4 Day Splits for Bodybuilding
Trying to decide how to structure your bodybuilding training for the best results? I've got you covered. This article looks at 3 of the most popular 4-day splits for bodybuilding (body part, upper/lower, full body) and gives you pros, cons and recommendations.
Let's jump straight in.
First Things First: Can you build muscle with a 4-day split?
You can absolutely build muscle with a 4-day split. 4 days of resistance training per week is plenty for most beginners and intermediates.
If you're an advanced lifter, i.e. someone who has trained hard and smart for multiple years and already gained significant amounts of muscle mass, then 4-day splits might not be for you, as you'll likely need between 5 and 9 sessions in order to progress.
For most people, though, 4 days is bang on.
The 3 Most Popular Options for 4-Day Splits
1) The Body part Workout 4 Day Split - a.k.a the 'bro split'
The bro split or body part split is the absolute classic bodybuilding structure. Each day targets a specific muscle or group of muscles and hits them hard. Typically this looks something like:
Friday: Shoulders and Arms
Pros: Each muscle gets hit really hard when it's trained
Cons: It can be hard to get enough weekly volume in one single session, especially for muscles that recover quickly.
Best For: Much bigger and/or stronger people who naturally take longer to recover between workouts, for example, powerlifters transitioning into bodybuilding.
2) The 4 Day Workout Split Upper/Lower
The upper lower split divides your workouts into lower body (quads, hams etc) and upper body (chest, back, arms etc) and alternates between the two. So a typical structure looks like this:
Pros: Muscles get hit moderately hard, and get hit twice per week, usually allowing for more total volume in a training week
Cons: Honestly not many. But some people need more time for upper body work and less time for lower body work.
Best For: Most people. Beginners and intermediates can make great progress on a 4-day upper-lower split.
Looking for a Reliable Hypertrophy Programme?
I've put together a 17-week hypertrophy programme.
The programme is evidence-based and is designed with 3 distinct blocks of training that use different set and rep schemes, as well as different exercises, to maximise your muscle building.
It's also designed with specific guidance so that you can adjust your amount of training to suit your recovery.
You can find out more about the programme here.
3) The Full Body 4-Day Split Workout
On a full body plan, you'll hit every muscle group in every workout. With a 4 day plan, since two days have to be back to back, it's common to use an 'emphasis' for certain workouts. An example looks like:
Monday: Full body equal emphasis
Wednesday: Full body equal emphasis
Friday: Full body lower emphasis
Saturday: Full body upper emphasis
Each day will still train the whole body, but the total number of sets given to upper and lower body will vary slightly on Friday and saturday.
Pros: Each muscle gets hit multiple times per week, so weekly training volume can often be very high. This also means it matters far less if you miss a day or have a bad day.
Cons: Can be hard to recover for some people, with increased wear and tear on muscles and joints.
Best For: Beginners, who lift very little weight, and so can't physically stress their bodies all that much. OR people who naturally recover really quickly and respond well to high training volumes. Typically, lighter and smaller people are more likely to fall into this category, especially lighter and smaller women.
Best 4-day workout split (For You)
Fundamentally there's no such thing as a universally 'best' workout split. It really comes down to your own specific situation. With that said, I can make some general recommendations:
If you're bigger and stronger, for example moving to bodybuilding from powerlifting, then try a body part (bro) split and see how you recover.
If you're lighter and/or smaller, try a full body approach and see how you recover.
And if you're not sure, or feel like you sit somewhere in the middle, then try an upper/lower split.
Frequently Asked Questions About 4 Day Splits
Is a 4 day split better than 3?
Almost certainly yes, a 4-day split is better than a 3-day split as it allows you more total training time in which you can accomplish more total work. And even if you did the exact same amount of work, the quality would likely be higher when spread over 4 days instead of 3.
Is there an advanced 4-day bodybuilding split?
Not really. Most advanced trainees simply need more total work in order to keep on making progress. This usually means 5 or 6+ training sessions per week.
What's a good 4-day workout plan for females?
Women can use any of the three options above and see great results. Generally speaking, I would ere on the side of slightly more weekly sessions, so the full body or upper/lower approach is where you might want to start.
Alright, that's enough reading for today, time for some action...
1) Pick the 4-day split that you think sounds best for you, and run it for a few weeks to see how you find it. You can either design your programme, find one online, or if none of that sounds quite right, you can ask me to design you a custom programme.
2) If you want more training tips, workouts and programmes, feel free to join my mailing list.
3) And if you found this article helpful, feel free to share around.
'Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc, BA
Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.
His experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.