Upper/Lower 4 Day Gym Bodybuilding Split Workout

Reach your muscle building goals with this balanced 4 day training split that mixes heavy compound exercises, machines, cables and incorporates 3 second negatives.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
10 weeks
45-60 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
Male & Female
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Workout Description

Upper/lower workouts are thought to be the most optimal training style for those looking to build lean muscle naturally.

It takes full advantage of the three factors needed within workout routines to increase hypertrophy:

  • Mechanical Tension
  • Muscle Damage
  • Metabolic Stress

By splitting your workouts between your upper body musculature and lower body musculature, you are able to optimize training frequency and volume distribution in a way that will also allow for maximum intensity in any given session.

In other words, the split allows you to stimulate each muscle group more frequently while also allowing you to distribute the volume to provide an ample amount of time to recover.

And if you are recovering better and training more frequently, you’ll grow.

What is an Upper/Lower Split?

An upper/lower workout split is a training style that breaks your workout sessions down into two categories: Upper body workout days and lower body workout days.

On upper body workout days, you will train the muscles of the upper body. This will include the chest, shoulders, back, biceps, triceps, traps, forearms, and possibly core.

On lower body workout days, you’ll focus on the muscles of the lower body. This will include the lower back, quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and possibly core.

In a traditional upper/lower split, there’s no crossover between days. However, some may utilize upper focused days paired with a single muscle group of the lower body that might be lagging and vice versa. With any split, it’s important to individualize to optimize for your specific goals and training needs.

Can Beginners Do Upper/Lower Splits?

Beginners are absolutely capable of performing upper lower workout splits.

Most training styles are universal among training experience. The only things that may differ is the weight used, possibly some volume, and the inclusion of more advanced training techniques if necessary.

If you are a beginner, however, upper/lower workouts can definitely be a good style of training to start out with. You may also want to consider experimenting with full body workouts and determine which you enjoy more and works best for your individual goals, capabilities, and lifestyle.

The workout listed below can be a good workout for beginner lifters. Some may want to consider evaluating the total volume and eliminating sets if needed to optimize recovery. They may also want to remove the emphasized negatives if needed.

Another strategy for making upper/lower workouts beginner-friendly is changing the training frequency from 4 days of training per week to 3 days of training.

An example week following this strategy may look like:

  • Monday: Upper Workout
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Lower Workout
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Upper Workout
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

To continue on like this, you would simply continue to cycle through the workouts listed below on your training days.

Upper/Lower Bodybuilding Workout Overview

This is a muscle building workout that I have been using lately now that I am training more often at commercial gyms. It works well both with, and without a training partner. If training with a partner, I recommend keeping rest periods brief. After your partner's set is finished, you should waste little time before hitting your next set.

Each training day is balanced. You start by challenging major muscle groups with 3 sets of compound or taxing machine exercises. Next, you follow up by finishing a muscle group with a more isolation-style movement that typically focuses on the use of 3 second negatives. Lastly, you work smaller muscle groups with 3 sets each, using 3 second negatives when it makes sense.

Here is the training schedule:

  • Day 1 - Upper Body
  • Day 2 - Lower Body
  • Day 3 - Off
  • Day 4 - Upper Body
  • Day 5 - Lower Body
  • Day 6 - Off
  • Day 7 - Off

Upper Lower Workout

Upper Body Training Days

Upper body training days follow this scheme:

  • Chest - 3 sets, compound
  • Back - 3 sets, compound
  • Shoulders - 3 sets, compound
  • Chest - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Back - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Shoulders - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Triceps - 3 sets, isolation or machine/cable exercises. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Biceps - 3 sets, isolation or machine/cable exercises. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.

