The Ultimate Upper/Lower Body Split Routine For Mass

If you are an intermediate or advanced trainee looking for the ideal workout plan to build muscle mass as fast as possible, the upper/lower body split routine is it.

A workout routine of this sort will work for pretty much anyone – men and women, young and old, people looking to build a large amount of muscle and get “big”, or those who only want to build a small amount of muscle and get “toned”.

However if you want to get the very best results from it you will of course need to know how to set it up in the most effective way.

So in this article I’ll explain why upper/lower splits are so effective, and I’ll also give you what I believe to be about the best upper/lower body split routine you are ever likely to find.

What Is An Upper/Lower Body Split Routine?

An upper/lower split routine is one in which you train your upper body (chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps) in one workout and your lower body (quads, hams, calves, lower back and abdominals) in another workout. Normally you would have two of each type of workout and perform each one once per week – so you would be training 4 times per week (alternating upper/lower/upper/lower). However if you can only get to the gym 3 times per week you can simply alternate the four workouts over these three weekly sessions. It will still work just fine.

There is room for some variation however and some people like to do chest, back and shoulders in one workout and legs and arms in the other. Or perhaps chest, back, shoulders and triceps in one and legs and biceps in the other. Personally I find this latter method suits me very well and it’s the one I most often recommend.

Why Use An Upper/Lower Split?

An upper/lower body split routine is by far the most effective method of training for the vast majority of people. The main exception to this is beginners who do better with full body workouts. But once you are past that stage, this type of training will beat anything else you can do for packing on muscle as quickly as possible.

The main reason for this is that it allows each muscle group to be trained at the ideal frequency range of between once every 3 to 5 days. This workout frequency has been scientifically proven to work best for anyone past the beginner stage.

If you train 4 times per week you will be working each body part once every 3 or 4 days. Whereas if you train 3 times per week you will be working each body part every 4 or 5 days. And whilst training 4 times per week will probably work slightly better for most people, it won’t make that much difference, so just choose whichever suits you best.

You can train Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; or Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Or choose whatever days you want – it doesn’t matter as long as you never train more than two days in a row.

Another reason this type of workout regimen works so well is that, like the full body workout, it tends to have a big focus on compound exercises. And as I’ve said previously compound exercises are by far the best muscle builders due to the fact that they work more total muscle when you perform them and they promote the highest levels of hormonal release.

However with upper/lower splits you can also incorporate some assistance/isolation work which will help to balance out your physique and bring up any weak points you may have.

Upper/lower splits also allow for the ideal amount of volume to be used, both per workout and per week. So if you plan it right this type of training will bring together all of the factors and components that work best for building muscle, so allowing you to get the best possible results from your efforts.

The Ultimate Upper/Lower Body Split Routine

So here is what I believe to be the ideal upper/lower body split routine for building muscle mass…

Upper Body Workout A

Bench Press 3 X 5 – 7
Bent-over Row 3 X 6 – 8
Close Grip Bench Press 2 X 8 – 10
Close Grip Pulldowns 2 X 8 – 10
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 X 8 – 10

Lower Body Workout A

Squats 3 X 6 – 8
Back Extensions 2 X 10 – 12
Split Squat (Rear Foot Elevated) 2 X 10 – 12
Calf Raise 4 X 8 – 10
Barbell Curl 3 X 8 – 10

Upper Body Workout B

Overhead Barbell Press 3 X 5 – 7
Pull-Ups 3 X 6 – 8
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 X 8 – 10
Seated Cable Row 2 X 8 – 10
Parallel Bar Dips 2 X 10 – 12

Lower Body Workout B

Deadlift 2 X 5
Leg Press 3 X 8 – 10
Leg Curl 3 X 8 – 10
Seated Calf Raise 4 X 10 – 12
Dumbbell Hammer Curl 3 X 8 – 10

(3 X 5 – 7 = 3 sets of 5 – 7 reps)

The sets listed above are your work sets; do warm-up sets as required to properly prepare your body for the heavier work.

You’ll notice I’ve put biceps on lower body days in this program in order to even it out to five exercises per workout, as this seems to be about optimum for most people. And also, as I said above, that’s the method I most often recommend as biceps tend to respond better to more frequent training than most other body parts.

Also there is no abdominal work specified here. I personally see direct abdominal work as being optional as your stomach will firm up just fine if you simply brace it tight during most of your other exercises (which is what you should be doing anyway). But if you do want to do some, simply add in a couple of sets at the end of your lower body days. Some good options for this include hanging leg raises, weighted crunches, ab wheel roll-outs or any of the various types of plank.

