The diet and fitness world is filled with countless debates and arguments. This diet vs that diet. This training method vs that training method. This workout routine vs that workout routine. They’re mostly all just silly opinion based debates that will probably never end.
However, there are a few debated topics that really don’t warrant much arguing at all in my opinion. One such example is the “weight training split” debate. As in, which is best:
- Full body split.
- Upper/lower split.
- Body part splits.
It’s something people have been arguing about for years (probably even decades), and it’s a topic you’ve probably had your own internal debate about. Which split should you use? Which is right for you? Which will work best for you?
I think it’s time we end this silly debate once and for all…
Let’s Take A Look At Each Split
Before we get into which one is best, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of what each split actually is. So, here now is the most common example of each…
The Full Body Split
- Monday: Full Body Workout
- Tuesday: off
- Wednesday: Full Body Workout
- Thursday: off
- Friday: Full Body Workout
- Saturday: off
- Sunday: off
While there is also a 2 day version of this split as well as other variations that schedule the workouts a little differently, what you see above is by far the most commonly used version of the full body split.
It’s a higher frequency split that allows for each muscle group, movement pattern and/or exercise to be trained 3 times per week (or once every 2nd or 3rd day).
The Upper Lower Split
- Monday: Upper Body Workout
- Tuesday: Lower Body Workout
- Wednesday: off
- Thursday: Upper Body Workout
- Friday: Lower Body Workout
- Saturday: off
- Sunday: off
There are actually quite a few different variations of this split that I like a lot (and I explain the PROS and CONS of each in Superior Muscle Growth). But again, the example shown above is BY FAR the most commonly used version of the upper/lower split.
It’s a moderate frequency split that allows each muscle group, movement pattern and/or exercise to be trained 2 times per week (or once every 3-5 days depending on the exact version of the split you use).
The Body Part Split
Now while the full body and upper/lower splits have other slightly modified versions of what is essentially the same thing, there are actually dozens of different types of body part splits that vary significantly from one to the next in terms of everything from the schedule, to the number of days per week, to the body part pairings, to the training frequency.
I want to focus on that last variable for second. See, I think a HUGE part of the reason why “body part splits” are generally looked down upon is that the majority of them use a once-per-week training frequency per muscle group, movement pattern and/or exercise. As I’ve explained before, this is often the LEAST effective way to train for most goals.
The thing is, not all body part splits fit this description. There are actually a handful of them that use a more optimal training frequency, and this greatly levels the playing field when being compared to the full body and upper/lower splits.
So for the purpose of this comparison, THIS is what I’m referring to when I use the term “body part split” (not the much dumber low frequency kind). Here’s an example…
- Monday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
- Tuesday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
- Wednesday: off
- Thursday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)
- Friday: off
- Saturday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
- Sunday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
- Monday: off
- Tuesday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)
- Wednesday: off
- Thursday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
- Friday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
- Saturday: off
- Sunday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)
What you see above is what I like to refer to as the rotating push/pull/legs split. Unlike the dumber body part splits I mentioned a second ago that train each body part once every 7th day, a split like this trains each body part once every 5th day. That brings this split from low frequency up into the more optimal moderate frequency range.
And like I said before, there are a handful of other similar intelligently designed body part splits that effectively accomplish the same thing. Superior Muscle Growth actually contains most of them.
So… Which Split Is The Best?
Alright, so now that we are all on the same page in terms of what I’m classifying a full body, upper/lower and body part split to be, it’s time to settle the debate once and for all. Which one is the best?
Well, like most aspects weight training, what’s best for you always depends on your exact situation. What I mean is, the answer here depends on your specific goals, your experience level, your available training schedule, your personal preferences, and possibly even more.
Until you have those answers, it’s impossible to definitively say that any of these splits (or other workout schedules) are any better or worse than the other. Anyone who does is an idiot, and you can tell them I said so.
But once you DO know those answers, it’s much easier to decide which split truly is best for you. To show you what I mean, here are the most common examples that come to mind…
Determining Which Split Is Best For YOU…
- If you’re a beginner with virtually any goal (build muscle, lose fat, get strong, etc.), the full body split is what’s best for you. The higher frequency and the lower volume/higher compound exercise focus that typically accompanies it has been proven (both by science and the real world) to be most ideal for beginners. This is why the most effective beginner workouts on the planet are all built around this split (for example: The Beginner Weight Training Routine).
- If you’re an intermediate or advanced trainee whose primary goal is increasing strength or improving performance, the full body split or upper/lower split is what’s usually best for you. Research and the real world all show that a higher frequency per exercise/movement pattern works best for strength gains, and these 2 splits allow for that type of frequency to be met along with a balance of exercise selection, volume and intensity that suits these goals. This is why damn near all of the most effective strength oriented routines are built around these splits.
- If you’re an intermediate or advanced trainee whose primary goal is building muscle or improving the way your body looks, the upper/lower split or body part split is what’s usually best for you. Upper/lower has proven to be as effective for “looks” related goals as it is for strength/performance goals (after all, strength gains are a HUGE part of muscle growth), and body part splits practically exist for the sole purpose of training your body to look good (which is why they are based around training body parts rather than movements). This is why the majority of the most effective muscle building routines around use these splits (for example: The Muscle Building Workout Routine and the many programs included in Superior Muscle Growth).
Are there exceptions to these recommendations? Maybe, but they are definitely the minority. And does a person’s individual training preferences and available schedule also play a role? Of course.
But, speaking strictly in terms of what is most likely to work best for you based on your specific goals and experience level (and with all else being equal)… this is it.
Who Really Wins This Debate?
Uh… no one. Actually, if there is any clear cut winner here, it’s the person who isn’t wasting their time debating this nonsense in the first place.
