Upper/Lower 4 Day Bodybuilding Workout

Reach your muscle building goals with this balanced 4 day training split that mixes heavy compound exercises, machines, cables and incorporates 3 second negatives.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Split
Beginner
10 weeks
4
45-60 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
Male & Female
download pdfDownload Workout

Workout Description

Upper/lower workouts are thought to be the most optimal training style for those looking to build lean muscle naturally.

It takes full advantage of the three factors needed within workout routines to increase hypertrophy:

  1. Mechanical tension
  2. Muscle damage
  3. Metabolic stress

By splitting your workouts between your upper body musculature and lower body musculature, you are able to optimize training frequency and volume distribution in a way that will also allow for maximum intensity in any given session.

In other words, the split allows you to stimulate each muscle group more frequently while also allowing you to distribute the volume to provide an ample amount of time to recover.

And if you are recovering better and training more frequently, you’ll grow.

Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

What is an Upper/Lower Split?

An upper/lower workout split is a training style that breaks your workout sessions down into two categories: Upper body workout days and lower body workout days.

On upper body workout days, you will train the muscles of the upper body. This will include the chest, shoulders, back, biceps, triceps, traps, forearms, and possibly core.

On lower body workout days, you’ll focus on the muscles of the lower body. This will include the lower back, quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and possibly core.

In a traditional upper/lower split, there’s no crossover between days. However, some may utilize upper focused days paired with a single muscle group of the lower body that might be lagging and vice versa. With any split, it’s important to individualize to optimize for your specific goals and training needs.

Can Beginners Do Upper/Lower Splits?

Beginners are absolutely capable of performing upper lower workout splits.

Most training styles are universal among training experience. The only things that may differ is the weight used, possibly some volume, and the inclusion of more advanced training techniques if necessary.

If you are a beginner, however, upper/lower workouts can definitely be a good style of training to start out with. You may also want to consider experimenting with full body workouts and determine which you enjoy more and works best for your individual goals, capabilities, and lifestyle.

The workout listed below can be a good workout for beginner lifters. Some may want to consider evaluating the total volume and eliminating sets if needed to optimize recovery. They may also want to remove the emphasized negatives if needed.

Another strategy for making upper/lower workouts beginner-friendly is changing the training frequency from 4 days of training per week to 3 days of training.

An example week following this strategy may look like:

  • Monday: Upper Workout
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Lower Workout
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Upper Workout
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

To continue on like this, you would simply continue to cycle through the workouts listed below on your training days.

Upper/Lower Bodybuilding Workout Overview

This is a muscle building workout that I have been using lately now that I am training more often at commercial gyms. It works well both with, and without a training partner. If training with a partner, I recommend keeping rest periods brief. After your partner's set is finished, you should waste little time before hitting your next set.

Upper/Lower Workout Schedule

Each training day is balanced. You start by challenging major muscle groups with 3 sets of compound or taxing machine exercises. Next, you follow up by finishing a muscle group with a more isolation-style movement that typically focuses on the use of 3 second negatives. Lastly, you work smaller muscle groups with 3 sets each, using 3 second negatives when it makes sense.

Here is the training schedule:

  • Monday - Upper Body
  • Tuesday - Lower Body
  • Wednesday - Rest
  • Thursday - Upper Body
  • Friday - Lower Body
  • Saturday - Rest
  • Sunday - Rest

Upper Lower Workout

Upper Body Training Days

Upper body training days follow this scheme:

  • Chest - 3 sets, compound
  • Back - 3 sets, compound
  • Shoulders - 3 sets, compound
  • Chest - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Back - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Shoulders - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Triceps - 3 sets, isolation or machine/cable exercises. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Biceps - 3 sets, isolation or machine/cable exercises. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.

Lower Body Training Days

Lower body training days follow this scheme:

  • Quads - 3 sets, compound
  • Hamstrings - 3 sets, compound
  • Calves - 3 sets, taxing machine or isolation
  • Quads - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Hamstrings - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Calves - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Abs - 3 sets, isolation or machine/cable exercises.
  • Abs, Lower Back or Obliques - 3 sets, isolation or machine/cable exercises.