Lower Body Training Days

Lower body training days follow this scheme:

  • Quads - 3 sets, compound
  • Hamstrings - 3 sets, compound
  • Calves - 3 sets, taxing machine or isolation
  • Quads - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Hamstrings - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Calves - 2 sets, isolation or machine/moderate compound. Use 3 second negatives when it makes sense.
  • Abs - 3 sets, isolation or machine/cable exercises.
  • Abs, Lower Back or Obliques - 3 sets, isolation or machine/cable exercises.
Day 1: Upper Body Workout
Day 1
Upper Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 3 6-12
Barbell Row 3 6-12
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press 3 8-12
Pec Dec - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
V-Bar Lat Pull Down - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Side Lateral Raise 2 10-15
Cable Tricep Extensions - 3 sec negative 3 8-12
Cable Curls - 3 sec negative 3 8-12
Day 2: Lower Body Workout
Day 2
Lower Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 6-12
Stiff Leg Deadlifts 3 8-12
Standing Calf Raise 3 10-15
Leg Extensions - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Leg Curl - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Seated Calf Raise - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Cable Crunch - 3 sec negative 3 10-12
Cable Pull Through w/Rope 3 10-12
Day 4: Upper Body Workout
Day 4
Upper Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 8-12
Rack Deadlifts - 3" to 5" off ground 3 5-8
Military Press 3 8-12
Machine Chest Press - 3 sec negative 2 8-12
Pull Ups or Machine Rows - 3 sec negative 2 8-12
Machine Shoulder Press - 3 sec negative 2 8-12
Dumbbell Curls - 3 sec negative 3 8-12
Machine Tricep Dip - 3 sec negative 3 8-12
Day 5: Lower Body Workout
Day 5
Lower Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press 3 10-20
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts 3 8-12
Leg Press Calf Raise 3 10-15
Hack Squat 2 8-12
Seated Leg Curl - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Seated Calf Raise - 3 sec negative 2 10-12
Planks 3 60 sec
Hyperextension 3 10-12

FAQs about The Upper/Lower Workout

Below is a compiled list of some of the most frequently asked questions about this particular upper/lower workout.

The questions were questions we noticed we received often in the comments section.

Read through them to see if your question is answered. If it is not, please be sure to leave us a comment and we will try to answer your question to the best of our ability.

1. What is a 3 Second Negative?

The negative portion of the lift is the lowering or eccentric portion. For instance, on a bench press, the negative would be lowering the bar to your chest.

A 3 second negative is making this portion of the lift take 3 seconds to perform.

2. What Makes This Routine a Beginner Workout?

The total amount of volume in this workout routine is appropriate for a beginner level trainee.

If you wanted to make it more advanced, you could simply continue to increase the weights used over time or by upping the volume by adding additional sets.

All workout routines can be used by all levels of experience. It’s more or less a matter of knowing how to make your training most effective based on your goals, capabilities, and lifestyle.

3. How Long Should I Rest In Between Sets?

Timed rest periods usually don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, at least in my experience.

Typically, they are used to help keep the workouts more focused.

They will also depend on the total effort exuded on any given set. As you get stronger, you may need more time to rest in between sets.

A good rule of thumb is 60-90 seconds depending on the exercise. For more compound movements in a hypertrophy focused workout routine, you’ll want to take a full 90 seconds or so to recovery before performing the next set.

For isolation lifts or accessory movements, you may want to keep rest periods shorter as you will likely need less time to recover.

So, to sum it up, rest as needed.

4. Why So Many Deadlift Variations?

The deadlift is a mass builder. And each variation will place emphasis on different body parts it is training.

Stiff leg deadlifts will allow you to maximize the total poundage you use for the exercise since it’s a barbell compound. If done properly, the majority of the tension should be placed on the hamstrings and glutes.

For rack pull deadlifts, the barbell is elevated and the focus is on the upper back and traps.

Dumbbell stiff leg deadlifts will again train the hamstrings and glutes. Your grip will provide a limiting factor on this variation as it is more difficult to grip dumbbells compared to barbells.

Lastly, the hyperextensions, if performed properly, will place the majority of its tension on the glutes.

