The Ultimate 4 Day Upper Lower Split Workout Plan with PDF

Our 4 Day Upper Lower Routine assembles proven muscle-building exercises into logical subdivisions for maximal gain potential.

With 4 total workout days, and proper application, your muscles will get the work–and the rest–they need to optimize your potential.

Jump to the program now!

Alternatively, you can download the free PDF version of the program using the link below:

The 4 Day Upper Lower Split Workout Plan In a Nutshell

Program styleResistance training
Workout duration1-2 hours
Scheduling4 days a week
GoalBuild muscle
LevelBeginners to advanced
Target GenderMale and Female

Is This Program for You?

If you’ve never done an upper lower split, or wonder if a program like this is for you, see if you can relate to any of the following statements:

  • I can’t get to the gym more than four days a week.
  • I can spend a couple of hours when I do go to the gym.
  • My workout days fluctuate due to my schedule.
  • I enjoy working out really hard, and work out hard enough that I need the rest days.
  • Getting bigger, sculpted muscle is my training objective.
  • LIfting weights is my primary means of exercise; I’m not a runner or seriously devoted to some other form of exercise like CrossFit or extreme calisthenics.
  • I’m middle aged or older and need to pay close attention to inter-workout recovery.

If you agreed to any of these, then our 4 Day Upper Lower Split Workout Plan is for you!

Related: Upper-Lower vs Push-Pull/Legs (PPL) Splits

What Can You Expect from This Program?

Man bench pressing

You can expect to build some muscle with this program if you follow it religiously for several weeks. Check your progress at 3-month intervals.

Our Upper Lower Split program allows for focused training on specific muscle groups on different days. This not only allows for a more intense workout of those specific muscles, but it also ensures that you aren’t overworking any particular muscle group in a single session.

You can also expect to be sore during the first two weeks for sure, and maybe longer, especially if some of these exercises are new to you.

The exercises in this program were hand-selected for their ability to isolate and fatigue the target muscle, making the target muscle do the majority of the work (as opposed to truly compound exercises where several muscles come to the party).

I did include a couple of favorite compound exercises because of their metabolic benefit and because–well–I just like them!

4 Day Upper Lower Split Workout Plan Structure

Our 4 Day Upper Lower routine offers flexibility for the days of the week you choose to work out. The exercises are placed where they are so that you’ll get at least 48 hours recovery before addressing the same muscles again. This is typically recommended for optimal recovery and growth

Starting the rotation with bigger, energy-hungry muscles has become accepted practice, so this Upper Lower routine starts with Lower.

Lower 1Quads / Arms
Upper 1Chest / Anterior and Middle Delts
Lower 2Glutes / Hamstrings / Lower Leg
Upper 2Back / Posterior Delt / Traps

This Upper Lower Split offers a lot of flexibility about where you plug in your rest days. Which is great because you may not be ready for the next workout on the day you’d originally planned it.

Here are three options for how rest days might factor in:

DayOption 1Option 2Option 3
1Lower 1Lower 1Lower 1
2RestUpper 1Upper 1
3Upper 1RestRest
4RestLower 2Rest
5Lower 2Upper 2Lower 2
6RestRestUpper 2
7Upper 2RestRest

I personally like Option 2 because for the following reasons:

  • It provides two days rest before hitting the quads again since squats are a technically demanding exercise. It’s safer to perform these exercises when you’re fresh at the start of your training week, reducing the risk of injury due to fatigue.
  • Training large muscle groups such as the quads can elicit a stronger hormonal response, releasing growth hormones and testosterone. This can benefit muscle growth and recovery in subsequent workouts days for other muscle groups.

The quadriceps are large, powerful muscles that can benefit from this peak condition, facilitating for more intense training and potentially greater strength and size gains. Quad Day done right will be the most taxing – so maximal rest is logical.

The 4 Day Upper Lower Split Workout Plan

Lower 1: Quad / Arm Day

ExerciseSet 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
Pendulum Squats
Freeform Squats
Cable Sissy Squats
Dumbbell Goblet Squats
VMO Heel Elevated Dumbbell
Barbell Squats
Walking Lunges
(Barbell or Dumbbell***)
Leg Extensions15-2010-128-10
Dumbbell Hammer Curls
Palms-up Curls
Cable Triceps Extensions15-2010-128-108-10
***For Walking Lunges, eight to ten steps in each direction if working out in a limited space.