You’ll also notice that chest is trained heavy in Upper Workout A and lighter in Upper Workout B; whereas shoulders are trained lighter in Upper Workout A and heavy in Upper Workout B. There is a heavy row and a lighter vertical pull in Upper Workout A, and a lighter row and heavier vertical pull in Upper Workout B. The close grip bench press and parallel bar dips are mostly for the triceps, but they also serve as a secondary chest exercise as well. Quads are trained with a higher volume in Lower Workout A and a lower volume in Lower Workout B, and lower back is trained lighter in Lower Workout A and heavy in Lower Workout B.

Other Factors To Consider

Some other factors that should be considered in order to get the best out of your training include the following…

Exercise Performance – Always perform your exercises with good form and through an appropriately full range of motion in order to fully engage the target muscles.

Rest Periods – Rest only as long as you need to be ready for your next set. With the smaller exercises this should normally be around 90 – 120 seconds, but with the bigger exercises you’ll want a little longer, perhaps 2 – 3 minutes, but take more if you need to.

Progression – You should increase the weights you are using when you reach the top end of the suggested rep range for all the prescribed sets. So if it says to do 3 sets of 6 – 8 reps, when you can do 8 reps on all 3 sets increase the weight a little for your next workout.

Ideally when you do your first set you should have a rep (or maybe two) left in you at the end of the set. Your second set should be more difficult; and your last set should be pushing close to your limit.

De-Loading – At some point you will reach a plateau; it’s inevitable. A plateau can be defined as three workouts in a row with no improvement in a particular exercise. When this happens there’s no point trying to “push through” the plateau. Instead you need to de-load; that is reduce the weight you are using on the exercise(s) you have stalled on by 10 – 15% and then build back up again. This will allow you to recover more fully and you’ll usually find you’ll then be able to make further progress.

Nutrition – Your training is only one half of the equation; it’s equally important to eat the right diet if you want to make real progress. You need a calorie surplus with sufficient protein, complex carbs and healthy fats, as well as a good amount of fruits and vegetables.

Supplements can also be very useful, especially whey protein, creatine, omega 3 fish oils and a good multivitamin or greens supplement.

Rest & Sleep – You grow when you are resting, not when you are training, so it’s important to get plenty of rest and sleep. Try to get 8 – 9 hours sleep per night. And keep the cardio and other activities (such as dancing, playing sports etc.) down to a minimum.

So that’s it; the upper/lower body split routine described here will give you exceptional gains in muscle mass if you stick with it. But if you’d like a complete fully periodized 12 week program that’s been specifically designed to pack muscle on even the skinniest of hardgainers, the one I’d most recommend is Muscle Gaining Secrets 2.0 by Jason Ferruggia. Check out my review of it here.

141 Replies to “The Ultimate Upper/Lower Body Split Routine For Mass”

  1. Why do you have arms on lower body days? Arms are involved on upper body days. So it can be too much to train arms four days a week.

      • Yes; I explained this in the post. It’s just to even it out to five exercises per workout, and it works well that way because biceps respond better to more frequent training than most other body parts anyway. But you can do them on upper body days instead if you wish.

  2. good routine, i have a question about progression, you said to increase the weight only when i’m be able to lift X amount of weight for all sets and all reps, so for the bench press i’d to get 3 sets of 7 to increase the weight, well i don’t think i’ll be able to get all 3 sets of 7 due to fatigue. i mean think about it, it’s natural as i do the second and thrid set i’ll most likely be weaker than the first set when i was fresh, unless i don’t push myself very much, what you think? good stuff anyway keep it up!!

    • Yes Matt; that’s the mistake I used to make. If you push yourself to the very limit on your first set you won’t be able to do it. But that’s not what you should be doing. Your first work set should not be a maximum effort set – you should still have a rep or two left in you. Your second set will be a bit harder due to muscle fatigue, and your final set will probably be maximum effort.

    • Thanks; normally I’d suggest you do a set of 7 with about 60% of your working weight, and then a set of 5 with about 80%, and then go to your working weight. But when you’ve been training a while and are using respectable poundages you might want to do a set of 7 with 55%, a set of 5 with 75% and a set of 3 with 90%. That’s the way I usually do it.

  3. I just came across your workout plan, I was looking because I think I overtrained for the bodybuilding show I just completed 8/29/15 at the OCB Carolina Classic in Lexington, SC. I was doing 5 days a week split one body part per session and doing 20 sets per part. I guess I was fooling myself that I could get crazy gains. I am 46, and classified as a skinny fat ectomorph, but I don’t let that discourage me from bringing out the best in me. I just input the workout into my phone and will follow it for the next 8 weeks and will give you some feedback on how it worked for me. Have a great day.