The truth is, regardless of your exact situation, ALL of these splits will work for you to some extent as long as it’s used right. This is another important point people fail to realize. Full body workouts can build muscle just fine, and you can get pretty strong using a body part split. Honestly, as long as it’s all designed and executed properly… everything works.
Of course, this isn’t about what just works… this is about what works best. And in that case, certain splits are indeed better suited, better proven, and much more ideal for you than others, but the reason why is NEVER just “this one rules and that one sucks.” It’s because of factors that are specific to you.
Which means, the reason this full body vs upper/lower vs body part split debate is so stupid is because everyone is always right and wrong at the same time. NO single split is universally “the best” in every situation, yet each split IS “the best” in certain situations.
So anyone who just makes outright claims that Split X is the best split in the world and Split Y is the worst split in the world is likely to be one of the most ignorant people in the world… at least when it comes to weight training.
On the other hand, if a person wants to state that Split X is better than Split Y based on a particular set of factors (such as a person’s goal, experience level, etc.)… then they’re on to something.
And that “something” is often the true key to settling most weight training debates.
129 thoughts on “Full Body vs Upper/Lower vs Body Part Split Routine: Which Is Best?”
Hi my name is sam iam a avid lifter who loves weightlifting and your website my split that i use is similar to your body part split it goes like this
mon – chest shoulders tris
wed- back biceps
thus- legs lower body
frid- chest shoulders tris
mon- back biceps
tues- legs lower body
wed- chest shoulders tris
frid- back biceps
sun- legs lowerbody
i love your website and hope you give my workout your blessing i make sure recovery is on par like yours the best i can the reason i made it like this is because i work weekends and i cant workout them days.
I don’t really like having 3 workouts on back-to-back days (2 seems to be the ideal maximum for most people in terms of recovery), but other than that, it doesn’t look too bad.
Also keep in mind that if you want to use a body part split but just need to have the weekends off, there are plenty of other ways to do that.
In relation to debates I have a question about squats. My gym only has two smith machines and no free weight barbells. I assume that this is due to the fact that it’s a 24hr gym and because of all the civil litigation issues. So many people tell you that smith machines are detrimental to everything from exercise form to strength gains and you should stay away from them. I know free weights allow for more natural movement and engage your stabilisers more effectively. As I don’t have the luxury of choice it doesn’t really matter and I compensate with other exercises, but I am curious. Are smith machines ‘bad’ for you?
For most exercises and most people, yeah, the smith machine isn’t something that should be used too often, if ever. I mean, an exercise like shrugs are likely to be just fine to do in a smith machine. But being forced into that fixed position for squats? Not something I’d recommend.
Does your gym have dumbbells or a leg press? If so, some combination of leg presses, DB split squats, DB lunges, DB Bulgarian split squats, etc. would be a WAY safer and all around better option.
Hi again! Interesting response. I belong to Planet Fatness (saw someone grabbing tootsie rolls on the way out and just kind of mentally shook my head). Unfortunately it’s all I can afford at the moment. I have been doing my squats and deadlifts with dumbbells but I’ve already maxed the weight out since they only go up to 60lbs, so 120lbs total.
If you don’t mind, could you recommend a beginner plan for using dumbbells to replace squats and deadlifts. I would think you’d have to do perhaps 2 or 3 exercises to get the same results comparable to one of these heavy lifts, but I also don’t want to over do it. There are leg press, curl, and extension machines at PF as well that I could use. Right now I’m following your beginner routine to a Tee, just using dumbbells for everything and already seeing improvements in what I can lift even though I’m losing weight! Thanks!
Squats can be replaced with leg presses just fine, assuming you have one of those. Otherwise, dumbbell split squats would be fine.
For deadlifts, some kind of weighted hyperextension (bending at the hips, not the lower back) possibly combined with some leg curls should be decent.
Incredibly helpful article. If anyone needs help on exercise selection I can recommend this great one too http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/the_training_strategy_handbook
I have been using Version 1 of your 4 day Upper Body/Lower Body split and I like it a lot but my arms aren’t progressing as much as I’d like. You suggest a 3 day arm focused split simply by moving the arm exercises to the beginning of the routine.
Can this approach be adopted for the 4 day split as well? I appreciate that the other exercises might now not progress as fast as they would have otherwise because of the possible upfront arm fatigue.
Only a minor change but one of your golden rules is not to mess with the routines so just want to check 🙂
Are you referring to the arm specialization program in The Best Workout Routines? If so, there is actually one other REALLY important adjustment that is made to the arm work besides just the option of moving it to the beginning of the workout… arms get trained with lower body instead of upper body. This part is key.
And for this reason, trying to turn it into a 4 day version would mean 4 direct/indirect arm workouts per week, and that’s too much. This of course is why I recommend it with the 3 day upper/lower option only.
And just so I understand your situation better, what do you mean exactly when you say your arms aren’t progressing as much as you’d like? Are you referring to muscle growth or strength gains on the bicep/tricep exercises, or something else?
I’ve been weightlifting on and off for the past 10 years. For the first time ever, I’ve actually been consistent and have been going to the gym these past 3 months on an average of four to five times a week. I think I might be doing a little too much though. I have a fairly good mix of isolation and compound exercises and do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. My workout routine consists of:
Tuesday – Legs, back, chest
Wednesday – arms, shoulders
Thursday – legs, back, chest
Friday – arms, shoulders
Saturday – legs, back, chest
I didn’t realize until recently, though, that I’m actually working out my arms whenever I do shoulder and chest. Is this too much?
Yup, that split sucks for a variety of reasons. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it.
If anything, definitely less. But this split has way too much wrong with it to just be a matter of “less” or “more.” It needs a complete overhaul. Or better yet… just use an already proven split instead.
Just want to say thanks for your no bullshit website. It is REFRESHING! And I have grown in strength and mass!
Awesome to hear it!
