September 15, 2021

If you are considering to run an upper lower workout split, you’ve come to the right place. This is the ultimate guide to the upper lower split, which is probably the most popular workout routine across the board, and surely one of the most effective.

In this guide, you are going to learn everything you need to know about the upper lower split, including the pros and cons, best frequency, best exercises, rep ranges, volume, progression, and, of course, we have a complete upper lower workout plan for 2, 3, 4 and 5 day upper lower splits, so you can choose the plan that best fits your schedule and fitness level. 

Let’s get started… 


First of all, a “split” is a way of organizing muscle groups or body parts into separate training days. This makes planning workouts strategic so you can stay on track and reach long term goals. Furthermore, a good split will allow you to mitigate fatigue and optimize recovery, as you can let certain muscles rest as you train other areas of your body. 

So, an upper lower routine is simply a split that divides your workouts into upper body workout days and lower body workout days. 

Upper body workouts will train all of your upper body muscles (chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps). 

Lower body workouts will train all of your lower body muscles (glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves). 

As for core…Think of your core as the connection between your upper and lower body. It’s somewhere in the middle, literally and in the sense of an upper lower split. Typically an upper lower split will have one core exercise on both upper and lower body days (even though it is technically an upper body area). However, since your core will be worked with many big compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press and overhead press, you will not need much additional accessory work, and since upper body days will require more volume due to more muscles needing to be hit, you can opt to just do one or two core specific exercises on lower body days. 

How many days per week is an upper lower split?

The beauty of an upper lower workout split is that it is so versatile, meaning it can be adjusted to your schedule and fitness level.

You could do a 2, 3, 4, 5, or even 6 day upper lower split, and we will be giving you a plan for each after we run through all of the pertinent information about upper lower workout splits. 

But, to quickly show you how it works…

2 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Monday: Upper
  • Thursday: Lower

You can choose any two days during the week, but having at least one rest day between sessions is best.

3 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Monday: Upper
  • Wednesday: Lower
  • Friday: Upper

Then the following week on Monday, you would start with lower, and continue like this. So, one week will have two upper body days, then the next week will have two lower body days, and so on. 

4 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Monday: Upper
  • Tuesday: Lower
  • Thursday: Upper
  • Friday: Lower

This is the most popular upper lower split option. As with the previous upper lower frequency options, you can alter the working days, but it’s best to have a rest day between the first upper and lower workouts and the second. But you could also do something like M-Upper, Tu-Lower, Friday-Upper, Saturday-Lower. It’s flexible, just as long as you do all 4 workouts each week. 

5 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Monday: Upper
  • Tuesday: Lower
  • Wednesday: Upper
  • Thursday: Lower
  • Friday: Upper

This is ideal if you want to have the weekends off, to give yourself a little work-life balance. However, like a 3 day upper lower split, you can add your rest days (in this case two rest days) where needed, and each week you will have one more upper or lower body workout, starting off where you left the previous week. 

6 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Monday: Upper
  • Tuesday: Lower
  • Wednesday: Upper
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Lower
  • Satuday: Upper
  • Sunday: Lower

Then, you’d rest on the following Monday and repeat. So, it’s not technically a 6 day split, as it is based on 8 days, but for all intents and purposes, it is. It is the most advanced upper lower routine, along with a 5 day upper lower split.

How many days per week for an upper lower split is best? 

4 days is the most popular and standard upper lower split routine as it optimizes frequency, volume, and rest.

However, which is best will depend on your schedule and fitness level. We can’t determine what the best schedule is for you, so you will have to decide on that for yourself (and remember, you can play around with the rest days and working days). 

In terms of fitness level, a 2 day or 3 day upper lower split will be best for beginners to start, although some beginners can opt for the more common and popular 4 day upper lower split right away, so long as they are able to recover well enough. 

As for everyone else, the 4 day upper lower split is the best choice. Yet, some advanced lifters can opt for a 5 or 6 day option if they feel up to it. With a 5 and 6 day split, workouts are going to be programmed with less recovery days in mind, so they won’t be as intense as a 4 day split. 

With a 4 day split, you can train for both strength and hypertrophy, really pushing your limits each workout as you should have enough recovery time.

In terms of fitness goals, a 3 day split can be really good for strength & power training, a 4 day split will be best for strength and hypertrophy, and a 5-6 day split can be good for hypertrophy and fat loss if done appropriately.

So, if you are an intermediate lifter, like many of you probably are, and you are trying to bulk up, stay lean and get stronger, go for a 4 day upper lower split. However, if you are looking to cut (get shredded) and you simply want more days in the gym, then a 5 or 6 day upper lower split may be doable.

upper lower body split


2, 3, 5 and 6 day upper lower splits are not the norm. The norm is a 4 day split, which is perfect for bodybuilders and powerlifters alike. So, most of the following benefits are based on the classic 4 day upper lower split. After we go through the general benefits of an upper lower split, we will make note of the specific pros and cons for the 2, 3, 5 and 6 day options.

1. Versatile (Fitness Level, Schedule, Exercises, & Goals) 

The upper lower split is extremely versatile. It’s going to work for all fitness levels and all schedules. You can do 2, 3, 4, 5 and even 6 day splits. You can tailor your training toward strength and hypertrophy or fat loss.

Most upper lower splits are at least 3 days and usually 4 or 5 days, so you will have different upper body and lower body workouts each week, allowing you to have a good amount of variety in regards to exercise selection and rep ranges.

You can really play around with progression and different types of periodization. For example, you could have one upper body and lower body day for hypertrophy where you do high volume with lower intensity and one upper body and lower body day for strength with low volume and high intensity.

The point is, an upper lower split is easily tailored to your demands pretty much on all fronts. 

2. Perfect Mix of High Frequency & High Volume

A body part split (aka bro split) maximizes volume at the sacrifice of frequency. A full body routine maximizes frequency at the sacrifice of volume. An upper lower split gives you the perfect amount of both.

Note: Volume being the amount of sets and reps for each muscle group per workout/week and frequency being the number of times you hit your muscle groups each week. 

