Illustration of a bodybuilder doing a 4-day workout split routine to gain muscle mass.

How to Program a 4-Day Workout Split for Gaining Muscle Mass

4-day workout splits are a popular way of training, and rightfully so. You’ll see a lot of bodybuilders doing a chest day, back day, leg day, and arm day. And that can work, depending on how you do it. You’ll see a lot of athletes doing upper/lower splits, alternating between upper-body days and lower-body days. That can be great for gaining mass, too. And one of my favourite ways of training is to combine full-body workouts with a split routine, doing 2–3 full-body workouts and then 1–2 workouts focused on something more specific, such as bringing up a target area.

So not only are 4-day workout routines great for building muscle, there are also quite a few different ways of programming them, and all of them can be quite effective for gaining muscle mass and strength.

In this article, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of 4-day workout splits, how they compare against 3-day full-body routines, how best to program them, and then we’ll give you some sample workouts.

Illustration showing the results from training with a 4-day workout split to gain muscle mass.

How to Train for Muscle Mass

When building a workout routine for gaining muscle mass, there are a few factors that we need to consider. Now, to be clear, there’s nuance to all of this, but as a rule of thumb, here’s how how to train for muscle growth:

  • Choose good exerciseswe want to choose the lifts that are best for stimulating muscle growth, usually building our routines out of the big compound lifts: the front squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, and chin-up. After that, we can add in smaller lifts to work the muscles that aren’t properly stimulated, such as biceps curls and triceps extensions to build bigger arms. Fortunately, 4 days is a lot to work with. We have room for tons of great lifts.
  • Do enough sets per weekMost research shows that doing somewhere between 9–18 sets per muscle per week is ideal for building muscle.
  • Do enough reps per setMost research shows that doing 4–40 reps per set will build muscle, but that we gain more muscle more easily by keeping most of our training in the 6–20 rep range. Usually, the big compound lifts are done for fewer reps, the lighter isolation lifts for higher reps.
  • Rest long enough between setsto recover properly between sets, we usually need to rest somewhere between 2–5 minutes between sets. That allows us to lift harder in subsequent sets, stimulating more muscle growth.
  • Train often enoughto maximize our rate of muscle growth, we want to train our muscles 2–4 times per week, and 4-day workout splits are perfect for this.
  • Train hard enough: to make sure that we’re challenging our muscles, we need to bring our sets within 0–3 reps of failure on most sets.
  • Outlift yourself: we don’t need to hit PRs every workout, but we should always try to either add weight to the bar or eke out extra reps. That’s how we achieve progressive overload, becoming bigger and stronger over time.

There are plenty of ways to satisfy all these requirements, ranging from 2-day full-body routines to 6-day split routines. Still, different workout routines each have their own pros and cons, and some are certainly better than others. On the one hand, if you’re only training twice per week, it’s hard to squeeze all of those exercises in. On the other hand, if you’re training 6 days per week, it’s hard to manage joint stress and fatigue, and the workouts tend to be fairly inefficient.

For another example, if we look at 3-day push/pull/legs routines, the training frequency is too low. We’re only working each muscle once per week. A recent meta-analysis of all the relevant research shows that isn’t enough to maximize our rate of muscle growth:

Graph showing that training our muscles 2–4 times per week is best for gaining muscle mass, making 4-day workout splits a great way to build muscle.

So what’s great about 4-day workout splits is that they aren’t extreme. We’re working out a moderate amount with a moderate training frequency, and for most intermediate lifters, that tends to be ideal for building muscle. We can train every muscle 2–4 days per week, we have enough time to do all of the best exercises, and our workload is spread out over enough days that it’s fairly easy to push ourselves hard every workout. That’s why, if we do it right, 4-day workout routines can be absolutely perfect for building muscle.

The Advantages of 4-Day Workout Splits

Okay, so, we’ve covered how 4-day workout splits can be great for building muscle, and that’s true. But they’re not the only great way to build muscle. There are a few equally good options, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. For example:

  • A 3-day full-body workout routine.
  • A 5-day split workout routine.
  • A 6-day push/pull/leg split routine.

However, those 5 and 6-day routines don’t tend to offer much extra muscle growth over 4-day routines. They can work, and they’re great, but it often means spending more time in the gym without seeing much extra benefit from it. They’re more for people who enjoy going to the gym as part of their daily routines, or for people who enjoy doing very short workouts. So the advantage to 4-day splits, then, is that they’re more efficient without sacrificing much, if any, muscle growth.

That leaves us with 3-day workout routines. How do they compare? Pretty well, actually, especially for beginners and early intermediates. But as you get stronger, your sets will become more draining, requiring longer rest times. If you’re benching 115–185 pounds for sets of 8 reps, you may only need to rest 2 minutes between your sets. But when you’re benching 275 for sets of 8, that’s a different story. Those sets can be rough, and you may need a good 5 minutes of rest before getting back under the barbell.

When your exercises are that tiring, and when you need to spend that much time resting between sets, full-body workouts can become quite a bit longer and harder. That’s when it starts to make sense to either, a) do specialization phases, focusing on bulking up just a few muscles at a time, or b) add a fourth workout day.

Before and after photo of doing a 4-day workout split.
130 pounds on the left, 195 pounds on the right.

