Drop 5 System: 4 Day Mass Building Workout Split

Blast your body with this potent muscle building workout by Steve Shaw. This four day plan is an upper/lower training split which cycles intensity over a 3 week period.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Split
Intermediate
9 weeks
4
30-45 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
Male & Female
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Workout Description

Editor's note: Workout at home? Try the Drop 5 home workout split.

I love to design new and interesting lifting approaches. Good ideas come and go, but when a rock solid idea comes my way I rush to the computer to flesh out the program. Drop 5 is one such program.

Last weekend an idea formed in my head. I started thinking about a 3 week muscle building cycle based on micro-periodization. Each week a trainee would increase intensity (weight) while dropping the reps slightly, making sure to maximize each set for more optimal muscle growth.

During week one lifters focus on moderate weight and a great average number of reps. By week three training is heavier with fewer reps per set. Nothing new, right? True, but I hope you find the twist on this style of programming interesting.

Drop 5 WorkoutEach week you will perform a Drop 5 sequence for the following exercises:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Military Press

Each set you perform for these lifts will be performed for as many reps as possible. Don't push each sets to failure, but rather stop when either your form starts to slip, or when you feel like you will be unable to complete the next rep.

The focus of the Drop 5 sets is on progression. You will try to improve your reps each week, eventually adding weight to each set. These small rep and weight increases will add up quickly. You will improve your muscle mass and get stronger.

Here is how the 3 week Drop 5 cycle shakes out for the 4 primary exercises.

  • Week 1 - 75% x AMAP, 70% x AMAP, 65% x AMAP, 60% x AMAP
  • Week 2 - 80% x AMAP, 75% x AMAP, 70% x AMAP, 65% x AMAP
  • Week 3 - 85% x AMAP, 80% x AMAP, 75% x AMAP, 70% x AMAP

*AMAP = as many reps as possible per set.

Starting Weight. When you initially start the Drop 5 program, base percentages upon your current one rep max. Add 5 pounds to the bar when your heaviest set for that week reaches the following number of reps:

  • Week 1 - Add 5 pounds the next time you perform this week when you are able to perform 10 reps (or more) on your 75% set.
  • Week 2 - Add 5 pounds the next time you perform this week when you are able to perform 8 reps (or more) on your 80% set.
  • Week 3 - Add 5 pounds the next time you perform this week when you are able to perform 5 reps (or more) on your 85% set.

How to "Drop 5". After adding weight to your top set, simply "drop 5%" weight for your next set. So your next set would be 5% fewer pounds than your heavy set, your third set 10% lighter, and your final set 15% lighter.

Drop 5 Bench Press Example

Let's say your current bench press max is 200 pounds. Your first 3 week cycle would look like this:

  • Week 1 - 150lbs x AMAP, 140lbs x AMAP, 130lbs x AMAP, 120lbs x AMAP
  • Week 2 - 160lbs x AMAP, 150lbs x AMAP, 140lbs x AMAP, 130lbs x AMAP
  • Week 3 - 170lbs x AMAP, 160lbs x AMAP, 150lbs x AMAP, 140lbs x AMAP

So you hit the gym, and your first 3 benching sessions go as follows:

  • Week 1 - 150lbs x 8 reps, 140lbs x 10 reps, 130lbs x 12 reps, 120lbs x 15 reps
  • Week 2 - 160lbs x 7 reps, 150lbs x 9 reps, 140lbs x 10 reps, 130lbs x 13 reps
  • Week 3 - 170lbs x 6 reps, 160lbs x 7 reps, 150lbs x 9 reps, 140lbs x 11 reps

Week One Assessment. During week one you were unable to perform 10 or more reps with your heaviest set, so you will NOT add weight to this training day during week 4.

Week Two Assessment. During week two you were unable to perform 8 or more reps with your heaviest set, so you will NOT add weight to this training day during week 5.

Week Three Assessment. During week three you WERE able to perform 5 or more reps with your heaviest set, so you WILL add weight to this training day during week 6.

