Try This 4-Day Workout Split to Build Full-Body Strength

Find out why you should use four-day workout splits to program your strength training, plus a trainer-created four-day workout split to give a shot.

Fitness Woman doing Squats
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A go-with-the-flow approach to life is usually oh-so-desirable (hello, less stress and fewer worries). But in the fitness world, a lax attitude may not do you much good. Without a gym game plan, you might choose exercises that don't actually help you meet your goals, end up wandering around the weight room aimlessly, or ultimately finish a workout wondering what you actually accomplished. So, if you're set on completing a handful of effective, yet efficient strength-training workouts each week, you'll want to put a four-day workout split into action.

Here, a fitness expert breaks down what a four-day workout split entails and calls out its stand-out perks. Plus, she shares an example four-day workout split that will help you make serious strength and muscle gains.

What Is a 4-Day Workout Split?

Put simply, a workout split is a way to structure your strength-training workouts and plan out which exercises you'll be doing for the upcoming week, says Erin Taylor, F.N.S., C.E.S., an NASM-certified personal trainer and strength coach. Workout splits are commonly based on the number of days you're committed to training each week. So, if you plan on consistently hitting up the gym four days a week, you'll utilize a four-day workout split that's designed to help you meet your fitness goals.

For example, if you're a newbie to powerlifting and are easing yourself into the sport, you might do a four-day workout split featuring dedicated squat, bench, and deadlift days (the sport's main exercises), plus a hypertrophy (aka muscle growth) day, says Taylor. If your goal is to build up strength and muscle, your four-day workout split may be based on push and pull movement patterns, with two days dedicated to each type of movement. Or, it can be broken up into upper-body and lower-body days, which ensures you avoid working the same muscles back-to-back, she adds.

The Benefits of 4-Day Workout Splits

Overall, creating a workout split before you start strength training — and actually sticking with it — ensures each of your training sessions is efficient. You'll no longer wander around the gym trying to think of exercises to do, as you'll already know exactly which moves you need to complete in order to get one step closer to meeting your goals, says Taylor. Aside from those key perks, four-day workout splits in particular offer a couple of important benefits.

Allow for Flexibility

While a five- or six-day workout split seems to be the best way to stay on top of your goals and keep your body moving, actually sticking with it isn't all that feasible. Doctor's appointments, family activities, and feelings of fatigue are bound to throw a wrench in your plans to hit up the gym nearly every day of the week. That's why Taylor often tells clients considering these more intensive splits to scale back to a four-day plan. "Four-day workout splits give you three days of 'wiggle room,' as I like to call it," she explains. "They just give you more flexibility in your schedule to move things around as life comes up." Say you skip your workout at the last minute to take your pet to the vet. Under a four-day workout split plan, you'll still have three other training-free days available to make up for it.

Ensure Adequate Rest

A four-day workout split will give your body ample time to rest and repair in between training days, says Taylor. Generally, you'll want to have two days of rest between workouts that target the same muscle group. If you complete a lower-body workout on Monday, for example, you'd need to hold off on other lower-body moves until Thursday, she explains. Without this break, "you're not necessarily going to injure yourself, but you might just find that you're a little too fatigued to lift the weight that you might want to lift or progress from the week prior," she says. A properly planned four-day workout split, however, builds in these rest days, ensuring you're able to continue taking steps toward meeting your fitness goals, says Taylor.

What to Include In a 4-Day Workout Split

It's common to structure your four-day workout splits as either push-pull splits (with two days of "pushing" and two days of "pulling" movements) or upper-lower splits (with two days of upper-body and two days of lower-body work). To make your split less complicated, however, Taylor recommends alternating training sessions between upper-body days and lower-body days, then mixing all of your main movement patterns (including the push, pull, hinge, squat, lunge, brace, and carry) throughout the week, she says. This style of four-day workout split ensures you're hitting all your major muscle groups while training them in a way that improves your functional fitness.

No matter if you're doing an upper or lower day, your workout should contain two compound exercises (moves that utilize multiple joints), two to three accessory exercises (multi-joint moves that complement and help you progress on heavier compound lifts), and two to three isolation exercises (moves that call on just a single joint), Taylor suggests.

That said, know that there isn't a single best four-day workout split, says Taylor. "Don't get bogged down in choosing the perfect number or type of movements that you should be doing," she adds. "Pick a program that's fun for you, that gets you in the door, and that you can be consistent with." Don't forget to listen to your body and adjust your four-day workout split as necessary, either. "if you're recovering super well but you're not seeing progress, maybe add some volume in, whether that's more sets, more reps, or more movements," says Taylor. "If you're feeling like absolute crap and you're not recovering well, maybe pull out some movements."

Typically, you'll want to switch up your workout split — either with different tempos, variations, stances, grips, or exercises — every eight weeks or so to give your body a new stimulus, suggests Taylor. Overhauling it too frequently may prevent your body from adapting to the exercises and ultimately hinder your progress. However, you can amp up the weight you're using once you notice you've made improvements (think: you can power through more reps or sets with ease), a tactic involved in progressive overload training.

Example 4-Day Workout Split to Build Strength

If DIY-ing a four-day workout split sounds incredibly intimidating, don't fret: Taylor is sharing an example split that's focused on building strength and making muscle gains. "You'll see lower rep ranges with your compound movements to work on driving strength," she explains. "With the accessory movements, you're going to work with a little bit higher rep range and higher volume to focus on driving muscular adaptations and growth."

If you end up skipping one of your workouts in the four-day split, don't sweat it. "If it's a one-time slip-up where you miss a day, I wouldn't worry about combining movements — missing one workout one week out of the grand scheme of things isn't a big deal," says Taylor. However, you can combine an upper-body and lower-body day into one workout if you want to keep your body balanced, she says. In that case, choose one compound exercise from a lower-body day and one compound from an upper-body day, then cherry-pick a few of your favorite accessory and isolation exercises so you have an even mix of upper- and lower-body moves for your third and final workout, suggests Taylor. If you catch yourself consistently missing your fourth workout, though, you may want to consider scaling back to a three-day workout split, in which you'll perform a full-body workout every training day, she says.

How it works: Each day of the workout split, perform the listed exercises for the suggested number of reps and sets, taking rest breaks as needed. For the supersets, perform the two exercises back-to-back, with no rest in between sets.

What you'll need: a barbell, a pair of dumbbells, a lat pull-down machine, a hamstring curl machine, and a Roman chair

Day 1: Upper Body

Day 2: Lower Body

  • Back Squat: Do 4 to 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps.
  • Barbell Romanian Deadlift: Do 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps.
  • Dumbbell Split Squat: Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per side.
  • Machine Hamstring Curl: Do 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.
  • Single-Leg Elevated Glute Bridge: Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps per side.

Day 3: Upper Body

  • Barbell Bench Press: Do 4 to 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps.
  • Lat Pull-Down: Do 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
  • High-Incline Dumbbell Press: Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
  • Single-Arm Dumbbell Row: Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per side.
  • Overhead Triceps Extension to Dumbbell Hammer Curl Superset: Do 2 to 3 reps of 10 to 14 sets for each exercise.

Day 4: Lower Body

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