This is the approach I took after bulking from 130 up to 185 pounds using a 3-day full-body workout routine. My progress had plateaued, and I wanted to gain a bit more muscle mass, so I added a fourth workout day. And it worked. I was able to bulk up to 195 pounds while increasing my bench press rep max to 15 reps with 225. From there, I dropped back down to a 3-day routine and brought my 1-rep max up to an awkward 315 pounds—my lifetime goal:

So although 4-day workout routines aren’t quite as efficient as 3-day full-body routines, once you become strong enough, they can be a great way to continue gaining more muscle mass. An extra workout day means gives us more time and energy to train, allowing us to increase our training volume and intensity.

The Downsides of 4-Day Workout Splits

There are no major downsides to 4-day workout splits. The only real disadvantage compared to 3-day routines is that you need to invest the extra time into doing a fourth workout. That can mean going to the gym or setting up your home gym, going through a warm-up routine, doing warm-up sets, and you know the drill. Spreading your volume out over more workouts means more time spent prepping to work out.

The other thing is, you don’t always get extra muscle growth out of the extra time investment. When compared against full-body workouts, 4-day routines don’t always stimulate more muscle growth. For example, in this study, the participants doing a 4-day routine increased their chest circumference by slightly more, but still gained about the same amount of overall muscle mass as the group training just 3 days per week.

Illustration of a bodybuilder building muscle with 4-day workout routines.

With that said, 4-day workout splits are great. In fact, they’re tied for first place. It’s one of the very best ways to train. And for stronger lifters, they’re often the best approach. We get to train our muscles often enough and hard enough. Our connective tissues still get plenty of rest, and most people can recover from them fairly well. So if you want to add an extra workout day, I say go for it.

Sample 4-Day Workout Routines

What’s great about 4-day workout splits is that there are a variety of different options, and many of them are good. Let’s go over a few different 4-day workout splits, each with different pros and cons, and each for slightly different goals. Feel free to adjust these routines to better fit your goals. These are just rough frameworks.

These are fairly minimalistic workout routines. You can add exercises for the muscles you’re most eager to grow. You don’t have to, but adding extra volume is usually a good way to speed up muscle growth. If you want to accelerate your chest growth, feel free to add in some smaller exercises for your chest, such as push-ups, dips, incline bench presses, dumbbell bench presses, chest flyes, or a few sets on a chest press machine.

4-Day Full-Body Split

One of the best ways to program a 4-day routine is to cycle through 4 different full-body workouts. Every workout, we train a wide variety of muscle groups, giving us a great training frequency, great exercise variety, giving our joints plenty of rest, and allowing us to train our muscles while they’re fresh.

Illustration of a bodybuilder doing front squats to gain muscle mass.

You can shuffle the workouts around to fit your schedule. It’s pretty flexible. But here’s a good default approach:

  • Monday: Full-Body Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Full-Body Workout 2
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Full-Body Workout 3
  • Saturday: Full-Body Workout 4
  • Sunday: Rest

Full-Body Workout 1

  • Front Squat: 4×8 for your quads, glutes, and back.
  • Dumbbell Bench: 3×12 for your chest.
  • Romanian Deadlift: 3×10 for your glutes and hamstrings.
  • Neck Curls: 3×20 for your neck.

Full-Body Workout 2

Full-Body Workout 3

  • Deadlift: 3×6 for your glutes, hamstrings, and back.
  • Incline Bench Press: 3×8 for your shoulders and upper chest.
  • Incline Biceps Curls: 3×12 for your biceps.
  • Neck Extensions: 3×20 for your neck.

Full-Body Workout 4

  • Overhead Press: 3×6 for your shoulders.
  • Chin-Up: 3×8 for your back and biceps.
  • Overhead Triceps Extensions: 3×12 for your triceps.
  • Lateral Raises: 3×12 for your side delts.

4-Day Upper/Lower Split Routine

What’s great about upper/lower splits is that they give equal emphasis to both your upper and lower body, with each getting two dedicated workouts per week. This makes them popular among athletes practicing sports where sprinting is important, such as rugby and football, and among people trying to fully develop both their lower and upper-body muscles, such as bodybuilders.

When I first met Marco, he had just finished interning with the strength coach for the Yankees, Eric Cressey, and was working as the strength coach for his university football team and our Canadian Olympic rugby team. he was a big fan of upper/lower splits, and he made one for me. I was still fairly new to lifting, and that routine was what finally got me benching 225 pounds and deadlifting 315 pounds for the first time.

Illustration of a bodybuilder doing the leg press.

Another advantage to upper/lower splits is that they allow you to schedule all of your workouts during the workweek, which many people find easier. That way they can do their workouts before or after their work days.

Here’s an example of a 4-day upper/lower split routine designed for an intermediate bodybuilder training at a commercial gym who’s trying to gain overall muscle mass. You’ll notice that we use different exercises each workout. That way you get extra exercise variety, giving more balanced muscle growth. And you get more time to recover before being tasked with outlifting yourself.

No matter how you organize your schedule, your muscles will always have at least a day of rest between workouts. Still, these workouts can be taxing, and so if you can, it’s best to give your muscles 2–3 days of rest, spreading the volume out a little more evenly. That gives you a workout schedule something like this:

  • Monday: Lower-boy workout 1
  • Tuesday: Upper-body workout 1
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Lower-boy workout 2
  • Friday: Upper-body workout 2
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Workout 1: Lower Body

  • Front Squat: 3 sets of 6 repetitions (3×6) for the quads.
  • Romanian Deadlift: 3×8 for the glutes and hamstrings.
  • Leg Extension: 3×10 to improve quad growth.
  • Leg Curl: 3×10 to improve hamstring growth.

