Upper Lower Training Split for Gaining Muscle

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The first in our series of muscle building plans is the Upper Lower Training Split. This plan has become increasingly popular for those looking to gain muscle, as it is simple to implement, builds in adequate rest and fits into to even the busiest of schedules.

So what is it? How is it setup? How many sets and reps etc etc? Below I have written out an example of  how to implement this routine.

Split Fundamentals

Twice a week ; Upper; Chest, Shoulders, Back and Arms

Twice a week ; Lower; Legs (Quads, Hamstrings and Calves)

Bonus, Traps / Adductor and Abductor / Abs


The most popular is a four day split;

Monday - Upper 1

Tuesday - Lower 1

Wednesday - Off

Thursday - Upper 2

Friday - Lower 2

Saturday - Off

Sunday - Off

I like to use this for my athletes in the off season where we are trying to keep them in a caloric surplus, the weights are heavier and we are programming for plenty of rest and recovery.

For more advanced athletes or those looking to maximize caloric expenditure (such as those looking to drop body fat) you can also program this as alternating days with 1 day rest on say the Sunday. Closer attention should be paid to exercise selection and managing volume so not to manifest over use injuries. For most the 4 day split will suffice, even those on a cut can implement cardio on the rest days.

For Exercise Selection we can match to the target muscle groups, for example;

Body Part Size

Body Part

Upper 1

Upper 2

Lower 1

Lower 2



Incline Bench Press

Flat Dumbbell Press



Chin Up

Barbell Row



Dumbbell Press

Lateral Raise



Dumbbell Curl

Hammer Curl



Overhead Dumbbell Extension

Close Grip Bench Press


Traps / Rear Delts

Y raises

Dumbbell Prone Press



Front Squats

Split Squats



Seated Leg Curl

Stiff Leg Deadlift



Seated Calf Press

Standing Calf Press




Glute Raise



Cable to Ankle Pull In

Abductor Machine


Core / Abs



Side Plank

Hanging Knee Raise


* Glutes are actually a very large muscle group, however these will be recruited heavily if you program compounds into your lower body movements (think Deadlifts and Squats (assuming low bar and deep).

** Whilst these muscle groups are recruited whilst targeting other muscle groups I l like to pay special attention to these for injury prevention and building complete physiques.

Sets and  Reps

Here we use the loose classification of large and small muscle groups, for larger muscle groups 3-7 sets and 3-15 reps. Rep schemes you can get creative and work up and down the spectrum (all have shown to grow muscle tissue equally well), but a tried and tested method is to have a heavy and moderate day. As example would work as follows;

Upper 1 - Large - Heavy 3-7 sets large / 2-5 sets small, rep scheme 3-6 reps,

Upper 2 - Moderate, 4-6 sets large / 2-4 sets small, rep scheme 8-15 reps

For programming start week 1 with lower sets and reps and increase the volume 1-8 then program a week off or deload (should you so wish), from there you can re-run the program with new exercises or the same exercises and aim to increase the volume.

So there you have it, a very straight forward way to ramp volume over time. May the gains be with you. Join me in the next blog where we will review PPL ( Push Pull Legs).


About the Author

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Alx Brawn is the owner of Natural Brawn and Instant Lean, an online coach and Natural Bodybuilding Regional Champion. He has over 15 years of training and coaching experience.