Studies show that training each muscle group twice a week is best for hypertrophy and strength. But, of course, volume is an essential component. Without adequate volume, your muscles can’t grow (i.e. if you did just one set of 10 reps multiple times a week, that’s obviously not enough). So, the upper lower split optimizes both, making it a great choice for those who want to build muscle and strength in the most efficient manner. 

More to the point of volume…Since you won’t be placing all your total weekly volume into one workout like you will with a body part split, your muscles will recover faster and DOMS will be less severe. 

3. Efficient & Effective (Big Lifts Without Much Fluff) 

Upper lower splits are highly efficient. You will be focusing on the best and most productive exercises, as if you didn’t, you’d be in the gym for hours on end, being that you need to hit multiple muscle groups each workout. 

So, you will be sticking to the best compound exercises and then adding in some assistance and accessory exercises where needed to ensure you are giving each muscle group enough attention.

Basically, you will build your workouts around the big four – bench press, overhead press, squats, deadlifts – plus pull ups and rows. Anything additional is a bonus.

These big compound exercises will provide you the biggest bang for your buck. They are the best for building overall strength, muscle mass, burning calories, and boosting androgenic hormones.

Very simple, very efficient, very effective.

What’s more, you can work antagonistic muscle groups together. For example, you could superset a back exercise with a chest exercise (for one of the assistance/accessory exercises) to get your volume up without wasting time. You’d still be able to give both exercise good force as they are opposing actions. They work well together, as there’s no conflict, so you can keep moving throughout your workout if you want to speed things up and keep calorie burn high. 

4. Reduces Overlap For Best Recovery 

You won’t have any overlap in the muscles you are training with an upper lower split. All of your upper body push and pull muscles will be working on the same day, rather than doing shoulders one day and chest another day, where if your shoulders are sore, your chest workout will be less productive.

With an upper lower split, the muscles that work together (agonist) will be resting together. Other splits usually have a bigger overlap, especially a body part split, as agonist muscles are plentiful (i.e. your lats are actually an agonist to your pec major). 

In terms of recovery, with a 4 day split, you have plenty of time to let your muscles get back to 100%. Generally speaking, you’ll have 72-96 hours of rest between training the same muscle again.

Think about it, if you do a workout on Monday for upper body, then you won’t be doing another workout for your upper body until at the earliest Thursday, which is plenty of time for your muscles to recover, especially since the total weekly volume is spread out between the two workouts, not all in one day. Again, this keeps DOMS to a minimum (which doesn’t make it any less effective for building muscle according to studies). 

Beyond all that, the upper lower split has other notable benefits for specific individuals and demographics too. The upper lower split is the most popular split for athletes as it is perfectly geared towards that type of fitness and allows time for other more sport specific training. Big compound exercises train your body to work as a single unit, which functional training, strength, and sports is all about.

Downfall of an Upper Lower Split:

All training splits have some downfalls. Nothing is perfect. The upper lower split is no exception.

There are really only two cons of an upper lower workout split.

  1. Upper body workouts can be on the longer side as you have many muscles to train. On one hand, big compound lifts like bent over rows, bench press, and overhead press can take care of that. But on the other hand, these take a lot of energy, so it’ll be hard to do all of them at your best, which means you’ll have to emphasize certain lifts one day and the others on the second upper body session of the week.
  2. This point kind of relates to the point above, and it may be a pro rather than a con for you. With an upper lower split, you will get plenty of volume for your legs, but you may end up a little short on your upper body. This is great for someone who’s legs are lagging behind, but not so much for someone who’s upper body is lagging behind. All in all, this is not a huge deal if you program correctly, which we will do for you below when we get to the workout plan. For the most part, you will get the volume you need for your upper body just fine, especially if you are a beginner to intermediate. 

Generally speaking, because of point number 2, advanced bodybuilders won’t use an upper lower split. However, for everyone else, the upper lower split is usually far more effective than a body part split. 

Note: If you do deadlifts, which you should, then technically you are getting some crucial upper body work on lower body days too.

Pros and Cons of 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 Day Upper Lower Splits:

Pros of 2 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Good for beginners who are just starting out.
  • Very easy to manage.
  • Effective for building strength. 

Cons of 2 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Not enough volume or frequency.

Essentially, a 2 day split is only good for those just starting out or people who simply want to maintain and have other fitness activities going on in their life (such as a sport).

Pros of a 3 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Easy to manage
  • Effective for building strength and weight loss, depending on your goal.
  • Good for beginners and some intermediate lifters with a busy schedule.

Cons of a 3 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Not quite enough volume or frequency for best hypertrophy results, especially if you are an intermediate or advanced lifter.

A 3 day Upper Lower Split makes sense for late-beginners and people with busy schedules or those who have other physical activities that they want to do, such as HIIT training or a sport. Because of the latter, even some more advanced fitness enthusiasts choose a 3 day upper lower workout split. 

Pros of a 4 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Optimizes frequency and volume, without sacrificing recovery.
  • Still easy to manage.
  • Versatile in pretty much every way thinkable.
  • Great for building muscle and strength.
  • Still enough time for other activities.

Cons of a 4 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • In terms of an upper lower split, there really are no cons, but in regards to splits as a whole, it is going to be somewhat heavier on leg training than upper body muscle groups. 

Pros of a 5 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Maximizes frequency and volume.
  • Good for building muscle and fat loss.
  • Versatile. 

Cons of a 5 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Can be hard in terms of recovery.
  • Not as easy to manage (but if you do miss a day, it’s not such a big deal since you would have already hit upper and lower twice that week, which is actually a pro).
  • Not exactly ideal for strength as it’s hard to have 5 intense days per week, but this can be fixed by doing some high volume days and low volume/high intensity days (DUP). 

Pros of a 6 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Absolutely maximizes frequency and volume.
  • Good for fat loss, and if recovery practices are good (sleep and eating), building muscle.
  • Versatile & tons of variety.

Cons of a 6 Day Upper Lower Split:

  • Pretty much the same cons as a 5 day upper lower split.

We don’t recommend 6 day upper lower splits, but they can be done. The only time we think this kind of split makes sense is if you are on a cutting phase or if you are an advanced lifter with a strategic plan (in which case you know exactly how to formulate your workouts to your goals).

Note: You can also play around with 5 and 6 day upper lower splits where they are essentially a 4 day upper lower split with one or two additional days for other things like a full body workout, low intensity long duration cardio, or HIIT, as seen in this 7 day workout plan guide.