Workout 2: Upper Body

  • Barbell Bench Press: 3×8 for the chest.
  • Skull crushers: 3×12 for the triceps.
  • Barbell Row: 3×15 for the upper back.
  • Biceps Curl: 3×10 for the biceps.

Workout 3: Lower Body

  • Conventional Deadlift: 3×6 for the posterior chain.
  • Leg Press: 3×8 for the quads.
  • Standing Calf Raise: 3×15 for the calves.
  • Hanging Leg Raises: 3 sets of max reps for the abs.

Workout 4: Upper Body

  • Weighted Chin-Ups: 3×6 (or max reps with bodyweight) for the upper back and biceps.
  • Overhead Press: 3×6 for the shoulders.
  • Pullover: 3×10 for the lats.
  • Lateral Raises: 3×12 for the side delts.

4-Day Push/Pull Workout Routine

The 4-day push/pull workout is similar to the upper/lower routine. The difference is that instead of dividing your workouts between your upper body and lower body, you’re dividing them between pushing and pulling movements.

Pushing exercises include:

  • Front squats for your quads.
  • The bench press for your chest.
  • The overhead press for your shoulders.
  • Skull crushers for your triceps.
  • Neck extensions for your neck.

Pulling exercises include:

  • Deadlifts and barbell rows for your posterior chain.
  • Chin-ups for your upper back.
  • Biceps curls for your biceps.
  • Neck curls for your neck.
  • Forearm curls for your forearms.
Illustration of a man doing chin-ups to work out his back.

As a result, every workout trains both your lower and upper body, allowing you to shift the emphasis around as much as you like. For instance, if someone wanted to bulk up their hips, they could do back squats on push days and Romanian deadlifts on pull days, training their glutes 4 days per week while only training their quads and hamstrings twice per week.

Or if someone wanted to prioritize upper-body growth, they could start their push workouts with the bench press and their pull workouts with chin-ups, and limit their lower-body work to front squats and Romanian deadlifts. They’d still gain size and strength in their lower body, but most of their energy would be going into training their upper body, and so that’s where the majority of the muscle growth would go.

4-day push/pull workout routines are pretty flexible, but most of them are scheduled like so:

  • Monday: Push workout 1
  • Tuesday: Pull workout 1
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Push workout 2
  • Friday: Pull workout 2
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Here’s an example of how you might program a 4-day push/pull workout if your goal is to gain full-body strength with an emphasis on upper-body size and aesthetics:

Push Workout 1

  • Bench Press: 4×8 for your chest and shoulders.
  • Front Squat: 3×6 for your quads and upper back.
  • Dumbbell Overhead Press: 3×10 for your shoulders.
  • Overhead Triceps Extension: 3×12 for your triceps.
  • Lateral Raise: 3×12 for your side delts.

Pull Workout 1

  • Conventional Deadlift: 3×6 for your posterior chain.
  • Lat Pulldown: 3×10 for your upper back and biceps.
  • Biceps Curl: 3×10 for your biceps.
  • Reverse Fly: 3×15 for your rear delts.

Push Workout 2

  • Overhead Press: 4×8 for your shoulders
  • Leg Press: 3×6 for your quads and upper back.
  • Close-Grip Bench Press: 3×10 for your upper chest and triceps.
  • Skull crushers: 3×12 for your triceps.
  • Neck Extensions: 3×12 for the back of your neck.

Pull Workout 2

  • Weighted Chin-Up: 3×6 for your upper back and biceps.
  • Romanian Deadlift: 3×8 for your hips and hamstrings.
  • Barbell Curl: 3×10 for your biceps.
  • Neck Curl: 3×15 for the front of your neck.
  • Forearm Curl: 3×15 for your forearms.

4-Day Push/Pull/Legs/Arms Routine

One of the classic 4-day workout splits is to do a push/pull/legs (PPL) routine with an added arm day. PPL routines suffer from a low training frequency, but if we’re smart with our exercise selection, we can mostly fix that problem. To start, you can do your deadlifts on pull day, using them mainly as a back exercise, but also getting some quad, hamstring, and glute stimulation stimulation. And then on arm day, you can include some close-grip bench press and barbell rowing, mostly for your shoulders and arms, but also to give your chest and back some extra work. That way you’re hitting almost every muscle twice per week.

Illustration of a man flexing his arms after doing an arm day workout.

This routine is designed for someone training at a home with a simple barbell home gym, training to gain overall muscle size, but with extra emphasis on building bigger arms and shoulders, hence the extra arm day.

You can shuffle the days around to best fit your schedule, but ideally you’ll want a day of rest after the full-body workouts and again after the upper-body workout. That way each muscle has at least two days to recover before being trained again.

  • Monday: Push day
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Pull day
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Leg day
  • Saturday: Arm day
  • Sunday: Rest

Workout 1: Push Day

  • Bench Press: 4×8 for your chest.
  • Dumbbell Overhead Press: 3×10 for your shoulders.
  • Overhead Triceps Extension: 3×12 for your triceps.
  • Lateral Raise: 3×12 for your side delts.

Workout 2: Pull Day

  • Conventional Deadlift: 3×5 for your posterior chain.
  • Weighted Chin-Up: 3×8 for your upper back and biceps.
  • Biceps Curl: 3×10 for your biceps.
  • Reverse Fly: 3×15 for your rear delts.

Workout 3: Leg Day

  • Front Squat: 3×6 for your quads and upper back.
  • Good Morning: 3×8 for your posterior chain.
  • Standing Calf Raise: 3×15 for your calves.
  • Hanging leg raise: 3 sets of max reps for your abs.