You starting (heavy) sets for your next cycle will be:

  • Week 4 - 150lbs x AMAP
  • Week 5 - 160lbs x AMAP
  • Week 6 - 175lbs x AMAP

Drop 5 Workout

Drop 5 Four Day Upper Lower Workout Split

This is a 4 day training program for lifters looking to build muscle. Here is a sample schedule:

  • Monday - Lower Body A
  • Tuesday - Upper Body A
  • Thursday - Lower Body B
  • Friday - Upper Body B
Monday
Lower Body A
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts - Drop 5 Cycle 4  
Leg Press 4 15-20
Leg Curls 4 12-15
Seated Calf Raise 4 12-20
Planks 4 60 sec
Tuesday
Upper Body A
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press - Drop 5 Cycle 4  
Upright Rows or Seated Arnold Press 4 AMAP
Pull Ups or Inverted Rows 4 8-12
Close Grip Bench Press 4 8-12
EZ Bar Curls 4 10-12
Thursday
Lower Body B
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats - Drop 5 Cycle 4  
Leg Extensions 4 12-15
Stiff Leg Deadlifts 4 6-10
Leg Press Calf Raise 4 15-20
Cable Crunch 4 15-20
Friday
Upper Body B
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press - Drop 5 Cycle    
Barbell Row 4 8-12
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 4 10-12
Skullcrushers or Cable Tricep Extensions 4 10-15
Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls 4 10-12

Workout FAQ

When should I deload?

Listen to your body. There is no need to randomly deload every 4th week. If you start to feel beat up or fatigued take an off week or deload week after the end of your next 3 week cycle.

Even if you don't feel beat up, consider taking a light week after 9-12 weeks just to do something fun, refresh your motivation and heal up a bit.

Can I swap exercise "X" for exercise "Y"?

Yes, as long as it's a similar exercise variation. For example, you could use dumbbell rows instead or barbell rows, or standing curls instead of seated curls.

Can I add in traps, forearm or whatever work?

You can, but don't go overboard. This program is well rounded as it stands.

53 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Sun, 09/14/2014 - 02:47
TheDude

Do i calculate my 1RM and do this workout on the same day?

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Posted Wed, 08/20/2014 - 17:46
jane

Hi Steve,

Can I sub step ups or lunges for leg ext? Fitball hamstring curls for leg curls?

And seated calf raise with a bb resting on quads just above my knees for the leg press calf exercise?

Just did your ten week muscle and mass build program which I really enjoyed!

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Posted Fri, 07/11/2014 - 04:49
chad

Looks like a solid system Steve. I'm starting Monday , ill keep you up to date on my Gainz.

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Posted Mon, 06/09/2014 - 16:18
rafael

The program doesnt say how many sets of Military Press should be done. Is it 4 like all other big excercises? or should i just do the drop set once?

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Posted Wed, 05/07/2014 - 20:29
Christian

I'm pretty excited to try this routine! Can you explain to me why on the Drop 5 Cycle you start with the heavier weight first. Rather than warming up with lower weight? I don't get that.

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Posted Fri, 07/11/2014 - 04:47
chad

You warm up prior to the first working set.
If your first work set is 150 lbs I would start with just the bar for 10 reps,95 lbs for 5 ,120 x 3 these are not meant to be hard. Just easing up to work sets.

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Posted Tue, 04/01/2014 - 00:50
Joshy Francis

Hi Sr .I have an ambition.make a good muscle.pls help me sr

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Posted Mon, 03/17/2014 - 14:50
makram

Can we switch between workout A and B like doing B on Monday ? Plus the other exercices how are we supposed to choose the weights ?

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Posted Mon, 03/17/2014 - 09:08
makram

can we switch workout A with B on Tuesday ?

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Posted Sun, 03/02/2014 - 17:26
Johnny

I'm not sure how this drop set works? Do you start low at your first set add more weight every set then at your fifth set then do you do a drop set from there working your way back down?

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Posted Sat, 02/22/2014 - 06:55
itamar 27

Question

If I get sometimes three days a week and sometimes four

It is a good program for me?

