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

The Best 4-Day Workout Splits for Building Muscle

4-day workout splits are my favourite for intermediate lifters. 3-day splits are almost always better for beginners, but once you get to an intermediate level, adding a fourth day makes your workouts easier and stimulates more muscle growth.

When Marco was coaching professional and Olympic athletes, he would put them on 4-day splits during their offseason to help them bulk up. These people had the highest-performing bodies in the world, and they would lift 4 days per week.

You’ve got a few options. You could do a bodybuilder’s “Bro Split,” an athlete’s Upper/Lower Split, or you could try a slightly more unusual approach I’ve been using for the past 4 years with clients.

Before and after illustration of a man building muscle and losing fat (body recomposition) with a 4-day workout split.

How to Design a 4-Day Split

Training splits are a way of dividing up exercises to work your muscles hard enough, often enough. Let me quickly cover some of the factors to consider. That way, you understand what’s going on when we talk about the best 4-day workout routines.

There are plenty of ways to satisfy all these requirements, ranging from 2-day full-body routines to 6-day split routines:

What makes 4-day splits special is that they spread the workload so nicely throughout the week. For most intermediate lifters, the workouts are strenuous but manageable, the training volume is perfect, the frequency is ideal, and you still get plenty of rest days.

Illustration of a man doing the weighted dips exercise.

Are 4-Day Splits Good for Building Muscle?

Most research shows that 4-day splits can stimulate slightly more muscle growth than 2-day splits (study) and 3-day splits (study). They also have a long history of being used in bodybuilding and strength training. As I mentioned above, Marco would use them with professional and Olympic athletes.

I personally like them, too. 4-day splits helped me bulk from 180 pounds to 205 pounds. They brought my deadlift from 405×1 to 405×8. They brought my bench press from 250 to 315. They can be incredibly effective.

Illustration of a bodybuilder doing the leg press.

The 4-Day Upper/Lower Split

When I first met Marco, he had just finished studying under Eric Cressey, the head strength coach for the New York Yankees. Marco was working as the strength coach for his university football team and our Canadian Olympic rugby team. He adjusted the routines to suit the situation, but Upper/Lower Workout Splits were a staple of his, especially when his clients were trying to bulk up in the off-season.

Upper/Lower splits put half the emphasis on your lower body, giving you plenty of time for squat and deadlift variations. Those are two of the most important movement patterns for improving athletic performance. They’re also two of the best exercises for stimulating overall muscle growth.

You’ve also got two of each workout. That means you could use undulating periodization, doing lighter and heavier versions of each workout, training for both size and strength at the same time.

And you can put the rest days wherever you like, training on whichever 4 days you want to train on. Here’s the classic schedule:

Here’s a simple example of what a 4-day upper/lower split might look like:

Lower-Body Workout 1

ExerciseSetsReps
Deadlifts4 sets5 reps
Squats4 sets5 reps
Leg Press3 sets8 reps
Step-Ups3 sets10 reps

This is the heavier lower-body day, so the main emphasis is on getting strong at squats and deadlifts. The leg press gives your quads some extra volume. Step-ups are a similar movement pattern to the deadlift, but they train your legs unilaterally—an important part of training for sports performance.

Upper-Body Workout 1

ExerciseSetsReps
Bench Press4 sets6 reps
Weighted Chin-Ups4 sets6 reps
Overhead Press3 sets8 reps
T-Bar Rows3 sets8 reps

This is the heavier upper-body day, with the emphasis on getting stronger at the bench press, chin-up, and overhead press. The T-bar row gives your back some extra volume, speeding up its growth.

Lower-Body Workout 2

ExerciseSetsReps
Leg Press4 sets12 reps
Romanian Deadlift3 sets12 reps
Split Squats3 sets12 reps
Calf Raises3 sets15 reps

This second lower-body workout is designed to stimulate muscle growth in your lower body. We’re training the same movement patterns, but we’re choosing exercise variations that make it easier to train in a moderate rep range.