  4. With over 10 years of competing and training, I most say your article is one the best I’ve read. It’s very simple and knowledgeable at the same time. Listen to David and try what he recommends in this article. Great read sir!

  5. Taking shoulder health into consideration, isn’t the routine a little imbalanced? there’s 3 push movements and only two pulling movements.

    • Thank you for that observation Tai. The reason for this is that curls/hammer curls have been put on lower body days. But you can put them on upper body days if you wish and do some abdominal work on lower body days. Also deadlifts are a pull as well, so over the course of the week you are actually doing slightly more pulls.

      Shoulder health will be fine as long as you lift with proper technique.

  6. In Upper Body Workout A, can I switch seated shoulder dumbbell press with different lateral raises or just add them after the shoulder dumbbell press?

  7. It’s OK, I’m at day 5… But didn’t hit my triceps at all.. And I do work out with good form and all other usual concerns 😀 … Three days ago it was 3 years since I started.. I had 2 -3 big rests (about a month), other than that I was lifting…

    I need a bigger chest and bigger hands! I may be the only person who needs to skip legs for a while:

    https://scontent-vie1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xat1/v/t1.0-9/12038225_563995890422919_563080673524809782_n.jpg?oh=43074d548a1902c00cc0538da54a62c4&oe=56BDE388

    Thanks for the routine! Greetings from Bosnia!

      • Thanks Haris; glad you liked the routine. I wouldn’t skip legs entirely, but you could just train them at low volume for maintenance if you want – a couple of work sets per week would do.

  8. Been doing this for a month now and am loving it compared to the push pull legs I use to do. Less volume is key I think.

    I’ve started adding in hiit session just 15 mins on every leg workout. I’m not as sore the day after which is banging

  9. Dear David
    I’m 66 years old with many years of weight trainning. I’m a skinny guy too. Should I cut the sets from 3 to 2 in order to avoid overtraining?
    Thanks.
    Adriano

    • Yes you could do that. Or you could leave it as it is and see how you get on. As long as you are on a decent calorie surplus (which I presume you are as you said you were skinny), and you don’t train to failure (older guys can’t cope with that sort of stress) you should be ok. But if you find you are getting overly fatigued then by all means cut it down a bit.

      • Ok. I’d like to stick to 3 sets for all exercises of each upper/lower workout described above, even those specified for 2 X 8-10. Could I do that?
        Thanks.
        Adriano

        • You can if you want, but I wouldn’t. Older guys don’t recover as well as younger guys, so you don’t want to be doing too much volume. After you’ve been doing it a few weeks you could try an extra set of those exercises and see how you get on. But at your age it’s unlikely to help, and it may hinder your progress.

  10. I just started doing an upper/lower split. I try to focus on compound movements wether they are weights or body weight or a combination. For upper my first lift is 5×5 bench press. And for lower 5×5 of squats or dead lift. After that I do other lower or upper body exercises in the 10rep range. It seems to work well for me. I switched it up a little where I do upper body/ lower body/ cardio/ full body kettlebell/cardio/ upper/ lower / rest.

  11. I was doing full body workouts before but found that with the split I can put greater intensity into the big lifts. If I did a heavy 5 sets of bench press I wasn’t able to go as hard on dead lifts. So focusing on only upper or lower has solved that problem.

  12. Hi David,
    For Upper Body B,
    Since I will be doing Shoulder Press first, my anterior delts and triceps may fatigue significantly.
    And this will affect my incline dumbbell press weights, and hence make it harder for me to progressive overload on the chest exercise in Upper Body B. And if my triceps fatigue before my chest on incline dumbbell press, wouldn’t it defeat the purpose of hitting a body part twice a week? I’m just confused, and wondering if there is a way around this. Thank you!

    • Hi Sim. Yes you will experience some fatigue of the anterior delts and triceps. That’s the reason we alternate pushes and pulls, so you minimize the effect of that. So in the end it won’t be much, and certainly does not defeat the purpose of training a body part twice per week. Your priority in upper body B however is your overhead press, whereas your priority in upper body A is your bench press. Those are the main exercises you should be seeking progressive overload on (although you will still want to achieve it on the other exercises as well). There’s always a trade off of some sort no matter how you set things up, but this plan works very well.

  13. I find with shift work it can be hard to stick to a regular schedule. That’s what I really liked about full body workouts. With doing a split like upper/lower if you are only able to squeeze in one of each per week will it still be beneficial? That’s not a consistent thing but life happens and in those times I’m just curious.

    • Yes; just doing one of each per week on occasion will still be be beneficial. In fact if it’s only once every 4 – 6 weeks or so it may even help your progress due to the extra recovery it will allow.

