4 Day Upper / Lower Splits: The Ultimate Guide!


The classic 4 day upper body / lower body split is one of the greatest training splits of all time. The upper / lower split breaks up your body into two separate training days. You train your entire upper body in one workout and your entire lower body in another workout.

Many of the world’s best bodybuilders and powerlifters believe 4 day upper / lower split is one of  the best ways to train.

If you want to get bigger and stronger then the 4 day upper / lower split has your name written all over it!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Josh Bryant Powerlifting Training
  • Part 2: Charles Poliquin Programming
  • Part 3: The Westside Barbell Training Program
  • Part 4: Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Program

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about how to get jacked and super strong using the 4 day upper body / lower body split.

The 4 day upper / lower split is a high-frequency training program that works extremely well for building muscle mass and strength. The idea is simple: you train your entire upper body twice per week and your entire lower body twice per week.

For example:

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body
  • Saturday: Lower Body

With the 4 day upper / lower split you are training every body part twice per week or once every 3-4 days. The scientific literature and real-world experience has shown that training body parts twice per week is easily one of the best ways to train.

The training frequency is high enough that productive workouts add up extremely fast. However, there are still plenty of rest days during the week to make sure that you recover from your workouts.

Many of the world’s strongest athletes including Eddie Hall, Ed Coan, Brian Shaw and Chuck Vogelpohl train body parts twice per week.

In fact Eddie Hall was using a 4 day upper body / lower body split when he became the first man to deadlift over 1,100 pounds. Check it out:

What an unbelievable deadlift!

If the 4 days per week upper / lower split is good enough for Eddie Hall then it will work great for you too. In this comprehensive guide we are going to take an in-depth look at 4 of the most popular training programs that use the 4 day upper / lower split:

  • Part 1: Josh Bryant Powerlifting Training
  • Part 2: Charles Poliquin Programming
  • Part 3: The Westside Barbell Training Program
  • Part 4: Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Program

I am sure you have heard of at least one of these programs. They all work extremely well for building size and strength. If you bust your ass on any of these programs then I am confident that you will become a big, strong dude in no time.

Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines presented here then check out this article on how to read a training program.

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Josh Bryant Powerlifting Training

Josh Bryant was one of the world’s best powerlifters for many years. He was the youngest man in the world to bench press over 600 pounds and set numerous powerlifting world records in his career.

Nowadays Josh coaches some of the strongest powerlifters in the world including the world’s strongest bench presser Julius Maddox.

Josh trains almost all of his powerlifters using a unique type of linear periodization. Here is Josh Bryant giving a great overview of periodization for powerlifters:

Josh trains his powerlifters using many different training splits depending on what works best for them. However, his “go-to” training split is the 4 day upper / lower split. Here is how Josh normally schedules his powerlifters’ weekly workouts:

  • Monday: Bench Press Day
  • Wednesday: Squat Day
  • Friday: Bench Press Assistance Day
  • Saturday: Deadlift Day

The bench press days are focused on training the upper body while the squat and deadlift days are focused on training the lower body. Josh always structures his powerlifters’ workouts a very specific way when they are preparing for their next powerlifting meet.

Here is an overview of Josh’s powerlifting workouts:

Josh Bryant Powerlifting Workout Overview

  • Part 1: Competition lift (squat, bench press, deadlift)
  • Part 2: Speed sets (squat, bench press, deadlift)
  • Part 3: Supplementary exercises (Olympic squat, dead bench, deficit deadlift etc.)
  • Part 4: Accessory exercises (leg curls, tricep extensions, lat pulldowns etc.)

As you can see Josh separates his powerlifting workouts into 4 separate parts.

The first exercise is always the competition squat, bench press or deadlift. These are the exercises that you perform in a powerlifting meet so it only makes sense to focus on them first in your workout.

Josh likes his athletes to work up to a reasonably heavy set of 1-3 reps on the competition lifts. The weights start out around 85% of your 1-rep max and slowly work up to 100% of your 1-rep max as you get closer to your powerlifting competition.