Workout 4: Arm Day

  • Close-Grip Bench Press: 3×10 for your shoulders and triceps (and a bit of chest).
  • Skull crusher: 3×12 for your triceps.
  • Barbell Row: 3×15 for your upper back and forearms.
  • Barbell Curl: 3×8 for your biceps (and a bit of upper back).
  • Forearm Curl: 3×15 for your forearm flexors.

4-Day Full-Body + Upper/Lower Routine (My Favourite)

What’s great about doing full-body workouts combined with an upper/lower split is that it allows us to hit each muscle 2–3 times per week. It also gives you a lot of flexibility to customize the routine to suit your goals. For example, this routine is designed for intermediate lifters working out at home with a simple barbell setup who are training to be strong overall, give their upper body a bit of extra emphasis, and look awesome. (This is how we built the 4-day Outlift workout routine.)

Illustration of a bodybuilder building muscle.

You’ll notice that we use different exercises each workout. That way you get extra exercise variety, giving more balanced muscle growth. And you get more time to recover before being tasked with outlifting yourself. For example, the bench press might make your chest sore for several days, but that’s okay, because the next upper-body workout emphasizes your shoulders.

You can shuffle the workouts around to best fit your schedule, but ideally you’ll want a day of rest after the full-body workouts and again after the upper-body workout. That way each muscle has at least two days to recover before being trained again.

  • Monday: Full-body workout 1
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Full-body workout 2
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Lower-body workout
  • Saturday: Upper-body workout
  • Sunday: Rest

Workout 1: Full Body

  • Front Squat: 3 sets of 7 repetitions (3×6) for your quads and upper back.
  • Good Morning: 3×9 for your glutes, hamstrings, and spinal erectors.
  • Barbell Curl: 3×10 for your biceps.
  • Neck Curl: 3×20 to bulk up the front of your neck.

Workout 2: Full Body

  • Barbell Bench Press: 3×8 for your chest.
  • Skull crushers: 3×12 for your triceps.
  • Barbell Row: 3×15 for your upper back and forearms.
  • Neck Extensions: 3×20 to bulk up the back of your neck.

Workout 3: Lower Body

  • Conventional Deadlift: 3×7 for the posterior chain.
  • Zercher Squat: 3×9 for the quads, spinal erectors, and traps.
  • Hanging Leg Raise: 3 sets of max reps for the abs.
  • Neck Curls: 3×20 to bulk up the front of your neck.

Workout 4: Upper Body

  • Weighted Chin-Ups: 3×7 (or max reps with bodyweight) for your upper back and biceps.
  • Overhead Press: 3×7 for your shoulders.
  • Weighted Dips: 3×9 for your chest and triceps.
  • Lateral Raises: 3×12 for your side delts.


3-day full-body routines are often the best default for new lifters. But as you get stronger, the heavier weights will tire you out, you’ll need to rest longer between sets, and your workouts can start to drag. At that point, it can help to either focus on just a few muscles at a time, or to add a fourth workout day. That’s where 4-day workout splits come in. The extra day allows us to shorten our workouts, increase our training volume, and increase our training intensity.

Illustration of a man's results after doing a 4-day split workout program.

4-day workout routines aren’t the only good way for an intermediate lifter to train. Could you get by with 3 days? Yeah. Could you add a fifth or sixth day? Absolutely. But 4-day workout programs can be both efficient and effective, making them a great default.

There are many different ways of programming a 4-day workout split, each with their own pros and cons. For athletics and bodybuilding, upper/lower splits tend to work well because they emphasize full development of your legs. For general strength and aesthetics, full-body splits, body-part splits, and hybrid routines tend to work because they can put more emphasis on your chest, back, arms, and neck. My favourite approach is combining two full-body workouts with an upper-lower split. I find it gives the best of both worlds.

Cover illustration of the Outlift intermediate bulking program for naturally skinny guys.

As always, if you want a customizable workout program (and full guide) that builds these principles in, check out our Outlift Intermediate Bulking Program, which includes both 3-day and 4-day workout routines. We also have our Bony to Beastly (men’s) program and Bony to Bombshell (women’s) program for skinny and skinny-fat beginners, which use 3-day full-body workout routines. If you liked this article, you’ll love the full programs.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained 65 pounds at 11% body fat and has ten years of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

How to build 20 to 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Even if you have failed before


  1. Farhan Hussain on November 22, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    Hi Shane, 4 days workouts are quite useful. Many strength/powerlifting programs are also based on 4 days a week.

    You have discussed full body + upper lower combination above. However, in both the full body days, I could not find upper body pressing and pulling. Is there any reason for this?

    What I have known till now is that, to qualify as a full body workout, there has to be at least one exercise each for upper body pulling, upper body pressing, and one lower body exercise.

    • Shane Duquette on November 22, 2020 at 2:25 pm

      Hey Farhan, yeah! I’ve seen a lot of strength, powerlifting, and powerbuilding programs using 4-day routines, with upper/lower splits seeming the most common.

      The first full-body day includes front squats, good mornings, and curls, both of which train the upper back, albeit isometrically. You’re correct that there’s no pressing, but that’s okay—we’re only aiming for a frequency of 2–3 times per week. The second full-body day includes the bench press and barbell row, which are absolutely upper-body pressing and pulling movements. And then, of course, we have more upper-body pressing and pulling on the upper-body day, which is how we hit our frequency of 2–3 times per week for all of those muscles.