At the end of the day, if you do not feel comfortable performing this many hip hinge variations, you’re more than welcome to alter the template in a way that better fits your needs.

5. Can I Use The Workout If I Follow A Keto Diet?

Yes, you can use this program with any sort of diet.

That being said, keto diets aren’t necessarily an ideal approach for maximizing muscle growth and fueling performance during your workouts.

Everyone is different though. Continue to diet and exercise in whatever ways work best for you.

6. Can I Add Cardio?

Yes, you can add cardio to this program. The type and duration of the style of cardio will highly depend on your goals and time restraints.

If you are someone low on time, you can add HIIT cardio sessions to the end of your workouts on your training days.

Depending on your goals, you can also add in steady state cardio on your rest days as a form of active recovery.

7. Should I Increase The Weight Each Set?

You can increase the weight after each set if you enjoy performing your workouts in a pyramiding set fashion. Or you can keep them as straight sets. Whichever you prefer will do the trick.

The one caveat is, to build muscle you have to accomplish progressive overload. This can be accomplished in a number of different ways. However, the easiest to track is by increasing the weight used session to session over time.

Everyone progresses differently. So long as you are improving upon the weight you are using whenever you are capable of doing so, you will see results.

8. Can I Add Core Exercises?

You may add additional core exercises to this program if you like. However, depending on your goals, it may not be necessary.

If your goal is to develop your midsection, you’ll be better off focusing on creating a calorie deficit and improving your strength levels throughout the duration of the program.

If your goal is increasing your core strength, you can include some additional stability exercises as you see fit based on your working capacity, experience level, and ultimate goal.

9. Can Women Perform This Workout?


Women can utilize this workout for whatever goals they may have. They may want to consider altering the exercise selection depending on their individual goals (a lot of women want to focus on glute growth) – however, it’s already pretty glute and hamstring emphasized via the deadlift variations and may not warrant additional alterations.

10. How Should I Warm Up?

Everyone’s warm ups will look different based on their individual mobility levels.

For an article on how to build out an appropriate warm up routine, check out this article.

Post your post-workout swolfies in M&S gear on IG and tag @muscleandstrength, #muscleandstrength, or DM them to us to get a shoutout on Muscle & Strength stories!

347 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Fri, 07/10/2020 - 06:55

Can I add more bicep and tricep exercises to the routine?

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Posted Tue, 08/11/2020 - 10:25

Hey John

I recommend trying the program as it's written first. If you still feel like you've got gas in the tank for your arms at the end of your upper body days then feel free to add some.

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Posted Thu, 06/11/2020 - 18:06
Chris Travis

Is doing only two exercises a week for a muscle enough?

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Posted Tue, 08/11/2020 - 10:23

Hey Chris

2-3 is the goal. Your muscles also get a fair bit of indirect work within all of the compound movements.

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Posted Thu, 04/02/2020 - 11:03

I'm switching from doing Body Beast home workouts for quite some time and feel it's time to switch it up. As I only have access to free weights is there a non-machine alternative to all the workouts listed above? Thanks

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Posted Tue, 08/11/2020 - 10:27

Hey Folk

We've got an entire DB only program written up for you. Check it out https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/dumbbell-only-upper-lower-wor...

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Posted Wed, 03/11/2020 - 21:15

Hello, thanks for this routine. Been using it a few months and have been making some gains etc cud say newbie gains. However I train two days and maybe off one or two days because of work commitments. Any advice to maintain my progress without loosing my progress? Thanks

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Posted Wed, 02/19/2020 - 15:43

Will this split work on losing weight and fat

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Posted Sun, 04/05/2020 - 23:55

Any sort of weight lifting will help tremendously with burning fat and toning up as long as your diet is correct !

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Posted Sat, 02/08/2020 - 06:55

Is this better than 5 day body part split

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Posted Wed, 02/05/2020 - 05:52

I'm an ectomorph can I use this program?