The best upper lower split frequency is going to be 4 days a week. This is standard and what most people think of when discussing an upper lower split. It’s really the best option. All other frequencies are alternatives to the classic 4 day upper lower workout split.

upper lower workout plan


An upper lower split is good for literally anybody and everybody. Because of its versatility, it works for all schedules and fitness levels. A beginner can do a 2, 3 or 4 day upper lower split with an appropriate workout structure and an intermediate lifter can do a 3, 4 or 5 day upper lower split with an appropriate workout programming tailored to their goals. As for advance lifters, they know exactly how to use an upper lower split to their advantage, so we don’t have to tell them. There are plenty advanced powerlifters and bodybuilders who use an upper lower split.

The only demographic that may not do well with an upper lower split is an advanced bodybuilder who needs more volume for each muscle group of the upper body.

Overall, the upper lower split is a fantastic option for building muscle, getting stronger and losing fat. Again, it’s versatile so you can adjust the workouts exactly to your demand. 

For most amateur bodybuilders and your average fitness enthusiast, the upper lower split is far and away a better choice than a bro split. The only other option that can compete with an upper lower split for most intermediate trainees is a Push Pull Leg split, which also has its own pros and cons.

Should Beginners Do Upper Lower split? 

If you are an absolute beginner, you can start with a month or two of full body training. Then from there, the upper lower split is unquestionably the best option. The training frequency and volume will allow you to really maximize on your newbie gains. So yes, go for the upper lower split without a second thought and you will see serious gains, guaranteed.


You can do an upper lower split indefinitely. Some people stay on an upper lower split for 12+ months, with deload weeks and slight re-programming every couple months.

So, there really is no maximum amount of time for staying on an upper lower split. If it’s working, you can stick with it.

As for a minimum amount of time, we’d say 4-6 weeks would be an absolute minimum. Anything less and you won’t be able to measure any significant results.

That said, we think a better bottom line would be to give it a go for 8-12 week and then assess. This should be enough time to see how it’s working for your specific goal and schedule.

Most people like to change up workout plans and splits. With an upper lower split, you can always switch up variables (i.e. exercises, volume, intensity) every 4-12 weeks yet you are still sticking with an upper lower split. 

If you’d like to change up splits completely, say to something like a PPL, you can do so just as easy. A lot of trainees like to switch between splits every few months. You can always come back to the upper lower split after doing a different training split for a few months.

All in all, there really is no time limit, but you should at least stick with it for a month or more to see some good results. And if it’s working well, as the old saying goes, “why fix what isn’t broken?”


Before we get into the nitty gritty of the upper lower split, where we actually teach you how to select exercises and structure the workouts, let us answer a few common questions, as this may help you determine whether doing an upper lower split is right for you at the current time. 

Is an upper lower split good for building muscle and gaining strength? 

The upper lower split is great for building muscle and gaining strength. Studies show that training muscles group twice a week is best for hypertrophy. Protein synthesis, which is a process for building muscle, occurs for up to 48 hours after a workout, so if you wait a week (which is 168 hours), you are missing out on growth potential. In other words, a frequency of two times per week is more efficient for building muscle as well as strength progression. 

The only way an upper lower split wouldn’t be good for building muscle (specifically), is if you are advanced and your muscles are already quite big, as you’d need more volume to overload your muscle and bigger muscles take longer to recover. But for beginners and intermediate trainees, it most certainly is effective for building muscle. 

Is upper lower split good for fat loss?

An upper lower workout split can be good for fat loss depending on your workouts and rest time. Most people’s upper lower workout routines revolve around big compound exercises, which are the best at burning calories. So, if you combine that with lower rest times and/or supersets, you can really maximize fat loss.

Essentially, if your goal is fat loss, an upper lower split can be structured perfectly for that goal (far better than a body part split). 

Do bodybuilders use upper lower split?

There are plenty of bodybuilders who use an upper lower split (at least certain times of the year or their career). Bodybuilders know the benefit of higher frequency programs, which the upper lower split is, so they use it to their advantage to build muscle. 

So, in short, yes, bodybuilders also use upper lower splits.

As for elite strength athletes and athletes in pro sports, the upper lower split is the most popular training split. It is geared perfectly towards athletes and powerlifters. 

Which is better full body or upper lower split for beginners? 

If you are a true beginner, as in this is going to be your first day working out, then a full body routine is a little better, but you could start with an upper lower split.

But, let’s say you start with a full body split, you could quickly get on the upper lower split after a month or so of building up a foundation of strength and understanding of the most important exercise’s movement mechanics. 

upper lower split bodybuilding


Now that we have a clear understanding of what an upper lower split is, let’s discuss exercise selection and exercise hierarchy. 

While many of the exercises below involve barbells, dumbbells and cables (all of which are the most common gym equipment), if you area beginner or want to train at home, you can easily perform these movements with a set of quality resistance bands. However, we are here to emphasize an upper lower split for serious mass and strength, which requires heavier loads.

What exercises should I do for an upper lower workout split?

Although you can choose any exercises you like, we highly recommend that you build your upper lower split around several big compound lifts.

Compound exercises will give you the biggest bang for your buck. You can target multiple muscle groups at the same time and use heavier weights, which provides all kinds of benefits such as building better overall strength, muscle, and athleticism.

So, our upper lower splits will be based around six fundamental body movements… 

The Big Six Movements:
  • Horizontal Push
  • Horizontal Pull
  • Vertical Push
  • Vertical Pull
  • Quad Dominant Movements (Squats & Lunges)
  • Hip Dominant Movements (Deadlifts & Hip Thrusts) 

The Big Six will allow you to target all the muscles groups in your body through all the most fundamental movement patterns.

Note: Rotation & Core based exercises will be included as well.

So, with The Big Six, you will choose the most effective and efficient exercises for each and base your workouts around them. 

The following are the most important compound exercises categorized by The Big Six. 

Horizontal Push:

Horizontal pushing exercises involve pressing a weight straight out in front of you. So, you’ll be moving the weight away from your torso horizontally. 

