow pain and pain in my hamstring and calve connecting muscle and i can see my workout decline as i can't do the same intensity and same weights as before and have joint pain in elbows is this due to overtraining should i do this program for 8 weeks again with given rest period? Will it i get more results?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 02/25/2023 - 22:46

The rest was given for a reason. Hopefully you will apply that rest time going forward. I feel this could be due to overtraining, especially if you aren't experienced in training. Don't train with this or any other program until you see a doctor about that elbow and get cleared to train. Once you do, then try again, but with the proper rest time as I suggested. Good luck.

Dipanshu dubey
Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2023 - 10:44

I did rest for 4-5 days now my elbows are fine and i trained again today everything is fine i will follow the rest periods given by you in the program from now on thank you roger

Posted on: Tue, 02/14/2023 - 07:34


I have a couple questions.
The workouts that are 12,12,12 (no *+^), are we training all these sets until failure or just the last one as with the workouts that have 12,10,12 (with *+-) ?

Also, the workouts that have 12,12,12 (no *+^), are we increasing the weight here for the last two sets as with the other workouts that have 12,10,12 ?
Or do we keep the same weight throughout all the three sets in these workouts?

Thanks in advance!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 02/16/2023 - 16:31

Last set to failure. Leave one to two reps in the tank on the earlier sets.

Increase weight if you can, but don't feel bad if you can't.

Good luck, and thank you for reading M&S!

Arron McArthur
Posted on: Mon, 02/13/2023 - 10:16

Hi Roger, Thank you very much for creating this program. I have been doing 4 day maximum mass workout for 12 weeks. I have seen body toning but not so much muscle building. Hence, I am going to start with this one now. It looks very promising.

My question is how to interpret the sets and reps, sorry if it has already been answered.

Incline Bench Press - Sets 3 - Reps 12,10,12* , does it mean that Set 1 = 12,10,12* reps and then Set 2 = 12,10,12* reps and then Step 3 again = 12,10,12* reps? Or is it Set 1 = 12 reps, Set 2 = 10 reps and Step 3 = 12* reps. Thank you in advance and I hope I can add some muscle with this program, I am very committed to it :)

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 02/16/2023 - 16:30

Hi, Arron. Sets should go like this.

Set 1 - 12 reps
Set 2 - 10 reps
Set 3 12* reps

Hope this helps, and I hope you see good results from this one. All the best!

Suraj Kumar
Posted on: Mon, 02/13/2023 - 05:49

Hi Roger,

My age is 28year and my height is 5.11 but my weight is only 65 kg so please suggest me how to gain weight.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 02/16/2023 - 16:33

Start with this.

If you have training experience, follow the plan you asked this question on. If not, find a beginner program here on M&S that you can start with. I don't know if you would be training at home or a gym, so I don't want to make a recommendation that you can't use.

Posted on: Sat, 02/11/2023 - 01:06

Hi Roger. How's it going?
I have a question. Can I add forearms exercise to this workout? And in which day it's better to do that exercise?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 02/16/2023 - 16:34

What's good, Mahdi? You can. Do this superset after any upper body workout you like.

A Barbell Wrist Curl - 3 sets of 10 reps
B Reverse Wrist Curl - 3 sets of 10 reps

Finish with a grip exercise of your choice,and you should be good to go.

Posted on: Wed, 02/08/2023 - 11:20

Hi there! I’m considering of doing this this programme but on a first glance, it looks like it’s lacking a bit shoulder wise? Without OHP, or front raises, are these exercise enough to gain shoulder muscle?
P.S it’s definitely my weak point.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 02/16/2023 - 16:35

If it is definitely your weak point, then add front barbell raises to the chest and side delts workout. You should get enough side and rear work with the other exercises on the program. Hope this helps!

Karnan Rajkumar
Posted on: Tue, 01/31/2023 - 18:13

Can you do the workouts for that specific day in any order?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 02/16/2023 - 16:35

Sure, if it would help you stay focused, go for it. What would your preferred split look like?

Posted on: Fri, 01/27/2023 - 03:49

Hi Roger,
Thanks for the time you take to reply every comments. How should I implement the abs in this plan?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2023 - 10:26

Hi, Majid! My pleasure and privilege to help.

Aside from the abs workouts I included in the arm day, you could also do an ab exercise at the start of a workout to help warmup. Pick any from our Exercises section and do 5 sets of 20 reps with 90 seconds rest in between.

Posted on: Wed, 01/25/2023 - 21:50

Hi Roger

I have been doing this for 4 weeks and I have gained results except on my front dealt and chest. Can I add front raise and upright cable crossover exercises for this?


M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 01/27/2023 - 13:53

Sure can, Cesar! Good luck, and thanks for choosing my program!

Posted on: Tue, 01/24/2023 - 11:45

I was reading in comment section where you indicate that for each set you go up on weights. So, for example:

Incline Barbell Bench Press
12, 10, 12*

12 (weight), 10 (increase weight), 12(same as set 2), set rest-pause (same as set 2&3)

Would this be correct?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 01/27/2023 - 13:33


Posted on: Mon, 01/23/2023 - 02:42

Can someone explain to me how should I vary the weight and rest during each week?
I saw something like this:
Week 1: 65% -90s
Week 2: 62.5% - 60s
Week 3: 60% - 45s
Week 4: 55% - 30s
Week 5: 70% - 90s

Can someone give an advice?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 01/25/2023 - 08:55

Are those numbers based on your one rep max?

Going on the guess that it is, I would suggest adding 30 seconds to all those times. When it comes to training for size, the extra rest will be beneficial.

Sanija Perera
Posted on: Tue, 01/17/2023 - 04:06

Hi, I have been doing this workout for like 8 to 10 weeks and I have seen tremendous results ( managed to gain 5 kgs) with proper diet and exercise. I was wondering what workout would you recommend me to do after this cause Im looking forward to change my workout schedule and I am having a difficult time trying to figure out which one to choose from. ( I would like to add more muscle mass and I am training 4 days a week)

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 01/17/2023 - 13:58

Congrats on that incredible progress and thank you for sharing, Sanija! This should help you find a new program here on M&S!

Posted on: Sat, 01/14/2023 - 11:02

How long does the workout take?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 01/17/2023 - 13:59

45-60 minutes should be what you need to get them done, Skip. The layout of your gym and transition times may be a little different than others.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 01/25/2023 - 08:48

Shift the calf work to another day. That would be the better play for you. Any other day you want, knock them out then.

Posted on: Sun, 01/22/2023 - 09:19

Did ICF for about 8 months and last week was week one of this workout. What a welcome change! Leg day: I was pretty shot after the deadlifts and lunges to the point that I could only do a few side lunges and just the bar for front squats. Leg day is also one of the longer days.
Can I do the squats earlier in the week to save a little time and be able to do more weight or is the weakness when I get to this exercise by design? Or shift the calf work to another day?

Posted on: Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:22

Awesome. I dont have all the equipment for the machine exercises, can I just search online for a close alternative?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 01/19/2023 - 15:25

Check out our Exercises section here on M&S. There are exercises grouped by muscle, so you can pick the best alternatives possible. Hope this helps.