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.

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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?


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!

Abhinav Saraf
Posted on: Fri, 09/22/2023 - 22:32

What is *3" to 5" off ground* in rack deadlifts? Is it 3-5 secs off ground? And my gym doesn't have rack, so what is the alternative for it bro, Mr. Roger?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 09/24/2023 - 19:38

This means that the plates on the bar can be three to five inches off the floor, Abhinav. You can set the weights up on blocks, wood, or steps if possible to raise the bar. If that is not an option, then simply do deadlifts. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Thu, 09/14/2023 - 03:01

Can I use Monday upper / Tuesday lower for 3 day split like upper Monday/ Wednesday lower / Friday full body?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 09/24/2023 - 19:37

That should be okay.

Posted on: Fri, 09/08/2023 - 09:16

Hi, is it ok to only do squat for my legs? And not hamstring or deadlift? Will i get hamstring or knee injury if i only do squat for legs

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 09/24/2023 - 19:37

Before I answer this, I need a little more info, Martin. Why can you not deadlift?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 09/30/2023 - 21:24

Ultimately you can do what you feel you need to do, but being completely honest here, if your lower back is weak, deadlifting will help, and it would be wise to do them.

Posted on: Mon, 09/25/2023 - 10:05

Because my lower back is weak

Posted on: Fri, 08/18/2023 - 18:49

Hi, I am new to the gym, and have been doing this for about 3 months and I still see notable gains, my friends says that I need to change workout routines every 3 months, is this true as I still feel like I can stick with this for like let's say a year?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 08/26/2023 - 21:50

I don't think you need to do this for a year, Carlos. However, if you wanted to run it for six total months, you could. As long as you're seeing progress, keep it up. When you see that progress stall, make a change. Thanks for reading M&S!

Posted on: Tue, 08/15/2023 - 15:31

Hi, is this program good for building strength as well as muscle?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 08/26/2023 - 21:49

Sure is, Aaron.

Posted on: Sat, 08/05/2023 - 08:52

I am a beginner planning to follow this workout for the next 10 weeks. However, I have a question: What should I do after the 10-week period? Should I simply increase the number of reps or the intensity of the exercises?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 08/15/2023 - 09:45

Hi, Imas. I would suggest focusing on the 10 weeks for now and evaulating where you are at when you finish. You may need to change to a whole new program based on your results.

Posted on: Sun, 07/30/2023 - 05:08

Firstly, thanks for such a great article. I would like to know does this workout schedule also helps in burning fat and also hit the abs. Or should I follow additional exercises for abs and fat burning in addition to the above ones.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 08/15/2023 - 09:44

Hi, Praz! It can help you with burning fat, and abs aren't included, but here are several options for you to consider. Work any of these workouts in whenever you like.

Posted on: Sun, 07/09/2023 - 14:17

I really like this routine!

A couple questions...

My work schedule is busy right now because it's summer. I can go to the gym on Sun, Wed, Fri and Sat. In the fall, I'll also be able to go on Monday. Does this work for the split? Or should I just do 3 days until fall when I have more time?

I stay at a hotel on Tuesday and Thursday equipped with dumbbells up to 50 pounds and bench, so technically I could try doing something there too.

Also, can I do dumbbell bench presses instead of barbell? I like how the dumbbells feel.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/10/2023 - 08:08

Hey Drew, I love how you're finding ways to get the training in. The split you suggested works just fine.

Feel free to go with the dumbbells as well. As long as you're feeling challenged, you're good to go! Thanks for reading M&S!

James Downie
Posted on: Tue, 07/04/2023 - 12:43

I see a lot of articles online saying that doing squats and deadlifts on the same day is not safe. What are your thoughts?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/10/2023 - 08:07

I'm in my 40's and I've done them both off and on for years. Never had an issue. As long as you're not maxing out on both, I think you'll be fine. I do suggest alternating which one you start with and going lighter on the second. For example.

1st time - Squat heavy, deadlifts light.
2nd time (1 week later) - Deadlift heavy, squat light.

Hope this helps, James!

Posted on: Thu, 06/01/2023 - 12:29

Instead of doing upper lower upper lower, can i switch the order? So it goes like lower upper lower upper?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 06/02/2023 - 06:07

Go for it, Martin.

Posted on: Sat, 05/06/2023 - 08:41

Hey there, I do a Upper Lower Upper Fullbody split. Is it a odd way of doing it or is it actually smart?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/08/2023 - 07:14

If it's working for you, it's smart. Just don't keep doing it for sake of doing it if it isn't working.

Nuraz Khan
Posted on: Thu, 04/13/2023 - 15:18

Can I add forearm exercises to this split?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 04/22/2023 - 13:54

Sure. I like reverse curls, myself, but go with whatever you like.

Posted on: Thu, 04/06/2023 - 08:24

Hi Roger, I have a question the reps range 6-12 is to much wide, how to use 6-12 reps range? Thank you

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 04/22/2023 - 13:54

You can do it one of two ways.

Either use a weight that you will reach failure within the 6-12 rep range. You may be able to get 12 on the first set, but 10 on the second, and six to eight on the third.

