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

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Illustration of a man working out his biceps.

How often should you work out? That might look like a single question, but there are actually two questions in there:

  • How often should you train each muscle?
  • How many times per week should you work out?

For example, if you do 3 full-body workouts per week, you’d be training your muscles three times per week. But if you do a 5-day split routine, dividing your body up into 5 different areas, you’d be training each muscle just once per week. So it’s possible to work out more often while training your muscle less often, or vice versa.

So first we need to see how often you should train each muscle. Then we can talk about the best way to schedule your workout routine so that you’re training each muscle hard enough, often enough.

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Illustration showing a man doing a lat pulldown.

One of the most common questions we get is how to do lat pulldowns without a lat pulldown machine. People are training at home with either a barbell or dumbbells, and they aren’t sure how to replace the lat pulldown exercise with free weights. And, truth is, there’s no perfect replacement for it. We need to replace it with a similar exercise, not an identical one.

The movement that best mimics the overhand lat pulldown is the pull-up, and that’s great for people who have a pull-up bar and are strong enough to do them, but even then, it can still create problems. Lat pulldowns are often programmed in moderate rep ranges of 8–15 reps, but it takes quite a lot of upper-body strength to bust out that many pull-ups, especially when trying to use a full range of motion, bringing our chests all the way up to the bar. Plus, lat pulldowns are often programmed after heavy sets of chin-ups and pull-ups.

So what’s the best free-weight alternative to the lat pulldown?

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Illustration showing a man gaining muscle while losing weight.

What are the best supplements for people who are trying to lose weight while building muscle, aka, cutting or body recomposition. There are a few supplements that are good for this, and they all fall into one of three categories:

  1. Protein Supplements. Eating enough protein helps us gain or maintain muscle mass while losing weight. A good example is whey protein.
  2. Muscle-Building Supplements. Supplements that increase our rate of muscle growth, improve our hormones, or help us manage our stress can help us shuttle nutrients towards muscle growth, allowing us to burn more fat. A good example is creatine.
  3. Ergogenic supplements. If a supplement gives us the energy to move more, be more consistent with our workouts, or push ourselves harder while working out, then it can help us burn more calories and/or stimulate more muscle growth. A good example is caffeine.

Let’s go into each of those three categories in more detail.

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Illustration of a man doing the GreySkull LP program for mass gain.

GreySkull LP (GSLP) is a powerbuilding program designed to help beginners get bigger and stronger. It’s one of the more popular programs in the strength training community, and it’s often recommended to people who are interested in building muscle.

What’s interesting about GreySkull LP is that it’s a modern evolution of programs like Starting Strength, StrongLifts 5×5, and 5/3/1. It has that same foundation of heavy strength training, but it goes beyond that, adding in a couple simple changes that make it more robust.

So, is GreySkull LP any good at helping beginners gain muscle mass?

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Illustration showing a man with a stubborn, lagging chest.

How do you know if a muscle is stubborn? Much of the time, when someone thinks they have a stubborn muscle, it isn’t actually stubborn, they just aren’t training it properly. Sometimes growing stubborn muscles is as simple as following a better workout routine or choosing better lifts.

But our muscle-building genetics can vary from muscle to muscle, and most people have some muscles that are truly stubborn. So just because you’re building muscle overall, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your muscles will grow at the same speed. It doesn’t even mean that all of your muscles will grow at all. You may leave some in the dust. Why is that?

And how can we grow those lagging muscles? Fortunately, there are five fairly simple methods that tend to work quite well at bringing up lagging muscle groups.

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Illustration showing Starting Strength facing off versus Stronglifts 5x5

What’s the difference between Starting Strength and StrongLifts 5×5? Which workout program is better for beginners, which is better for building muscle, and which is better overall?

There are a few key differences between Starting Strength and StrongLifts. The first is the volume. Starting Strength uses 3 sets of 5 repetitions (3×5) as its main set and rep scheme, whereas StrongLifts uses 5 sets of 5 repetitions (5×5), giving it a much higher training volume. In theory, that should make it better for building muscle, but does it?

Another difference is that Starting Strength uses power cleans to develop power, whereas StrongLifts uses barbell rows to build the back. Again, this seems to favour StrongLifts for building muscle, especially in the upper body, but is that true?

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Illustration of a man doing a low-bar barbell back squat.

One of the most common questions we get is whether StrongLifts 5×5 is good for building muscle. More often than not, the question is coming from a skinny guy who’s new to lifting weights and is just getting started with barbell training. Is StrongLifts a good workout routine for a beginner who’s trying to get bigger and stronger?

The other people asking us about StrongLifts are often intermediate lifters who are seeing impressive increases in their squat strength, but they’re concerned that their bench press is lagging behind, and they’re worried that their upper bodies aren’t growing at the same pace as their hips and thighs. Why is that?

Finally, StrongLifts claims that doing low-rep sets on certain compound lifts builds bigger, denser, stronger muscles than all other training methods. Is there any truth to that? Is StrongLifts the best way to build muscles that are big and strong and hard?

Now, just to be perfectly upfront: this article is pedantic. If you get stronger at the big barbell lifts, eat enough protein to build muscle, and eat enough calories to gain weight, you will indeed grow bigger and stronger. The main principles that lay the foundation of StrongLifts are good ones. But how good are those 5×5 workouts for building muscle?

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Illustration of a man doing the close-grip bench press

The close-grip bench press is an assistance lift for the bench press done with a narrower grip. This narrower grip shifts emphasis away from your chest and onto your upper chest, shoulders, and triceps. It’s most commonly used by powerlifters to help them build a bigger 1-rep max on the bench press, but it can be quite good for gaining muscle size, too.

So, when and why should you do the close-grip bench press?

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Outlift illustration showing a man doing a barbell Romanian deadlift to build muscle in his hips.

The Romanian deadlift, also known as the RDL or stiff-leg deadlift, is a deadlift variation that’s used in hypertrophy training to pack muscle onto the hips and hamstrings. So, what is it, how do we do it, how does it compare against the conventional deadlift, and why is it so popular among beginners, bodybuilders, athletes, bikini models, and powerlifters?

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