Giant Robot Program



When I finally got back into the gym and weight training once again, I decided that a basic, “meat-n-potatoes” linear progression program would be the approach I would follow to not only rebuild muscle, but to rebuild my strength back or near to its old levels. However, I am no gym neophyte which is why I require variation within my training splits. This is an alternating 6/12 Week program that I developed consisting of two individual 6 week units.

This program is best described as an intermediate lifting program, but beginners can get a lot out of it too. Heck, this is the program I originally used before there was the internet way back in early to mid 90’s.

This description is intended to give a brief write-up of the program I ran from June 2014 to June 2015. When I began this program I was benching 135 lbs. for 4×8 and I achieved rep maxes for bench press at 225x4x8, squat 265x4x8, and deadlift 365x4x8 — and I’m 44 years old now.


As with other programs, first lift begins with a compound movement (with a follow-up barbell compound movement in some cases), moving to dumbbells, and then either cable or bodyweight exercise as a finisher. The compound movements are the primary big three: deadlift, squat, bench, but this methodology can be applied to any exercise — even to the lowly power-rack barbell curl.

1RMs are important to establish what your workset weight percentage is, but with this program you are training for the quality of your worksets. The Giant Robot is a volume program and those worksets are your everything — your bestest friend ever. Learn to love your worksets, even when they are kicking your ass.

Alternately, you can start off with a weight that you can rep for 3×8 without knowning your max, and then just add an extra set.

In any case, you should be somewhat to pretty fatigued at the end of that fourth set so pick a weight to start out with that does that for you.


  • 4×8 worksets
  • 70-75% of your 1RM
  • 3 optional (or earned) additional heavier sets following worksets. (Described below.)
  • Attempt to advance a 10 lbs. gain every week. (Sometimes you will advance every week and some weeks you won’t. I found it took about 3 weeks at higher weights, depending on the lift. On some lifts, like deadlift, I kept adding 10-20 pounds a week – but I started that really light and under 70% of my 1RM.)
  • Build confidence

Why 4×8?

Because I really love the idea of lifting heavy as possible and by lifting at the lower end of the hypertrophy range (8 -12 reps) not only could I go heavier, but get a lot of volume in. 5×5  = 25 reps. 3×8 = meh. 3×12 = 36 reps. Each of those methodologies have the lifter, lifting at a much much lighter percentage of your 1RM or not at enough volume, and a least for me, 3×12 meh… great for finishing work, but for hypertrophy not very challenging or enough volume. And we are training of hypertrophy + strength in this program with an emphasis on hypertrophy.

How it works

After warmup sets, you will pick a weight and do 4 sets of 8. At this point you can stop and move on to the next lift, or you can push your self more with the following Heavysets.

  1. Load 10 more lbs on the bar and attempt 6 reps.***
  2. Did you nail them? How did you feel? If so, load 20 more pounds on the bar and attempt 4 reps.***
  3. Did you nail them? How did you feel? If so, load 10 more pounds for 2 reps.***

For the intermediate. I would recommend at the very least adding in the first 10 lb. jump (1) and attempting to nail that 6 reps. What I found that adding in that first jump gave me confidence to add those additional 10 lbs.  to my workset the next week. It’s like a “taste” of what’s to come. But this is optional as I’ve said you may not want to.

Also, if 10/20/10 lbs. seems too much for you, you can try 5/10/5. For me the 10/20/10 jumps gave me that little extra extra extra. You could also just try 10/10/10 (or 5/5/5 I suppose) if you want to attempt those extra sets – whatever you feel comfortable with. You may do this with the worksets and not add 10 lbs. if is too much. Or — I did this — I went 5/10/5 for half-a-cycle because I was injured and I felt I needed to slow the pace down for a few weeks.

***For the beginner, I would not recommend the Heavysets. However, as you roll along in this program you will get stronger and hunger for heavy weight and you may have a little extra in your tank, go ahead an knock them out. How will you know? You will know.


Why 10 lb. jumps, why not 5 lb. jumps?  Because, it should be hard. It should be relativity hard to complete 4×8.  And this is probably bro-science on my part — but I wanted to shock my body into growing and a 5 lb. jump just isn’t enough weight do that. When you add your advance weight to your Worksets, you will also need to mirror that jump in the Heavysets.


You will plateau. When that happens, you have two choices: 1) Keep pushing through until you complete 4×8 (partial reps can help you get there but don’t count as a full rep); 2) Switch to the secondary compound lift as your primary, and make the former primary the secondary. (See below.)


If you want to deload and understand how that works, go for it. I never deloaded when running this program. Instead, I took a week off and did nothing, did a little light cardio, or stretching/foam rolling for an hour. The week off was more of a mental than physical break if anything.

Training Example

This is an example of the bench press from my training log.

April 30th, 2015: Bench Press.

Warmups: 115×20, 135×16, 155×12

Worksets: 225×8,8,8,7. (Missed 1 rep.)

Heavysets: 235×5, 255×2, 265×1.

NOTE: First week of this jump, feeling pretty good.

May 7th, 2015: Bench Press.

Warmups: 95×20, 115×16, 135×12.

Worksets: 225×8,8,8,7. (Missed 1 rep.)

Heavysets: 235×5, 255×2, 265×1.

NOTE: Other than warmups, no change in worksets.

May 14th, 2015: Bench Press.

Warmups: 95×20, 115×16, 135×12.

Worksets: 225×8,8,8,7. (Missed 1 rep.)

Heavysets: 235×6 (+1 rep), 255×3 (+1 rep), 265×1.