I usually use what you call the rotating split. I just love it. It will be a while yet before I can get back to it but it’s definitely my preferred method. Especially good for isolation exercises but strength training’s good done this way too. Hmmm, can decide if I like rotating split or upper/lower for strength, though.
Yup, that’s probably my favorite body part split of them all. Although for strength, I like upper/lower better.
i would like your opinion on my split please.
mon-chest/tricep light weight high reps
tue-back bicep light weight high reps
wed-shoulders leg light weight high reps
fri -chest/tricep heavy weight low reps
sat-back bicep heavy weight low reps
sun- shoulders leg heavy weight low reps
Impossible to say for sure without knowing your goals, experience level, etc. But, generally speaking, it looks pretty bad.
For starters, virtually no one needs, benefits from or does best with 6 weight training workouts per week (3 or 4 days is optimal in most cases). And between the shoulder/leg day and the chest/triceps day, your shoulders are being trained 4 days per week. Throw in the back/biceps day, and your shoulder girdle basically gets 6 workouts per week (as do your elbows). I don’t recommend it at all.
I have a question. I have been lifting weights for a few months and have seen little results. I use to be a lot bigger and buffer than I am now and I want to get back to having bigger muscles. I have been currently doing the body part split but back when i was bigger I was doing upper/ lower body splits. Should I go back to doing upper/lower? I get enough calories and protein a day. I’m just not seeing the results I want. I’m trying to gain more muscle mass and strength.
Sounds like a pretty easy question to answer. If something you’ve previously done worked well, and what you’re doing right now isn’t working well at all… going back to doing what you used to do sounds like a good idea.
I have went back to doing the upper/lower splits and I have also incorporated deadlifts and hanging power cleans back into my work out. I really hope this will add more muscle mass to my frame.
It has been almost 2 months now since going back to my upper/ lower body split and I still have seen minimal improvement. My bench press seems like it is not increasing and I am not getting bigger also. I’m not sure what to do at this point.
How much weight did you gain during this period of time?
i have gained maybe around 5lbs or so but im not seeing any real results like i should be seeing
Hi, I’m naturally really skinny, so I need to gain muscle mass. I started last year with a full body workout doing lots of reps with low weight. Now, almost two years later, I am doing muscle splits, 3x per week (chest tricep, back bicep, shoulders legs)
I eat 6x per day and still have trouble gaining weight.
My height: 188cm
My weight before I started: 74 Kilograms
My weight now: 79 Kilograms
First question: Is my routine good for MY TYPE OF SITUATION?
Second question: I’m stuck benching 90kg, how do I progress to benching 100kg?
Kind thanks in advance!
The only info you provided is your split, and it’s the typical once-per-week frequency thing that tends to not work very well for natural genetically average people.
And any trouble you’re having gaining weight will be solved by eating more calories. The number of meals you’re eating per day doesn’t matter. Total calories are key, and you don’t seem to be eating enough.
That is something that no one ever told me.
What type of frequency would you recommend for my type of situation?
Last week I was told by a long time bodybuilder that I should switch to everyday workouts, doing one muscle group per day. He did not say anything about doing them more frequently. He also gave me some pointers on benching, like putting my thumbs under the bar instead of clenching it with a fist. He told me this makes the arms work less and the chest work more. He also told me to bench more weight than I can, but have a spotter help me, because effort is what counts the most.
Would you agree with what this guy told me? I have a hard time agreeing with the “more weight than you can” part…
I guess you recommend doing a muscle group two times per week instead?
Sounds like most of what this guy told you is crap.
That’s what I thought too…
Could you recommend a better workout frequency for natural genetically average people?
If you could point me to a good proven program, I’d appreciate it big time!
Or, my entire book of proven programs: https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-best-workout-routines/
Oh yes and almost forgot,
Third question: My chest isn’t growing as much as my back and triceps, although is it the main focus of my time at the gym.
What should I change about my chest routine?
I’d switch to a proven program and fix your diet so it supports muscle growth.
Could you recommend a good program?
If you can send me a link I would really apprciate it!
There are so many programs out there that I find it impossible to find one that is proven to work.
Read the whole guide here: https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-ultimate-weight-training-workout-routine/
Pay extra attention to the section on weight training frequency.
There are program recommendations at the end of the guide.
hi. i work a crazy scheduel, 12 hr shifts i will work mon,off tues and wed, work again thur and fri, then off sat, sun, and mon basicaly a 2,2,3 kinda thing. i work 1800 to 0600. realy having a hard time getting around this. mostly focusing on muscle but not ignoring strength either. what would you suggest with this type of work scheduel. losing my mind here. hope you can answer this cause no one else seems to want to. their eyes seem to glaze over when i ask. thanks.
Assuming you can only work out on your days off from work, an upper/lower split seems perfect.
OK, GOT A LITTLE MORE TIME TO GET MORE DETAILED. FIRST OFF IM 39 YEARS OLD, I WORK IN FEDERAL LAW ENFORCMENT, MY WORK SCHEDUEL IS LIKE THIS, MY WORK DAYS ARE MON, THUR, AND FRI ONE WEEK, THE NEXT MY WORK DAYS ARE TUES,WED, SAT,SUN AND MON. THE UPPER/LOWER WOULD BE PERFECT ON THE FIRST WEEK CAUSE I HAVE FOUR DAYS OFF, BUT ON THE SECOND WEEK I ONLY HAVE THREE DAYS OFF. WOULD THE UPPER/LOWER WORK OK WITH THE THREE DAYS OFF. I HAVE A GYM HERE BUT NO DAMN LEG PRESS OR POWER RACK FOR SQUATS. BESIDES WORKING OUT HERE IS NOT AN OPTION IF I CANT WORK LEGS. THEY ARE A MUST. SO, YOU THINK I COULD SACRIFICE AN UPPER DAY ON WEEK TWO OR NO? THANKS FOR RESPONSE ITS GREATLY APPRECIATED.
