One of the most popular styles of split workout is the upper/lower routine. These routines focus on a single portion of the body at a time, either the upper body (e.g. chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, etc.) or lower body (e.g. hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves, etc.).
- 1 Common Upper/Lower Split Routine Structures
- 2 4 Day Upper/Lower Split Workout Programs (with Spreadsheets)
- 3 3 Day Upper/Lower Split Workout Programs (with Spreadsheets)
- 4 5 Day Upper/Lower Split Routine
Common Upper/Lower Split Routine Structures
Many upper/lower splits are structured as 4 day split routines. This allows for two upper workouts and two lower workouts each week. Sometimes these are further divided as heavy/light days (e.g. heavy upper, heavy lower, light upper, light lower) but this varies between routines.
4 Day Upper/Lower Split Workout Programs (with Spreadsheets)
Here are some of the most popular upper/lower splits available on Lift Vault. If you don’t see something you like, try a more advanced search using the Program Finder.
PHUL (Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower)
PHUL is one of the most popular programs on Lift Vault.
It has four days: heavy upper body, heavy lower body, volume upper body, and volume lower body. It uses principles from strength training and bodybuilding and could be considered a powerbuilding program. Each day has a main lift, near variations of that lift, and some accessory movements. Heavy days are also referred to a strength training days and light days are also referred to as volume or hypertrophy training days.
Example: Heavy Upper Day
The main lift of the heavy upper body day is the bench press. This is worked in the 3 to 5 rep range for 3 to 4 sets. This is followed by a near variation (dumbbell press), and an array of accessories (rows, overhead press, curls, lat pull downs, and skull crushers).
Example: Volume Lower Day
Volume days are lighter than the heavy days (surprise) and allow for volume to be accumulated without requiring as much recovery before the next heavy day.
The main lift of the volume lower day is the front squat, which is a near variation of the squat that places more emphasis on the quads and abdominal muscles. After that, lunges, leg extensions, and hamstring curls are added as accessories. Calves are prescribed too, if you care about calves (I skip them, personally).
Note: When starting the program, you should try to aim for the upper end of both ranges (4 sets of 5 reps) and continue to add weight week to week until all reps cannot be achieved. At this point, 4 sets of 4 reps should be the goal, and so on, until your working sets consist of triples.
SPF Powerbuilding Program (3 or 4 days)
The SPF Powerbuilding Program (short for strength, power, and fortitude) was designed by Brogan Pratt as an off season training program for powerlifters. With that said, anyone looking to train for strength and hypertrophy should check it out.
It can be run for 3 or 4 days. The 3 day version has an upper day, a lower day, and a combined (upper and lower) day. The 4 day version has 2 upper and lower days each.
Each day has a primary lift (bench press, squat, or deadlift -- the 4 day version has 2 main bench days) followed by several different accessories. One cool thing about this spreadsheet is that is has lots of suggested accessories for you to try if you’re not sure what to pick or if you’re looking to introduce some variety into your workouts.
Brian Alsruhe Dark Horse
Brian Alsruhe’s Dark Horse program is a 4 day strength program that uses Max Effort (ME) and Dynamic Effort (DE) training styles to create an extremely challenging upper/lower split workout routine. Lots of accessory movements and conditioning are included as well, making this quite a high volume training program.
The program is broken up into 3 waves, each 3 weeks long, making this a 9 week strength program.
The program is pretty complicated, so it is required that you watch the below video in order to better understand how to use the spreadsheet for this program.
It also has detailed notes contained in the “Setup” tab within the spreadsheet. These should be read closely.
Brogains 10 Week Powerbuilding Program
The Brogains 10 Week Powerbuilding Program is a 4 day upper/lower split routine divided into three phases: volume, strength realization, and intensity. If the high intensity interval training (HIIT) training days are completed, then the program expands into a 6 day per week program (4 lifting days + 2 HIIT days). Only the lifting sessions are discussed below, but all training sessions are included in the spreadsheet.
The 4 weekly training sessions, in addition to being split into upper/lower sessions, are also divided into heavy/dynamic sessions (similar to PHUL). The program can be run as a 10 week program or a 12 week program, if the athlete wishes to peak their lifts over 2 additional weeks after the initial 10 weeks have been completed.
Here is the general structure of the 4x weekly lifting sessions. It is generally followed for all three phases, albeit occasionally with small deviations.
- Day 1: bench heavy, speed bench, upper hypertrophy
- Day 2: squat heavy, speed squats, lower hypertrophy
- Day 3: deadlift heavy, paused press, upper hypertrophy
- Day 4: squat volume, speed deadlifts, lower hypertrophy
Westside for Skinny Bastards (W4SB) Upper/Lower Split Workout
Westside for Skinny Bastards is a novice strength program that uses maximum effort (ME) and repetition effort (RE) training sessions, in addition to an upper/lower split, to structure its training.
ME training days focus on moving as much weight as possible, while RE training days focus on high volume training that approaches failure on multiple sets. Upper body and lower body each have one ME and one RE day per week, totaling 4 weekly training sessions.
It is definitely recommended that you read the full details of the program prior to starting it.
|Program Name||Westside for Skinny Bastards|
|Day 1||Bench Press, Dumbbell Row, Incline Dumbbell Press, Face Pulls|
|Day 2||Deadlift, Single Leg Squat, Weighted Hyperextensions, GHR|
|Day 3||Bench Press, Lat Pull Downs, Dumbbell Shoulder Press, Tricep Extensions, Bicep Curls|
|Day 4||Squats, Romanian Deadlift, Weighted Hyperextensions, GHR|
There are two different spreadsheets available for the program, either of which can be used successfully. You can use whichever you prefer.
3 Day Upper/Lower Split Workout Programs (with Spreadsheets)
SPF Powerbuilding (3 Day)
SPF Powerbuilding, mentioned above, also has a 3 day split version. It has 1 upper body training session per week and 2 lower body training sessions.
|Program Name||SPF Powerbuilding|
|Training Days Per Week||3 Days|
|Day 1||Bench, Back, Chest, Traps, Shoulders, Tris, etc.|
|Day 2||Squat, Lower Body, Explosive Movement|
|Day 3||Deadlift, Lower Body, Chest, Back, Shoulders|
Westside for Skinny Bastards (3 Day)
Also mentioned above, Westside for Skinny Bastards does have a 3 day upper/lower split version of its routine. It has two upper body training days (one maximum effort, one repetition method) and one lower body training day (maximum effort).
To run the 3 day version of the program, only do one maximum effort (ME) training day for the lower body each week. Do not do the repetition effort day for lower body.
5 Day Upper/Lower Split Routine
nSuns LP (5 Day Version)
nSuns is a popular linear periodization program with weekly progression based on Jim Wendler’s legendary 5/3/1 program structure. While the 4 day split is the most popular version of the program, the 5 day version is also popular for lifters looking for additional work.
|Program Name||nSuns 5 Day LP|
|Recommended for||Primary: Strength|
|Day 2||Squat/Alt Stance Deadlift|
|Day 3||OHP/Incline Bench|
|Day 4||Deadlift/Front Squat|
|Day 5||Bench/Close Grip Bench|