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Go Big With This Giant Set Workout

Front squat
(Image credit: Core Collective)

Giant sets are anything but gentle. They are typically made up of four or more strength-based exercises, performed back to back in a circuit. Stripping out any rest keeps your heart rate high, helping improve muscular endurance as well as sheer strength output.

“Giant sets that combine four or more full-body compound movements are ruthlessly efficient at getting you fit,” says Zach Mills (opens in new tab), trainer at London fitness studio Core Collective (opens in new tab), who devised this monster workout.

Think of them as back-to-back supersets. “Adding them into your workout will help you expend more energy than when you have long rest periods between each set,” Mills says. 

For maximum bang for your buck, Mills suggests using multi-joint exercises like the barbell squat, deadlift, overhead press and bent-over row, and slowing down the lowering part of each lift to increase muscle recruitment – and therefore muscle strength and size. 

Here he has devised his favourite giant set for maximum returns.

How To Do This Giant Set Workout 

For this session, all you need is a pair of medium to heavy dumbbells. You can use a barbell if you prefer. 

Perform the stated number of reps for each exercise, paying close attention to the tempo of each move where specified, without taking rest breaks. Once all four moves are complete, rest for 90 seconds, then repeat the circuit for a total of four rounds.

“Before you start, make sure you are fully warmed up and practise each exercise with a lighter weight first, if you can,” says Mills. “Don’t go too big too soon.”

1 Hang power clean

Reps 6

Hold dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing and your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Hinge at your hips and bend your knees to lower into a half squat so the weights are just below knee height. With your core braced and chest proud to keep your back flat, drive your hips forwards powerfully to generate momentum, and bend your elbows so the dumbbells swing up to the front rack position, with the dumbbells at shoulder height and your elbows pointing forwards. Hinge at your hips to return the weights to the start position and repeat. 

2 Front squat

Reps 8

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the dumbbells in the front rack position, held at shoulder height with your elbows pointing forwards. If it feels comfortable, rest part of the dumbbell on the top of your shoulder throughout this exercise. Keeping your core braced and chest up, sit your hips back and bend your knees to lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause, then drive back up powerfully. Lower for three seconds, pause for two, then drive up for one. 

3 Push press

Reps 10

Start with the weights in the front rack position. With your core braced, bend your knees to lower slightly, then drive back up powerfully to press the dumbbells overhead. Keep your upper arms close to your ears at the top of the lift. Control the weight as you lower to the start position.

4 V-up

Reps 12

Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms extended behind your head. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, engage your core to raise your arms and legs, reaching up with your hands to bring them as close to your feet as you can. Lower to the start is  and repeat. Control your breathing to keep your core engaged throughout this movement. 

Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix (opens in new tab). Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.