      As for what counts as a full-body workout, I think the idea is train most of the muscles in our bodies. I mean, if you have a full-body workout consisting of a squat, bench press, and barbell row, it satisfies your definition, but there’s nothing for the hamstrings, biceps, neck, calves, abs, and so on. Similarly, our sample full-body workouts don’t train every muscle enough to provoke growth, but they do train a wide variety of muscles throughout our bodies. But this is just semantics. We could just call them a most-body workouts instead of full-body workouts 😛

      Also, keep in mind that these are just samples. It’d be fair to look at that routine and want more pulling movements, say. In that case, you’d swap or add those pulling movements in 🙂

  2. Farhan Hussain on November 23, 2020 at 5:46 am

    Yes Shane, I like your using the term “most body workout” it gives more accurate picture. In fact most of the full body workouts we see on internet or texts are infact most body in nature.

    Shane, can we replace neck curls with shrugs? Do these work same muscle?

    Secondly, I have a feeling that whenever squats and deadlifts or their variations are used in an upper-lower split, the program no longer remains an upper-lower. Reason is that squats and deadlifts, although primarily lower body lifts, heavily engage upper body. Deadlifts directly and actively engage traps and arms whereas squats use them passively. Lats are also under significant load in both. Spinal errectors are almost equally used in both. So I believe it interferes with recovery from upper body workouts.

    I think pull-push split is more realistic because squats being lower body push goes with pressing days and deadlifts being lower body pulls merge into pulling days.

    How do you see this.

    • Shane Duquette on November 23, 2020 at 8:42 am

      Yes, you’re right. All of the names for workout types are approximations. When you do a pull workout, say, doing chin-ups or pullovers, then you work the long head of your triceps, which pulls your elbow back towards your torso. So you’re working a “push” muscle, you know? Same with leg workouts, where you often wind up working your spinal erectors and traps. So a full-body workout is a most-body workout, a pull workout is a mostly-pull workout, a leg workout is a mostly-leg workout, and so on. But that’s okay. When programming workouts, we need to keep those things in mind, but that doesn’t invalidate the idea of focusing some workouts more on some muscles than others.

      For your example, talking about spinal erector fatigue, that can happen. If you do a deadlift one day and you’re training your upper back the next day, yeah, you might want to do chest-supported t-bar rows instead of barbell rows to spare your spinal erectors. Or chin-ups. Or lat pulldowns. That kind of thing.

      Push/pull splits can work, too. There are a lot of good ways of organizing splits.

      Neck curls and shrugs work different muscles. Neck curls work the sternocleidomastoid muscles, which are the muscles along the front of your neck, which make your neck look thicker. The shrug works the upper traps, which are the muscles that connect your shoulders to your neck, making your shoulder girdle look more muscular. A good neck routine should include lifts for both of those muscles, as well the spinal erectors on the back of your neck, which you can train with neck extensions.

      • Farhan Hussain on November 23, 2020 at 1:06 pm

        Thanks a lot Shane, for the detailed reply. Appreciated.

        • Shane Duquette on November 23, 2020 at 1:27 pm

          My pleasure, Farhan! I hope it helps.

          • Farhan Hussain on November 23, 2020 at 1:41 pm

            Yes sure.

  3. Thomas on November 25, 2020 at 4:50 am

    Hi Shane, love the program.
    I find the workout #2 the least tiring, while workout #3 and #4 the most tiring. So now I am doing workout #1 and #2 without rest day in between, and workout #3 and #4 with rest day in between.
    #1 and #2 are a bit fatiguing for the lower back but it is manageable.
    #3 and #4 are very fatiguing for the lower and upper back so i prefer to put a day of rest so to maximize the performance.
    Wondering if anyone else does it this way..

    • Shane Duquette on November 25, 2020 at 9:53 am

      Hey Thomas, so glad to hear that you’re liking the Outlift Program! 😀

      Yeah, it’s okay to schedule the workouts that way. And I hear you about workout 3 being hard enough on the spinal erectors that an extra day of rest can make sense.

  4. JK on November 26, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Hi, I’m doing a 4 day training routine but slightly different than the ones you’ve described (duh there are so many possibilities no way you could list all of them). But I’m just wondering what you think about it 🙂

    Day 1 : Turkish getup 10 min, front squats 3×8, dumbbell rows 3×8, standing pullover 3×6, alternating dumbbell curls 3×12

    Day 2: Kettlebell swings 10×10, kettlebell clean & press 3×6, bench press 3×10, dumbbell fly 3×10, skullcrusher 3×10

    Day 3: rest

    Day 4: repeat day 1

    Day 5: repeat day 2

    Day 6 and 7: rest

    Thx for any kind of answer 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on November 26, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      Hey JK, that routine sounds really cool!

      The Turkish get-ups, kettlebell swings, and kettlebell clean and presses aren’t hypertrophy lifts. They aren’t ideal for building muscle. But they’re great for developing athleticism, power, and general strength. They’re great movements. And you’ve got a great selection of good muscle-building and strength lifts there, too. Looks great.

  5. Farhan Hussain on November 27, 2020 at 2:09 am

    Hi Shane, if given a choice, do you think 4 days a week would yield better results than 3 days a week provided that you keep all other parameters the same ie choose same big lifts, reps, sets, intensity, etc. for both options?

    • Shane Duquette on November 27, 2020 at 7:34 am

      Hey Farhan, fair question.