Upper-Body Workout 2

ExerciseSetsReps
Pull-Ups3 setsAMRAP*
Push-Ups (or Dips)3 setsAMRAP
Dumbbell Press3 sets12 reps
Dumbbell Row3 sets12 reps
*AMRAP: As Many Reps As Possible

This second upper-body workout is designed to bulk up your upper body. It starts with pull-ups and push-ups, both of which improve your core strength along with your pulling and pressing muscles. The dumbbell press and row will add some extra volume while training your arms unilaterally.

The 4-Day Push/Pull Split

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 divide 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.

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

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

Here’s a simple example of how a 4-day push/pull routine might look:

Push Workout 1

ExerciseSetsReps
Squats4 sets8 reps
Push-Ups4 setsAMRAP*
Overhead Press3 sets10 reps
Overhead Triceps Extension3 sets12 reps
Lateral Raise3 sets12 reps
*AMRAP: As Many Reps As Possible.

This first push workout focuses on squats and horizontal presses (chest), with a secondary emphasis on your shoulders and triceps.

Pull Workout 1

ExerciseSetsReps
Conventional Deadlift3 sets6 reps
T-Bar Rows3 sets10 reps
Biceps Curl3 sets10 reps
Reverse Fly3 sets15 reps

This first pull workout focuses on deadlifts and horizontal pulls (upper back + spinal erectors), with a secondary emphasis on your biceps and shoulders.

Push Workout 2

ExerciseSetsReps
Overhead Press4 sets8 reps
Leg Press3 sets6 reps
Close-Grip Bench Press3 sets10 reps
Skull Crushers3 sets12 reps
Neck Extensions3 sets12 reps

The second push workout focuses on vertical pressing (shoulders), with a secondary emphasis on your quads, chest, triceps, and neck. You can swap the neck exercise for another exercise if you don’t want to build a bigger neck.

Pull Workout 2

ExerciseSetsReps
Weighted Chin-Up3 sets6 reps
Romanian Deadlift3 sets8 reps
Barbell Curl3 sets10 reps
Neck Curl3 sets15 reps
Forearm Curl3 sets15 reps

The second pull workout focuses on vertical pulls (upper back + lats) and does a better job of working your hamstrings. There’s a secondary emphasis on your biceps, forearms, and neck. You can swap the neck exercise for another isolation exercise.

Illustration of a bodybuilder doing a 4-day Bro Split workout routine.

The 4-Day Bro Split

The most popular 4-day split is the Bro Split. It focuses on aesthetics instead of athletics. It’s the default routine for most casual bodybuilders. It’s a push/pull/legs routine with an extra arm day. It’s usually scheduled like this:

This split is often criticized for not training your muscles often enough. After all, if you only train each muscle once per week, those muscles will only grow for 2–4 days of the week. However, if you’re clever about it, you can sneak some arm exercises into your push and pull days, and you can sneak some pushing and pulling into your arm day.

Here’s a basic example of what a 4-day Bro Split might look like:

Workout 1: Chest Day

ExerciseSetsReps
Bench Press4 sets8 reps
Overhead Press3 sets10 reps
Overhead Triceps Extension3 sets12 reps
Lateral Raise3 sets12 reps

The bench press is amazing for your chest and good for your front delts. The overhead press is even better for your front delts. It also works your side delts. Overhead triceps extensions are for your triceps—especially the long head. Lateral raises ensure that your side delts get worked hard enough to grow.

Workout 2: Back Day

ExerciseSetsReps
Deadlifts3 sets5 reps
Chin-Ups3 setsAMRAP*
Biceps Curls3 sets10 reps
Reverse Flyes3 sets15 reps
*AMRAP: As Many Reps As Possible.

Deadlifts work your hips, hamstrings, and entire back. Chin-ups work your back again, this time putting more emphasis on your lats. Biceps curls are great for your biceps, especially after chin-ups. Reverse flyes are for your rear delts.

Workout 3: Leg Day

ExerciseSetsReps
Squats3 sets6 reps
Good Mornings3 sets8 reps
Standing Calf Raises3 sets15 reps
Hanging Leg Raises3 setsAMRAP

Squats are great for your quads and hips. Good mornings work your hamstrings and spinal erectors. Standing calf raises are great for your calves. Hanging leg raises are one of the best ab exercises.

