Shaun's 4 Day Progressive Overload Split

Shaun McEwan
Written By: Shaun McEwan
January 25th, 2010
Updated: December 13th, 2017
117.4K Reads
Maximize muscle growth with progressive overload. In this 4 day split by Shaun, you will add more weight to the bar each set on heavy lifts, and pack on muscle mass.
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration12 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout30-45 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

This routine is primarily designed for those who have at least a year of training experience.  My main goal is to gain muscle and I have seen fantastic gains from using this routine which is a little more strength based.  It’s good to change things up and working in this routine for 10-12 weeks could help you increase your strength in the big lifts as well as increasing muscle size.  You can then use your new found strength gains to push more weight in your normal bodybuilding routines and keep packing on the muscle!

Try and stick with the same big compound exercises for at least 6 weeks focusing on progressive overload, i.e lifting slightly more each week.  Then if you want to change it up use the alternative exercises for the next 6 weeks.  For example flat BB bench press for 6 weeks and then Incline BB bench for the next 6 weeks.

I like to pyramid my sets so for example I’ll do 6 reps at 20kg, 4 reps at 25kg, and then 2 reps at 30kg.  I do at least 2 sets of the 2 reps and then drop the weight back for a final set of 4-6 reps.  It helps to gauge how strong you are feeling each week and if you can add weight to last weeks lifts which you should be aiming to do.

In terms of rest times I have been extending it compared to my usual muscle building routines.  For the big compound exercises I rest for around 2 minutes, you can squeeze it down on the exercises with slightly higher reps to 1-1.5 minutes of rest.

You can check out my Workout Log to see my progress with this routine and to get more of an idea on the sets / reps that I use.

Daily Workout Schedule:

Monday - Chest and Triceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Bench Press / Incline Bench Press 7 2 to 6
Dumbbell Flys / Pec Dec 4 6 to 8
Close Grip Bench Press / Skullcrushers 4 2 to 6
Tuesday - Legs
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 7 2 to 6
Leg Extension 4 4 to 8
Leg Curl 4 4 to 8

Wednesday - Rest Day

Thursday - Shoulders & Calves
Exercise Sets Reps
BB Shoulder Press / Military Press 5 2 to 6
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 4 to 8
Bent Over Dumbbell Reverse Fly 3 4 to 8
Smith Machine Calf Raise 3 10 to 12
Seated Calf Raise 3 10 to 12
Friday - Back and Biceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift * 1 15
Lat Pull Down / Wide Grip Pull Up 4 4 to 8
Seated Cable Rows / Bent Over Row / T-Bar Row 4 4 to 8
Dumbbell or Barbell Shrug 4 10-12
Barbell Curl 4 4-8

* Single reps for 10 minutes aiming for 15 max.

Note regarding ab training: Add in abs once or twice per week if you wish.

Saturday and Sunday - Rest Days

Posted on: Fri, 07/26/2013 - 07:21

Hello I was just looking for a hole diet/work out regiment for about 14 week period

Posted on: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 00:18

Why are you all bum jacking over biceps? Biceps get worked doing almost all upper body compound lifts. Noobs.

Clive MacDonald
Posted on: Wed, 08/29/2012 - 17:44

But what about the intensity? I thought that was important too.

Posted on: Mon, 12/19/2011 - 08:01


with the workouts you list together, such as "Barbell Bench Press / Incline Bench Press", are you saying we should do these both as a superset, choose one of the two, or what? Also, I have boxing every Tuesday so I'm planning to make that my rest day and do Tuesday's workout on Wednesday then just push through Friday and keep Sat & Sun as "rest days"... do you see any issues with my plan?

Thanks for the help!

Posted on: Mon, 12/19/2011 - 12:56

Hi, You choose one of the exercises & there's no issues with moving Tuesdays workout to Wednesday.

Good luck with the routine hope you enjoy it!

Ashley Scogin
Posted on: Mon, 11/14/2011 - 06:45

Hi Shaun, with using this routine is it ok to run on the rest days?

Posted on: Tue, 11/15/2011 - 03:07

Yes that would be fine, just remember that you will be burning extra calories so you may need to compensate for these depending on your goal.

Posted on: Sun, 10/30/2011 - 22:02

traps optional? no biceps?