Immediately after your heavy set you perform several speed sets. Josh calls this “compensatory acceleration training” because you are lifting submaximal weights as explosively as possible. This is very similar to the “dynamic effort method” as used by the Westside Barbell program.

Here is coach Christian Thibadeau talking about the benefits of CAT sets for building maximal strength:

After your speed sets you move onto your supplementary and accessory exercises. The supplemental exercises are similar to the competition lift. For example you might perform deficit deadlifts or rack pulls as a supplementary deadlift exercise depending on your individual weaknesses.

Finally the accessory exercises are bodybuilding-style movements designed to increase muscle mass in the most important muscle groups.

Here are some of Josh’s favourite supplementary and accessory exercises for each body part:

Squat Exercises

  • Supplemental: dead squat, paused squat, Olympic squat, rack lockouts
  • Accessory: leg curls, unilateral DB stiff-legged deadlift, glute-ham raise

Bench Exercises

  • Supplemental: dead bench, paused bench, reverse band bench, slingshot bench
  • Accessory: paused floor DB flys, tricep extensions, lat pulldowns, machine rows

Deadlift Exercises

  • Supplemental: deficit deadlift, band deadlift, reverse band deadlift, chain deadlift
  • Accessory: glute-ham raise, barbell rows, lat pulldowns, static grip work

Josh Bryant normally organizes his athletes’ powerlifting peaking cycles into 3 separate blocks of training. The first training block focuses on heavy triples, the second training block focuses on heavy doubles and the third training block focuses on heavy singles. For example:

Training Block #1

  • Weeks 1-3: Triples
  • Week 4: Deload

Training Block #2

  • Weeks 5-7: Doubles
  • Week 8: Deload

Training Block #3

  • Weeks 9-11: Singles
  • Week 12: Deload
  • Week 13: Competition day!

These triples, doubles and singles are all based on specific training percentages that are customized for each powerlifter. Here are some general training percentages that you might want to try:

Training Block #1

  • Week #1: 1 x 3 @ 85%
  • Week #2: 1 x 3 @ 87%
  • Week #3: 1 x 3 @ 89%
  • Week #4: 3 x 3 @ 65%

Training Block #2

  • Week #5: 1 x 2 @ 91%
  • Week #6: 1 x 2 @ 93%
  • Week #7: 1 x 2 @ 95%
  • Week #8: 3 x 3 @ 65%

Training Block #3

  • Week #9: 1 x 1 @ 97%
  • Week #10: 1 x 1 @ 99%
  • Week #11: 1 x 1 @ 101%
  • Week #12: 3 x 3 @ 65%
  • Week #13: Break your old PR! Shoot for a single at 105-110%

Note: all of these training percentages are based off of your 1-rep max at the beginning of the training cycle. You will get stronger over the course of the training cycle which is why the training percentages keep increasing every week.

Now let’s look at some sample Josh Bryant style powerlifting workouts that you could use with your 4 day upper body / lower body split. These workouts would be perfect to use during the first week of your 13-week powerlifting peaking program.

Check it out:

Bench Press Day

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 3**, 2/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Speed bench press (competition grip), 6 x 4****, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Reverse band bench press (shoulder-width grip), 2 x 3, 2/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Paused DB floor fly, 3 x 10-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing rope cable press downs, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest

**Use 85% of your current 1-rep max or a weight you can lift about 5 times

****Use 65% of your current 1-rep max or a weight you can lift about 15 times

Squat Day

  • A1: Back squat (competition stance), 1 x 3**, 2/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Speed back squat (competition stance), 6 x 4****, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Olympic back squat (narrow stance / heels flat), 2 x 6, 3/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Bilateral lying leg curls (feet dorsiflexed / pointing straight), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Alternating stationary DB lunge, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Use 85% of your current 1-rep max or a weight you can lift about 5 times

