StrengthLog’s Upper/Lower Body Split Program, 4x/Week

This upper/lower split program is available for free in our app StrengthLog! Download it for iOS or Android.

What does it take for you to get bigger and stronger?

You need to:

  • Practice the lifts you want to get strong in.
  • Work all your major muscle groups with effective exercises.
  • Stimulate your muscles often enough to keep them constantly growing, while still allowing for sufficient recovery.

An upper/lower body split program running on four training days per week is an excellent workout routine to tick off all three points above, so it is no wonder that it is one of the most popular free programs in our app.

In this post, I’ll explain why an upper/lower split is a great program choice building muscle and strength, and show you how to follow the program.

Here’s an outline of the program:

Upper Lower Body Split Program

Benefits of Upper/Lower Body Split Routines

An upper/lower split running on four days per week means you will be doing two upper body + two lower body workouts.

This has several benefits:

  • Growth & Recovery. You will alternate between the upper and lower body workouts, which means that your muscles will get three to four rest days in between each training session. This is a great training frequency for allowing close to full recovery, while still keeping your muscles in an almost constantly growing state.
  • Low injury risk. Twice weekly training for your joints and muscles is a sweet spot. Training each muscle only once per week would leave you plenty of days per week where you aren’t growing, and training a muscle three times per week steeply increases the injury risk unless you really know what you are doing. Besides, the marginal gains in going from 2x/week to 3x/week are very small.
  • Quick workouts. Finally, spreading your training out on four workouts per week means that you get top-class training in, while still spending less than an hour in the gym per workout.

Those are the benefits. For the next section, let’s look at how the upper/lower split routine can cover all your major muscle groups.

Upper/Lower Split Training: The Big Four

Here’s a rule of thumb that will simplify strength training for you forever:

For full-body training, do one each of these:

  1. An upper body push
  2. An upper body pull
  3. A squat
  4. A hip hinge

Let’s take a closer look.

Pick one or a few exercises to target these different major movements, and you will work almost every major muscle group in your body.

While these movements will train your core, some direct ab work can be added. But honestly, these movements alone will be more than enough to develop six-pack abs, provided that you’re lean enough.

Now you know why the upper/lower body program is centered around these big four movements.

In the next section, you’ll learn the how.

First in a bird’s eye view, and then in a closer look.

StrengthLog’s Upper/Lower Split Program, 4 Days/Week

Below is an outline of the program. Do these workouts over the course of a week.

Most important of all:

Increase the weight when you can do the indicated sets and reps with good technique.

Each workout contains a core part. These are the exercises listed first, and this is the most important part of the program. If that is all you do, you will be golden. Increase the weights in these lifts, and you will get big and strong.

However, I know that some of you are itching for more, and that is why I have also suggested some optional exercises for each workout.

Do these in case you have the time and energy for it. Otherwise, stick to the core part and focus on improving your weights in these.

Upper Body Workout #1

  1. Bench Press: 5 sets x 5 reps
  2. Pull-Up/Lat Pulldown: 4 sets x 10 reps
  3. Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets x 10 reps
  4. Barbell Row: 4 sets x 10 reps

Want more?

Optional exercises:

  1. Tricep Pushdown: 3 sets x 10 reps
  2. Barbell Curl: 3 sets x 10 reps

Lower Body Workout #1

  1. Squat: 5 sets x 5 reps
  2. Romanian Deadlift: 4 sets x 10 reps

Want more?

Optional exercises:

  1. Leg Extensions or Bulgarian Split Squats: 3 sets x 10 reps
  2. Hanging Leg Raise: 3 sets x 10 reps

Upper Body Workout #2

  1. Overhead Press: 5 sets x 5 reps
  2. Pull-Up/Lat Pulldown: 4 sets x 10 reps
  3. Close-Grip Bench Press/Bar Dip: 3 sets x 10 reps
  4. Dumbbell Row: 3 sets x 10 reps

Want more?