  14. im in the military was a big lifter before joining im in the infantry and im gone so much doing field ops that when im back in the rear i dont have time for my old routine which was basically concentrating on one muscle group a day. so do you think this will help me keep strength and muscle? im athletic 6’1 195 and just do not want to lose muscle mass due to field ops and mres lol.

    • Yes, if you have the time to do this routine it will certainly help you keep your strength and muscle. Probably a lot better than the one muscle group a day routines.

  15. Hi , I’m about to start this workout. Just wondering an I keeping to the same weight across every set. So example : squat 3x 7 all at 100 kg or like 90kg, 95kg then 100kg. Thanks

  16. The routine is really well balanced. However, the volume seems quite low for an advanced lifter no? Also when you alternate between heavy and light shoulders/chest, you keep it at 3 sets. Why do you not keep it at 3 sets each for when you switch between heavy and light vertical/horizontal pull movements?

    • Possibly. It depends. I prefer to err on the side of caution because the more you do the harder it is to recover from. The routine here will work extremely well for most people, but if you feel you could benefit from more volume then by all means add some in. Although I prefer to cycle volume; that is build it up gradually and then reduce it for a while. This helps with recovery and keeps you progressing.

      As for your other point, it’s because I’m looking at it in a slightly different way to you. In Upper Workout A there is 3 sets of bench press and 2 sets of CG bench press (5 in total). There is also 3 sets of rows and 2 sets of pulldowns (5 in total). Shoulders are separate. Then in Upper Workout B there is 3 sets of incline dumbbell press and 2 sets of dips (5 in total). And there is also 3 sets of pullups and 2 sets of cable rows (5 in total). Again shoulders (overhead press) are separate. And vertical/horizontal pull numbers are switched to maintain balance and to keep focus on the heavier lift. Hope that helps.

  17. Hi David, your workout seems great i just have 1 question, my outer chest is not well shaped needs a bit more bulking and obvious fat loss too shape it up but there are no direct outer chest exercises i.e flys could they be added or will this routine do the job how it is many thanks adam.

    • You could add in a couple of sets of flyes if you want, but it’s unlikely to make much difference, as you can’t really specifically target your “outer pecs” (or your “inner pecs”). Your whole chest should shape up quite nicely with this routine provided you stay/get lean.

  18. i dont like to keep the way the same on all my sets, Dave do you think i could i use reverse pyramid training as a way to progress on my compound exercises? so on my 2 and 3 set i reduce the weight by about 10%. thats the way i like it, let me know excellent routine and thank you in advance.

      • thanks for replying david, i’d like to ask you a couple more things, on deadlift im using your method of progression and not RPT so, how much weight should i use for the 2 sets of 5? maybe around 85% of my 1 rep max? also if that’s okay, i changed barbell rows for t bar rows and seated dumbell press for lateral raises since im already doing overhead press.

        • Yes; about 80 – 85%. I’d start with 80% and build up from there. Ideally you should always feel that you could have just about done one more rep when you finish your set.

          And yes those substitutions are fine.

  19. Hi, dave I’ve had a week rest and I’m ready to start your workout, just wondering how long it takes you to complete each workout on average from start too finish, cheers adam.

  20. I recently got a 250lb tire. I can do sets of 10 flips before needing a rest. Which day upper or lower would it be best to flip on or would it be best to do a separate day of tire flipping and kettle bell work.

    • Probably better to do it on a separate day, but you could do it after one of your upper body workouts provided you have plenty of energy left.

  21. Sounds good. My opinion On that though is that if you have plenty of energy at the end of a workout it probably wasn’t that great of a workout to begin with!

    • Ha; I understand you may well think that, but it’s not necessarily true. The purpose of training is simply to stimulate muscle growth and/or strength increase, and you don’t have to completely exhaust yourself in order to achieve that.

  22. Pretty cool thing. I was at 330lbs 5×5 in the trap bar dead lift. I tried for 340 and couldn’t do the full 5×5. The only thing I did different was a few workouts that included high rep tire flips. After that I did 340 5×5!!!

  23. What is your opinion on adding chains to the bar do the load gets heavier as you lift it higher? I can see how it works in theory but I’ve never actually seen how well it works.

    • Yes, it’s a great technique to help you work on your explosiveness and improve your lock-outs. It’s really only for more advanced lifters though. And you should only use it for 3 – 4 weeks at a time as it’s very demanding.

  24. If I can dead lift 340lbs 5×5. What weight of chains should I use? How much should I reduce the weight on the bar to compensate for the weight of the chains? Should I adjust the reps/sets?