In ranking order we have:

  1. Bench Press
  2. Incline Bench Press
  3. Decline Bench Press
  4. Flat/Incline/Decline Flyes

Every good upper lower plan will involve the bench press. Beginners can opt for dumbbell bench press or even push ups (which is the bodyweight version of a bench press). 

Note: There are various grips that can be done to change the dynamics of the exercise as well. For example, a close grip bench press will target your lats more. But, let’s not worry to much about this as these big compound lifts will do well of hitting all the primary movers effectively as is, especially if you are a beginner-to-intermediate. 

If you have some limitation due to shoulder injuries, you can opt for different variations of bench press or push ups that feel better for you.

Horizontal Pull:

A horizontal pulling exercise involves pulling a weight toward your body. So, you’ll be moving a weight toward your torso horizontally.

Horizontal pulls are basically rows, and the ranking order for strength & hypertrophy training is as follows:

  1. Bent Over Row
  2. T-Bar Row
  3. Single Arm Row
  4. Seated Cable Row
  5. Reverse Flys

With rows, you have different grip options as well. You may use underhand, overhand or neutral grips depending on the equipment being used. It’s good to train with different grip positions as it will affect the muscles that are being emphasized. As we lay out our upper lower workout plan, we will be sure to have the right variety to hit your back from all angles as to ensure best possible development of all your muscles. 

Vertical Push:

A vertical pushing exercise involves moving a weight up vertically in relation to your torso. So, pressing a weight overhead or in the upward direction. 

In ranking order we have:

  1. Overhand Shoulder Press
  2. Chest Dips
  3. Lateral Raises
  4. Front Raises

Different grips and body poisonings apply, but we won’t get into this too much. If you stick with the standard lifts, they will be effective for strength and hypertrophy goals as a beginner or intermediate lifter.

Vertical Pull:

A vertical pulling exercise involves moving a weight down vertically in relation to your torso (or pulling yourself up). Essentially, it’s any exercise where you are pulling down from overhead. 

In ranking order we have:

  1. Pull Ups/Chin Ups (weighted pull ups/chin ups for more advanced)
  2. Lat Pulldowns
  3. Lat Pushdowns & Pullovers

Like with horizontal pulls, there are different grip positioning as well as grip width which can change the emphasis of the muscles worked. The most important are wider overhand pulls and underhand close grip pulls.  We will accommodate our upper lower splits for this.

Quad Dominant Exercises:

Quad dominant exercise are exactly as they sound – exercises that have your quads as the primary mover. Your glutes will also be a primary mover for most of these as well.

In ranking order:

  1. Barbell Back Squats
  2. Front Squats
  3. Split Squats
  4. Lunges
  5. Leg Press
  6. Leg Extensions

Beginners can opt for exercises like dumbbell or kettlebell goblet squats until they learn how to do barbell back squats correctly.

Hip Dominant Exercises:

Hip dominant exercises are based on hip hinging exercises, such as deadlifts and hip thrusts. Hip dominant exercises can be vertical (deadlifts) or horizontal (hip thrusts) as well. In either case, the primary movers will be your hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, and posterior chain as a whole.

In ranking order:

  1. Deadlifts (and variations)
  2. Hip Thrusts/Glute Ham Raises
  3. Good Mornings
  4. Hyperextensions

For reference, exercises like leg curls will fall into this category since they are hamstring focused even through they don’t act on the hips. 

In Summary… 

If you were to only do all the bolded exercise in each of the Big Six sections, it would be enough. This is especially true for beginners and even most intermediate lifters.

However, to ensure each muscle group is getting enough attention, we will consider the bolded exercises above your MAIN LIFTS and we will include other assistance/accessory exercises with them in our upper lower split workout routines. 


You will begin your workouts with your main lifts.

Your main lifts are big-bang-for-your-buck compound exercises that require your energy to be high, so they should be done first.

Your main lifts will be:

  • Bench Press
  • Bent Over Row (Underhand/Overhand)
  • Overhead Press
  • Pull Ups/Chin Ups (do both, switch between)
  • Back Squats
  • Deadlifts

Anything else is an accessory lift and will be done after your main lifts. 

If certain exercises won’t work for you due to some limitation, this can be altered, but we recommend choose a similar big compound exercise that hits the Big Six. 

For those of you who want to do bodyweight training, your six main lifts can be push ups, inverted rows, pike push ups, pull ups, jump squats, and glute bridges/thrusts.

You will see how your main lifts should fit into the upper lower workout plan appropriately soon. 


Assistance lifts are exercises that help you to build strength for your main lifts. However, if you are training just for the purpose of building muscle and getting into good shape, then they are simply accessory lifts, which are exercises done to fill out the rest of your work to ensure each muscle got the attention it needs to grow and get stronger. 

Accessory exercises are more flexible. You can switch them up every month or so (or even weekly) if you wanted, but for the purpose of simplicity, we will keep the same accessory exercises throughout our upper lower workout plans.

Your main lifts will stay consistent so you can progress in strength, and thus size. You can keep the same main lifts forever pretty much, but your assistance and accessory lifts are changeable. Ideally, you want to stick with an accessory exercise until you see diminishing returns, at which time you switch it up and try a new one.

Some of the best accessory exercises are the non-bolded exercises in the Big Six section. There are others as well. 

Here are the best assistance/accessory exercises categorized simply by upper and lower body.


  • Incline Bench (BB or DB)
  • Flyes
  • Dips
  • Close Grip Bench Press
  • Reverse Grip Incline Bench Press
  • Arnold Press
  • Lateral/Front Raises
  • T-Bar Rows
  • Rack Pulls
  • Seated Rows
  • Upright Rows
  • Yates/Pendlay Rows (can be replaced by Bent Over Rows for advanced athletes)
  • Lat Pulldowns (and variations)
  • Lat Pushdowns/Pullovers
  • Bicep Curls
  • Tricep Extensions & Pushdowns


  • Front Squats
  • Split Squats (and variations like Bulgarian split squats)
  • Lunges (and variations)
  • Leg Press
  • Hack Squats
  • Stiff-Leg Deadlift & RDL
  • Good Mornings
  • BB Hip Thrusts
  • Hyperextensions
  • Leg Curls

While there are so many worthy accessory exercises, we will pick the ones that provide the most well rounded workout plan for our upper lower splits. You can change them up as you see fit (i.e. if you want to put more attention on a lagging muscle group or movement pattern).