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Posted Thu, 01/30/2014 - 10:49
Jim G

Hi,

Should / can you substitute the core exercises? Please give me an example of lets say an alternative to Mondays "dead-lift" or Tuesdays "bench press".

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Posted Sat, 01/25/2014 - 19:36
Matt wernerspach

Just wonderingWhy do you focus more on other body parts on days that don't go with the primary workout? For example along of lays and back on chest day. And legs on back

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Posted Fri, 01/24/2014 - 19:06
Robbie Furnace

Just finished a 16 week ab program and going to start your program on this monday. I lost 9 1/2 kgs and about 2 inches from my stomach, I'm very happy with it all as i now have ab's that i have never had in my life. So im hoping to get the body i want after this.

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Posted Thu, 01/23/2014 - 21:06
Carlos

Hi Steve,
Ive been wondering, Ive been weightlifting for 1 year and 2 months, I noticed that this article states that its designed for intermediate lifters and another one thats just been posted which is the 4 workouts for bigger pecs, so my question is am I ready to put these into work? Or should I stick to those articles that state are for beginners?

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 01/24/2014 - 10:10
Steven

If you know how to eat and train to build muscle regardless of training system used then you can use this program. If you are still unsure about diet and progressive resistance then I would wait a bit.

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Posted Thu, 01/23/2014 - 11:34
Jed

Hey Steve,

Question regarding the bench press exercise. I myself find that not only do I not feel a significant stimulation in my pectorals doing a flat barbell press when compared to decline/incline or flat dumbbell press, often with weight I feel a very minor pain in my elbows/shoulder. My question is would you feel this workout would be as effective subbing in an incline/decline barbell vs. the traditional flat barbell press, and if not what are your suggestions for exercises suitable to sub in?

Thanks!

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 01/24/2014 - 10:09
Steven

I would choose inclines. Declines tend to sway some of the focus over to triceps. Inclines would be a good swap.

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Posted Thu, 01/23/2014 - 02:21
fsp

Hi
my age is 21 bt i m underweight (50kgs)
do i hve to take supplement(mass gainers) with ma work out??
if so pls suggest me one mass gainer without harmful effects..pls

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 01/24/2014 - 10:08
Steven

The first thing you need is a solid eating plan. Check out my guide on how to gain weight and let me know if you have any questions:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/weight-gain

A weight gainer and or whey protein might be a good idea if you are struggling to take in enough protein or calories.

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Posted Wed, 01/22/2014 - 22:36
mrwilson

This looks grest but... i cant understand any of it. Right over my head

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Posted Wed, 01/22/2014 - 18:46
Dan

Hi Steve. This workout looks very intriguing. I've been training for about 7 months, just been having fun with it, creating my own routines by using the book "Getting Stronger" by Bill Pearl. Now, I'm beginning to get more serious, and feel that this workout would be a good place to start. Due to my lack of experience, I'm inclined to ask about the sets not dictated by the drop 5 weight increments. What should I focus on for weight? Should I target a single weight that will allow me to complete the set rep amounts, or do those follow a different/lighter amount of weight that wouldn't push me to "positive muscle failure" aka "end of set"?

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 01/24/2014 - 10:03
Steven

You want to maximize each of these sets. My advice is to push for as many reps as possible, stopping shy of failure. When you can get up to 11-12 reps per set, then add weight.

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Posted Wed, 01/22/2014 - 13:31
Dave

Hi Steve,
I’m an intermediate lifter who has been stuck making gains. For the workouts such as barbell row, 4 sets of 8-12, is there any % weight you should shoot for, or just a weight you can do 4 sets of 8-12? I'm hoping this program will blast my plateua. Thanks!

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 01/24/2014 - 09:41
Steven

You want each set pushed for as many reps as possible, stopping shy of failure. When you can get up to 11-12 reps per set, then add weight.

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Posted Wed, 01/22/2014 - 11:55
KAW

Hi Steve, I'm liking the look of this split. I'm really wanting to bring up my traps. Could I add something like power shrugs on upper body A and maybe barbell or dumbbell shrugs on upper body B? Or do you have a suggestion? Thank you!