NOTE: Stronger with +1 rep in my Heavysets!

May 21st, 2015: Bench Press.

Warmups: 95×20, 115×16, 135×12.

Worksets: 225×8,8,9,8. (+2 reps!!!)

Heavysets: 235×5 (-1 rep), 255×3, 265×2 (+1 rep).

NOTE: Advance!

May 28th, 2015: Bench Press.

Warmups: 95×20, 115×16, 135×12.

Worksets: 235×8,8,6,6.

Heavysets: 245×4, 265×3, 275×1.

NOTE: Ugh.

Before May 28th, I knew I was coming to the end of this linear program and that May 28th lift was mirroring what I was experience in squats, and somewhat in deadlift  — although I could have continued for a few more weeks deadlifting linear but decided that for my body and for my mind I needed a change of pace — which is why I am now doing Wendler’s 531.

Defeat Giant Robots: The Program

This is a basic template to get you started.  

First 6 Weeks:

  • A – GIANT ROBOT 1/4: Quads/Calves
    1. Barbell Squats (Primary. Follow program.)
    2. Barbell Front Squats (4×8, no heavy sets)
    3. Dumbbell Lunges (4×8, no heavy sets)
    4. Standing Calf Raise,  5×10 superset with….
    5. Seated Calf raise
  • A – GIANT ROBOT 2/4: Pecs/Tris
    1. Barbell Bench Press (Primary. Follow program.)
    2. Incline Barbell Bench Press (4×8, no heavy sets)
    3. Dumbbell Flyes or Press. (Pick one, 4×8, no heavy sets.)
    4. Decline Swiss Ball Push-ups. (Clap your hands for extra intensity.)
    5. Cable Tricep Extension,  5×10 superset with….
    6. Reverse Grip Cable Tricep Kickbacks
  • A – GIANT ROBOT 3/4:  Hams/Lats/Traps
    1. Barbell Deadlift (Primary. Follow program.)
    2. RDL (4×8, no heavy sets)
    3. Pull Ups/Chin Ups (6 supersets total alternating to failure. Strict form no kipping!)
    4. Dumbbell One-Arm Row (4×8)
    5. Barbell Shrugs (4×8, or 5×10.)
    6. Swiss Ball Weighted Hyperextensions (4×8)
  • A – GIANT ROBOT 4/4:  Shoulders/Biceps
    1. OHP. (Primary. Follow program.)
    2. Lateral DB Raises, 3×12 superset with
    3. Front DB Raises
    4. Rear Delt Flyes
    5. Barbell Drag Curl (4×8 or Follow program.)
    6. Incline Dumbbell curls (4×8, or pyramid sets, or 5×10.)

Next 6 Weeks:

  • B – GIANT ROBOT 1/4: Quads/Calves
    1. Barbell Front Squats (Follow program.)
    2. Barbell Squats (4×8, no heavy sets.)
    3. Leg Press (5×10)
    4. Seated Calf Raise,  5×10 superset with….
    5. DB calf raise jump
  • B – GIANT ROBOT 2/4: Pecs/Tris
    1. Incline Bench Press (Follow program.)
    2. Bench Press (4×8)
    3. Decline Dumbbell Flyes or Press. (4×8, no heavy sets.)
    4. Dumbbell Floor Press. (4×8)
    5. Dumbbells Tricep Kickbacks. (5×10)
  • B – GIANT ROBOT 3/4: Hams/Lats/Traps
    1. Barbell Sumo Deadlift  (Follow program.)
    2. SLDL (4×8, no heavy sets.)
    3. A Barbell Row. (Follow program.)
    4. Dumbbell One-Arm Row (4×8)
    5. Barbell Shrugs (4×8, or 5×10.)
  • B – GIANT ROBOT 4/4:  Shoulders/Biceps
    1. Standing Military Press. (Or Seated Behind-the-Neck Military Press. Follow program.)
    2. Lateral DB Raises, 3×12 superset (with a light weight) with
    3. Front DB Raises.
    4. Rear Delt Flyes.
    5. EZ-Bar Preacher Curls (4×8 or Follow program.)
    6. Dumbbell Spider Curls (4×8, or pyramid sets, or 5×10.)

When finished, return to First 6 weeks and alternate every 6 weeks, OR WHEN YOU PLATEAU ON A LIFT FOR MORE THAN A 5-6 WEEKS.

For all 4×8 and 5×10 sets lifts, add weight once you can complete and master each of the set with good form. Everything is linear on this program and you should be really pushing yourself with each workout.

Also, when you swap Front for Back squats (and anywhere else you swap a primary for secondary barbell lift) that 4×8 should be the last complete 4×8 workset before you plateaued.

Note: You do not have to run these cycles in 6 week periods either — you can run them in 4, or 8 or 12 week cycles — whatever you feel like.


I wanted a program to aid in rebuilding strength and size so I went back to a good old linear program, even though I am a somewhat experienced lifter. This program may not be for you and with MFP with its heavy bias toward powerlifting, a body building style split may seem a little odd. If a body building style program is suited to your needs, then give this a try, until it kills you, but push it for as long as you can and feel free to experiment within the program by swapping out exercises after the first 2. I had a elbow injury (upright rows – avoid these if you can) and for 6 weeks I had to program around certain exercises which exacerbated the injury, like pull-ups or working with dumbbells or dips. I am a strong advocate of experimenting, just pretend you don’t even have the internet even.

Lastly, you will be hungry. Eat. You will need it. This is not the program to run while cutting.


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