As mentioned, your main lifts should be done first as they require the most energy. Essentially, you do your biggest compound exercises first, then isolation (or more isolated) exercises after at the end.

The hierarchy of your workouts should always be:

  1. Main Lift(s)
  2. Assistance Lifts (Compound Accessory Exercises)
  3. Isolation Exercises 

Here’s an example of how it will look on a leg day:

  1. Squat
  2. Deadlift
  3. Split Squat
  4. Hip Thrust
  5. Leg Curl
  6. Core Exercise

upper lower workout routine


As for core, you should aim to do some core work 2-4 times a week. Depending on your upper lower split frequency, you could simply do one core exercise each day or one or two core exercises every other day. 

When it comes to your core, it is going to be worked heavily for stability demands with your main lifts, so it won’t really need too much additional work. You core plays a vital role in so many big exercises.

Because of this, you should choose core exercises that make sense based on movement strength patterns that are missing, such as rotational core exercises and anti-lateral core exercises.

The best core exercises for an upper lower split are:

  • Hanging Leg Raises (or Lying Leg Raises for beginners)
  • Planks & Side Planks (or Single Arm Farmer’s Walks)
  • Rotational Core Exercises (Woodchoppers, Med Ball Rotational Throws, Pallof Press, Resistance Band/Cable Ab Twists, Landmine 180s). 

We will choose a few core exercises and place them into the upper lower splits accordingly. Again, your core is going to get plenty of work from the main lifts as well.

Related: 30 Best Bodyweight Core Exercises


Now, the final things to discuss before we get into the workout plan are:

  • Rep Ranges & Loads
  • Rest Times
  • Volume
  • Progression
  • Diet 
Rep Ranges & Loads

Unless you are specifically training to be a bodybuilder or powerlifter, you should work out across the whole spectrum of reps, and thus, weight load. 

For reference, rep ranges mean nothing without consideration for the weight load. Essentially, when discussing reps, you are saying to use a weight load that is challenging in that range (so, to failure or near failure).

Now, back to working out through various rep ranges, which means low reps with heavier weight, medium reps with moderate weight, and high reps with moderate-to-light weight.

Even professional lifters use an entire range as there is a clear relationship between hypertrophy (muscle growth) and strength or power development. A bigger muscle allows for a stronger muscle and a stronger muscle allows for a bigger muscle. Moreover, pure size and strength can be achieved through all rep ranges. 

Basically, you want to be well-rounded and give your muscles the best potential for strength and hypertrophy, so you should play around in all rep ranges (which we will do in our upper lower splits).

Below is a guideline for the repetition spectrum based on specific goals:

  • Power: 1-3 reps using 70-95% 1RM
  • Strength: 4-6 reps using 80-90% 1RM
  • Hypertrophy: 8-15+ reps using 75-65% 1RM
  • Endurance: 15+ reps using 50-60+% 1RM

Endurance will be gained in the hypertrophy range, as will hypertrophy in the strength range and vice versa. The above is simply the major emphasis.

It should also be noted that certain muscle groups do better in specific ranges (in terms of hypertrophy) simply because of the muscle fibers slow and fast twitch ratio.

For example, your calves and traps have more slow twitch muscle fibers so for growth they need more time under tension (reps). Think about it, these muscles are working day in and day out even when you aren’t lifting, so they need more volume to grow.

Generally speaking, your pecs, glutes, quads, and hamstrings do best with heavier weight and moderate-to-lower reps and your deltoids, biceps, triceps, traps, and calves will do well with a range of loads, but do require moderate loads for higher reps to reach full exhaustion and overload. 

As such, we will consider the rep ranges based on the muscle group targeted as well. 


Each workout you should use the different rep ranges.

While you can use light weight for every exercise, not every exercise is going to be suitable for heavy weight.

For example, isolation exercises aren’t usually meant to be done with heavy weight. Essentially, all of your main lifts will be suitable for heavy weight (with exception to pull ups, although weight can be added to increase difficulty). 

Among your main lifts, some lifts will do best in the 3-5 or 3-8 range, while others better in the 6-10 rep range, still with heavy weight relative to the movement.

For example, deadlifts and squats can be effective in the 1-8 rep range, but bent over rows will be better in the 6-12 rep range. Again, with heavy weight relative to the lift.

As such, when designing our upper lower splits below, we will put the heavy lifts at the top, which require the most intensity/energy. And, for certain main lifts, the rep range for “heavy” will be different. 

Generally speaking, squats and deadlifts will be your heaviest lift, followed by bench press, and then bent over rows, overhead press and pull ups. So, squats and deadlifts rep ranges will be slightly lower than bench press, which can be slightly lower than the rest. That said, we will also target the upper body with higher rep ranges as well (e.g. BB bench press for 6-10 reps but DB bench press for 10-15 reps).


For most people, simply sticking to the strength and hypertrophy range is enough to get all the results you could want.

Typically speaking, a good rule of thumb is to have:

  • 2-3 Exercises: 4-6 rep range
  • 1-3 Exercises: 8 rep range
  • 1-4 exercises: 12+ rep range.

You can alter this a bit based on your goals, but just be sure to have at least 1 exercise in each rep range.

Power sets (1-3 reps) are optional. 

You will see how we do it in our workout plan below. 

In terms of exercises for each workout, here is a quick example of how to structure your upper and lower body workouts:

Upper Body Workout Days:

  • 1-2 Horizontal Push Exercises (Chest & Triceps)
  • 1-2 Horizontal Pull Exercises (Back & Biceps)
  • 1-2 Vertical Push Exercise (Shoulders & Triceps)
  • 1-2 Vertical Pull Exercises (Back/Lats & Biceps)

Lower Body Workout Days:

  • 1-3 Quad Dominant Exercises (Quads & Glutes)
  • 1-3 Hip Dominant Exercise (Hamstrings & Glutes)
  • 1 Calves (Calves)
  • 1 Core (Abs, Obliques, Low Back, etc)

The rest time you take between sets will depend on the rep range/intensity. You will need more rest time with lower rep ranges because they involve heavier loads.