Or, you can start with lighter weight for 12, heavier for 8-10, then the heaviest for 6.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Sat, 04/01/2023 - 09:21

Hi,i do this workout;but 1:(instead of 2/3 sets i do 4 sets)
And 2:(i also do one exercise more for each muscle).Because i feel its not enough.and it takes me 2h of the time in the gym.
What do you suggest me to do? Please answer me!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 04/05/2023 - 10:55

If you feel it's helping you, keep going. Just monitor your recovery.

Aaron Warren
Posted on: Mon, 03/27/2023 - 13:54

This looks like a great full body program to follow. I have been weight training now for about 2-3 years. I am looking to add size now, especially in my arms. I seem to have hit a plateau with my arms and chest, and am looking for something to help me bust through that. Would it be good for me to up the intensity by adding a couple of extra bicep/tricep exercises on the upper body days? And/or possibly more sets?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/30/2023 - 15:56

I would run with this as is for at least a few weeks, Aaron. If you don't see the progress you're looking for, then you could add one bicep and one tricep movement for each muscle on the upper body days.

Mike Luyckx
Posted on: Fri, 01/13/2023 - 16:25

Can I do this with some supersets to save time? for example superset the 3 isolation exercises and the core/arm at the end and still do the compound moves as straight sets?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 01/23/2023 - 13:09

I completely understand the time component, Mike. Go for it, and let us know how it goes. Just make sure your recovery is on point.

Posted on: Fri, 01/13/2023 - 11:24

Hi Roger,

I am going to start this program but I have two questions ;

1) I see in many programs compound exercises are 4 sets and isolation exercises are 3 sets whereas I see here that compounds are 3 and isolations are 2. How can one decide if 3 &2 is enough or it is better to do make it 4&3 ?

2) I see that there is no conventional deadlift here. If I want to deadlift, with which exercises should I substitute with?

Thank you in advance.


M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 01/23/2023 - 13:09

What's good, Cagri?

Three and two are enough for this because of the extra volume you're doing overall with more exercises. Don't feel like you have to push for the extra sets unless you get a couple weeks in and don't notice anything at all.

Replace the Stiff-Legged Deadlift with the Conventional DL. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Mon, 01/09/2023 - 08:01

Love the look of this one. Just wondered if I can swap out the calf exercises? I’m female and already have naturally large calves so not too keen on sculpting them more. I’d love to include some more glute work to build my glutes. Could I swap calves for something like hip thrusts or are there any other glute focused moves you’d recommend instead?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 01/20/2023 - 08:36

That would work, Sian. Hip thrusts are the best option in my opinion. Go for it!

Posted on: Sat, 11/26/2022 - 19:45

I love this workout ... for beginners it's a DREAM ... what I don't like about it personally ... is that it doesn't include Bulgarian split.....
on Friday, if I replace Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift with

Bulgarian split, would it be ok? how would you proceed?
I'm interested in your opinion on this matter

PS I inform you that I do " Rack Deadlifts" and "Stiff Leg Deadlifts" with great passion... they are my weekly challenge

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 11/27/2022 - 21:24

The Bulgarian will do more for quads than hamstrings, but yes, you can make that switch if you feel your quads need more work.

Posted on: Wed, 11/09/2022 - 17:34

I have a question, is it possible that i can add some bicep exercises myself, i personally think its kinda lacking in bicep exercises so i add 3 extra sets of biceps to each day, is it okay? Or am i overkilling?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 11/13/2022 - 21:40

Let's meet in the middle. Do three extra sets on each upper body day. That's six more a week, which can be a difference.

Posted on: Sun, 10/23/2022 - 15:55

Hi I need to ask can I use this whole program for many years. I adore this program and which to keep it for long time

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/24/2022 - 11:15

You will probably need to make a change after six months or so, but feel free to run with it as long as you notice results. Once the progress slows down, come on back and we'll help you find another one that you could enjoy just as much. Thanks for reading M&S!

Syed Nawaaz
Posted on: Wed, 05/31/2023 - 18:32

Hey Roger,
I have followed this amazing workout for more than 3 months, and I am currently seeing no results whatsoever. Can you suggest me where to find different programs

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 06/03/2023 - 15:35
Mohammad Razavi
Posted on: Sat, 10/22/2022 - 18:48

I don't have a leg extensions machine at my gym what should I replace that with?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 10/23/2022 - 11:23

Dumbbell leg extensions with a dumbbell between your feet would work. You will need to sit on a high seat or bench for this. If that won't work, then go to our exercises section and find the quad exercises that you can do. Any of them would serve you well.

Arian Razavi
Posted on: Fri, 10/21/2022 - 17:35

Hello, I have three questions. There's no leg curl machine at my gym what can I replace that with? I don't have enough squat mobility to do proper form squats what can I replace it with? Can I replace Stiff Leg Deadlift on Tuesday with Conventional Deadlifts? Thanks.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 10/22/2022 - 08:23

If you have a cable machine, do standing leg curls.

Work on that mobility so you can do squats properly. That will not only help you make progress, but function in life better. In the meantime, do the leg press on that day as well.

Yes, you can do conventional deadlifts instead.