- Main GoalBuild Muscle
- Workout TypeSplit
- Training LevelBeginner
- Program Duration10 weeks
- Days Per Week4
- Time Per Workout45-60 minutes
- Equipment RequiredBarbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
- Target Gender Male & Female
- Recommended Supps
- Workout PDF Download Workout
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.
Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course
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: Rest
- Wednesday: Lower Workout
- Thursday: Rest
- Friday: Upper Workout
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday: Rest
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.
Upper/Lower Workout Schedule
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:
- Monday - Upper Body
- Tuesday - Lower Body
- Wednesday - Rest
- Thursday - Upper Body
- Friday - Lower Body
- Saturday - Rest
- Sunday - Rest
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.
Monday: Upper Body Workout
|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|
Tuesday: Lower Body Workout
|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|
Thursday: Upper Body Workout
|Incline Dumbbell Bench Press||3||8-12|
|Rack Deadlifts - 3" to 5" off ground||3||5-8|
|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|
Friday: Lower Body Workout
|Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts||3||8-12|
|Leg Press Calf Raise||3||10-15|
|Seated Leg Curl - 3 sec negative||2||10-12|
|Seated Calf Raise - 3 sec negative||2||10-12|
Upper/Lower Workout FAQs
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!
Hey there, I do a Upper Lower Upper Fullbody split. Is it a odd way of doing it or is it actually smart?
If it's working for you, it's smart. Just don't keep doing it for sake of doing it if it isn't working.
Can I add forearm exercises to this split?
Sure. I like reverse curls, myself, but go with whatever you like.
Hi Roger, I have a question the reps range 6-12 is to much wide, how to use 6-12 reps range? Thank you
You can do it one of two ways.
Either use a weight that you will reach failure within the 6-12 rep range. You may be able to get 12 on the first set, but 10 on the second, and six to eight on the third.
Or, you can start with lighter weight for 12, heavier for 8-10, then the heaviest for 6.
Hope this helps!
Hi,i do this workout;but 1:(instead of 2/3 sets i do 4 sets)
And 2:(i also do one exercise more for each muscle).Because i feel its not enough.and it takes me 2h of the time in the gym.
What do you suggest me to do? Please answer me!
If you feel it's helping you, keep going. Just monitor your recovery.
This looks like a great full body program to follow. I have been weight training now for about 2-3 years. I am looking to add size now, especially in my arms. I seem to have hit a plateau with my arms and chest, and am looking for something to help me bust through that. Would it be good for me to up the intensity by adding a couple of extra bicep/tricep exercises on the upper body days? And/or possibly more sets?
I would run with this as is for at least a few weeks, Aaron. If you don't see the progress you're looking for, then you could add one bicep and one tricep movement for each muscle on the upper body days.
Can I do this with some supersets to save time? for example superset the 3 isolation exercises and the core/arm at the end and still do the compound moves as straight sets?
I completely understand the time component, Mike. Go for it, and let us know how it goes. Just make sure your recovery is on point.
I am going to start this program but I have two questions ;
1) I see in many programs compound exercises are 4 sets and isolation exercises are 3 sets whereas I see here that compounds are 3 and isolations are 2. How can one decide if 3 &2 is enough or it is better to do make it 4&3 ?
2) I see that there is no conventional deadlift here. If I want to deadlift, with which exercises should I substitute with?
Thank you in advance.
What's good, Cagri?
Three and two are enough for this because of the extra volume you're doing overall with more exercises. Don't feel like you have to push for the extra sets unless you get a couple weeks in and don't notice anything at all.
Replace the Stiff-Legged Deadlift with the Conventional DL. Hope this helps!
Love the look of this one. Just wondered if I can swap out the calf exercises? I’m female and already have naturally large calves so not too keen on sculpting them more. I’d love to include some more glute work to build my glutes. Could I swap calves for something like hip thrusts or are there any other glute focused moves you’d recommend instead?
That would work, Sian. Hip thrusts are the best option in my opinion. Go for it!
I love this workout ... for beginners it's a DREAM ... what I don't like about it personally ... is that it doesn't include Bulgarian split.....
on Friday, if I replace Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift with
Bulgarian split, would it be ok? how would you proceed?
I'm interested in your opinion on this matter
PS I inform you that I do " Rack Deadlifts" and "Stiff Leg Deadlifts" with great passion... they are my weekly challenge
The Bulgarian will do more for quads than hamstrings, but yes, you can make that switch if you feel your quads need more work.
I have a question, is it possible that i can add some bicep exercises myself, i personally think its kinda lacking in bicep exercises so i add 3 extra sets of biceps to each day, is it okay? Or am i overkilling?
Let's meet in the middle. Do three extra sets on each upper body day. That's six more a week, which can be a difference.
