Upper & Lower Body Split – 3 Day & 4 Day Upper/Lower Routine

The upper/lower split is probably my personal favorite weight training split of them all.

It just works so damn perfectly for so many goals, situations and schedules that it tends to be the type of routine I end up using and recommending most often. Let me show you why…

What Is An Upper/Lower Body Split?

The upper/lower split is a type of weight training schedule that revolves around splitting the body up into 2 groups: upper body and lower body. Each group is then trained separately on its own workout day.

In most cases, the upper body workout would train the following muscle groups to some degree:

  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Triceps

(More about creating an upper body workout routine and using my template.)

On the other hand, the lower body workout would most often train these muscle groups to some degree:

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Lower Back
  • Abs

As for how the workouts are scheduled, there’s a few options. These are the most common…

The Classic 4 Day Upper/Lower Split

  1. Monday: Upper Body Workout
  2. Tuesday: Lower Body Workout
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Upper Body Workout
  5. Friday: Lower Body Workout
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

The classic 4 day upper body and lower body split is probably the most common version. It involves doing 4 weight training workouts per week: 2 upper body workouts and 2 lower body workouts.

They are classically done using the 2 on/1 off/2 on/2 off format shown above, which allows for the added perk of having the weekends off (something many people prefer). Of course, the actual days you choose really doesn’t matter at all as long as that same format is kept intact.

This classic 4 day version of the upper/lower split allows for a frequency where each muscle group is trained once every 3rd or 4th day, which is right within the ideal frequency range for the majority of people who are past the beginner’s stage.

The Classic 3 Day Upper/Lower Split

Week 1

  1. Monday: Upper Body Workout
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Lower Body Workout
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Upper Body Workout
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Lower Body Workout
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Upper Body Workout
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Lower Body Workout
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

The classic 3 day upper body and lower body split is probably a very close second in terms of how commonly used it is. It involves rotating through 3 weight training workouts per week: Upper Body, Lower Body, Upper Body one week, and then Lower Body, Upper Body, Lower Body the next.

You’d then continue alternating like this from week to week.

The workouts are classically done using the 1 on/1 off/1 on/1 off/1 on/2 off format shown above, which again allows for the added perk of having the weekends off (if that’s important to you). Once again, the actual days you choose really doesn’t matter at all as long as that same format is kept intact.

This classic 3 day version of the upper/lower split allows for a frequency where each muscle group is trained once every 4th or 5th day. While this is slightly less frequent than the classic 4 day version, it’s still perfectly within the ideal frequency range for the majority of people past the beginner’s stage.

3 Day Version VS 4 Day Version: Which is better for you?

Well, first of all, they both work extremely well and will both produce the results you want. So, in general, one version is NOT better than the other.

However, one version may suit you a bit better than the other. Here’s the most common reasons why…

If you can only manage to train 3 days per week (or if it would just be a lot more convenient for you to train 3 days per week), then the 3 day upper/lower split is definitely the better version for you. No question about it.

If you are someone who has an overall lower capacity to recover, then the slightly reduced training frequency of the 3 day version would definitely be better for you as well.

This could be due to age (recovery gets worse as we get older), having a highly stressful life (stress worsens recovery), having a very physical job (a lot of additional outside activity can hurt recovery), or just having crappy genetics. Hell, you may just be someone who feels better/stronger/fresher when they train slightly less often, in which case the extra day you have off in the 3 day upper/lower split will make a world of difference for you.

Other than that, there’s nothing that really sets either version apart from the other. So, just pick one.

Whichever variation you end up choosing, the upper/lower split is considered a moderate frequency split (not too high, not too low), so volume (exercises, sets, reps) should be kept equally moderate to allow for adequate recovery.

Are There Any Other Versions Of This Split?

Yup, there are. While these are definitely the 2 most popular versions of this split, there are indeed a few others. In fact, my brand new guide to The Best Workout Routines fully explains 2 NEW upper/lower split options, one of which is my personal favorite of them all.

What About Lower/Upper Instead?

If you’d prefer to switch the order of the workouts so that you start with the lower body workout (and it essentially becomes a lower/upper routine), that’s perfectly fine.

Who Does This Split Work Best For?

Honestly? The upper/lower body split works best for the majority of the population.

Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced trainee. Whether you want to build muscle, lose fat, increase strength, improve performance or any combination thereof, the upper body and lower body split can ALWAYS be set up in a way that will be extremely effective for you.

As I mentioned earlier, this split allows for each muscle group to be trained between once every 3rd and 5th day (depending on which variation you choose), and literally all research looking into workout frequency shows that this is the frequency that works BEST for the majority of people who are past the beginner’s stage.

Real world results and my own first hand experience confirm this as well.

And, it just so happens that the upper/lower split is a perfectly balanced and amazingly adjustable way to reach that ideal frequency. That’s why it’s probably my favorite workout schedule of them all.

So, if you are an intermediate or advanced trainee, the upper and lower body workout routine is a fantastic choice for you no matter what your specific goal is. I highly recommend it.

(For a full sample upper/lower program, check out The Muscle Building Workout Routine or any of the many workouts I’ve included in The Best Workout Routines)

Beginners on the other hand would still be best served to use a 3 day full body split.

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