Posted on: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:37

Do 4 Sets of Barbell/Dumbbell shrugs for traps and do 4 sets of BB Curls for Biceps.

I will get these added to the routine.

Posted on: Thu, 10/27/2011 - 11:55

I'm currently using your 3 day split program. Is it ok to do Yoga on one of the rest days or should i do absolutly nothing?

Posted on: Thu, 10/27/2011 - 11:20

Is it ok to do YOGA on rest day or should i do absolutly nothing?

Posted on: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 03:17

Hi, yes that would be no problem.

Posted on: Wed, 10/12/2011 - 21:31

what can i do to work out for football during the season

Posted on: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 03:17

Firstly are you English or American?

During the season I assume you will have training to focus on technique and fitness so you aim in the gym would be more towards training strength and building up some muscle mass?

I would select one of the 3/4 day muscle building splits from the site.

Posted on: Thu, 07/07/2011 - 08:15

Helo Shaun I just wanted to ask some advice on my shoulders for some reason I seem to do the most work on them but they are growing the least out of my muscle groups so I was wondering how to do even more work on them should I skip a rest day or should I put an extra half hour on my shoulders day to get them to grow better what do you think would be the best thing to do thanks very much Shaun as always

Posted on: Fri, 10/28/2011 - 03:15

Hi Andy,

Personally I would stick to training them once per week, just make sure you hit it hard. I like to do 5 sets of pressing, the first 3 lifting heavy to failure and then 2 with lighter weight pushing about 12 reps. You should find that as your body grows and develops as long as you are working your shoulders they will catch up.

Posted on: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 16:02

Hello! I just wonder by this routine on Monday, I should do barbel bench press and then incline press or 6 weeks bb press and another 6 incline? Same question with all exercises with / ?

Posted on: Fri, 07/01/2011 - 03:38


To be honest it doesn't matter too much, just switch it up when you like or if you feel for example that upper chest needs more work then you should stick with incline for a few weeks.

Posted on: Thu, 06/02/2011 - 11:31

Thanks for that Shaun I think i am going to try your workout routine to see how I get on thanks again.

Posted on: Thu, 06/02/2011 - 09:15

Hi Andy

Well the simple answer is if you are gaining muscle with your current routine then that works for you and there's no need to change.

Personally I would avoid working muscle groups more than once a week if you are a natural trainer Unless you are using a full body routine.

Posted on: Fri, 06/10/2011 - 08:44

Helo agai Shaun it's Andy from last week I have started doing 1 muscle group per wk like this shoulders. biceps/forearm. Chest/triceps. Back. Legs/core. 2 days rest in between I must admit I have felt a lot better than doing half body workouts everyday I feel more egger to do them now rather than it feeling like a bit of a chore i have also gained 2lb in last week an half so iam very pleased with it but then my mate said it's only for pro body builders to train 1 muscle group pw so I looked on the Internet and read the same there could I ask for your personal opinion please Shaun thanks very much. Andy

Posted on: Tue, 05/31/2011 - 11:53

Helo mate i have been training for only 5 months I have been doing say half body work out 1 day then next day the other half so I have 48 hours muscle recovery time is this ok to do I have definitely been gaining muscle but I have read lots of things some say it's ok some don't and it's left me a bit confused also I have been doing 10 sets with ten reps in adding weight when I felt I could trying to push as hard as I can do you think that's ok aswell thanks a lot for your help Andy.

Posted on: Sun, 05/29/2011 - 02:37

What is ur diet.

Posted on: Mon, 05/30/2011 - 14:53

Check out the forum and you can find my diet in my work out log.

Also take a look at the dutrition section of the site.

Posted on: Thu, 05/19/2011 - 18:18

hey Shaun,

I have been working out a good amout of time for a while...i can do more weight after time but my muscle size isnt getting much bigger, what can i do to get larger muscles???

also i am looking to get a bigger chest!!! what other muscles should i work on to get my chest bigger besides just my chest???

Posted on: Fri, 05/20/2011 - 13:12


You need to also concentrate on your diet, to gain muscle you need to be gaining weight. Check out the nutrition section and the BMR calculator, you need to be eating more calories than your BMR each day. You should work on all muscle groups respictivly. There's sample diets on the site and you can see mine in my work out log on the forum.