Optional exercises:

  1. Tricep Pushdown: 3 sets x 10 reps
  2. Barbell Curl: 3 sets x 10 reps

Lower Body Workout #2

  1. Deadlift: 5 sets x 5 reps
  2. Front Squat: 5 sets x 5 reps

Want more?

Optional exercises:

  1. Lying Leg Curl: 3 sets x 10 reps
  2. Kneeling Ab Wheel Roll-Out: 3 sets x 10 reps

As previously mentioned: this upper/lower body split is one of the many free programs in our app. It is 100% free to download the app and follow this (and more) program. Download the app using the buttons below, or read more about the app here.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the workouts and their exercises.

Upper Body Workout #1

Both upper body workouts in this split consist of two pushing and two pulling exercises at its core – one vertical and one horizontal of each, to emphasize different muscle groups.

The first upper body workout begins with the most popular upper body lift of them all: the bench press.

1. Bench Press: 5 Sets x 5 Reps

The bench press works your chest, front delts, and triceps, and develops your pushing strength in your entire upper body.

Do 5 sets x 5 reps, and increase the weight by 2.5 kg / 5 lbs for the next workout. Every time you successfully complete all five sets of five reps with good technique, you increase the weight.

This exercise is an upper body builder if there ever was one.

2. Pull-Up / Lat Pulldown: 4 Sets x 10 Reps

Next up is an upper-body pull. You’ll be doing either the pull-up or lat pulldown, which both work similar muscles: your lats, lower traps, and biceps.

Do 4 sets x 10 reps, and increase the weight when you reach ten reps in all sets.

Which exercise should you choose?

Choose the pull-up if you can do at least four sets of five reps (and try to work up to 4 x 10) otherwise stick to the lat pulldown. The exception is, of course, if you really prefer pull-ups. In that case, do them no matter how many reps you can do.

3. Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 Sets x 10 Reps

The incline dumbbell press will emphasize your upper chest and your front delts slightly more than the bench press, and will also work your triceps.

Aim for 3 sets x 10 reps with good form, and take one step up in dumbbell size when you get ten reps in all three sets.

4. Barbell Row: 4 Sets x 10 Reps

The barbell row works almost all of your back muscles, including your lats, traps, lower back, and rear delts. In addition, it also works your biceps.

You decide if you want to go with light weights and a strict technique, or with heavy weights and utilize your hips more. The former will emphasize your upper back more, while the latter will emphasize your lower back.

Do 4 sets x 10 reps, and increase the weight when you hit your rep target.

Lower Body Workout #1

Both lower body workouts in this upper/lower split contain a squat movement and a hip hinge movement. These are compound exercises that work many large muscle groups at the same time.

In the first lower body workout, the classic barbell squat is emphasized.

1. Squat: 5 Sets x 5 Reps

The squat works a ton of muscles – your quads, glutes, lower back, and adductors just to name the primary ones.

Go for 5 sets x 5 reps, and increase the weight by 2.5 kg / 5 lbs every time you get all reps in with good form.

The squat wouldn’t be a bad lower body workout on its own, but you’re going to do one more exercise that emphasizes your posterior chain muscles.

2. Romanian Deadlift: 4 Sets x 10 Reps

The Romanian deadlift works the muscles on the back of your body: lower back, glutes, hamstrings, trapezius, and adductors.

These lend themselves well to a slightly higher rep range, so go for 4 sets of 10 reps with impeccable form, and increase the weight when you get all reps in.

Upper Body Workout #2

Just like in the first upper body day in this upper/lower split, the second one also contains two pushing and two pulling exercises.

This time, however, you’ll lead with the overhead press.

1. Overhead Press: 5 Sets x 5 Reps

The overhead press is a vertical pushing exercise that primarily works your shoulders (mostly front and lateral delts) and your triceps.

You know the drill by now: do 5 sets x 5 reps, and increase the weight by 2.5 kg / 5 lbs for the next workout. As soon as you successfully complete all five sets of five reps with good technique again, you increase the weight for the next workout.