    • There are no hard and fast rules about the weight of chains, but I would try a 45lb chain on each end of the bar, so 90lb in total (and make sure the chains do not lie in front of the bar or they will pull you forwards). Reduce your bar weight by half of that, i.e. 45lb. So you’ll now be lifting 295 + the chains. And personally I’d only do 3×5 with that.

  25. I started this program today. Just a quick question? Is it meant to be like this?
    Upper A
    Lower A
    Upper B
    Lower B
    Off
    Off
    Off?
    Thank you

    • No; it’s:
      Upper A
      Lower A
      Off
      Upper B
      Lower B
      Off
      Off

      Or you can do it a bit different, as long as you never train more than two days in a row.

      Best of luck.

  26. Can this be made into a 3 day routine?

    Week 1:
    Upper A
    Lower A
    UpperB

    Week 2:
    Lower B
    Upper A
    Lower A

    So forth….

    Thanks much!

  27. Great content here and thanks for this routine I just started today..couple of questions ? What days can I add kettlebell and sled pulls /push?? And is it OK that I train boxing on 3 to 4x a week? Thanks

    • Thanks Karlo; glad you like this. You can do conditioning work either after a couple of your workouts each week (I prefer after upper body workouts) or you can do it on one or two of your off days.

      And yes you can do the boxing training if you wish, but you have to realize it will eat into your recovery, so may well compromise your results – especially if you are doing the conditioning work as well. A better plan might be to drop the kettlebell and sled work and just do boxing 2 – 3 times per week. But you need to decide on the right balance for yourself, depending on your goals and how well you recover.

  28. If I do t-bar rows instead of BB rows, should I still do close grip pd or are they to similar. Should I do wider grip pd instead?

    • Yes you can still do them, or you can use a wider grip if you wish. But pulldowns are a vertical pull whereas any type of row is a horizontal pull, so its not a problem.

  29. Nice article David, very informative. I’ve just had few concerns:
    1. Do we need to increase weight after each set or just keep the same then we can increase weight next week?
    2. I can see bench press is at 3 x 5-7, but why not 6-10 since this reps-range can be most effective for building mass?

    Sorry for my humble knowledge, but since there is too much information and too much of bro-science so I just wanna make sure I’m on the right track.

    Many thanks David.

    • Thanks Minhjo; glad you liked it. Yes, keep the weight the same on all of your sets – but do warm-up sets first of course. And if you achieve the top end of the rep range on all your sets, increase the weight a little next time.

      5 – 7 reps will build mass faster for most novice trainees, but it’s a good idea to vary your rep ranges a bit, so you can do 8 – 10 reps occasionally if you wish.

  30. Hi David,

    Great workout, it’s absolutely one of the most interesting I’ve found on the Web. I will be able to do just 3 days per week. Just a question, are there any good alternative exercises for lower body workout B instead of leg press and leg curls? Or I could risk to loose something on the way in terms of muscolar efficiency?

    Thanks in Advance,
    Sergio

    • Thanks Sergio; yes, you could do Bulgarian split squats instead of leg press, and glute-ham raises (if your gym has a machine for these) instead of leg curls.

  31. Are you only doing warm-ups on the compound movements? If so, what are the sets/reps recommended?

    Bench
    Squats
    OHP
    Deads

    • Personally I like to do a couple of warm-up sets on the smaller exercises as well. These are usually at about 70% and 85% of working weight. As for the big 4, I do the empty bar first (or 135lb for deadlifts) for about 10 – 12 reps; then it’s about 55% of working weight for 7 reps, 75% for 5 reps and 90% for 3 reps.

  32. I know you mention it in the article. But are there massive downsides to doing Mon, Tues,Wed, Friday on this split? Or should I stick to a traditional Chest/Tri, Legs, Shoulders/Traps, Back/Bi split?

    • Both can work, but neither is ideal. With your first option you are doing upper body B just two days after upper body A, which is a bit soon for optimum recovery. And with your second option you are only training each body part once per week, so you will likely not improve very fast. If you have to train on those days I would do push/pull/legs, alternating over the four days.

  33. Hi, I just wanted to ask how long would you advise to bulk up for? On a lot of programmes it varies from 12 weeks to 3 months to 6 months…and then also saying as long as you want to….

    What would you suggest?

    Regards,
    colin

    • As long as you are able to stay fairly lean you can do a slow bulk for as long as you want to – months or even years. Just keep an eye on your body fat levels and cut when you need to.

    • Thanks Eddy. Different reps affect the muscles in different ways. With the big compound exercises the reps are slightly lower for more of a strength focus; and with the smaller exercises we go a bit higher for more of a size focus, together with less overall stress on the body and CNS.