A rotating 3 day upper/lower is probably the best option. For example…
gottcha, ok that sounds great, thanks alot. love your website.
hi, ive decided to go with the upper/lower rotating 3 day split cause it fits my scheduel perfect. just have a few questions to get on the right track.
1. should i use all compound movements or could i add a isolation such as dumbell bench press and cable crossovers. or just do dumdell bench press with incline bench ,or just do 1 compound for 60-120 reps.
2. for my quads i was wondering if i could do 6 sets of 8-10 reps or would you add some leg press in, 60 to 120 reps total of course, my legs are my worst feature and i beleive legs make the man.
upper: dumbell bench press
dumbell bent row ( i feel more )
lat pulldown or pull ups
barbell military press
reverse flys ( my rear delts suck )
incline dumbell curls
tricep rope pulldown
60-120 reps for large muscles 30-60 reps for smaller
lower: back squats ( maybe all 6 sets 8-10 reps if im doing lower once per week )
lying leg curls
seated leg curls
standing calve raise
seated calve raise
but this is an example, just wondering if something like this is ok. any suggestions will be appreciated. thanks.
Use this as an example, or, better yet, just use this exactly as it’s written: https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-muscle-building-workout-routine/
ok. i will use it exactly to the t. i will let know how its goin from time to time. thanks for your time and its greatly appreciated.
Sounds good to me, looking forward to seeing how well you do.
Hi, I’m 18 years old, 5’6 and about 120 lbs. I’ve been lifting for about 2 months. When I first started to lift again, I started with whole body workouts every three days. I’ve recently started (over the past 2 weeks) to do monday, wednesday, friday full body workouts with heavy concentration in chest/triceps. I’ve seen some results, but don’t want to over train and have negative results. My question is, is this new routine a good idea?
Sounds like you’re still a beginner who’d do best with a basic 3 day full body beginner program like Starting Strength or my own (https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-beginner-weight-training-workout-routine/).
whats up, just wanted to let you know how things are going so far. first of all this by far is the best workoutout ive ever done in my life, i love it. just wish i was on a normal scheduel so i could do it 4 days a week, but oh well. ive seen good results in muscle gain and i can feel it. my shirts are getting tighter soon have to go up a size, thats no joke either. not all fat. lol, steady going up in weight so far 5lbs per week. my legs are growing!!!!!! lol added 1/2 inch and im just in week 4. but the realy scary thing is my diet is not the greatest, so far thats the hardest part for me, its better, but not where i want it to be. im gaining weight a little to fast in my opinion, gaining about 3 lbs per week my mid section is growing, but for the record not been doing alot of cardio ethier. dont want to cut my calories yet until i see what the cardio will do. any thoughts? this is great, cant thank you enough. ill keep updating.
That’s awesome dude! Glad to hear you’re progressing well.
I’d definitely recommend getting your diet in check though. Gaining 3lbs per week is wayyyy too much and means you’re gaining a lot of unnecessary fat. One pound per week is a good maximum to shoot for (anywhere between 0.5-1 pound per week is the sweet spot). I’d suggest reducing your calorie intake a bit until you hit this ideal rate of weight gain.
hey, just got back from gym, well last week i was 192 weighed myself today and i was 193 damn making myself out to be a liar but i did weigh myself before i started 4 weeks ago i was 184. so i guess it was more like 2lb per week, but like you said still to much. but i did find something out about myself 3 to 4 thousand calories is way to much for me. seems like 2200 to 2500 is ideal, but im still learning about my body, and being 39 yo is alot diffrent than 29 yo. just hate to admit it. thanks so much.
What about Push/Pull?
– Bench press
– Overhead press
– Bent over Rows
– Weighted chin up
– Bicep curl
I like Push/Pull, but doing it as a 4 day split will be too much for a lot of people. I prefer a 3 day split. Push/Pull/Push one week, Pull/Push/Pull the next (Mon, Wed, Fri).
hey, just completed week 8 still seeing gains, arms a little bigger, legs still growing also, chest about the same, also calves are about the same, shoulders width a little wider, waist smaller. staying around 190- 192 lbs. poundages still going up 5 lbs per week on squat, rows, and deadlifts. bench press, incline press, dumbell bp, biceps, and triceps about every 2 weeks but i add at least one more rep every time, so still a progression. even though i cant see that much of a change every one else does which is a good confidence booster. but hell even i know its a slow process. ive been taking this supplement called muscle pharm assult gives me extra energy suppose to have 3 diffrent kinds of creatine in it, but thinking of just going with regular ol mono from opti nut or muscle pharm any thoughts? thanks.
Awesome progress dude. It’s hard to notice your own body changing, because you see it all the time so the small improvements are harder for you to notice than they’ll be for someone else. That’s where measurements and pictures come in.
As for creatine, did you read this yet: https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/taking-creatine/
lol, monohydrate 5 grams per day every day. got it. thanks again.
hey whats up, well im half way through week 11 and im still seeing gains added size to all body parts even my calves, in some cases almost a half an inch!!!! this is amazing. lbs are also still on the rise. had to take a week off due to family issues(nothing serious) came back and haddnt lost an oz of strength, in fact was stronger on alot of exercises. just goes to show me that a body deff needs rest to grow. im up to 195 lbs now but look slimmer. i stopped going to the gym i had been going to due to fuel prices now i go to the ymca, its more expensive but evens out with fuel cost. anyway they dont have a leg press in there, well they have one but its one of those where you sit and the foot board is stationary and the seat goes back, basicly a machine type. cant get a decent rom out of it. any thoughts as what would be the best sub for leg press or would you just stick with the machine leg press? thanks so much.
Great progress man, glad it’s all working well.