2. Pull-Up / Lat Pulldown: 4 Sets x 10 Reps

Same story here as in upper body workout #1: you chose either the pull-up or the lat pulldown, and do 4 sets x 10 reps, and increase the weight each time you reach this target.

You could also mix the number of reps up in this workout, and, for example, do 4 sets x 5 reps instead of 4 sets x 10 reps. That will provide you with a little bit of variety from workout to workout.

3. Close-Grip Bench Press/Bar Dip: 3 Sets x 10 Reps

Once again you get to make a choice between two exercises: the close-grip bench press and the bar dip.

Both exercises will work your chestfront delts, and triceps, but emphasize these slightly differently: the close-grip bench press works your triceps a bit more, and the bar dip works your chest and front delts more.

Do 3 sets x 10 reps (or as many reps as you can in the bar dip), and increase the weight when you reach 10 reps. In the bar dip, this means adding extra weight, for example in a belt.

4. Dumbbell Row: 4 Sets x 10 Reps

Dumbbell Row
Dumbbell Row

The dumbbell row works your latstrapsrear delts, and biceps.

Use a bench for support, and pull until your thumb is level with the pit of your arm. Squeeze the shoulder blade back in the top for full contraction in your upper back.

Do 4 sets x 10 reps with each hand, increasing the weight when you hit your rep target.

Lower Body Workout #2

The first lower body day began with heavy barbell squats, followed by Romanian deadlifts. The second lower body day begins with heavy deadlifts, followed by front squats.

Train these exercises hard and they will increase your lower body power tremendously and pack muscle on you.

1. Deadlift: 5 Sets x 5 Reps

The deadlift works almost your entire body to some extent. The prime movers, however, are your glutes and back. The secondary movers are your quads, hamstrings, adductors, trapezius, and grip.

Few exercises build head-to-toe strength as the deadlift does. The price? That you master the technique, and then continuously push yourself through increasingly hard sets.

Do 5 sets x 5 reps with impeccable form, and increase the weight by 2.5 kg / 5 lbs when you get all the reps in.

As Mark Rippetoe put it: “The deadlift also serves as a way to train the mind to do things that are hard.”

Apply yourself in the deadlift, and you will strengthen both body and fortitude.

2. Front Squat: 5 Sets x 5 Reps

Finally, you’ll be training the front squat to primarily build and strengthen your quadriceps, altough your glutes, adductors, and lower back will also get some additional training.

Keep your chest up and the bar against your throat, and squat down as deep as you can. Do 5 sets x 5 reps, and increase the load by 2.5 kg / 5 lbs every time you get them all in.

Optional Exercises

That concludes the core part of the four upper/lower body workouts in this program. As I’ve said previously: if you only do these exercises and make an effort to increase the weights, you will get great results.

However, I know that some of you want to spend some extra time in the gym, which is why I’ve suggested some extra exercises for you to pick from. You don’t need to do these, but they might act as the cherry on top and also cover some missing pieces.

I suggest you do these exercises for 3 sets 10 reps and increase the weight when you get all reps in.

Tricep Pushdown

While all the pressing exercises in this upper/lower program will work your triceps to some extent, none of the exercises target the triceps as well as the tricep pushdown does.

If you want to do some extra work for your triceps, this exercise is a great pick. Use a rope or a bar handle, and squeeze your tricep in each rep until it feels like they’re going to explode.

Barbell Curl

Similar to your triceps, all the pulling movements in the upper body workouts will work your biceps. However, none of the exercises hits your biceps quite as well as the classic barbell curl.

Make sure to let form trump weight in this exercise, and focus on perfect muscle contact until your biceps are blown up.

Leg Extension

Both lower body workouts contain excellent quad exercises, but if you want to hit the front of your thigh a little extra, the leg extension is an easy way to do so.