  • 4-5 Rep Range: Use 4-5 sets with 2:00 of rest
  • 6 Rep Range: Use 4 sets with 2:00 of rest
  • 8 Rep Range: Use 3 sets with 1:30-2:00 of rest
  • 12+: Use 2-3 sets with :30-1:00 of rest

For the average upper lower workout split, you are going to want to aim for 12-24 sets per muscle group. 12 to 24 sets is a big range, but this is because it’ll depend on the frequency and rep volume combination you choose.

Reps and sets equate to volume, so you need to take into consideration your rep ranges as well, not just the sets.

Just use the 12-24 sets per week for each muscle group as a general rule of thumb. Since you are going to be doing a lot of compound lifts, it’s going to be fairly easy to reach the baseline.


We won’t go into too much details on diet, but if your goal is to build muscle and strength, then you will need to eat in a calorie surplus, and if your goal is to lose fat, then you will need to eat in a calorie deficit.

For beginners, you may also be able to “body recomp” which is body recomposition. With the right diet and training, studies show that beginners can actually lose fat and build muscle at the same time.

All in all, don’t expect to lose fat or gain muscle without eating right. The same goes with sleeping. If you are training hard 4-5 days a week, you will need 7-9 hours of sleep (aim for the higher end) to ensure your muscles are efficiently recovering.

What About Cardio?

Cardio is optional. Unless you are trying to lose fat in which case you need more calorie burn, think of cardio as a way to improve your cardiovascular health. If you do decide to add cardio to one of the routines below, you can do 30-40 minutes 1-3 times per week.

upper lower split for mass


4 days is the classic and most common/popular option for an upper lower split, so we are going to start with it, but after we will provide sample workout plans for 2, 3, and 5 days upper lower splits as well. 


For a 4 day upper lower split, you can organize it however you see fit for your schedule, but upper body days should always be followed by a lower body day (i.e. don’t do two upper body days in a row and then two lower body days). 

Most people do a schedule as such:

Day 1: Upper Workout #1
Day 2: Lower Workout #1
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Upper Workout #2
Day 5: Lower Workout #2
Day 6-7: Rest

This is perfect for recovery. Which actual days of the week those are is up to you (i.e. it could be M, Tu, Th, F or W, Th, Sa, Su). Either way, this spacing of sessions is ideal.

Workout #1 – Upper Body
Barbell Bench Press3 sets6-10 reps
Barbell Bent Over Rows3 sets 8-12 reps
Seated Overhead DB Press3 sets 10-15 reps
Close Grip Lat Pulldown3 sets10-15 reps
Cable Chest Fly (Low & High)2 sets10-15 reps
Cable Lateral Raise2 sets 8-12 reps
DB Pullovers2 sets8-12 reps
Bicep Curl x Tricep Extensions2 sets 10-20 reps
Workout #2 – Lower Body 
Barbell Back Squats4 sets5-8 reps
Romanian Deadlifts3 sets 8-12 reps
Split Squats3 sets 8-12 reps
Barbell Hip Thrusts3 sets8-12 reps
Standing Calf Raises3 sets 10-20 reps
Hanging Leg Raises 3 sets6-12 reps
Workout #3 – Upper Body
Pull Ups (Weighted, if possible)3 sets5-12 reps
Standing Overhead Press3 sets 6-10 reps
T-Bar Row or Kroc Rows3 sets 8-12 reps
Incline DB Bench Press3 sets8-12 reps
Reverse Fly3 sets10-15 reps
Dips (Weighted, if possible)2 sets6-12 reps
Renegade Rows2 sets 10-15 reps
Workout #4 – Lower Body
Deadlift4 sets4-8 reps
Leg Press3 sets15-20 reps
Glute Ham Raise3 sets8-12 reps
Lunges3 sets8-12 reps
Seated Calf Raises3 sets12-20 reps
Single Arm Farmer’s Carry2 sets~30-50 yd/m
Cable Ab Twist2 sets10-12 reps


  • The number of sets is based on your working weight sets, not warm up sets. The main lifts will require some warm up sets before you get into your working weight. Use low reps for warm up sets and work up to your working weight. 
  • For exercises that are unilateral or one direction, do the rep count on each side (i.e. lunges for 3 sets x 12-20 reps each side)
  • Take a deload week every 6-12 weeks (see deload info further below).
  • Feel free to switch up accessory exercises as you see fit, especially if they are showing diminishing returns.
  • For progression, the best option is to increase weight load (see the progression info further below).
  • Supersets can be done to speed up your workouts (this may make sense for at least some exercises on upper body days).
  • For rest times, see the rest time section further above. Rest time will vary based on the rep range/load.

Related Programs:

  • The PHUL workout program is quite interesting for those who want to do a 4 day upper lower body split as well. Basically, it is a workout plan similar to the above, but the first two upper lower workouts of the week are strength focused and the second two upper lower workout are hypertrophy focused. Here is the full workout plan for PHUL if you’d like to check that out. But a heads up, it is for more advanced trainees. 
  • If you are looking for more strength related programs, check out our 5 best strength programs, which also has 3-5 day plans geared toward strength training.


The 2 day option has you doing one upper body workout and one lower body workout each week. Ideally, you will want to schedule them with a couple days of rest between the two sessions.

For example…

Day 1: Upper
Day 2-3: Rest
Day 4: Lower
Day 5-7: Rest 

Which actual days of the week those are is up to you (i.e. it could be M, Thu or W, Sa).

All in all, the scheduling is really flexible with the 2 day split so you can line it up as your schedule demands. We just recommend at least one day of rest between the upper and lower body workouts so you can really bring the intensity.


As you are only doing 2 workouts per week, for variety purposes, you will have a workout A and workout B for both upper and lower body days. This will allow you to alternate the order of the main lifts and have more variety in your movement practice. 

With that, we need to look on a biweekly timescale. So, the workout plan below is bi-weekly, which will start back at week 1 every two weeks. 

Just to be clear:

Week 1 = A workouts
Week 2 = B workouts
Week 3 = A workouts
Week 4 = B workouts

And so on…So, you have a workout A & B that you do biweekly.