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 01/24/2014 - 09:40
Steven

I sometimes add shrugs right after deadlifts. You could do that or add them on upper body days.

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Posted Wed, 01/22/2014 - 01:43
tahir awan

what is the best suppliment for new bodybuilders for preworkout and after workout sir.plz

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 01/24/2014 - 09:39
Steven

There are a lot of quality pre-workouts. You can check out the bestsellers and read reviews here:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/store/category/pre-workout.html

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Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 19:46
E-Money

Love this idea and would love to try this.... any suggestions for us that don't have machines... just free-weights (powerrack, barbell, dumbbells, curlbar, etc..)

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 21:01
Steven

I am going to put together a home gym variation.

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Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 19:40
MONIQUE

Hi Steve,
Possible for a female to gain from this? obviously not lifting as heavey as a male

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 21:00
Steven

Absolutely, just keep focusing on progression of weight.

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Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 18:53
Anthony

Excited to start this, rest periods between sets?

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Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 18:12
Shane

Steve,
Thanks again for another great article. My question is does the drop 5 set count as the four sets or are you repeating it four times? What should be the rest period while dropping the weight?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 18:37
Steven

You do 4 sets per big exercise, per training day.

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Posted Wed, 01/22/2014 - 17:04
Shane

Yes I understand that, but is the drop 5 considered to be all 4 sets?

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Posted Sun, 01/19/2014 - 12:20
Sebastian

Hi Steve,

Quick question, what is your suggestion for rest btwn sets?

Thanks

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Posted Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:24
Casey Rumaeh

I'm starting this program today, current stats 157Ib male, I have been lifting for two years.

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 20:59
Steven

Good luck!

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Posted Sat, 03/08/2014 - 19:39
Casey rumaeh

Just little update
Im still sticking to the program, and im enjoying it to the max.

All my main lefts have increased (my heaviest sets) along the period of the program, progressing my militiry seem to to be the slowest.

Im thinking to add hanging leg raises to target my lower abs, and streanghing my core.

Thanks again for the awesome program.

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Posted Fri, 01/17/2014 - 09:46
Cliff Woody

Great workout article. What are your recommendations for rest periods? Also, will this workout be good for Strongman training?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 20:59
Steven

This will be a good base for strongman training. At some point you should add a strongman event day.

Rest periods I keep them natural. Wait until you feel 100% physically and mentally ready for the next set.

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Posted Fri, 01/17/2014 - 03:46
Rob R.

Hey Steve!

Thanks for all your info Steve, I appreciate your articles and experience! I think I'm gonna run this routine after my current one ends.
I have been lifting for about a year and a half, making good progress, but my pecs are lagging. I have corrected my form for the bench press and finally I have been seeing better pec development. However, I've been at a calorie surplus for around six months and I'm going to need to start shedding the fat in a few weeks to get ready for summer.
My question is: Can I continue to develope my chest by eating a surplus on chest day and the day after and then going into a defecit the rest of the week? Any experience with this?

Thanks Steve!

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 20:56
Steven

Thank you Rob.

I would not recommend only eating in a surplus on chest day. The body is recovering and repairing for several days after that.

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Posted Thu, 01/16/2014 - 22:31
zach

How could you twist this for a home workout? I only have 170 lbs. Total but adjustable dumbells.

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Posted Thu, 01/16/2014 - 22:00
zach

How could you twist this for a home workout?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 20:53
Steven

Hi Zach,

I'll make a home workout variation in the very near future.

UPDATE: here it is:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/drop-5-home-workout-4-day-plan

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Posted Thu, 01/16/2014 - 17:28
BN

I feel sore just reading this. What are your suggestions for warm-up sets for the Drop 5 Cycle lifts?

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 01/16/2014 - 20:41
Steven

Hi BN,

If you are starting with 250 pounds on a lift, I typically recommend something like:

Bar x 10-15
135 x 5
185 x 3
225 x 1-2