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

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!

456 Comments
HD
Posted on: Thu, 09/22/2022 - 11:47

I like the program and I'm thinking to add an extra accesory upper day (I have good genetics in my lower body and I don't need to train it as much as my upper).

Also I will train mon-fry and doing active recovery (Low Intesity running, cycling or swimming) on saturdays or training in saturdays if I can't train some day mid week.

Any comments or suggestions? Thank you.

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 09/24/2022 - 09:57

As long as you have one complete day of recovery, you should be okay. I'm guessing you know your body pretty well and been training for a while. Do us a favor and let us know how this goes for you. Thanks for reading M&S!

Chad
Posted on: Tue, 09/06/2022 - 20:42

After 10 weeks is there another variation of an upper lower split

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 09/07/2022 - 06:49
Chad
Posted on: Wed, 09/07/2022 - 09:20

Yes, I always like to change my workouts after a month or two...Thank You

Elizabeth
Posted on: Mon, 09/05/2022 - 15:30

For a deload, instead of my normal 4 day upper lower, can I do 2 and some hiking (going on vaca)? I'm an intermediate lifter but have going almost 100% past 8-10 weeks.

Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 09/06/2022 - 08:55

Love it, Elizabeth! Go for it, and enjoy the vacation!

Ofir
Posted on: Fri, 09/02/2022 - 14:13

How many leg presses should i do in the second workout?
Between 10-20 is a pretty large range...

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 09/02/2022 - 20:39

Set 1: 20 reps
Set 2: Add weight and do 15
Set 3: Add more weight and do 10.

If you're really focusing on strength, then stay with sets of 10.

Ofir
Posted on: Sat, 09/03/2022 - 06:03

Thanks!

Soka
Posted on: Wed, 08/24/2022 - 09:34

It took me 1:45 minutes to finish the first upper body day, is it me or its just a long workout?

Jay
Posted on: Sun, 08/14/2022 - 17:06

The Thursday routine has rack deadlifts as the 2nd exercise is that correct ?seems like more of a leg exercise as the link takes you to a deadlift video

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 08/16/2022 - 10:04

They don't have a rack deadlift video for the barbell, but they do with the trap bar.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/trap-bar-rack-pull

This is actually great for the back, and your legs are minimally involved.

Kfir
Posted on: Sat, 08/06/2022 - 18:40

Can i do this 4 day workout with no rest between?
Sunday- upper body, Monday- lower body
Tuesday-upper body Wednesday- lower body?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 08/09/2022 - 08:24

You need at least one day of recovery in between the four workouts. I suggest taking Tuesday off and finishing with Wed. and Th.

Alex A Romero
Posted on: Thu, 07/28/2022 - 18:21

Cool if I can change the exercises to different machine exercise?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 08/09/2022 - 08:23

As long as they work the same muscle groups, go for it, Alex! Let us know what you're changing. Other readers may benefit.

Traci
Posted on: Thu, 07/28/2022 - 11:58

Is it ok to switch the workouts around to optimize layout of your gym or should they be done in exact order?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 08/09/2022 - 08:18

Hi, Traci! Definitely do it to optimize the layout of the gym. Exact order is great, but simplicity is best for sure.

Jakob
Posted on: Tue, 07/19/2022 - 06:52

Hello, I finished these workouts in about 45-50 mins isthat too little time in the gym?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 07/28/2022 - 08:30

Not at all, Jakob. Great work! Let us know how the program goes for you!

Tim coco
Posted on: Thu, 07/14/2022 - 12:54

If I’m doing stiff legged barbell can I do regular deadlifts that day since I’m doing dumbbell stiff legged on the other lower day

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 07/23/2022 - 19:47

Go for it, Tim! I think that will help with strength as well as posterior chain development.

Jack
Posted on: Wed, 06/29/2022 - 12:07

My gym doesn't have a hack squat machine, what would be the best substitution?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 07/05/2022 - 11:12

Hey Jack, go with a goblet squat with a dumbbell.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/dumbbell-goblet-squat

Zeke
Posted on: Fri, 06/17/2022 - 21:36

Hi, I am a beginner and i started this workout plan about 2 weeks ago and i had talked to one of my friends and they said i should transition to a bro-split. Which split would you recommend me choose?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 06/18/2022 - 11:11

Zeke, not sure what your friend would suggest, but a bro split is actually a program that calls for you to train each bodypart on its own. For example,

Day 1 - Chest
Day 2 - Back
Day 3 - Legs

and so on...

This would actually be a great program for a beginner. I think you should actually run with it for a couple of months.