Upper Body Workout A
Bench Press4 sets6-10 reps
Bent Over Rows4 sets8-12 reps
Seated Overhead Press4 sets10-15 reps
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown4 sets8-12 reps
Dip2 sets6-12 reps
Lateral Raises2 sets15-20 reps
Lower Body Workout A
Back Squat4 sets6-10 reps
Deadlift4 sets3-5 reps
Lunges3 sets8-12 reps
Hip Thrusts3 sets8-12 reps
Standing Calf Raises2 sets10-20 reps
Leg Raises2 sets8-12 reps
Side Plank2 sets30-60 secs
Upper Body Workout B 
Chin Ups4 sets6-12 reps
Standing Overhead Press4 sets6-10 reps
T-Bar Row4 sets8-12 reps
DB Bench Press4 sets10-15 reps
Rear Delt Fly2 sets10-20 reps
Cable Chest Fly2 sets10-15 reps
Lower Body Workout B
Deadlift4 sets5-8 reps
Back Squat4 sets8-12 reps
Good Mornings3 sets10-15 reps
Split Squats3 sets8-12 reps
Seated Calf Raises2 sets12-20 reps
Plank2 sets30-60 secs
Woodchoppers2 sets10 reps each way


A 3 day upper lower split will require that you start where you left off each week. So, week 1 will have two upper body days and one lower body day, and week 2 will have two lower body days and one upper body day, and it will continue like this for the duration of the plan. 

As for scheduling, it is recommended that you have at least one rest day between workouts. 


Day 1: Upper
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Lower
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Upper
Day 6-7: Rest

Then on the following week you start Day 1 with Lower and continue on.


For this 3 day upper lower split, you will have a workout A and a workout B for both upper and lower body workout days. This will ensure that you can alternate which main lift comes first to keep your training balanced. 

Here’s how this looks… 

Week 1:

  • Upper Body A
  • Lower Body A
  • Upper Body B 

Week 2:

  • Lower Body B
  • Upper Body A
  • Lower Body A 

Week 3:

  • Upper Body B
  • Lower Body B
  • Upper Body A

Week 4:

  • Lower Body A
  • Upper Body B
  • Lower Body B

Then on week 5 you are full circle back to week 1. As such, you should keep with this plan in 4 week increments. So, do this upper lower split for 4, 8, 12, or 16 weeks to keep things balanced (although it’s not a huge deal either way and a deload week can be added in on any week needed).

Upper Body A
Pull Ups3 sets6-12 reps
Standing Overhead Press3 sets6-10 reps
Underhand Bent Over BB Row3 sets8-12 reps
DB Bench Press3 sets10-15 reps
Cable Chest Fly3 sets10-15 reps
Rear Delt Fly2 sets15-20 reps
Lateral Raise2 sets15-20 reps
Lower Body A 
Back Squat4 sets6-10 reps
Deadlift3 sets4-6 reps
Lunges3 sets8-12 reps
Hip Thrusts3 sets8-12 reps
Standing Calf Raises2 sets10-20 reps
Single Leg Deadlift2 sets8-12 reps
Hanging Leg Raises2 sets6-12 reps
Upper Body B 
BB Bench Press3 sets6-10 reps
Overhand Bent Over BB Row3 sets8-12 reps
Seated Overhead Press3 sets10-15 reps
Chin Ups3 sets6-12 reps
Dips3 sets6-12 reps
Tricep Kickbacks2 sets15-20 reps
Bicep Curls2 sets15-20 reps
Lower Body B 
Deadlift4 sets5-8 reps
Back Squat3 sets8-12 reps
Romanian Deadlift3 sets8-12 reps
Split Squats3 sets8-12 reps
Seated Calf Raises2 sets10-20 reps
Plank2 sets30-60 sec
Cable Ab Twists2 sets10 reps each way


The 5 day option will be similar to the 3 day in that you will have to start where you left off each week.


Day 1: Upper
Day 2: Lower
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Upper
Day 5: Lower
Day 6: Rest
Day 7: Upper

With a scheduling like the above, for each week the actual days (i.e. Monday-Sunday) of rest will differ.


You could do a schedule like this..

Day 1: Upper
Day 2: Lower
Day 3: Upper
Day 4: Lower
Day 5: Upper
Day 6-7: Rest 

Then start on Day 1 where you left off, always leaving 2 days of rest together. This will keep your weekly days of working out the same.

In any case, do what works for you.


As for workouts, you will have a Workout A and Workout B, just like the 3 day workout split. 

Note: You could simply just have one upper and one lower workout that you alternate between, but we prefer a workout A and workout B so that you can keep your main lifts balanced.

So, with a workout A and workout B, it’ll look like this. 

Week 1:

  • Upper Body A
  • Lower Body A
  • Upper Body B
  • Lower Body B
  • Upper Body A

Week 2:

  • Lower Body A
  • Upper Body B
  • Lower Body B
  • Upper Body A
  • Lower Body A 

Week 3:

  • Upper Body B
  • Lower Body B
  • Upper Body A
  • Lower Body A
  • Upper Body B 

Week 4:

  • Lower Body B
  • Upper Body A
  • Lower Body A
  • Upper Body B
  • Lower Body B 

Then you are back full circle on Week 5. 

Upper Body A 
Barbell Bench Press3 sets6-10 reps
Barbell Bent Over Row3 sets6-10 reps
Seated DB Overhead Press3 sets8-12 reps
Close Grip Lat Pulldown3 sets8-12 reps
Cable Chest Fly2 sets10-15 reps
Lateral Raises2 sets15-20 reps
Barbell Bicep Curls2 sets10-15 reps
Tricep Pressdown2 sets10-15 reps
Lower Body A 
Back Squat4 sets5-8 reps
Hip Thrusts3 sets6-10 reps
Split Squats3 sets10-15 reps
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts3 sets10-15 reps
Standing Calf Raises3 sets12-20 reps
Hanging Leg Raises3 sets6-12 reps
Landmine or Russian Ab Twist1 set15 reps each way
Upper Body B
Pull Ups (weighted, if possible)3 sets6-10 reps
Standing Overhead Press3 sets6-10 reps
T-Bar Row3 sets8-15 reps
Incline DB Bench Press (low incline)3 sets8-12 reps
Dips (weighted, if possible)2 sets6-12 reps
Upright Rows2 sets10-15 reps
Face Pulls2 sets8-12 reps
Hammer Curls2 sets10-15 reps
Lower Body B
Deadlift5 sets1-5 reps
Leg Press3 sets15-20 reps
Glute Ham Raise3 sets8-12 reps
Split Squats3 sets8-12 reps
Seated Calf Raises3 sets12-20 reps
Single Arm Farmer’s Carry2 sets30-60 yd/m
Side Bends2 sets10 reps

Can I do a 6 day upper lower split?