Hi I need to ask can I use this whole program for many years. I adore this program and which to keep it for long time
You will probably need to make a change after six months or so, but feel free to run with it as long as you notice results. Once the progress slows down, come on back and we'll help you find another one that you could enjoy just as much. Thanks for reading M&S!
I don't have a leg extensions machine at my gym what should I replace that with?
Dumbbell leg extensions with a dumbbell between your feet would work. You will need to sit on a high seat or bench for this. If that won't work, then go to our exercises section and find the quad exercises that you can do. Any of them would serve you well.
Hello, I have three questions. There's no leg curl machine at my gym what can I replace that with? I don't have enough squat mobility to do proper form squats what can I replace it with? Can I replace Stiff Leg Deadlift on Tuesday with Conventional Deadlifts? Thanks.
If you have a cable machine, do standing leg curls.
Work on that mobility so you can do squats properly. That will not only help you make progress, but function in life better. In the meantime, do the leg press on that day as well.
Yes, you can do conventional deadlifts instead.
Hello, i have a few questions about volume and changing some workouts, can i change stiff leg deadlifts with romanian deadlift and barbell squats with dumbbell squats(sadly i have an s curve scoliosis and my uncle which is a physical therapist told me to not do them) and would it affect my recovery if i did 4 sets instead of 3 sets and 3 sets instead of 2, i've been working out in a gym for 5 months.
I agree with your uncle about the squats. So, definitely make the switch. I'm ok with the Romanians too.
You can do four sets instead of three, OR you can do three instead of two. Doing an extra set for all exercises does take the volume way up, which could ultimately impact your recovery, especially with the scoliosis. Hope this helps!
Hello again, ive been doing db squats and man ive increased the weight from 15kg to 26kg really fast. But the thing is that these 26kg db-s are not heavy at all, its. Just my grip strenght cannot catch up with weights, so when i go to romanian deadlifts my forearms are really fatigued and even with straps, i just cant hold the barbell long enough. Do you have any suggestions as what can i replace them with(i’ve also heard that front squats and low bar squats do not compress the spine that much and is more safer for scoliosis and want to try them out, just curious if ill get similar benefits as with high bar). Thank you for the feedback again!!!!
Thank you very much for the response. Also sorry for bothering you guys with too much questions but leg curl and leg extension machines are always busy and i find it very hard getting around these two, what can be a good alternatives to do instead? Again, thank you very much for the feedback!
I agree with the assessment about front squats, but you should still avoid back squats with significant weight. Also another suggestion, start with the Romanian Deadlifts when you are fresh so your grip will last longer.
To be clear, the questions are literally why I'm here. So, please don't consider this a bother. M&S wants to help people reach goals.
Leg extension - using a dumbbell between the feet can be a solid alternative. Sit on a bench or high box with the dumbbell between the feet and lift slowly to maximize contraction.
Leg Curl - Standing leg curl on a cable machine or a dumbbell leg curl can also help. Make sure you also check out our Exercises section so you can find other alternatives if these don't work.
I like the program and I'm thinking to add an extra accesory upper day (I have good genetics in my lower body and I don't need to train it as much as my upper).
Also I will train mon-fry and doing active recovery (Low Intesity running, cycling or swimming) on saturdays or training in saturdays if I can't train some day mid week.
Any comments or suggestions? Thank you.
As long as you have one complete day of recovery, you should be okay. I'm guessing you know your body pretty well and been training for a while. Do us a favor and let us know how this goes for you. Thanks for reading M&S!
After 10 weeks is there another variation of an upper lower split
You can try this one, Chad.
Yes, I always like to change my workouts after a month or two...Thank You
For a deload, instead of my normal 4 day upper lower, can I do 2 and some hiking (going on vaca)? I'm an intermediate lifter but have going almost 100% past 8-10 weeks.
Love it, Elizabeth! Go for it, and enjoy the vacation!
How many leg presses should i do in the second workout?
Between 10-20 is a pretty large range...
Set 1: 20 reps
Set 2: Add weight and do 15
Set 3: Add more weight and do 10.
If you're really focusing on strength, then stay with sets of 10.
It took me 1:45 minutes to finish the first upper body day, is it me or its just a long workout?
The Thursday routine has rack deadlifts as the 2nd exercise is that correct ?seems like more of a leg exercise as the link takes you to a deadlift video
They don't have a rack deadlift video for the barbell, but they do with the trap bar.
This is actually great for the back, and your legs are minimally involved.
Can i do this 4 day workout with no rest between?
Sunday- upper body, Monday- lower body
Tuesday-upper body Wednesday- lower body?
You need at least one day of recovery in between the four workouts. I suggest taking Tuesday off and finishing with Wed. and Th.
Cool if I can change the exercises to different machine exercise?
As long as they work the same muscle groups, go for it, Alex! Let us know what you're changing. Other readers may benefit.
Is it ok to switch the workouts around to optimize layout of your gym or should they be done in exact order?