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Posted Sun, 02/02/2020 - 21:25

I've been doing this program for around 3 months. Can i keep going with it?

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2020 - 15:02

Hi Tom,

Absolutely - keep it up!

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Posted Sun, 02/16/2020 - 07:47

What are the results like Tom?

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Posted Thu, 01/30/2020 - 11:25
Chris Wallace

What weight should I start out with and how much should i increase it by each session?

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Posted Fri, 01/24/2020 - 07:16

Can I change the compound lifts to 5x5? Add a bit of strength training or would that make no sense ?

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Posted Fri, 01/24/2020 - 11:19

Hi Jonathan,

Sure - that'd be fine.

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Posted Tue, 01/07/2020 - 17:48

A lot of sources say you want about 12-16 sets per week for large muscle groups. Will ten sets be sufficient?

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Posted Wed, 01/08/2020 - 14:34

Hi Dylan,

Everyone is different. This workout is part of a series that leads to a 6 day very high frequency dumbbell workout.

Each workout is simply a template. If you personally need more as an individual, add more.

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Posted Thu, 01/09/2020 - 12:56

Hello Josh,

Could you please direct me to the workout series this plan is part of?


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Posted Tue, 12/31/2019 - 12:30

Just starting this workout, what rpe should you be hitting on each set, or is each set to failure? As with a 60~ second break time, I find myself lowering the weight if I go to failure. Thanks!

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Posted Mon, 12/30/2019 - 09:53
Alexandre Bergeron

Hi, I want to give this one a shot but there's 1 thing bugging me. There's quite a huge difference between 6 and and 12 reps. Can you explain why the range is so big? Can I do anything in between 6 and 12? Or is it depending on the type of workout I'm aiming for (build muscle vs strength)? thanks!

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Posted Mon, 11/25/2019 - 00:37
Matt Kendall

I’m very much a beginner and I have no idea what a 3 second negative is

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Posted Tue, 11/26/2019 - 02:55

Will give an example. Benchpress - while you lowering your bar you are doing negative motion. 3 sec negative would mean that you will have to do it in 3 secs (slowly). Same principle for other exercises.

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Posted Thu, 10/31/2019 - 23:14
Jesus Medero

I'm having a hard time doing legs because of a knee injury do you think it would be a bad idea to do this with your and just cardio instead of the leg days my goal is to lose weight

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Posted Tue, 12/10/2019 - 07:35

Hi Jesus, I have recently been recovering from a snapped femur. If your main goal is to lose weight, then your most important consideration NEEDS to be healthy eating. Reducing your calories is not a good idea with a routine designed to increase muscle mass - you need extra calories in order for your body to build muscle. You would be better with a strength training routing, since strength gains are more neurological in nature. A good diet, strength training and a bit of cardio (circuits work well) will have your weight dropping off. Avoid alcohol too. As for your knee, it would be best to ask your physio for specific rehab exercises and avoid any which are likely to aggravate the injury.

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Posted Thu, 09/05/2019 - 17:27

Hi! I have been training for some months now and wanted a change in my workout. I really liked the exercises and the split of this one. However, i see it is classified as beginner and I feel I should already jump into an Intermediate training. Would you recommend to look for another training? What does make this a beginner workout?
Thank you!

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Posted Tue, 12/10/2019 - 07:31

Hi Antonio, the fact that you're asking what makes this a "beginner" workout means that your workout experience probably isn't at the level where you need to be moving to a different routine yet.

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Posted Tue, 09/03/2019 - 08:24
Redi Shani

How much rest between sets?

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Posted Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:17
محمود حسين

3 types of deadlift is overtreaning? or it is okay ?

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Posted Sun, 08/04/2019 - 12:29
Michael Rodzen

Stiff leg dead lifts target hamstrings, not the entire posterior chain like conventional dead lifts. You will not be using heavy weights and taxing the body in the same way so it is okay.