      • Thank you David! Your insight made me search this topic on the web. Why do you remain conservative with this? I mean, why not sets with 1-5 or 12-15 reps? What is your view on this? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doubting your choice or trying to offend you, just want to know why :).

        • These are just the best rep ranges to build muscle, together with a good level of strength, for most intermediate trainees. The lower reps are good for strength, but don’t really give much in the way of size increases, and are not necessary anyway except for more advanced trainees who are looking to maximize strength gains. Higher reps can build size, but usually only work well when you are strong enough to handle heavy poundages for that number of reps.

  34. I really like this program! I was torn between full body and split, but don’t seem to over train with this like I often did with traditional split routines. I’m 53 and also have to factor in time restraints because I workout in the morning at 5am and have to get out by 6:15 including 15 min HIIT cardio to go to work and this routine seems to hit the magic 60 minute mark perfectly. I also like the flexibility of doing M-T rest TH- F or every other day; if I’m forced to miss a day, I can just hit it the next- I don’t have to wait an entire week to hit that body part.
    Also, I usually feel flat doing FB routines, but the mix of exercises included in this gives me a pretty decent “pump”, good DOMS, and leaves me enough in the tank to physically get through the day-
    not getting demolished like some routines. I don’t really rest, so after a few weeks, I feel like I’m actually getting more physically fit. Also for those who don’t think it’s enough volume, just try to do each rep SLOWLY(mind/muscle) with strict form.
    I’ll try to add poundage’s and mix up the exercises as needed.
    Eat-Sleep-Lift- Repeat

    Great advice!

  35. This is awesome to see David. Finally someone who understands the principles and presents them in a well thought-out programme. The fitness industry is full of misinformation and over emphasis of minor details.

    As an advanced natural bodybuilder I can see that this is a solid programme. Combining this with some block periodization, a progression plan and some individual adjustment will make this programme a weapon.

    Keep going David!

  36. Hi David,

    Hope my message finds you well. I feel extremely fortunate to have come across this uncomplicated and super effective workout program, so thank you for that. I dive into this workout starting tomorrow and cannot wait to see some some strength gains.

    Thank you once again David, it means a lot!!

  37. Hi David,

    Great workout.The “less is more” approach which seems lost in today’s day and age.

    Quick Q. Any difference in choosing 2 sets of deads vs 3 sets? Is it alright to add the 3rd set?

    Thanks again for this great program, cant wait to dive into starting today!

    Happy Holidays!

    • Deadlifts put a lot of strain on the body and can be difficult to recover from, which is why I tend to prefer two sets. But if your recovery is good, and you are making gains in strength, then yes you can do three sets if you wish.

  38. Hi David!
    What do you Think about this Upper-Lower split doing in Heavy Duty style, do only one working set
    after warm-ups. After 15 years paus I tok up the training again. I trained two years now and got very good results of full body Heavi Duty training at a age of 69 years.

    Regards from Sweden
    Stefan

    • Yes that’s a perfectly viable way to do it, especially if recovery is an issue (which it is for most older guys). Just one thing though. Only take your sets to technical failure, that is the point at which another rep done in good form would be impossible. Never get to the point where you fail mid-rep. And don’t do those really slow grinding reps either.

  39. Fantastic article David! ! I’m looking at this routine from an aesthetic/hypertrophy point of view. I’m looking to cut slightly but maintain as much muscle as possible, would I increase the rep range slightly as I thought 5-7 was more strength based or keep it as it is? Also would it be fine to add some shrugs to the end of the upper sessions? Lastly what tempo are we aiming for, slow eccentric and fast concentric? Thank you

    • Thanks Peter. No, keep the rep range as it is. It’s a mistake to use lighter weights when cutting as this will cause loss of strength and subsequently greater muscle loss. Yes, you can add in the shrugs if you feel your traps need more work and if you have sufficient energy left. As for tempo, it’s pretty much what you said. Lower steadily and with control and lift forcefully; though the actual speed will vary depending on the weight used and the exercise. For instance you don’t want to be doing curls super fast; they should be performed in more of a piston like fashion.

  40. Fantastic article! How would I incorporate this routine if I want to lose weight. I’m a 50 year old female with about 20-25 lbs to lose.

    • Thanks Kim. The routine would stay exactly the same (though women can benefit optimally from a slightly higher rep range than men – see my article on weight training for women for more info on this). Just do a short cardio session after your workouts (or on your off days if you prefer) and ensure you are eating at a moderate calorie deficit and you should achieve your goal without any problem. Best of luck.

  41. Hi David,

    Great article!! I used this routine as a basis for setting up my workout plan, which I pasted below. Can you let me know if it’s adequate for building muscle mass?