Workout 4: Arm Day

ExerciseSetsReps
Close-Grip Bench Press3 sets8 reps
Rows3 sets12 reps
Overhead Triceps Extensions3 sets12 reps
Biceps Curls3 sets12 reps
Forearm Curls3 sets15 reps

Arm Day has more exercises, but the exercises tend to be easier. The close-grip bench press works your chest and shoulders but puts even more emphasis on your triceps (lateral and medial heads). Rows are great for your upper back, brachialis (under your biceps), and forearms. Overhead extensions are for the long head of your triceps. Biceps curls are perfect for your biceps. Forearm curls hit the forearm muscles the rows missed.

The 4-Day Outlift Split (My Favourite)

This is how we built the 4-day Outlift workout routine. It has a full-body workout, a lower-body workout, and two upper-body workouts. That allows you to train your favourite muscles up to 3 times per week, keeping them growing all week long. It also gives you more freedom to do supersets, helping to keep your workouts more efficient.

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

You can shuffle the workouts around to best fit your schedule, but ideally, you’d have a rest day between the first and second workouts. That way, each muscle has at least two days to recover before being trained again.

In my humble opinion, this is the best overall 4-day split for gaining muscle and strength. If you want to emphasize your legs, you can train them even more frequently than with an Upper/Lower Split. If you want to emphasize your upper body, you can work it even harder than with a Bro Split. We built those customization options into the program, allowing you to pick what you want to focus on from dropdown menus.

Here’s a basic example of what a 4-day Outlift Split might look like:

Full-Body Workout

ExerciseSetsReps
Squats3 sets6 reps
Good Mornings3 sets9 reps
Biceps Curls3 sets10 reps
Neck Curls3 sets20 reps

Squats are great for your quads and good for your hips. Good mornings are great for your lower back, hips, and hamstrings. Biceps curls are perfect for your biceps. Neck curls will bulk up your neck. You can swap the neck curls for any isolation exercise.

Upper Body Workout 1

ExerciseSetsReps
Bench Press3 sets8 reps
Rows3 sets12 reps
Overhead Triceps Extensions3 sets12 reps
Neck Extensions3 sets20 reps

The bench press is great for your chest and good for your shoulders. Rows are great for your upper back and lats. Overhead extensions are the best exercise for your triceps. Neck extensions will bulk up the back of your neck. You can swap the neck extensions for any isolation exercise.

Lower-Body Workout

ExerciseSetsReps
Deadlifts3 sets7 reps
Squats3 sets9 reps
Hanging Leg Raise3 setsMax Reps
Neck Curls3 sets20 reps

Deadlifts will bulk up your entire posterior chain, from your hamstrings to your traps. Squats balance them out, working your quads and glutes. Hanging leg raises work your abs. Neck curls can be swapped out for any isolation exercise.

Upper-Body Workout 2

ExerciseSetsReps
Chin-Ups3 setsAMRAP*
Overhead Press3 sets7 reps
Dips3 setsAMRAP
Lateral Raises3 sets12 reps
*AMRAP: As Many Reps As Possible.

Chin-ups are perfect for your upper back and lats. The overhead press is great for your front delts and good for your side delts. Dips are fantastic for your chest and good for your triceps. Lateral raises give your side delts some extra attention.

Summary

4-day workout routines aren’t the only good training split for intermediate lifters—you could do 3 harder workouts or 5 easier ones—but they often make for the best default, especially when you’re serious about building muscle or striving for body recomposition.

If you’re training for athletic performance, I recommend an upper/lower split. They’re better for bulking up your legs. If you’re trying to gain muscle and strength, I recommend the Outlift Split (full/upper/lower/upper), but Bro Splits are also quite good.

The Outlift Intermediate Hypertrophy Training Program (4-Day Split)

If you want a fully optimized 4-day workout split, check out our Outlift Intermediate Hypertrophy Program. It includes a 15-week customizable workout routine with guided progressive overload. It also comes with a full hypertrophy training guide. I think you’d really like it.

It isn’t quite the same routine as the one we outlined in this article. It has the same structure, but we’ve gotten more creative with the programming. The first phase is loosely inspired by classic bodybuilding, the second by modern natural bodybuilding, and the third uses undulating periodization, as many powerbuilding programs do.

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.