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Jim Stoppani's Giant Program

This four-week program will take your hypertrophy and fat-burning efforts to new heights with exclusive use of the classic giant set.

pre exhaust training technique

Giant Program Snapshot

  • Length: 4 weeks
  • Workouts per Week: 6
  • Training Split: 3-day split, repeated twice for a total of six workouts per week.
  • Equipment: Commercial gym or sufficiently-equipped home gym
  • Featured Techniques: Giant sets for all muscle groups, where four exercises for the same bodypart are performed consecutively without rest. Linear periodization with microcycles is also utilized.
  • Rep Ranges: Within giant sets, rep ranges increase with each successive exercise. In Week 1, reps within giant sets are 12-15, 15-20, 21-25, and 26-30. In Week 2, it's 9-11, 12-15, 15-20, and 21-15. In Week 3, 6-8, 9-11, 12-15, and 15-20. In Week 4, 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, and 12-15. 
  • Rest Periods: Take 2-3 minutes of rest between giant sets (or 1-2 minutes if you're in great shape); no rest is taken within giant sets. 
  • Cardio: Optional; HIIT cardio between muscle groups or at the end of the workout. 
  • Meal Plan: Dieting 101 for fat loss or Muscle Building Nutrition Rules for muscle gain.
  • Summary: Giant sets are one of the most effective methods for building size in a muscle group. And since you're doing giant sets for all muscle groups in my Giant Program, it's a great plan for building size head to toe. That said, you can also burn considerable body fat on this program (especially when paired with a good fat loss diet like Dieting 101), due to the intensity of giant sets that ramps up the metabolism. 
  • Note: If you’re a beginner or just getting back to the gym after an extended time away (months or years), this program will likely be too intense/advanced for you. If you’re a beginner, consider my Beginner to Advanced Program before taking on the Giant Program. 

Of all the great intensity-boosting training techniques out there – supersets, drop sets, rest-pauses – giant sets are one of the most underutilized. I have no idea why, since they're great for sparking hypertrophy as well as bringing up lagging body parts. Because it's one of my favorite mass-building methods, I'm putting the giant set back on the map with this four-week "Giant Program." Pretty catchy title, huh? You can expect to see some giant-sized gains with these workouts.

Giant Results with Giant Sets

Giant sets are a high-intensity training technique in which you do four or more exercises for one muscle group consecutively without taking any specified rest between exercises. Think supersets (technically compound sets), only with two more exercises tacked on before you get a break. After the last exercise, rest anywhere from 1-3 minutes (depending on how quickly you recover and how much time you have to spend in the gym) and repeat the giant set. It's just that simple, but also pretty brutal – in a good way, of course.

Here's a recent video I did on tri-sets and giants sets.

Giant sets are not only an intensity booster that pushes the majority of your muscle fibers for each body part to muscle failure, it also saves you time and can help boost fat loss, all due to the non-stop nature of the technique. And as you would expect from any program designed by me, this particular routine takes giant sets to a whole new level, pulling out all the stops with the help of periodization and pre-exhaust.

With the Giant Program, you'll train each muscle group twice per week. The first time around, you'll do multi-joint (aka compound) exercises first, followed by single-joint moves. This will allow you to use the heaviest weight possible on the multi-joint exercises to maximize the mechanical overload placed on the muscles. This is the conventional way to do giant sets – where you do big moves first and finish with isolation exercises – and it's certainly effective.

Conventional is great, but I like to mix things up and flip them upside down on occasion, so:

The second time during the week you train each muscle group, you'll do single-joint exercises first, then multi-joint moves. Anyone who's familiar with my programs knows this technique well: it's called pre-exhaustion, or "pre-exhaust" for short.

Exhaustion is another way to place overload on muscle fibers. Not to get too science-y, but we're talking about a chemical overload here, due to the waste products that build up inside muscle cells when they reach exhaustion.

For a more thorough explanation on the classic pre-exhaust technique, check out this pre-exhaust technique and this video explaining pre-exhaust.

Giant Program Training Split

The Giant Program follows a 3-day training split with each muscle group being trained twice a week – six weekly workouts total. You'll train 3-4 muscle groups per workout.