That’s actually my least favorite type of leg press. If you like it though, feel free to use it. Otherwise, front squats or some type of lunge/split squat variation should work fine. Or, you can move the split squats from the other lower workout here, and do squats and leg extensions as the quad exercises in the other workout (instead of squats and split squats).
yea ill do that, im not fan of the machine leg press either. thanks for your response as always. bye the way, love the people that talk on their cellphone while working out. wow! lol
hey, got another question, have you written anything on cardio yet? ive looked but havent seen anything yet. thanks.
Nope, not yet… but it will be coming. I promise.
cant wait, thanks.
Any feedback on the following routine?
Mon: Flat bench, Military Press, Shrugs, Overhead tricep extension
Tue: Squats, Stiff legged deadlift, standing calf raise, Pullups, Bicep curls
Thu: Decline bench, Military press, Shrugs, Skull crushers
Fri: Deadlift, Leg curl, Seated calf raises, Dumbell back rows, Bicep curls
Looks like a 4 day push/pull, which some people will be able to handle with no problem. I personally prefer to see this split done over 3 days instead… push/pull/push one week, then pull/push/pull the next.
Main reason being that if you’re pushing/pulling 4 times per week, you’re putting a ton of stress on your elbows and shoulder girdle 4 times a week. Plus, it’s on consecutive days two different times. The 3 day version lessens/eliminates both problems.
Hi, I just purchased your The Best Workout Routines! I’ve been using your T.M.B.W.R. for nine months with overall great results.
I’m 39, 5’7, 180lbs, meso body type. My #1 goal is to have The classic V-taper(50’s bodybuilder) look as much as possible. Proportionally my legs are thick and short and my shoulders and upper lats don’t respond as well as I would like. I was thinking of using the Outstanding arm routine, but it focuses on the bi’s & tri’s without extra focus on shoulder’s or lats. With my goal in mind, which overall routine do you recommended?
Thanks you so much for your website and answer.
Well, if you’re happy with your legs and just want to put them at maintenance while focusing specifically on upper body, Upper Body Focused Training would work. And if your main focus of the upper body is back, you could move the back work to the beginning of both workouts before everything else.
1. Romanian Deadlifts
3 sets of 6-8 reps.
2-3 minutes rest between sets.
3 sets of 10-12 reps.
1-2 minutes rest between sets.
Seated Leg Curls
3 sets of 8-10 reps.
1-2 minutes rest between sets.
Standing Calf Raises
4 sets of 6-8 reps.
1-2 minutes rest between sets.
x sets of 8-15 reps.
1 minute rest between sets.
What exercise could i subsitute the first exerciese: romanian deadlift in this routine with?
The best deadlift substitutions are typically other types of deadlifts. Are you trying to replace RDLs or just deadlifting in general?
deadlifting in general. So what exercise could i replace the deadlift and rdl with?
Hyperextensions (from the hip, not the lower back) and cable pull-thrus are options to consider. Beyond that it’s mostly just glute bridges, hip thrusts and leg curls.
I’m using the upper/lower body splits as you recommended. My problem: I don’t want to do squats and deadlift. I have replaced them with only these on leg day(s): Leg Press, Leg Extensions, Leg Curls, Calf-Raises & Hyperextensions for lower back/hams. Plus Captain Chair for Abs.
However, upper body workouts are pretty much the same as you have described. Will my leg workouts have a negative effect on my overall developments considering the upper/lower routine?
Replacing squats with leg presses is fine. Replacing deadlifts with a combination of leg curls and hyperextensions (from the hip, not the lower back) might not be as ideal, but it should still get the job done. I would however recommend some kind of split squat or lunge instead of leg extensions if possible.
Hyperextension from the hip, not the lower back? Do you mean this exercise http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/ErectorSpinae/WtHyperextension.html
Something like this: http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Hamstrings/WT45HipExtension.html
Hi, I just have a quick question, why do you have that extra day of rest on there? What if I incorporated a swim day in there instead of that extra rest day? How do you know if you would benefit from that extra rest day vs an extra training day? Thanks!
Only experimenting yourself will tell you for sure. But when in doubt, extra rest day = usually a good thing.
Really like your page. So many people out there with so many opinions it can get overwhelming for many.
I use to do one body part per week three days a week. I done heavy weights with low reps and it worked well for me and i gained a lot of muscle. I would say the progression was slow though due to the 7days break between the exercises.
I really like the idea of the upper/lower 4day split but i have a question regarding the reps per week for smaller muscles.
So if I’m doing shoulders twice a week then that means I have to do between 15-30 reps a week on both days i do shoulders to make up the 30-60 reps a week.
So does that mean I have to split the 15-30 reps on a shoulder work out. so if i done shoulder press 2 sets of 7 reps which is 14 reps and then lateral raises 2 sets of 7 as well making that shoulder workout 28reps twice a week making it 56 altogether, under my 60 reps a week. is that enough? It feels like its not enough. how do I get in front lateral raises and rear delts? And this also applies to biceps etc as well. Hope this makes sense. Thanks again for your time in posted this great info. Peace
I like to have one day that is an overhead press, and one day that is a lateral raise. Front raises are redundant and very unnecessary in my opinion, and I’d put rear delt work in a separate muscle group category by itself.
I used to train using a bodybuilding split (yes, the least effective method).
I trained like this for about 3 years, being the last one consistent, never skipped workouts and lifted as much weight as possible and tried to progress.
After i read through your guide i switched to a beginner routine (full body 3x week).
I have noticed an increase in strength & muscle. My bodyweight is going up about 0.5lb weekly since my diet is optimized.
Its been 2 months and i feel like im getting to my limit in all my lifts. I struggle with most and end brutally beat. Is it normal or is the signal that is time to switch to an intermediate split?
Could be a sign you need to deload, could be a sign you’re ready to move to an intermediate routine… could be both.
Big fan of your website and all the great, well-explained info that you churn out.