As an added benefit, this exercise doesn’t require as much effort and concentration as the compound barbell lifts, and therefore it’s a good exercise to throw in towards the end of your lower body workout.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Want more work for your quads, glutes, and adductors? The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best exercises there is.

It also has an added benefit: all the other leg exercises you do in the lower body workouts are bilateral (done on two feet). The Bulgarian split squat is unilateral (done on one foot), and can thus help you even out side-to-side differences in strength.

Lying Leg Curl

The deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts that you do in the lower body workouts will work your hamstrings’ hip extending function. But to work your entire hamstrings, you need to add an exercise where you flex your knee, such as the lying leg curl.

Hanging Leg Raise

Your core muscles are worked thoroughly in this upper/lower body split, but if there is one aspect of your core that doesn’t get direct work from the basic part of the program, it is your front abdominal muscles.

The hanging leg raise corrects this, working both your abs and your hip flexors. Too heavy? Do hanging knee raises instead. Too easy? Do strict toes to bar.

Kneeling Ab Wheel Roll-Out

The kneeling ab wheel roll-out is another excellent exercise to target your abs. You can make this exercise easier by rolling out against a wall to limit your range of motion and then gradually increase it as you get stronger. And if you get really strong, you can do them standing on your feet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most frequently asked questions we hear about upper/lower split routines.

  1. What is an upper/lower split?
  2. Is an upper lower split good for beginners?
  3. Is it better to train full body or split?
  4. Is the bro split or upper/lower split better?
  5. How long should I rest between sets?

1. What Is an Upper/Lower Split?

An upper/lower split program is a way of organizing your training into upper and lower body workouts, performed on separate days. On the upper-body days, you work muscles such as your chest, back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. On the lower days, you work muscles such as your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

2. Is an Upper Lower Split Good for Beginners?

While it can definitely work, we still recommend beginners to stick to a full-body workout program for the first few months of their training, as it allows them more frequent practice of all the exercises, and because they don’t need a lot of training volume per body part to gain strength and muscle. We recommend our beginner barbell program.

3. Is It Better to Train Full Body or Split?

None is necessarily better or worse than the other, they just have different pros and cons. Full-body workouts are typically good for beginners, for people short on time, or for people who want to work every muscle group many times per week.

In full-body workouts, you train your whole body every workout, but at the cost of focus: no muscle group really gets your full attention. An upper/lower workout split is generally a good sweet spot for intermediate lifters where you can work each body part well, but still don’t need to spend every day in the gym.

4. Is the Bro Split or Upper/Lower Split Better?

Compared to the bro split, the upper/lower split means that you are working more muscle groups per workout, and are generally spending fewer days in the gym. The classic bro split often only has you training one or two muscle groups per workout, which means that each individual muscle gets more attention, but at the cost of spending more days in the gym.

Generally, the bro split is better left to advanced lifters who need to train every muscle group with a lot of volume in order to grow.

5. How Long Should I Rest Between Sets?

Your rest between sets should be as long as necessary to complete all of your sets and reps at your desired weight and with a good technique. In the beginning, you probably don’t need to rest more than a minute between sets, but after you’ve been training for a few months, you might need to rest two or more minutes in order to beat the weights and reps from your previous workout.

Follow This Upper/Lower Split Program for Free!

Do you want to give this upper/lower body split a shot, and at the same time keep track of the weight you used last time in all the different exercises in the training program?

Then download our app StrengthLog and start following the program! The app is 100% free to download, and this training program is one of our many free programs, meaning that you can follow it and keep track of your training weights and PR’s completely free.

Download the app using the buttons below, or read more about the app here.

Thank you for reading, and good luck with your training!

>> Return to our list of training programs.

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Daniel Richter

Daniel has a decade of experience in powerlifting, is a certified personal trainer, and has a Master of Science degree in engineering. Besides competing in powerlifting himself, he coaches both beginners and lifters at the international level. Daniel lives in Lund, Sweden with his wife and three kids. On StrengthLog, Daniel geeks out about all things related to his lifelong passion of muscle and strength.