Posted on: Tue, 03/29/2011 - 20:20

i need to gain weight for wrestling i had to wrestel up a weight class this year and was 20lbs light. i still won my conference and everything but i want to make sure that i am on weight for next year to improve my chances for state. would u recomend this worout for me? or no?

Posted on: Sun, 04/03/2011 - 16:11

gaining 20 lbs is all about your diet, this is a good routine to use but if you don't get the calories in you will not be gaining the weight.

danny connolly
Posted on: Sat, 03/05/2011 - 13:50

is working out every muscle 1 day a week enough to gain muscle size, i eat 6 meals a day hit every muscle about 3 to 4 days apart, is that to much. i'm looking to do nothing but gain muscle size, help me...

Posted on: Thu, 03/24/2011 - 04:28

Well I guess the obvious question would be... Are you gaining muscle?????

If you are then it's working so it's not too much.

Personally I would train each muscle once per week, rest is very important and I don't see you getting much if you hit each muscle every 3/4 days, unless you don't work them all.

Posted on: Tue, 02/22/2011 - 16:30

what up! shaun i have a question.... i am taking pro grade protein, can i take creatine monohidrate?

Posted on: Wed, 02/23/2011 - 12:00


Yes creatine is a good supplement to use, but you should do your own research and only use if you are over 18.


Posted on: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 10:50

Hi shaun,
just a few questions about this workout:
I dont understand the deadlift 1 rep with 15 sets.

I dont have a t bar at the gym i go to what do you reconmend to replace it?

And what do you recomend to do for traps on Friday

Posted on: Thu, 01/27/2011 - 07:14


For the deadlift you use a weight that you can lift for one rep then put the bar down and get set again and do another rep, it should get harder as you continue and you will need to take slightly longer rest period between your reps, in the 10 minutes you should have completed 15 reps. You should use quite a heavy weight for this but only once your form is perfect.

Use a barbell with a cable attachment on the end the weight is on. If you can't do this then do any other rowing exercise.

Dumbbell or Barbell shrugs.

Posted on: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 18:42

As stated before i am trying to swith workouts, to build a lot of muscle and gain a lot of weight i am currently 5'8 170lbs with not much fat. i have done a lot of looking on this website for the best splits to gain muscle: (in no perticular order)
1.Shaun's 4 Day Progressive Overload Split
2.Advanced Bodybuilder Workout
3.Dave's V.I.F Mass Building Program
4.10 Week Mass Building Program

i would like to gain about 15 to 20 pounds by sometime in march. which workout should i take for my goal, and how much should i eat for calories and carbs at the minimum per day.

thanks, Brad

Posted on: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 04:07

Personally I would go with 1. or 3. I haven't heard much of the other 2 but I'm sure they are also very effective.

Remember that your diet will account for 60%-70% of the gains you make.

Posted on: Sat, 02/11/2012 - 16:07

what kind of diet do you recommend while doing this routine?

Posted on: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 14:25

Hi steve,
i am looking to bulk up for the winter months and was wonderding if this would be the best rputine to increase size. i have a few years expiriense workin out just lookin to switch things up and try to concentrate on gaining weight and bulking up. Any suggestiions for any routine would be greatly appreciated
thanks, Brad

Posted on: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 04:05

This routine will help you increase size and mass, as long as you have a diet to match of course.

Posted on: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 19:28

What would be the best way to pyramid the exercises that you have 7 sets for?

Posted on: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 09:13

You build up to your max weight then start taking weight off again.


10kg x 10
15kg x 8
20kg x 6
25kg x 4
15kg x 7
10kg x 8

Posted on: Wed, 12/15/2010 - 04:29


You should do 4 sets of Barbell Curls on Back day, I will get this added to the work out.


Posted on: Tue, 12/14/2010 - 22:04

Where are the bicep workouts?

Posted on: Thu, 11/25/2010 - 08:38

Really you need to do it on the same day. It's only 4 sets it will take under 10 mins, can't you just get to the gym 10 mins earlier? If not then move the whole day to Sunday or do Tues, Weds, Fri, Sat.

Posted on: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 23:42

hi shaun,

For lack of time if i am not able doing triceps on Monday,when i can do it for this routine?


Posted on: Fri, 09/24/2010 - 03:13

Post your questions

Posted on: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 14:05


Posted on: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 16:09

where are the biceps part of the workout??