I have a question regarding two day split routines that you recommend. I’ve seen the following two day split routines on your website: the Upper/Lower and the Push/Pull routines. These are both great routines, but I am curious on your thoughts on a third two day split option: Torso/Legs&Arms? Basically it would be the same as your Upper/Lower split options but with the bicep and tricep exercises moved over to leg day. The main advantage I see in this routine is that the total workout time is more evenly distributed whereas with Upper/Lower I found upper took much longer than lower. The other advantage I see is one could work the arms when they weren’t tired from the torso exercises. On the other hand, I’m sure there are disadvantages I’m not thinking of. What do you think? Thanks.
Are you talking about a 3 or 4 day version of that? If 4 day, I don’t like it. If 3 day (U/L/U, L/U/L), that’s perfectly fine and a split I’ve actually used/recommended before.
The main (potential) disadvantage is that the elbows and various tendons connecting to it are now heavily involved in every workout. For many, this won’t be a problem at all. For some, it has the potential to be.
What do you consider is the best for muscle growth between push/pull/legs and upper/lower split?
Don’t really have a favorite… I like ’em both.
Hey, I’m designing my own 2 body part split:
Workout 1: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
Workout 2: Back, Biceps
I’m not sure where I should add legs. I’m thinking of adding Hams to Workout 1 and Quads and Calves to Workout 2.
In a split like this, you typically wanna put quads/calves in workout 1 (so now it’s a total body “push” day) and hamstrings in workout 2 (for a total body “pull” day).
This is what I was doing for a couple years and worked fantastic for me. I had to ramp up from what you show on for body part split to this though. It took a couple weeks before I was able to workout 6 days a week and not be too sore to do my full workout, but ultimately it’s what got my body to where i wanted it to be. Is there a reason why I never see a split like this on sites?
I can eat whatever i want (within reason) and just make sure I spend a full hour after warmup working out to the best of my ability. I went from benching 90lbs to 275 in 2 years. I’m not going that heavy anymore and have changed my routine to be an upper/lower split with weights in the morning before work and cardio at the end of the day, which seems to be going well. I’m really only doing this until I get to the point where I can lift what I want again, at which point I’ll be switching back to the split below. Criticism is welcome.
Monday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
Tuesday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
Wednesday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)
Thursday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
Friday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
Saturday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)
I definitely wouldn’t recommend 6 consecutive training days to anyone. So based on that alone, this isn’t a split I like.
I’m 24, 225 lb, 6 ft tall and never have really been all that active in fitness tell recently.
Skip the next 2 paragraphs if you just want to see my workout questions.
I was up to 285lb at my max in high school when i was really unhealthy ( ate allot and played to much wow Lol). My senior year i lost 95lb in less then a year just by changing my diet. But because of me not being very active when i got below 200lb, i was eating very little around 1800 calories a day. When i moved out and started college i gained it all back in 2 years (drinking smoking partying). After being fat for a while i did some research and watch a documentary called “Fathead”. I used that and some light exercise and slowly got to 205lb. I highly recommend “Fathead” to anyone just wanting to lose some weight easy and teach you about how your body stores fat. I’ve been able to keep the weight off i got into a long term relationship with a girlfriend I have now lol
Ok so I’m 225lb never lifted weights before and about 6 months back I started doing basic workouts (squats, deadlifts barbell rows, various push ups, curls, and tricep extensions for the most part). I was doing is only twice a week with moderate way to mostly get my form right. more recently been throwing a lot of HIIT workouts. spent a lot of time researching these workouts in the store throw them in whenever, nothing consistent though. I’m still at 225lb though I’ve noticed a definite icrease in upper body mass. because of my job girlfriend kids and college I have really been able to focus on a steady work at routine but really want to now more then ever.
I really don’t have more than 3 days where I can work out a week, so this be a good workout? http://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/3-day-power-muscle-burn
I don’t care so much about body mass as i care about being strong lean and flexible. so this be a good workout routine for me or would you recommend something better?
The routine you linked to trains each body part once per week, which is typically the least effective way to train for most goals. If you can lift 3 days per week, I’d either go with a full body split if you’re a beginner or the 3 day upper/lower split if you’re past the beginner the stage.
Ok so if i do a upper/lower split, what should i do if don’t want to gain any more mass in my legs? I still want more full body strength and some more upper mass. also you talk to a lot about overworking your shoulders and elbows. If i did a U/L/U every week, that wouldn’t be to hard on my shoulders?
hi im using an upper/lower body routine 4 times a week. What do you think about doing arms on lower body days?? any advice would greatly appreciate it… thanks in advance
Something like that can work if designed properly, but I’d only do it with the 3 day upper/lower split, not 4.
Does your EBOOK have pictures of the different workouts?
I have been using almost 100% machine weights for these past 4 months because I am a beginner.
The main reason for using the machine weights is because its easier to do everything correctly but I think its time to move away from that but I need to make sure I learn to do the free weights correctly so I may need some very easy to read pictures of each thing to know im doing it right.
Nope, no pictures. There is however a FAQ section at the end where I include links to a couple of (free) sites that provide pictures, videos and descriptions of every single exercise.