We really don’t recommend a 6 day upper lower split unless you are advanced, in which case, you probably don’t need us to outline a plan for you. 

If you do decide to do a 6 day upper lower split, it will be structured similar to your 3 day split, with an upper and lower body A workout and an upper and lower body B workout. But with 6 days, you are doing both A and B workouts each week.


Day 1: Upper A
Day 2: Lower A
Day 3: Upper B
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Lower B
Day 6: Upper A
Day 7: Lower A

You could also do an A, B, C workout.


Day 1: Upper A
Day 2: Lower A
Day 3: Upper B
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Lower B
Day 6: Upper C
Day 7: Lower C 

This will give you even more variety. Both options will work fine. There’s a lot of flexibility with this kind of routine in terms of exercises, order, volume, intensity, and so on. You could have A workouts for Power, B workouts for Hypertrophy and C workouts for Strength (or in whatever order).

In any case, all of the same principles of the upper lower split that we have discussed in this guide still apply.


A deload week is a week where you take a break from hard training. 

On a deload week, you perform the same routine with lower intensity. So, rather than doing an exercise at 80% your 1RM, you do it at 50%, with the same reps. You can also do less total volume by cutting down your sets and/or reps (for example, do 2 sets rather than 3 sets). 

A deload week can also just be a complete week off (which is actually a rest week).

When to do a deload week? 

This is going to depend on how you feel. If after 8 weeks you notice you are exhausted and your workouts are suffering, it’s time for a deload week or a rest week.

But generally speaking, you should time your deload weeks to avoid this (and thus avoid overtraining).

For beginners, schedule a deload week every 8-12 weeks (it’s going to depend on you, your lifestyle and how well you are recovering). 

For more advanced lifters, you will have a deload week more frequently, usually around every 4-8 weeks. 

You can also take a complete rest week every few months. For example, if you do a deload week at week 8, then at week 16, maybe do a complete week of active recovery, where you don’t do your upper lower workout split, but rather you do some outdoor activities, yoga, or a sport you like. After the active recovery week (or complete rest week), get back to it.

Deloading is shown to be highly effective for keeping progression on track as it ensure your body is recovered and healthy and you can alway train at your best. Moreover, it’s a nice mental break, which is a big aspect of fitness.

Note: Deload weeks are really not necessary for 2 and even 3 day upper lower splits. Eventually you should aim to work up to the 4 day upper lower split, at which point you can implement deload weeks. 


Progression generally relates to building muscle and strength, so let’s stick to that as fat loss is simply just continuing to eat at a deficit while doing your best to keep muscle loss to a minimum. 

To progress on an upper lower split, you need to use progressive overload

Progressive overload is simply the process of increasing the difficulty of your workouts over time so that you are continually overloading your muscles with adequate stress to force them to adapt. 

If your workouts are getting easier, you are not doing progressive overload correctly.

Progression will never be perfectly linear, but in the long run, you will make big improvements to size and strength if you stick with a smart progressive overload plan.

The best way to progressive overload as a beginner is to increase weight load. So, when you reach the top of your rep range for each set, increase the weight a little the following session. It’s that simple.

Other progressive overload methods will include decreasing your rest time or adding volume.

The best bet is to work to be at the bottom of your rest time range and the top of your rep range, then increase the load. This will make progression last a long time. And take a deload week every once and a while to allow your body to fully recover. You’ll know when you need one. 

After you come back from a deload week, you can do things like swapping out exercises, changing the order of your exercises, and altering your rep schemes.

All in all, as long as your workouts are not getting easier, meaning you are progressively making them harder, then you will continue to make progress. 

2 3 4 or 5 day upper lower split


Absolutely. You can alter the exercises, rep ranges & loads, and total workout volume. You’ll have to use your best judgement on this. 

  1. Exercise Selection: If you alter exercise selection, you should still fill your training out based on the Big Six and focus on big compound lifts if you can. If your workouts are all isolation exercises, you won’t see great results and your workouts will likely take much longer.
  2. Rep Range & Load: You don’t have to lift heavy loads if you are worried about injury. Sometimes, the high risk isn’t worth the high reward. If you decide to use moderate to light loads, stick to the higher rep ranges and always use a full range of motion. Light weight with a full range of motion can be just as effective for building muscle. You can also stick to lower rep ranges and use lighter loads with a very slow tempo. 
  3. Total Workout Volume: If doing 6-7 exercises is too much for you each workout (or too little), you can adjust the number of exercises OR you can do less or more sets per exercise. In the end, just aim for a minimum of 12 sets per muscle group per week (remember, muscles like your triceps are working during presses and biceps during pulls). There really is no max, but you don’t want to overtrain, so listen to your body carefully. If your progress is starting to stall and your are feeling tired, then take a deload week and maybe consider lowering your total weekly volume and then slowly increasing it from there. 
Want to do an Upper Lower Split from home? 

If you want to do an upper lower workout routine from home and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on big equipment, bodyweight exercises plus a set of resistance bands will allow you to mimic all of the exercises above. If you can, you should also get a kettlebell or two as they will come in handy when you want to do “heavy sets”.

While we aren’t going to breakdown an entire home upper lower workout routine for you, the same principles above apply.

Here are some resources you can use to put together your own at home upper lower body workout plan using bodyweight exercises, resistance band exercises and kettlebell exercises…

Bodyweight Exercises:

Resistance Band Exercises:

Kettlebell Exercises: 

Tip: For progressive overload, focus on increasing reps, volume, range of motion & tempo (slow and fast) and decreasing rest time if you can’t increase weight load appropriately. 


This is all you need to know about the highly effective upper lower workout split. If you don’t follow our plan, at the very least use the info above as baseline while critiquing your plan to fit your needs. As long as you keep the fundamental ideas of the upper lower workout split, you will see fantastic results. 

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