Monday: Upper Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 3 6-12
Barbell Row 3 6-12
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press 3 8-12
Pec Dec - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
V-Bar Lat Pull Down - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Side Lateral Raise 2 10-15
Cable Tricep Extensions - 3 sec negative 3 8-12
Cable Curls - 3 sec negative 3 8-12

Tuesday: Lower Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 6-12
Stiff Leg Deadlifts 3 8-12
Standing Calf Raise 3 10-15
Leg Extensions - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Leg Curl - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Seated Calf Raise - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Cable Crunch - 3 sec negative 3 10-12
Cable Pull Through w/Rope 3 10-12

Thursday: Upper Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 8-12
Rack Deadlifts - 3" to 5" off ground 3 5-8
Military Press 3 8-12
Machine Chest Press - 3 sec negative 2 8-12
Pull Ups or Machine Rows - 3 sec negative 2 8-12
Machine Shoulder Press - 3 sec negative 2 8-12
Dumbbell Curls - 3 sec negative 3 8-12
Machine Tricep Dip - 3 sec negative 3 8-12

Friday: Lower Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press 3 10-20
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts 3 8-12
Leg Press Calf Raise 3 10-15
Hack Squat 2 8-12
Seated Leg Curl - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Seated Calf Raise - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Planks 3 60 sec
Hyperextension 3 10-12

Upper/Lower Workout FAQs

Below is a compiled list of some of the most frequently asked questions about this particular upper/lower workout.

The questions were questions we noticed we received often in the comments section.

Read through them to see if your question is answered. If it is not, please be sure to leave us a comment and we will try to answer your question to the best of our ability.

1. What is a 3 Second Negative?

The negative portion of the lift is the lowering or eccentric portion. For instance, on a bench press, the negative would be lowering the bar to your chest.

A 3 second negative is making this portion of the lift take 3 seconds to perform.

2. What Makes This Routine a Beginner Workout?

The total amount of volume in this workout routine is appropriate for a beginner level trainee.

If you wanted to make it more advanced, you could simply continue to increase the weights used over time or by upping the volume by adding additional sets.

All workout routines can be used by all levels of experience. It’s more or less a matter of knowing how to make your training most effective based on your goals, capabilities, and lifestyle.

3. How Long Should I Rest In Between Sets?

Timed rest periods usually don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, at least in my experience.

Typically, they are used to help keep the workouts more focused.

They will also depend on the total effort exuded on any given set. As you get stronger, you may need more time to rest in between sets.

A good rule of thumb is 60-90 seconds depending on the exercise. For more compound movements in a hypertrophy focused workout routine, you’ll want to take a full 90 seconds or so to recovery before performing the next set.

For isolation lifts or accessory movements, you may want to keep rest periods shorter as you will likely need less time to recover.

So, to sum it up, rest as needed.

4. Why So Many Deadlift Variations?

The deadlift is a mass builder. And each variation will place emphasis on different body parts it is training.

Stiff leg deadlifts will allow you to maximize the total poundage you use for the exercise since it’s a barbell compound. If done properly, the majority of the tension should be placed on the hamstrings and glutes.

For rack pull deadlifts, the barbell is elevated and the focus is on the upper back and traps.

Dumbbell stiff leg deadlifts will again train the hamstrings and glutes. Your grip will provide a limiting factor on this variation as it is more difficult to grip dumbbells compared to barbells.

Lastly, the hyperextensions, if performed properly, will place the majority of its tension on the glutes.

At the end of the day, if you do not feel comfortable performing this many hip hinge variations, you’re more than welcome to alter the template in a way that better fits your needs.

5. Can I Use The Workout If I Follow A Keto Diet?

Yes, you can use this program with any sort of diet.

That being said, keto diets aren’t necessarily an ideal approach for maximizing muscle growth and fueling performance during your workouts.

Everyone is different though. Continue to diet and exercise in whatever ways work best for you.

6. Can I Add Cardio?

Yes, you can add cardio to this program. The type and duration of the style of cardio will highly depend on your goals and time restraints.

If you are someone low on time, you can add HIIT cardio sessions to the end of your workouts on your training days.

Depending on your goals, you can also add in steady state cardio on your rest days as a form of active recovery.

7. Should I Increase The Weight Each Set?

You can increase the weight after each set if you enjoy performing your workouts in a pyramiding set fashion. Or you can keep them as straight sets. Whichever you prefer will do the trick.

The one caveat is, to build muscle you have to accomplish progressive overload. This can be accomplished in a number of different ways. However, the easiest to track is by increasing the weight used session to session over time.

Everyone progresses differently. So long as you are improving upon the weight you are using whenever you are capable of doing so, you will see results.

8. Can I Add Core Exercises?

You may add additional core exercises to this program if you like. However, depending on your goals, it may not be necessary.

If your goal is to develop your midsection, you’ll be better off focusing on creating a calorie deficit and improving your strength levels throughout the duration of the program.

If your goal is increasing your core strength, you can include some additional stability exercises as you see fit based on your working capacity, experience level, and ultimate goal.

9. Can Women Perform This Workout?

Absolutely!