      I think the main advantage of adding a fourth day is that it spreads the training volume out over an extra day. For an oversimplified example, let’s say that the ideal number of sets per week for your muscles is 10. Is that easier to fit into a 3-day routine or a 4-day routine? And which gives you better workouts, where you have enough energy to do each set with good effort?

      For a beginner or early intermediate, oftentimes 3-day workouts are better for that. There’s a bit less soreness to juggle, rest times can be shorter, the ideal volume isn’t that high, and most beginners aren’t trying to juggle a bunch of isolation lifts for lagging muscle groups (calf raises, forearm curls, etc). 3 intense workouts per week works very well.

      But when those workouts get difficult, yeah, I think there can be a real muscle-building advantage to adding a fourth day, especially if you’re trying to bulk up almost everything at once. Maybe as an intermediate, you only have enough energy to manage 3–5 exercises per workout, and doing them takes a full hour. In that case, a 3-day routine allows for 9–15 sets overall, whereas a 4-day routine allows for 12–20. That can be a real advantage. And if the sets you’re adding in are, say, 4 sets for your neck, then the 4-day routine is allowing you to bulk up an area that you didn’t have time for with the 3-day routine.

      With that said, if you prefer training 3 days per week (as I do), then you can simply do specialization phases. Scale back the volume on some muscle groups to make room for others. For example, spend 3 months focusing on your chest and bench press while making slower progress on everything else, then spend a couple of months building bigger arms while scaling back the chest training, and so on.

      So, yes, if you’re an intermediate lifter and you have the time for it, 4-day routines can offer an advantage. But if you aren’t doing extra exercises or sets, or if it isn’t giving you more energy, then that advantage disappears.

      • Farhan Hussain on November 27, 2020 at 7:48 am

        Thank you so much Shane , for the detailed response. It clears up my confusion.

        3 intense workouts leave me exhausted, adding 4th day for some easier stuff and isolation work for lagging parts is good idea.

  6. Giovanni on November 27, 2020 at 7:04 am

    the article contains your answer already. They are the same. But four days are less tiring

    • Farhan Hussain on November 27, 2020 at 7:41 am

      Hi Giovanni, I actually mean 3 days per week split routine vs 4 days a week split routine. Article has discussed 3 days per week full body routines.

      • Shane Duquette on November 27, 2020 at 7:46 am

        Oh, oops, I answered your question incorrectly then. 3-day routines are good but they aren’t ideal. 4-day splits are better. We’ve got an article discussing 3-day split routines here.

        • Farhan Hussain on November 27, 2020 at 7:50 am

          That’s okey Shane, no problem, I shall check the linked article shortly.

  7. Shawn on January 3, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Shane! Loving the article! I’ve got a few questions regarding the full body + upper/lower routine if you dont mind.

    1. As a intermediate lifter, are 4 workout exercises per session enough? Because to my understanding, it’s usually at least 5-6 workouts.
    2. I usually find it easier if I just round up the reps to 10 but I would genuinely like to know is there a reason behind certain workouts being less than 10 reps? IE: deadlift, bench press etc…

    Thanks in advance for the reply Shane!

    • Shane Duquette on January 3, 2021 at 1:53 pm

      Hey Shawn, thank you!

      You’re asking if doing 4 exercises per workout is enough for an intermediate lifter? We often use more exercises for beginners, fewer for intermediates. Beginners aren’t as good at activating their muscles, aren’t as strong, don’t have as much muscle, and so they don’t need to rest as long between sets and don’t get as fatigued. For stronger lifters, though, they often need to do more warm-up sets and they may need to rest 3–5 minutes between each exercise, and so doing more exercises each workout can really start to drag. It’s up to you, though. You can do more if you have the time and energy for it.

      10 reps per set is great, yeah. No problem with that. We normally do fewer reps on the bigger lifts just to make it a bit easier. Squats and deadlifts can get pretty tough when you do them for 10+ reps. They still work great, though.

  8. Johan Salvador on March 7, 2021 at 12:49 pm

    Hi, I was wondering weather this should be done with heavy weight or moderate? I don’t think it states this in the article. I know usually with hypertrophic exercises it’s preferred not going heavy.

    • Shane Duquette on March 7, 2021 at 2:03 pm

      Hey Johan,

      We gave some sample rep ranges and we recommend bringing your sets near failure. From that, you can tell how heavy to lift.

      So with something like this:

      Front Squat: 4×8 for your chest.

      What we’re recommending is doing 4 sets of 8 repetitions with a weight that you can do around 10 reps with. That’s probably around 75% of your 1-rep max, which isn’t TOO heavy.

  9. Jason on March 23, 2021 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Shane,

    In the listing of the 1st 4 day workout (4-DAY FULL-BODY SPLIT) it shows the following:

    (Workout 3): Incline Bench Press: 3×8 for your glutes and hamstrings.
    (Workout 4): Chin-Up: 3×8 for your glutes and hamstrings.

    I think the muscles worked descriptions are incorrect. However before I start the workout I want to make sure the descriptions are the incorrect item and not the workout. I.E. the exercise names are mistakes but the descriptions are correct.

    Hope that makes sense and not trying to nitpick I just want to do the exercises exactly as they are listed.

    • Shane Duquette on March 23, 2021 at 1:29 pm

      Are you telling me that you don’t aren’t using your glutes and hamstrings to do the bench press and chin-ups?

      I’ve updated the article to be more clear, though.

      • Jason on March 23, 2021 at 3:07 pm

        The way I have been known to cheat on heavy weight exercises its a distinct possibility lol.