    Monday (Hypertrophy):
    Pullups – 4 sets of 8 reps
    Incline DB Bench – 4 sets of 9-12 reps
    Flat DB Bench – 4 sets of 8-10 reps
    Chest flyes – 3 sets of 10 reps
    DB Hammer Curl – 3×9
    Bent Over Row – 3×8

    Wednesday (Legs/Shoulders):
    Squat 5×5
    Seated Leg press 3×8
    Seated Leg Curl 5×8
    Seated Leg Extension 3×7
    Calf Raise 3×8
    DB Side Lat Raise – 4×10
    DB Shoulder Press – 4×8
    DB Raise – 3×8

    Friday (Strength/mix – Upper):

    Bench Press – 4×4
    Incline Bench – 4×4
    Tricep Pulldown – 3×7
    Overhead Press – 4×4
    Lat Pulldown 4×6
    Bicep Curls 4×7

    • Yes that’s certainly enough volume to build muscle mass. Though you might want to do a bit more for upper back and a bit less for chest. And you might also want to review your exercise order; for instance why are you doing bent-over row last on Monday’s workout?

  42. this is the 2nd time on the upper /lower split, my problem is my diet need help with it the . the workout plan was working well until i started eating out again fast food , pops , candy , and more , my weight went from 215 up to 235 and my waist went from a 36-38 to a 40 -42, in short help.

  43. Oh i check my bmi went from 18.5 to now 33 bmi and i know this is very bad because i am 5 ft 10 inch, 235 pounds ,fat around my waist , i am 56 years old but i was low fat until 2015 and part of 2016,

    • Glad the workout plan has been working well for you Big Al, but yes you need to get your diet in order. Sounds like you know what you should do though. Cut out the junk food and eat mostly natural whole foods; fairly high in protein and quite low in carbs. Eat at a moderate calorie deficit and you will lose the excess fat. Take a look at my article on dieting for fat loss for more detailed info on this.

  44. Hello David,
    I have been training for more than 3 years now, always trying to find out the best way to maximize training and I am so glad to have found your website which really came to the same conclusion I have been looking for, you just put words on my thoughts. You clearly understood everything about NATURAL strength training, really clever program, simple and very well explained I don’t have any question just wanted to tell you you did a really great job, congratz you should be the reference for everyone. Thank you =)

  45. Hi David,

    Thanks for the program. Will be trying this soon.

    Only problem I have is the Pull-up and Dip exercises. always had problems with shoulders when doing these 2. every time I incorporate either exercise in my routine I always have pain that would affect the rest of my workouts and eventually ditch it.

    Is there a good replacement for them. sorry for the (selfish) comment.

    • and…are the order of the exercises fixed?

      example, Upper Day A has Bench–>BB Rows–>CG Bench

      can we do CG Bench before rows? more of a convenience thing at the gym so I don’ t have to worry about waiting to use the bench again

      • Yes, you can replace pull-ups with pulldowns – just use a different variation to what you do in Workout A. Dips are not quite so easy to replace, but you could do decline press, floor press or close-grip weighted push-ups. And yes, you can do CG bench before your rows. That’s what I’m currently doing because, as you say, it can be difficult to get back onto the bench.

  46. David,

    i really hope this finds you well.

    i’m 19 years of age and have only been training all togther i’d say 8-9 months and i ruptuted my anterior cruciate ligament in 2016 and had to have a year off the gym. lost a lot of gains, joined the gym 1 week ago and getting back onto it.

    Yes, upper lower split is the best way to gain muscle for natural lifters due to the elevated protein synthesis every couple of days as opposed to a bro split training everything once a week.

    I only found this out a few weeks ago.. but my issue is, is there enough direct work on my arms to grow?! before i used to have arm day where i’d completely blitz my arms but on these workouts i think it’s taking a bit of adjusting for me. my mate does a bro split and he’s got pretty decent arms (he’s been training a year more than me).

    just want to simply make sure my arms will grow? Also what if i don’t ache after the work out.. does that mean im doing something wrong

    • Sorry to hear about the trouble you have had Samuel; hope you are ok now. But yes, there is definitely enough direct arm work to make your arms grow. And completely blitzing a bodypart is not a good idea anyway, as there’s only so much you can effectively recover from and still grow. And no, you are not doing anything wrong. You normally only ache after a workout if you do something new, or after a layoff. Lack of an ache does not mean you won’t grow. It’s irrelevant.

  47. I find heavy squatting and split squatting very tough on one day. What do of think switching leg press on deadlift day for one of the squats?

  48. David,

    Can we switch workout Upper Workout Days? for example, instead of starting the week with Upper A can we start with Upper B and do “A” on the 3rd workout day?