Here's how each week of training will look:

Day Muscle Groups Trained
1 Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
2 Back, Biceps, Forearms, Abs
3 Legs, Traps, Calves
4 Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
5 Back, Biceps, Forearms, Abs
6 Legs, Traps, Calves
7 Off

Since you'll be training six days a week with this program, the simplest split to follow will be training Monday through Saturday, with Sunday off. That said, it really doesn't matter what day you take off. Do whatever works best for your schedule. And your rest day doesn't have to fall on the same day every week. You could take Sunday off in Week 1, Friday off in Week 2, and Wednesday off in Week 3.

If you can't train six days a week, don't worry. You can still do this program. I designed it to include six workouts per week for four weeks, for a total of 24 workouts. But feel free to complete those 24 training sessions at your own pace. If you can only train three days a week, do the first three workouts in Week 1, the next three in Week 2, and so on. If you continue following this format, you'll essentially be spreading the program out over eight weeks instead of four (training each muscle group once a week versus twice), which is perfectly fine if that suits your schedule and personal preference.

Giant Program Rep Ranges – Periodized Progress

My Giant Program involves linear periodization with microcycles. Each week, the weights and rep ranges change. There are four different rep ranges you'll use each week per muscle group, but each of the four exercises per major muscle group will have a different rep range in each workout. Then, when you train a particular muscle group the second time that week, the exercises that you'll repeat (typically the first and last exercise) will have a completely different rep range and linear progression.

Let's use the bench press as an example. In Workout 1 for chest, you'll do bench as your first exercise. In Week 1, you'll do 12-15 reps; Week 2, 9-11 reps; Week 3, 6-8 reps; and in Week 4, 3-5 reps. When you do the bench press during the second chest workout of the week (workout 4), you'll do the bench press dead last. In these workouts (the ones falling in the second half of the week), the rep ranges will look like this: 26-30 reps in Week 1, 21-25 in Week 2, 16-20 in Week 3, and 12-15 in Week 4. As you can see, the reps decrease every week, which means the weights get heavier.

This combination of giant sets, altered exercise order and microcycle periodization will deliver remarkable results. After completing the Giant Program workouts, I recommend returning to a program that uses straight sets, such as Down And Up Mass or Back And Fourth, just to name a few. However, if you truly love the results from the giant sets, go ahead and repeat it for another four weeks.

Giant Program Rest Periods

Within each giant set, you'll take zero rest. However, after your fourth exercise of each giant set, the target muscles will be extemely taxed, and you're doing multiple giant sets for each muscle group. So you'll need to give yourself some time to recover before repeating the next giant set. Take up to 2-3 minutes between giant sets. If you're more advanced and in good shape, you may be able to get away with 1-2 minutes between giant sets.

When moving from one muscle group to the next (ie, after your last giant set of a particular bodypart), you may not need as much rest because you'll be training a fresh muscle group. 

Alternative Options

Giant sets by nature present an issue of feasibility: Being able to occupy four different training stations in a busy gym is not an easy task. I took this into account when designing the program. I organized exercises so that most of them are done very close to one another, if not in the same station. However, if you find that a piece of equipment you need is being occupied, you can use alternative exercises that are more practical.

For example, in the first workout every week, the chest giant set consists of bench press, incline dumbbell press, incline dumbbell flye and cable crossover. This requires you to use three different training stations: the bench press, an adjustable incline bench near the dumbbell rack and the cable crossover station. That's an impossible task on a Monday evening in most gyms. One alternative would be to do all four chest exercises at the bench press station so that the giant set consists of bench press, reverse-grip bench press, dumbbell flye and decline dumbbell flye (body in a bridge position).

For an example of how to do a couple of these exercises, look at my 15-minute chest workout.

Adding HIIT Cardio to the Giant Program

Due to the fact that there's no rest between exercises, cardioacceleration is not your best bet for this program. However, you can do cardioacceleration between giant sets and muscle groups, which will net you about 10 minutes total of cardio time per workout. If you do this, you'll probably want to add another 10-20 minutes of HIIT cardio at the end of the workout or at another time altogether.