Women can utilize this workout for whatever goals they may have. They may want to consider altering the exercise selection depending on their individual goals (a lot of women want to focus on glute growth) – however, it’s already pretty glute and hamstring emphasized via the deadlift variations and may not warrant additional alterations.

10. How Should I Warm Up?

Everyone’s warm ups will look different based on their individual mobility levels.

For an article on how to build out an appropriate warm up routine, check out this article.

Post your post-workout swolfies in M&S gear on IG and tag @muscleandstrength, #muscleandstrength, or DM them to us to get a shoutout on Muscle & Strength stories!

391 Comments+ Post Comment

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 05/03/2021 - 14:28
Jack

Hello, I do have a machine at my home, so which exercises do you recommend instead of the ones require a machine?
I have a barbell, a EZ Bar, two sets of dumbbells and a resistence tube. Thanks :)

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 05/05/2021 - 10:14
Abigail_M&S
No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 05/02/2021 - 21:26
Andres Rincon

Can I use this routine with Rest-Pause Method? How can I mix it?

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 05/03/2021 - 09:30
Abigail_M&S

Hey Andres - it's best to follow the program as written.

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 05/02/2021 - 13:30
Arthur

How does one lose belly fat without losing body weight ?

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 05/03/2021 - 09:35
Abigail_M&S

Hey Arthur - you can eat in a slight caloric deficit. Check out our expert fat loss guide for more info: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/fat-loss

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 04/25/2021 - 16:15
Dev

Hi
I don’t have machine at home and I’ve started this program I’ve replaced all the machine excersise with ones that I can perform on a pulley system can u recommend me a variation for machine chest press pls

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 04/26/2021 - 09:53
Abigail_M&S

Hey Dev - do you have a barbell or dumbbells?

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 04/17/2021 - 03:57
Guru

Hi Mate,

I’ve been adding HIIT workout on my rest days. My workout goes like this
Monday- lower body
Tuesday- upper body
Wednesday- HIIT
Thursday- lower body
Friday- upper body
Saturday - HIIT
Do you think it’s too much? I’ve been feeling fine, but some say it’s too intense. What are your thoughts?

Thanks

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 04/19/2021 - 09:29
Abigail_M&S

Hey Guru - If you're feeling good from it and not having any issues with your recovery, you can stick to it. Just make sure you're getting in one complete rest day per week and your nutrition, sleep, and overall recovery is good.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 04/12/2021 - 04:36
Ian

Hi What is the benefit/reason for the Racked Deadlift over a Conventional Deadlift?

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 04/12/2021 - 10:18
Abigail_M&S

Hey Ian - the rack pull has a shorter range of motion than the traditional deadlift. You can usually lift more weight with a rack pull.

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 04/07/2021 - 14:03
Ryan P.

Is it possible to do an upper/lower body split without any weights?

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 04/08/2021 - 09:46
Abigail_M&S

Hey Ryan - yes, it is possible

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 02/09/2021 - 07:38
Patrick Pancho

Can I follow this program but like, I can only go to the gym twice a week so the day 1 and day 2 routine would be for the first week and 3 and 4 for the second and so on?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 02/09/2021 - 10:25
Abigail_M&S

Hey Patrick - combining of the days is not advised. You will most likely benefit more from doing full body workouts 2x per week.

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 02/06/2021 - 16:57
Kareem

Hey but is doing 2 Biceps and Triceps exercise per week is enough for growing big arms ?
i am trying to bulk
and is it ok if I only do 3 exercises for Quads and 2 for calfs instead of 8 in a leg day ?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 02/09/2021 - 10:26
Abigail_M&S

Hey Kareem - it's best to follow the program as written. If you're looking for a specific mass building program, check out this one: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/10-week-mass-building-program...

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/18/2021 - 01:59
Sakir

Hey can i follow this for a longer time like 3-6 months

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/18/2021 - 10:52
Abigail_M&S

Hey Sakir - yes you can. After the 10 weeks, take a deload week and then restart the program.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 01/12/2021 - 01:19
Sam

Hi, today was my last day of the 12 weeks program, and I have seen some good progress. I would like to know what program should I follow next?
My goal is to gain muscle, get stronger and lose some fat.
17 years old/ 185cm / 71kg
Thanks

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 01/12/2021 - 11:05
Abigail_M&S

Hey Sam - how many days are you looking to workout per week?