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Posted Wed, 07/10/2019 - 01:18

Omg those 3 second negatives really make the routine

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Posted Mon, 05/13/2019 - 23:52

Hi I'm 45 and returning to the gym. Been doing this routine now going on 2nd week after finishing up on a 4 week beginner routine., I'm following a Keto diet at a slight caloric deficit as I need to lose about 30lbs. of body fat. I'm 6'5 and weighing in at roughly 255. How do you feel the diet will work with this type of program. Also, I'm supplementing with fish oil, and a free test booster. Do you think this program will fit for me at this point?

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Posted Tue, 04/23/2019 - 22:41

I love this workout! The only changes I have made are a few more biceps and triceps, I use a trap bar for the stiff leg deadlifts (Josh, you hooked me on the trap bar in the SHUL workout), and I do the ab and glute work on its own day. The three-second negatives are very effective.

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Posted Wed, 04/24/2019 - 11:55

Hi Mark,

That's awesome bro! Keep up the good work!!

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Posted Tue, 04/23/2019 - 04:43

Sir will this overtrain our lower back ? And can i still do weighted facepulls everyday ? If i add it will, there be too much volume that recovery will suffer ? Been doing this for a week using 3 sets of 12 reps for all the exercise . Been lifting whole body for 4 and a half months before switching to this program i switched because i was plateau-ing in my lifts using a fullbody strength program. Thankyou sir seems like a very good program.

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Posted Wed, 05/01/2019 - 04:52
Jared Isaiah Frazier

Why are you doing 3 sets and 12 reps for everything? Increase weight weekly and play with it see where you're at. I always pyramid down like 12 10 8. But I play with my weight for gainz u wanna make that sh!the hard. Sometimes I'll shoot for 10 and barely get 9. That means I pushed myself hard. I'm on my 5th week and been just increasing weight weekly. I came back from a broken finger and jaw surgery and this program has really got me back into that OG feeling

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Posted Thu, 03/28/2019 - 14:10

Will this program work well for power building/strength? I was looking for a good upper/lower strength building program.

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Posted Fri, 03/29/2019 - 09:38

Hi Ryan,

For maximum strength, there are better programs. That said, this program will still build strength - but it's rep scheme is more in-line with muscle growth.

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Posted Mon, 03/25/2019 - 18:14

Can i do cardio with this program?

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Posted Wed, 03/27/2019 - 16:40

Hi Jan,


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Posted Wed, 03/20/2019 - 21:42

can i do trap bar deadlift instead of squat ...i have knee and lower back pain from squats

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Posted Mon, 03/11/2019 - 10:04

Hi Steve

Like the look of this to get back into the gym!
Do you recommend increasing weight after each set?

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Posted Tue, 04/02/2019 - 04:01
Jared Isaiah Frazier

I do what I know will be a challenge but stays in the rep ranges it provides. I'm going to track exactly the weight and reps I did so next time I know to put a littLe more on and do the same reps I did last time I believe that's called progressive overload. That's just what I plan to do. Also some cardio on rest days

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Posted Thu, 02/07/2019 - 14:05

Will this workout help if I’m trying to lean bulk

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Posted Sat, 01/26/2019 - 12:01

I have a mild slipped disk problem in my back. should I be careful with any of the exercise? are they all okay and safe for me to follow?

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Posted Tue, 01/15/2019 - 17:38

Hi does this workout have core exercises? If so which ones?

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Posted Mon, 01/07/2019 - 03:51

Hi , i have been going through steady training and nutrition plan for about 5 months. And i want to maximize muscle growth as faster as possible.

Is this plan best for me ?

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Posted Mon, 01/07/2019 - 12:46

Hi Yassein,

The increase in frequency can certainly help depending on the programs you've used in the past.

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Posted Sun, 12/30/2018 - 14:03
Ozzy Saleh

I have been implementing for a couple of weeks, i noticed that there is a lot of deadlift exercises. Is that to strengthen the core?