Hi, I really appreciate the way that you actually read all the comments and answer them all personally right up till the most recent ones! I am underweight (skinny super lean) and I have recently joined a gym. 1.5 years back i started gyming and I was put on a 6 day different body part split by the trainer there…did that for 6 months and had fairly good gains and gained around 7kgs of lean muscle in those months. The trainers there suggested no compound exercises at all except for squats on leg day and bench press on chest day. I went on and off with All Pro’s beginner routine (three workouts per week with focus on the big three plus rows, barbel curls, calf raises and OHP). Then I dropped out of gym for a good 6-8 months before recently joining. The new gym i have joined also suggests the 6 day split and the trainer is kinda strict that you follow his routine and not your own one. I was reading your articles on best workouts and you said one in which more than 4 out of 6 were upper body was worryin especially if all on consecutive days. This is exactly what he has me doing like Mon: Back Tue:Shoulders Wed: Chest Thur: Biceps and Triceps Friday: legs with a one day off day and the cycle repeats. Now my question is can I assume I am a novice and follow a three day per week FBW like starting strength or have I “lost” the potential to gain from such workouts because of the weird split i was on for my initial 6 months? I have read quite a bit and many sites indicate that you can never make the amazing strength and bulk gains from such FBW programs (3 times a week) unless they are the first thing you ever do in the weightlifting world…
That depends on how much progress you’ve made since you’ve been training. Have you built a fairly decent base level of strength and muscle mass? If so, you may be ready to move on to an intermediate program (although not what you described… that sounds like complete shit). If not, then some kind of full body beginner routine will be ideal.
And if you can’t decide, feel free to give some kind of beginner routine a few weeks and see how it goes. If it goes well, stick with it. If not, move on to something else.
Thanks a lot for your reply… I am definitely still a beginner in terms of strength and muscle mass… still underweight and my weights are still pretty abysmal. I don’t understand why all the trainers here recommend the same ridiculous six day body part split though if it isnt that optimal for building size. Maybe they’re trying to force us into buying supplements n other spurious stuff (of course from them)
Yup, that could very well be a possibility.
Hi, I’m new here and have to say this some of the best info I have ever read on working out. I’m 46 and have worked out off and on for years. In my twenties I worked out consistently for about 10 years. I had ok results but never understood most of the concepts I have been reading on this site. I would like to thank you for your knowledge and no BS delivery. I have decided I want and need to work out again to build muscle, as I have missed it greatly. So, For the past three months I have been following the Evolution Workout, which is a metabalic resistance training program. This is apparently the workout that Joe Maganiello and Hugh Jackman have used to get into the shape you see them in for the movies. The workout uses supersets with very high volume and high frequency to build muscle and burn fat. My goal is to build muscle. I don’t need to lose weight as I am 5’9 160 lbs with little body fat. In the first month I gained 5 lbs and looked much more muscular. My arms went from 14″ to 15.25″ nice gains right? After that I began to steadily lose weight and size. My diet is what you would call a clean diet without meat and dairy. I won’t go into the diet but I can assure you I’m getting my macros :). After spending some time reading everything I can on this site I have decided I need to make a change, as I feel I have been over training. I’m torn on weather I should start with the beginner program or the upper/lower split for the intermediate. I understand form and all exercise movements very well and wonder which routine I would benefit from the most. I would appreciate your thoughts.
I’d go with the beginner routine for now. Give it a month or two and see how your progression goes. If things are still going well, stick with it. When progress stalls, switch to the intermediate routine.
Ok I will give the beginner a try. But I think I will do the more advanced beginner routine. Thanks for the reply.
Two quick questions – I’m doing deadlifts on lower days. The “consensus” on other sites is that doing that is likely okay and won’t REALLY mess up my upper days. Love those deadlifts, also love the 4-day upper/lower split. Where would you do deadlifts on an upper/lower split? Currently, I have a lower day focused on squats and the other starts with deadlifts. I also do RDL, donkey raises, hamstring curls and leg extensions (only a couple sets of each of those last two). Just curious.
Also, I would consider my lifting level on all lifts to be “intermediate” or between “intermediate” and “advanced” (based on the popular Aasgaard tables – take them for what they are worth, just giving you a basic understanding of my level). So it seems based on what you have written, that the upper/lower split is where I should be…… But….
I’m not really looking to make a change since I haven’t stalled, but sometimes I just get bored. To that end, I can always switch up the exercises in my upper/lower – but do you see any reason to switch BACK to a 3-day full body workout? Just curious what your take on that would be – any potential advantages? Seems that you refer to that as a beginner routine, just curious what your take was on going backwards to that type of routine. I likely won’t move to that (I really like the upper/lower split), just curious if you had any commentary.
Okay, I lied, I have three questions. On day 3 (my “off” day, Wednesday) I do some ab work. Any major issue with that, or would I be best suited to toss that into one of my upper or lower days (whichever is shortest maybe?) and then just get in an extra hour of sleep on day 3?
Thanks. By the way, this site is awesome.
1. What type of deadlift? I’d put RDLs or SLDLs on lower day. I’m not really a fan of using conventional deadlifts in an upper/lower split, but that’s just me.
2. If you’re mostly interested in strength, full body is a fine option (though I still prefer upper/lower). If you’re mostly interested in growth, then I’d go with upper/lower.
3. Put ab work at the end of an actual workout like anything else… not a rest day.
Thanks. I will start adding abs into one of my regular days then, in lieu of a rest day.
As far as the deadlifts, I do RDLs on the day I do squat, then my other lower day I do standard deadlifts. It’s probably my favorite exercise, so I doubt I will drop it altogether – it doesn’t seem to really hinder any upper body work, so maybe I will just leave it there for now.
As always, your thoughts are always appreciated.
Hi, It’s great to see you and this website providing the best info regarding workouts!!
Weight: 139 lbs
Height: 172 cm
What I do: I play football/soccer or else i do Cardio Workouts (2 mile running at medium speed followed by stretching, sprints and flexibility exercises and ending up with cool down.
Problem: But I never been able to built muscles. I’ve weak chest, lean arms. One good thing is that i have very less fat!!
What do I want: Fitness is my priority. I always want to be at my level best when it comes to speed, performance, Quick reflexes, flexibility. At the same time I want to look good too. Like the top flight footballers do (there each n every muscles is visible). I don’t want to get bulky.. that’s a big NO!!