        Thank you for clarifying before I started!

        • Shane Duquette on March 23, 2021 at 6:15 pm

          And I’m sorry for the mistake! I switched around the exercises but forgot to switch the descriptions :S

  10. Derrick on October 12, 2021 at 9:42 am

    Thank you so much for this (and all) your wonderful information. I have a quick question/problem and would like advice:

    I only have four days a week available to go to the gym BUT they’re four consecutive days. There’s no way for me to change that. How can I best work out for size with that schedule? Fortunately, I can use the other three days to do body weight and pull up bar stuff, if that helps.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Shane Duquette on October 12, 2021 at 11:25 am

      Hey Derrick, I think you’re in a pretty good place. You can still do most of these splits. Upper/lower is probably the best for you since you’d work your muscles twice per week and have a day of rest before working the same muscles again. And then if you wanted, you could toss in a bodyweight workout in the middle of that 3-day period.

      • Derrick on October 12, 2021 at 12:47 pm

        I really appreciate your time. I’m happy because that was exactly my thought too! So I must be learning. Haha, thanks again!

  11. Abdullah on November 28, 2021 at 2:53 pm

    hey, so i started lifting 2 weeks ago and i needed a program that fits for me
    17 year old, 60kg, can only do 4 times a week. Its a bit similar to this one
    So i created one for my own (pls give it a look) as an upper lower split that is time efficient, all the supersets are just to save time because the equipment is next to each other
    Is this a good routine for bodybuilding? i want a balanced physique but i dont care about the glutes, i also want to improve my dips, pullups and pushups numbers
    thx for the help (ignore the the weight pls i know im weak)

    cycle: Week 1-2: RPE 7 (2 rep in the tank for sure)
    Week 3-4: RPE 7.5 (1 rep in the tank, maybe 2)
    Week 5-6: RPE 8 (1 rep in the tank, failure at the last set)
    deload: RPE 6 with half the weight
    –Tuesday: Torso day–
    pushups/dynamic stretching as warm up
    superset: 1min rest in-between
    bench press 3×6-10 30kg 2-3min rest chest, front delts
    reverse pec deck fly 3×10-15 rear delt
    superset: 1.5min rest in-between
    Egyptian lateral raises 3x 10-15 side delt
    pullups 3 sets AMAP
    superset: 1.5min rest in-between
    t bar 45dergee row 3×6-15 15kg back
    lat pulldowns 3×8-15 45kg
    dumbbell slight incline press 3×8-12 12kg/ 3 sets of dips AMAP

    –Wednsday: Limps–
    chin ups/dips superset as warm up
    Front squat 3×6-12 40kg 2.5min rest
    Deadlift 3×6-12 0kg 2.5min rest
    superset: 1min rest in-between
    Seated Calf raise 4×12-20 15kg
    Leg extensions 3×10-16 20kg
    superset: 1min rest in-between
    Ez-bar bicep curl 3×8-16 5kg
    Ez-bar skullcrushers 3×8-16 5kg
    Leg curls 3×8-14 25kg 2min rest

    superset: 1min rest in-between
    Chin ups 3xAMAP Tricep pushdown 3×12-16 25kg
    Pushups 2xAMAP

    3. –Friday: Torso day–
    pushups/dynamic stretching as warm up
    superset: 1.5min rest in-between
    chest supported row 3×6-15 15kg back
    lat pulldowns 3×8-15 45kg
    superset: 1min rest in-between
    bench press 3×6-10 30kg 2-3min rest chest, front delts
    reverse pec deck fly 3×10-15 rear delt
    superset: 1.5min rest in-between
    DB lateral raises 3×10-15 6kg side delt
    pullups monkey bar 3 sets AMAP
    dumbbell slight incline press 3×8-12 12kg/ 3 sets of dips AMAP 4. –Saturday: Limps–
    chin ups/dips superset as warm up
    Deadlift 3×6-12 0kg 2.5min rest
    Front squat 3×6-12 40kg 2.5min rest
    calf press 4×12-20 45kg 1.5min rest
    Leg extensions 3×10-16 20kg 2min rest
    superset: 1min rest in-between
    Ez-bar skullcrushers 3×8-16 5kg
    Ez-bar bicep curl 3×8-16 5kg
    Leg curls 3×8-14 25kg 2min rest
    superset: 1min rest in-between
    Chin ups 3xAMAP
    Tricep pushdown 3×12-16 25kg
    Pushups 2xAMAP

  12. ech on February 1, 2022 at 11:23 pm

    I like working out 4 days per week, but I don’t understand the point of splits. Wouldn’t it be better to spread similar exercises out more? For example, consider these two days from the upper/lower split example:

    1: squat, rdl, leg extension, leg curl
    2: bench, skull, row, curl

    I think I could do more weight on the skull crushers if I swapped with leg extensions and did them on day 1, rather than doing them right after bench.

    But, this idea of doing similar exercises all at once seems very popular, with one well-known programming author actually recommending bench, press, weighted dips, overhead tricep extensions in the same workout. This makes the extensions at the end really hard.

    What is the point? Is there a benefit to getting one part really tired even if it means less volume (weight x reps) overall?

    • Shane Duquette on February 2, 2022 at 8:42 am

      Hey Ech, that’s a good question, yeah.

      First off, your example is still a split. A split is any routine where the exercises are different from workout to workout. Most full-body routines are full-body “splits” because each full-body workout is at least slightly different. That includes the classic ones like Starting Strength.