Antonio Silva Paucar
Posted on: Sun, 05/29/2022 - 21:48

I am recovering from tendonitis in the elbow so for the last month, I have been working just legs, 3 times a week and I have seen great results so far. I usually do 3 times a week splits that hit muscles once a week, but I am looking for a going to the gym 4 times a week but I want to hit muscles at least 2 times a week. This one looks good but I wonder why it is considered begginer. There is any good upper/lower 4 days a week that it's considered intermediate?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 05/30/2022 - 19:08

Hey Antonio, the exercises are easier for beginners to follow. So, it's one that they can do. That doesn't mean that intermediates shouldn't. Seriously, give it a go and see how you do with it.

Olivier
Posted on: Wed, 05/04/2022 - 19:24

Hi, which program between this one and the P.H.U.L avaible on your website is more effective for gaining mass?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 05/24/2022 - 21:08

Hi, Olivier. For mass, this one. For strength, PHUL. Hope this helps!

Alex
Posted on: Tue, 04/19/2022 - 18:10

Hi what could i replace rack pulls with its banned in my gym for bending bars

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 04/28/2022 - 21:21

Hi, Alex. If your gym has a Smith Machine, do them there with the safeties set at around knee height or a little below. If you can't, then do deadlifts from the floor, but stopping at around shin height.

Lindsey
Posted on: Sun, 04/17/2022 - 20:06

What an amazing resource! I was just googling looking for 4 day upper/lower split routine and this is perfect. Thank you!!

Nemanja
Posted on: Wed, 03/30/2022 - 06:11

Hello, few months i used program where i separate muscle by days, for example biceps back together, chest triceps and shoulder together and legs have day for self, each one i do in range of 3 or 4 days so basicly between each i have 3,4 day of rest. Is this 4 Day Upper Lower Split program better then that and i want also to ask is enough only one exercise for biceps in training like you mention in plan above since i do 3-4 per day in my program?

Thanks in advance :)
Nemanja

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 04/07/2022 - 08:27

Hi, Nemanja. This program is different, but it's hard to say if one is "better" than another. Your best bet would be to do it and find out if it is better for you.

As for the biceps, it will be a shock to do one after doing 3-4 for so long, but it would be ok. If you absolutely must do another one, add it in, but definitely stop at two exercises. Make the most out of the exercises you do, and you'll be fine.

JNG
Posted on: Mon, 03/28/2022 - 20:57

Can you split the sets as 2 compound and 2 negatives? Or 3 compounds and 2 negative exercises are most effective? Can this program be used to build muscle while also being a caloric deficit?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 03/31/2022 - 10:00

You could split the sets, JNG.

As for building muscle while being on a caloric deficit, your body needs the calories in order to build the muscle. You may get leaner and your muscles may become more visible in a caloric deficit, which may make it appear like you built muscle. But, I can't say you would build substantial muscle in a deficit.

Dani
Posted on: Thu, 03/17/2022 - 10:42

Is there a way i can do this workout but just without barbells?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 03/20/2022 - 20:48

Replace the barbell movements with dumbbell exercises, Dani.

Datuna
Posted on: Tue, 03/15/2022 - 15:09

Hey are there any rear delt exercises in this workout plan?
What can i add if its not?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 03/20/2022 - 20:46

Hi, Datuna. Outside of the barbell rows, which target them as a secondary muscle, not really. You can do bent over dumbbell reverse flys to target them.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/bent-over-dumbbell-reverse-f...

pier
Posted on: Sat, 12/18/2021 - 16:52

Hi, I would like to ask you a few things:
1 can a beginner (6 months) perform this workout?
2 what does it mean when it says 6-12 reps?

Thank you

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 12/20/2021 - 19:47

Hi, Pier.

1. Yes, someone with six months experience can do this workout.
2. Perform anywhere from six to twelve repetitions with the weight you choose to use. You should reach failure within that rep range. Hope this helps!

Gilbert Christian
Posted on: Sat, 11/20/2021 - 15:27

I love this program. Today was my last day of the 12 weeks program. How many times i can repeat this program?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 11/22/2021 - 18:54

Glad you like it, Gilbert. After a week off, give it another run. If you don't see similar results, then you may want to consider something else.

Typhoon J
Posted on: Thu, 10/28/2021 - 10:29

Hi! I was wondering if I could do this workout at home with only Barbells and Dumbbells? I could do alternative exercises for cable and machine exercises?
Thank you.

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 10/28/2021 - 10:33

You can. Check out the Exercises section for free weight options for each muscle group, and put them in place of the machine movements.

Typhoon J
Posted on: Sat, 10/30/2021 - 06:32

Thats great, thank you.

Sean
Posted on: Thu, 10/21/2021 - 09:07

Hello,

I started this program 3 weeks ago and think it is great.
I would like to add two more bicep workouts and two more tricep workouts.
Do you suggest I add one of each to the end of the upper days or could I do the 4 additional workouts on a separate day like Saturday? It would basically be creating a mini 5th day that focuses on biceps and triceps. This day would only have 2 biceps and 2 triceps workouts.

Thanks
Sean