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

This training program is available for free in our app StrengthLog! Download it for iOS or Android.

What’s important in a good training program for muscle growth and strength?

A good foundation is:

  1. Practice in the exercises that you want to get stronger in.
  2. Training with enough volume, with sufficiently heavy weights.
  3. Training with enough frequency to regularly stimulate growth.

In this post, I give an example of a training program for you who want to train four times a week, with sessions that take between 45–90 minutes to complete.

The program is adapted for you who are at the intermediate level. That is, you have some experience of strength training. You can view the training program as inspiration to create your own program, or you can follow it exactly as it is. It’s up to you.

The training program is designed to make you both bigger and stronger. It is equally suitable for gaining muscle mass during a bulk, as well as for keeping your hard-earned muscle during a cut. It is also suitable for powerlifting, especially if you add more bench press to the second upper body workout.

Explanation and Recommendations for This Training Program

This training program contains four medium-length training sessions per week. It is a half body split, which means that you will train two upper body and two lower body workouts per week.

The workouts are almost completely based around compound exercises which work several muscles at the same time. That is not only time-effective, but also effective for getting stronger and building muscle.

Some exercises are listed as “optional”, and they’re simply there for you to include as per your needs, wishes, and available time. When I personally follow this program, I usually skip the optional exercises and just stick with the ordinary ones.

The first exercise of each session is devoted extra time and attention aimed at increasing your strength, and the number of reps is a little lower. I recommend you to do 5 sets x 5 reps at the same weight, and if you successfully complete all sets, you increase the weight by 2.5 kg/5 lbs for the next session. Stick with that weight until you can complete 5 sets x 5 reps with good technique, and then increase the weight by 2.5 kg/5 lbs again. Start your training period off at a moderately light weight where you can easily manage 5×5, for example at 75% of your 1RM. Don’t worry, it will get heavy soon enough.

An alternative if you want to peak your strength and attempt a new PR, is that when the weights are getting heavy, you transition into doing 3–4 sets x 3 reps instead. Keep adding 2.5 kg/5 lbs per session using this set and rep scheme. If you want to follow through all the way up until ultimately making a new one-rep max attempt, you can finish off by training some heavy sets of two reps in the weeks before. Then test your one-rep max, and restart the cycle at 5×5 at a comfortable weight.

In the rest of the exercises, I recommend that you increase the rep range to something like 6–12 reps per set. This rep range isn’t as taxing on your body (or mind), but it is still easy to tire out your muscles properly with it. However, just like with the first exercise of each workout, you should still try to improve your performance each workout. Add a rep here and there, until you can increase the weight by a notch. Since you’re only training the same muscles twice a week, you can probably take these sets to muscular failure occasionally without worry. On the other hand, if you stop just short of failure that is probably also fine. An exception to the 6–12 rep range is front squats, where I recommend you stick to 5 x 5, simply because front squats don’t lend themselves very well to higher reps.

The rest between sets for the first exercise of each session should be as long as necessary for you to manage the next set at the desired weight and with good technique. As a general recommendation, this might mean that you rest up to around 4–5 minutes between sets if needed, though you’ll probably get away with less for the first few weeks of the program. For the rest of the exercises, something around 2–3 minutes of rest between sets is enough.

If you want to make the program a little bit more specific to powerlifting, a suggestion is to change the order of the overhead press and close-grip bench press on the second upper body workout. Do close-grip benching first thing in the workout (perhaps for 5 x 5) while you are fresh, and do the overhead pressing later in the workout.

If you want to include extra ab training, you can do so in the end of any workout where it suits you. For instance, you might do it in the end of your lower body workouts.

The Training Program: Upper/Lower Body Split

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

Upper Body Workout #1

  1. Bench Press: 5 sets x 5 reps
  2. Pull-Up/Lat Pulldown: 4 sets x 6–12 reps
  3. Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets x 6–12 reps
  4. Barbell Row: 4 sets x 6–12 reps
  5. Optional tricep exercise: 3 sets x 6–12 reps
  6. Optional bicep exercise: 3 sets x 6–12 reps

Lower Body Workout #1

  1. Squat: 5 sets x 5 reps
  2. Romanian Deadlift: 4 sets x 6–12 reps
  3. Optional additional leg exercise: 3 sets x 6–12 reps

Upper Body Workout #2

  1. Overhead Press: 5 sets x 5 reps
  2. Pull-Up/Lat Pulldown: 4 sets x 6–12 reps
  3. Close-Grip Bench Press/Dips: 3 sets x 6–12 reps
  4. Dumbbell Row: 3 sets x 6–12 reps
  5. Optional tricep exercise: 3 sets x 6–12 reps
  6. Optional bicep exercise: 3 sets x 6–12 reps

Lower Body Workout #2

  1. Deadlift: 5 sets x 5 reps
  2. Front Squat: 5 sets x 5 reps
  3. Optional additional leg exercise: 3 sets x 6–12 reps

Optional Additional Exercises

Doing “only” the explicitly recommended exercises in the program above and focusing on increasing the weight you use in them will get you very far. But, if you have the time and energy to do more, you could add some finishing touches by complementing the workouts with an extra exercise here and there.

However, I do recommend that you devote the lion’s share of your focus to beating your previous performances in the main exercises, and view these optional exercises only as the cherry on top.

You can find plenty of exercise suggestions in our guides on how to train your biceps, triceps, and legs, but below are a few suggestions.

Optional Bicep Exercises:

Optional Tricep Exercises:

Optional Leg Exercises:

In Conclusion

That’s it, buddy. Feel free to either follow the training program above exactly as it is, or make any adjustments you like.

The most important factor for your continued muscle growth and strength gain is that you continually strive to increase your performance in the main exercises outlined above.

Add just a little bit of weight, or add just one rep in a single set – anything to take one small step forward. It is the most important thing for your success, so make an effort.

This training program is available for free in our workout log StrengthLog, which will also make it easy for you to keep track of the weight you used last time, as well as all your PR’s.

Hope you enjoy the program, and good luck with your training.

>> Return to our list of training programs.