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/18/2021 - 09:36
Abigail_M&S
No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 01/17/2021 - 04:45
Sam

Hi, hmm i don’t actually know but 4 to 5 times a week should be good for me. But I don’t mind working out more.
Thanks

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 12/30/2020 - 12:11
Amr Taha

3 Second Negative
is for every reps or only the last rep ?

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 12/30/2020 - 12:56
Abigail_M&S

Hey Amr - every rep

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 12/19/2020 - 08:19
Mark

Why only Stiff Leg Deadlifts? What is the justification here. I know that it is a pretty dangerous exercise when performed incorrectly. And it is very easy to screw up because the lift makes you go into a spinal flexion. Can't I just do Romanian or Conventional Deadlifts instead? Thank you.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 12/21/2020 - 09:18
Abigail_M&S

Hey Mark - yes, you can do Romanian deadlifts instead.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 12/15/2020 - 03:16
Ammar

Hi everyone, I just wanted to notify all of you that it's my 7th week using this program. I have gained nearly 6 kg's of weight, my muscle mass around my arms has slightly increased- my triceps are more prominent amidst workout now.
My chest has stayed the same, although my chest fat has decreased slightly.
My shoulder is a little visible now, whereas before this split, there was no shoulder at all.
The most defined changes, that I have seen, are on my quads and legs. They have grown massively, while working out I can clearly see my quad muscles now.
All in all, the change has been great. 3 more weeks to go! wish me luck.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 11/30/2020 - 05:24
Zoe

What about nutrition part, what are the recommended macros and calories? Thank you.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 11/30/2020 - 10:50
Abigail_M&S

Hey Zoe - use our BMR calculator to determine your daily caloric needs: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

Then check out this article for more info on macros: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/determine-daily-calorie-macro...

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 11/03/2020 - 01:29
Dan

Are there any concerns if I do this routine four days straight? Will my muscles recover in time? I'm hoping to hit the gym Tuesday to Friday and use Monday as a rest day after my soccer Sundays.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 11/03/2020 - 10:24
Abigail_M&S

Hey Dan - if your recovery is on point, you shouldn't have an issue. I would try it out for a week or two to see how sore you are and whether or not that schedule is sustainable. You could always do a upper, lower, rest, full body workout program if you find that the upper, lower, upper, lower is too intense.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 10/15/2020 - 03:25
Jesus Arroyo

some dude copied and pasted this article and made it seem as if he wrote it: https://www.boxrox.com/how-to-build-muscle-upper-lower-body-split-progra...

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 10/20/2020 - 09:23
Marina_M&S

Hey! Thanks for writing in Jesus. We're working on this now :)

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 10/11/2020 - 20:14
Eli

How hard should we be pushing ourselves? Like should we be almost going until failure on every lift?

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 10/12/2020 - 11:52
Abigail_M&S

Hey Eli - You should have 1 or 2 reps left in the tank after every set

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 09/20/2020 - 22:48
Matthew McKay

Are all of these workouts doable on a cable weight system? Most of our equipment is cardio focused and the actual weighted equipment we have is a cable weight system.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 09/24/2020 - 13:35
Abigail_M&S

Hey Matthew - a majority of these movements need dumbbells and/or barbells. There are cable machine variations for some of the movements, and you can find those in our video database here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 09/15/2020 - 17:05
Bon Madrid

Should I add forearm exercises or will it not be necessary?

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 09/24/2020 - 13:32
Abigail_M&S

Hey Bon - forearm exercises are not necessary with this program

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 08/27/2020 - 09:26
Kashif

Are supplements necessary for this split?

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 08/28/2020 - 15:24
Mike_M&S

Hey Kashif - supplements are not necessary for any workout. Diet needs to be on point first, then use supplements if you want for supplementation of your diet.

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 07/10/2020 - 06:55
John

Can I add more bicep and tricep exercises to the routine?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 08/11/2020 - 10:25
Yoshi

Hey John

I recommend trying the program as it's written first. If you still feel like you've got gas in the tank for your arms at the end of your upper body days then feel free to add some.

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 08/26/2020 - 18:11
Brad

I started off thinking the same thing about more arms, however if you are pushing the exercises as listed you will be working your arms a lot more than it seems. If your advanced just apply normal progressive overload and more sets and you will grow :).

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 06/11/2020 - 18:06
Chris Travis

Is doing only two exercises a week for a muscle enough?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 08/11/2020 - 10:23
Yoshi

Hey Chris

2-3 is the goal. Your muscles also get a fair bit of indirect work within all of the compound movements.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 04/02/2020 - 11:03
Folk_us

I'm switching from doing Body Beast home workouts for quite some time and feel it's time to switch it up. As I only have access to free weights is there a non-machine alternative to all the workouts listed above? Thanks

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 08/11/2020 - 10:27
Yoshi

Hey Folk

We've got an entire DB only program written up for you. Check it out https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/dumbbell-only-upper-lower-wor...