      Back in the old days of natural bodybuilding, though, you did have some guys who did the same exercises every workout. If I recall correctly, the famous Steve Reeves workout was a single workout that he’d do every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Same exercises, rep range, and sets. He’d just progressively overload the exercises as he got bigger and stronger.

      The reason that the bench press and skull crushers go well together is that the bench press works the mid-chest and front delts fairly completely, but it doesn’t do a great job of working the long heads of the triceps or the lateral delts. So what you can do to make up for that is to include some triceps extensions and lateral raises alongside the bench press. That should get you about twice as much growth in your triceps and side delts from that workout.

      You’re right that doing the bench press will reduce the weight you can lift on your triceps extensions, but that’s not the end of the world. In fact, for a lot of people, that’s a good thing. Doing skull crushers as the first exercise for your triceps can be hard on your elbows, especially if you haven’t warmed them up yet. Doing them after the bench press often feels a lot better.

      If you’re only working out 3 days per week, you’ll want to hit most muscles most workouts. That way you’re training all of your muscles 2–3 times per week, keeping them growing all week long. When you’re training 4 days per week, body-part splits make more sense. That way you can give your muscles time to recover while you train other muscles. For instance: lower body one day, upper body the next.

      Finally, the more sets you do per muscle group, the more muscle growth you’ll stimulate, at least to a point. For example, let’s say that doing 6 sets for your chest each workout stimulates more muscle growth than doing just 3 sets. To get those 6 sets, you could do 6 sets of the bench press. But you’d get more balanced muscle growth if you did a wider variety of exercises. Maybe that means doing 3 sets of the bench press followed by 3 sets of push-ups or dips.

      But I generally agree with you that doing several similar exercises in a row can be a waste of time. I wouldn’t tell someone to do the bench press, then the dumbbell bench press, and then push-ups. That’s too much for the same area of the chest. I’d rather see someone do an incline bench press (for the upper chest and front delts), then dips (for the lower chest), and then triceps extensions (for the triceps).

      I hope that makes sense. I’m happy to clarify anything 🙂

      • ech on February 5, 2022 at 2:08 am

        Thanks! OK good point, I worded my question wrong: what I mean to ask is why not take exactly the exercises/sets/reps & days you would do with e.g. a 4 day upper/lower split and just “spread them out” into a 4 day full-body split?

        Incline, dips, and extensions makes sense! In fact I added overhead extensions instead of just presses because of your advice about this elsewhere on the site.

        But: wouldn’t you be able to lift more if you spread those out on different days? If I do extensions after incline & dips in the same workout, I would think I won’t be able to do as much weight on my extensions as I would if I did them after squatting instead. You mentioned recovery: is it better to rest a given muscle group and do all the sets for it 2x per week?

        • Shane Duquette on February 10, 2022 at 9:47 am

          As a general rule of thumb, it helps to give your muscles time to recover before training them again. That’s why body-part splits are so popular with people who train more than 3 days per week. What you’re describing is a higher frequency of training, where some muscles are trained two days in a row. That’s okay. You just need to be more mindful of recovery. I wouldn’t use a 4-day full-body split as a default, but it can absolutely work 🙂

          In most of our workouts, we do compound lifts before isolation lifts. And you’re right, by the time we get to our biceps curls and triceps extensions, we’ve already worked our biceps and triceps with chin-ups, rows, bench presses, and chin-ups. That means we won’t be as strong on those isolation lifts. That doesn’t seem to have a big impact on hypertrophy, though. Plus, with triceps extensions, it seems to be friendlier on our joints.

          If you want to do your curls and extensions on different days or earlier in the workout, that’s totally fine. But if you’re training those muscles 4 days per week, you might be training them in a fatigued state. Their strength might suffer because they aren’t fully recovered from yesterday’s workout. But that depends. It can be a good approach. And if you had the specific goal of getting stronger at biceps curls, it might help to do biceps curls first in some workouts.

          As a default, we recommend training your muscles 2–3x per week. But 4–6x is fine in some cases. It depends. I just wouldn’t use high-frequency splits as a default. It’s much harder to manage recovery, especially in your joints and tendons.

  13. Andrew on June 12, 2022 at 9:53 am

    Good afternoon Shane. I have trained for some years and I know more isn’t always best but I am again looking into changing my program going from alternative upper/lower Inc weekends. Looking at a push/pull working each twice a week but I feel I need more back and also quad work. What would you recommend.


  14. Joshua on June 20, 2022 at 2:48 am

    Hi Shane,
    Do you have any recommendations for accessories (1-2) for the 4-day push/pull split (last one you recommended)?

  15. Abraham on August 30, 2022 at 11:54 pm

    Hi Shane,
    Why Is there only one chest movement in the 4-day upper/lower split?

    • Shane Duquette on September 6, 2022 at 11:01 am

      Hey Abraham, good question! These are just supposed to be minimalistic templates that you can use as a base. You can add extra exercises or volume on top. That wasn’t clear, though, so I’ve added a section on it. In our programs, we usually do this by having dropdown menus where you pick from a variety of suitable lifts. That way you can build on the foundation in a way that suits your body and your goals.

      Upper/lower routines are usually favoured by people who are trying to prioritize lower-body growth. Maximizing chest growth usually isn’t usually the focus. If you wanted to do an upper/lower routine with more chest emphasis, though, you can add in extra chest work. Think of adding exercises like dips, push-ups, incline bench presses, chest flyes, or some chest presses on a chest press machine. You could add one lift to each upper-body workout.

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