Another cardio option for this program is to add three separate HIIT routines into each workout, following the same protocol as my Show Time Program. The reason I’m repeating the cardio from that program here is because Show Time, Drop Set Countdown, and Giant Program are done in that order in my 2021 Summer Shred Challenge, and I wanted to keep some continuity in the cardio training from month to month in the challenge.

In Show Time, you do three HIIT sessions per workout – one after each muscle group (with the exception of Days 3 and 6, where four muscle groups are trained but you still only do three HIIT workouts). In Week 1, each HIIT workout lasts 7 minutes, and they increase in length from there: 10-minute HIIT workouts in Week 2, 10.5-minute HIIT workouts in Week 3, and 11-minute HIIT workouts in Week 4.

The work-to-rest ratio in all HIIT workouts is 2:1, though the time intervals change throughout (60 sec./30 sec., 90 sec./45 sec., 2 min./1 min.).

In the Giant Program, you’ll stick to the 2:1 ratio and three HIIT sessions per workout, but the length of each HIIT workout will increase slightly from Show Time; the workouts here are actually continued from the 14-minute HIIT sessions from Drop Set Countdown as part of the 3-month Summer Shred Challenge.

On days you train three muscle groups (Workouts 1, 3, 4, and 6), do a HIIT session after completing each muscle group (after all giant sets of all exercises are finished for that bodypart). On days you train four muscle groups (Workouts 2 and 5), do HIIT sessions after back, forearms, and abs to stay at three HIIT sessions for the day.

Here’s an outline of what each workout will look like with HIIT sessions added in:

Workout 1

  • Chest exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Shoulder exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Triceps exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout

Workout 2

  • Back exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Biceps exercises (4)
  • Forearm exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Ab exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout

Workout 3

  • Leg exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Trap exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Calf exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout

Workout 4

  • Chest exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Shoulder exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Triceps exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout

Workout 5

  • Back exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Biceps exercises (4)
  • Forearm exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Ab exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout

Workout 6

  • Leg exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Trap exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout
  • Calf exercises (4)
  • HIIT Workout

Giant Program HIIT Workouts

Your HIIT sessions during the four weeks of this program are below. The cardio activity you do for these sessions is up to you. You can do treadmill (fast running/sprinting), stationary bike, elliptical, or other cardio machine; or a calisthenic exercise like jumping rope, hitting/kicking a heavy bag, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, bench step-ups, etc. (See list below for more options.)

Work intervals should be done at a high intensity, and rest intervals should be done at either low intensity or complete rest. Intensity can be determined using the RPE scale in the Show Time Program Overview article.

Weeks 1-4: 14-Minute HIIT Workout

Time Intensity
2 min. high
1 min. low/rest
2 min. high
1 min. low/rest
2 min. high
1 min. low/rest
2 min. high
1 min. low/rest
2 min. high

HIIT Cardio Exercise Options

What Diet to Follow on the Giant Program

If your overriding goal with this program is mass gaining, your nutrition plan is as easy as following my Muscle-Building Nutrition Rules. However, if you want to maximize fat loss while also gaining some muscle, follow my Dieting 101 guidelines.

Giant Program Workouts

Below are the six weekly workouts you'll perform during this program. As I mentioned earlier, I tried my best to keep exercises within giant sets close to each other in the gym. But if a particular station (or multiple stations) is being used by someone else at the time, go ahead and sub in other exercises on the fly. Just make sure you're staying true to the intended mix of multi-joint and single-joint exercises. In workouts 1-3, multi-joint moves should come before single-joint ones, and vice versa in workouts 4-6.

If you have any questions about exercise alternatives or how to perform these workouts, don't hesitate to ask me via Twitter or Facebook.

Download All Workouts Here

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Download All Workouts Here

 





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“I’ve laid the groundwork for you by doing the research in the lab to find out what really works, designing the programs and systems, creating the content, and developing the technology. My knowledge is your power – now it’s up to you to run with it and get the results.”


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