    Did that make sense?

  49. Hi David, so I’m currently in my 7th month of working out, and I’m following your great split workout after spending my first 4 months doing a lot of isolating exercises… The only thing is, that I feel like I’m working my arms more than my back/chest on upper body days. Do you have any ideas why this is happening? And is it good/bad? Regards, Frederik

    • If you are following my upper/lower split, there’s not a lot of direct arm work in this routine, so I’m guessing you are feeling the chest and back exercises in your arms more than in the target muscles. If this is the case, it may be that the weights you are using are too heavy. Or it could simply be that you are focusing too much on your arms when you are lifting, rather than consciously engaging the muscles you want to work. So make sure you focus your mind fully on the target muscles when you are performing the exercises. And then flex them hard after each set. Over time this will give you a better mind/muscle connection, and should greatly improve the results you are getting.

  50. I’m 63 but don’t look it. I am having trouble finding a routine that will keep adding muscle size to my body. I can pretty much stick to this one and build good size? Can I substitute T bar in place of bent over rows. Bent over rows I don’t seem to feel as much. And is hack squats or reverse hacks a good add on. And sumo squats implace of squats? With squats I tend to be worrying about balance and the pain on my traps rather then the exercise

    • Is there an alternative work out to deadlifts? I have had back problems and I was wondering if Hyper extensions is the better route?

      Thanks

  51. Hi again. My only concern is where is the trap work? For upper, mid, and lower traps. Also is only 3 sets of 8-10 reps for a couple of exercises really enough for building legs ?

    • Well, it will obviously be more difficult to keep adding muscle size to your body at 63 than it would have been when you were in your 20’s and 30’s, but yes this routine should allow you to build good size and strength. As an older lifter you will not have the same tolerance to volume that you would have had when you were younger, and you may find you’ll need to use somewhat lighter weights for slightly higher reps. Also you should make sure you never hit failure.

      Yes, you can substitute T-bar rows for bent-over rows. And yes, hack/reverse hack squats are a good secondary exercise for quads. You can do sumo squats in place of regular squats if you are flexible enough to hit parallel with them (I’m not, so I don’t do them).

      Doing hyperextensions for higher reps (20+) is great for rehabilitating lower back problems. Then, later on you might want to try some rack pulls. Deadlifts/rack pulls are great for building the traps, as are rows. But you can add in some shrugs if you really want to. As for volume for legs (or any body part), you can only benefit from what you can recover from adequately, so experimentation is key to find what is optimum for you. Hope that all helps.

      • Thank you for feed back. One last question. You basically have just one exercise per body part. Is this enough? Just doesn’t seem like it would be enough work on your body to build muscle. I look forward to your response thank you

        • Generally two exercises for large body parts and one for smaller body parts (CG bench press and dips are for both chest and triceps). Yes, this will be quite sufficient for the vast majority of intermediate trainees. If you have been training for a few years you can experiment with higher volumes, but at age 63 it’s highly unlikely to provide additional benefits, and may well be counterproductive.

  52. Hi really cool workout plan. I was thinking of adding in a superset at the end – upper 1 cable crossovers with lat raises (vertical isolation), lower 1 ab/oblique ss, upper 2 reverse flys, dumbbell flys (horizontal isolation), lower 2 abs,core. Would you advise against this…?

    • Thanks Chris. No, not necessarily. If you still have plenty of energy left at the end of your workouts you could do those, as they should not take too much extra out of you.

      • For the barbell rows would you recommend actual barbell rows or pendlay rows? Would regular ones over train lower back if doing the day before back extensions and squats? Thanks 🙂

        • I prefer actual barbell rows as you can get more of a stretch at the bottom of the movement, rather than de-loading the weight as you would in a deadlift. The lower back should be fine as it plays a purely supportive role in rows, and also in squats. But if you do feel you are having problems, or if you have lower back issues, you may have to dial the volume back a bit.

  53. How would you program in face pulls. In place of the seate DB press? I’d like to add rear delt work to both upper body days.

    • I would not replace seated DB press with face pulls or other rear delt work. You could replace them with standing lateral raises, but if you want to work your rear delts you could put these in as an addition at the end of the upper body workouts as they are not too demanding. Or, if you want to keep to 5 exercises, the most appropriate ones to drop would be the secondary back exercises (pulldowns and cable rows).

  54. I’m currently doing something like this already, but great layout.

    For upper workout A you have two tricep exercises. Personally I think the close-grip is one of the best triceps exercises out there, I would get rid of the close-grip pull downs and put in your barbell bicep curls there. That would free up your bicep exercise on the Lower A day, just my opinion.

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