Upper 1: Chest / Anterior-Middle Delt Day

ExerciseSet 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
Dumbbell Bench Press
Smith Machine Bench Press
Underhand Dumbbell Press15-2010-128-108-10
High Incline Dumbbell
Shoulder Press
Smith Machine
15-2010-128-10 8-10
Lateral Raises
(Cable*** or Dumbbell)
15-2010-128-10 8-10
Palms-up Cable
DB raise
***Try the Supine Double-Cable Version

Lower 2: Glute / Hamstring / Lower Leg Day

ExerciseSet 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
Romanian Deadlifts with Dumbbells
Single-Leg “B” Stance RDLs
Cable Hip Extensions15-2010-128-108-10
Leg Curls15-2010-1510-128-10
Standing Calf Raises with Dumbbells15-2015-2015-20 
Tibialis Anterior Raises202020

Upper 2: Back / Posterior Delt / Trap Day

ExerciseSet 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
Lat Pull-ins
(Seated 45 degrees
pulling high to low)
Lat Pulldowns
Cable Rows10-1210-1210-12
Cable Reverse Flys
Reverse Fly machine
Prone Incline Reverse Dumbbell Flys
DB Lu Raises
“Y” raises
Kelso Shrugs15-2010-128-108-10

Program Guidelines

1. Apply Progressive Overload

Man doing push pull legs workout routine progressive overload

Progressive overload is a constant principle in resistance training. Always applicable and effective.

Progressive overload is the principle of adaptive stress applied to exercise.

If the last reps of any set are easy, raise the weight. If they’re too hard or you can’t finish the set, lower the weight.

Remember that weights are your tool for muscle growth. Your muscles can’t read the numbers on the weights, and your ego can’t make your guns grow.

Think: I’m going to the gym to accomplish something, not prove something.

Evaluate your own training by consistently asking yourself every couple of weeks: “Am I progressing?”

Keep a record of your workouts, and take before and after photos if you need to.

2. Leave Zero Reps in Reserve (RIR)

For this Upper Lower Split routine, don’t keep any RIR for any set in this program, except maybe your first warm-up set.


The last two sets of each exercise should be extremely challenging, as in, “I don’t I can do another rep” and then you do.

If those final reps look like the first, you’re not working hard enough. Increase the weight.

The final three to four reps should be of course with good form, but in doubt. When you think you can’t get another, do another. Grind them out without sacrificing technique.

These grind-house reps are the ones that signal your body that it needs to manufacture more muscle.

Warm-up sets should be comfortable and easy by comparison, getting your muscles and joints ready for the killer sets.

Recipe for staying skinny-fat

  • Select a weight you can lift easily.
  • Lift that weight for the prescribed number of reps and sets.
  • The last rep should be just as easy as the first; the last set should be just as easy as the first.
  • Don’t be your own worst self-critic.
  • Check your phone between each set.

CLUE: Give this recipe a miss!

3. Focus on Rep Cadence

Use a methodical, rhythmic, pumping motion. However, rep speed will definitely decrease as you approach the last few reps of Sets 3 and 4. Some of those reps may take three to five seconds, maybe longer to move from bottom to top. Don’t time them though. Just be aware that you’re not after speed.

No fast concentric-slow eccentric, etc. Your eccentric phases should be slow and controlled.

Under no circumstances use momentum of any kind.

4. Rest!

Rest Days Are REALLY Important!

You’ll need your rest days if you’re training hard enough. Research shows two days beats a single day’s rest. See below.

Factors such as the type of exercise performed, the intensity and duration of the workout, and your level of fitness.

Studies of interest that investigated muscle recovery time:

  1. Muscle recovery time after resistance training can be as much as 72 hours, depending on the individual’s training status, workout intensity, and the specific muscles involved. (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2017).
  2. A recovery period of at least 48 hours was necessary for maximal muscle function to be restored after resistance training. (European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2019).
  3. A 48-hour recovery period was necessary for optimal muscle strength recovery as compared to 24 hours. (Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2020).

Taken together, the evidence shows that a recovery period of at least 48 hours is necessary for maximal muscle recovery after resistance training, although the exact recovery time can vary depending on individual factors and the specific type of exercise performed.

But it depends.

The exercises in this Upper Lower Split Workout Plan will load the target muscles enough that you’ll want those extra hours’ rest before hitting those same muscles again.

Rest between sets

Rest a minute or two between warm-up sets. Your “working” sets will require longer rest times.

Three minutes between sets is slowly becoming the recognized standard for rest time between strenuous weight training sets. Use that time to ask yourself:

  • Were the reps perfect?
  • Was my alignment correct?
  • How about my intensity? Could I really have done another rep?
  • Did anything hurt?

Be your own toughest critic. Visualize your next set and how you could do it even better than the one you just did.

Download our 4 Day Upper Lower Split Workout Plan PDF here:

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Perry Mykleby, ACE CPT

Perry started lifting weights in 1974. He is an ACE-certified personal trainer and holds the ACE Orthopedic Exercise certification.

He holds a journalism degree from the University of North Texas, where he competed in powerlifting. His final competition was the Texas State Open in December of 1982, but has continued to study and practice muscle strength and hypertrophy. He is a four-decade veteran of the medical device industry.

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