One of my friends told me that if i want to build muscles i have to hit the gym. I have never used a gym before. But for the last 10 days i’m doing. here’s what i’ve done so far:
Day1: triceps, Shoulders for 70-80 min (8 workouts each muscles x 3 sets of 8-10 reps)
Day2: HIIT 15 min followed Abs workout: 60 min
Day3: Chest & Back for 70-80 min (8 workouts each muscles x 3 sets of 8-10 reps)
Day6: triceps, Shoulders for 70-80 min
Day7: HIIT 15 min followed Abs workout: 60 min
I am only comfortable in lifting 5 kg dumbbells (i wish this will give you idea of my body strength level)
Now I have heard about this different types of workout splits (in my case I’m doing Split Routine).
So, please help me that “what type of program” and ” Workout split” should i choose as i have mentioned my preferences.
Please guide me or give me a link.
Read this from beginning to end.
Hi There, I stumbled on your website while doing research for my own work out routine and i love this! I need some advice or tell me if this make sense. Im 34, 5″11, about 190 pounds. Im tall and not exactly lean but not that big. My primary goal at the gym really is for definition, however i wouldnt mind getting some size but nothing to out of the top.
I have been in and out of gym for years so i wouldnt consider myself a beginner. After a little break im back and my current routine is a full body work out 3 times a week with at least one day of rest between workouts. As much as i like full body work outs but after a routine sometimes i wonder, did i do enough. I dont get that stiffness in my muscles as if i did split work out. That satisfaction of yeah i just work out hard.
I was considering 2 alternatives. Do a 3 day full body work out for 3 weeks and 4th week to split then repeat. or Continue to do fullbody but each day focus on a particular muscle group for example.
day 1 – squats, seated row, bench press + dumbless fly, tricep pull down rope, bicep curl, shoulder press. For all muscles my 4 sets reps as follows, 10,8,6,15. While increasing wieght by at least 5lbs on each set. Except the last set where i go light for 15 reps. With this routine you notice i would be doing 2 chest exercises (that days muscle focus) but instead 3 sets of 10,8,6. As to prevent over training for the 2 full body work out days. What do u think? Does this make any sense? If not what would you recommend.
Read this one.
And maybe this one.
Some direction please. So I was doing an upper/lower split – the link posted here. Seemed to be working out pretty well. I wanted to gain a bit of mass. I am 5’8 165. I play on a soccer team. A month before the season began (began Sunday) I switched from the upper/lower link posted to a 3 day full body. I feel like I have lost some mass, lol… a peer noticed that I was working out when I was doing the upper/lower split (feels nice when others notice the work). What I noticed during my first game of the season yesterday was that I felt super drained when I was running. I feel as if I should switch back to an upper/lower split but do not want to compromise my soccer training/games. I was hitting legs 3 times a week with the full body. With the upper lower split I was hitting legs hard on mondays and light on fridays (even though I might want to go upper body hard mondays due to legs feeling like pudding mondays the day after a game.
So maybe Monday – upper (heavy) Tuesday lower (heavy) Wed (rest) Thur upper (light) Friday lower (light.
3 day upper lower/split
A/B/A – B/A/B (ETC)
Any suggestions for a soccer player who trains 2 times a week and has games on sundays who wants to gain strength and some mass? REALLY APPRECIATE THIS!
3 day upper lower for sure. Possibly upper/lower/upper every week to keep your legs fresher for soccer.
I am an intermediate trainee, who wanted to switch up routines so I decided to switch to your https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-muscle-building-workout-routine/ 3-day upper/lower split but I was concerned that I’m doing a lot less of a work out that my previous(2 muscle group high concentration 4 day week) workout. I also found there is only 2 bicep workout sessions per week, as apposed to my 4 a week, is this going to impact me negatively. My main focus is to gain a lot of muscle as fast as possible and I just wanted to get your input to allow me to rest easy. Should I continue with this workout of move back to my old one?
Read this one.
1.) Should I do the prescribed warm-up for each body part of the upper or lower split?
2.) Can I substitute powerlifting sets and reps for compound movements? I know you said don’t mess with the program but I would just like an explanation. Ex. Deadlift 1×5, Bench Press 3.5 or 5×5 and the like.
1. Read this one.
2. Read this one.
Love your upper lower split. Started the program last week (did it last year before my wedding). I’m not doing deadlifts due to lower back issues (dr’s orders). I’m trying to convince my wife and sister to follow the program as well.
Thanks for all your help!
Glad to hear it!
I’ve been following Version 2 of your beginner’s workout routine for 8 weeks now. I’m not seeing any results and I’m starting to be discouraged. I’m wondering if it’s possible for you to tell me what could be the problem (I know you don’t me, so it would probably be difficult to diagnose, but thought I’d at least try).
Could it be that I’m not doing something right? Or could it be that I’m just not lifting heavy enough weights for there to be a physical change??
Me: 27 year old white male; 5’9″; 150 lbs; size 30 pants but my actual waist circumference is 34″
Bench Press — 40 lbs total
Squats — 30 lbs total
Rows — 15 lbs each arm
Triceps Extensions — 20 lbs total
Calf Raises — 30 lbs each arm
Deadlifts — 40 lbs total
Shoulder Press — 12 lbs each arm
Biceps Curls — 15 lbs each arm
Weighted Crunches — 15lbs total
I’m going to guess that you’re either not pushing to progressively get stronger on each exercise, not eating to support muscle growth, or both.
Sir Jay, as always, splendid article! Just some clarification…
Would you consider this a twice per week per muscle group approach? (Could only afford 4x weight training days per week)
Upper (Push) – Chest, Shoulder, Triceps
Upper (Pull) – Back, Biceps
Would this fall into a once per week per muscle group category since I’m only doing 1 Chest,Shoulder,Triceps and 1 Back,Biceps per week?
Thanks In advance!
With the exception of legs, everything else is only being trained once per week.
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