****Use 65% of your current 1-rep max or a weight you can lift about 15 times

Bench Press Assistance Day

  • A1: Reverse pec dec, 3 x 15, 2/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated Poliquin DB lateral raise, 3 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Flat DB press, 2 x 20**, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Lat pulldown (narrow / neutral grip), 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Seated cable rope face pull, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Decline DB extension, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Use 85% of your current 1-rep max or a weight you can lift about 5 times

****Use 65% of your current 1-rep max or a weight you can lift about 15 times

Deadlift Day

  • A1: Deadlift (competition stance), 1 x 3**, X/2/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Speed deadlift (competition stance), 6 x 4, X/2/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Deficit deadlift (2 inch deficit), 2 x 6, 2/1/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-10, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Glute ham raise, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Seated machine row, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Use 85% of your current 1-rep max or a weight you can lift about 5 times

****Use 65% of your current 1-rep max or a weight you can lift about 15 times

These workouts will serve as an AWESOME starting point for most powerlifters. As you progress through the 13-week training cycle you will have to make adjustments to the heavy sets, the speed sets, the supplementary exercises and the accessory exercises for each workout.

These adjustments should be individualized based on how you are progressing during the training cycle.

If you want to learn more about the Josh Bryant powerlifting program then check out the following articles:

In all of these articles I give full 10-13 week meet prep cycles by some of Josh’s strongest former and current clients including Chad Wesley Smith, James Strickland and Vincent Dizenzo.

If you are at all interested in becoming a stronger powerlifter then these are must-read articles!

Part 2: Charles Poliquin Programming

Charles Poliquin was one of the world’s most successful strength coaches. Charles was so good that he trained Olympic medalists in 24 different sports during his career.

Charles used many different training splits with his athletes. However, one of his go-to training splits was the classic 4 day upper body / lower body split. For example:

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body
  • Saturday: Lower Body

Charles favored this split with his athletes for all of the usual reasons. The 4 day upper / lower split lets you train body parts twice per week while still giving you plenty of rest days so that you can recover and get stronger.

However, there was another reason that Charles favored this split: it lets you train antagonistic body parts together.

Antagonistic body parts are located on opposite sides of your body. For example here are some common examples of antagonistic body parts:

  • Chest and Back
  • Quads and Hamstrings
  • Biceps and Triceps

Charles believed that one of the absolute best ways to train for size and strength was to use antagonistic body part supersets.

For example Charles would have his athletes perform a set of incline bench presses, rest 1-2 minutes, perform a set of pull ups, rest 1-2 minutes and perform another set of bench presses. Another example would be to alternate back and forth between sets of back squats and lying leg curls.

Charles had three big reasons for training his athletes with antagonistic body part supersets:

  • Improved motor unit recruitment
  • Improved muscular endurance
  • Improved training density

Research shows that antagonistic body part supersets actually increase the number of motor units or muscle fibers that you can recruit in your muscles. For example if you perform a set of chin ups 1-2 minutes before a set of bench presses then you will actually bench press slightly more weight than normal!

Another big advantage of antagonistic body part supersets is they improve your muscular endurance during a workout.

Normally you get much weaker as you progress through a workout. Antagonistic supersets improve your endurance so you don’t lose as much strength towards the end of your workout. This means you can get in more high-quality sets than normal.

Last but not least antagonistic supersets increase your training density. Just think about it: if you perform pull ups in between your sets of bench presses then you are performing twice as much work in the same amount of time! A

ll of these points are backed up with scientific references in Josh Bryant’s excellent book “Bench Press: The Science.”

Charles Poliquin used antagonistic supersets with all of his 4 day upper / lower splits. Charles used a ton of different training routines with his clients. Let’s takes look at two different Charles Poliquin style routines:

  • The 30-15-15 method for hypertrophy gains
  • The 5-3-1 wave loading method for strength gains

The 30-15-15 Method

The 30/15/15 method was one of Charles’ favourite training methods for rapidly increasing muscular hypertrophy. It is also fantastic for increasing your work capacity and helping you lose body fat.

Let’s take a look at some sample upper body and lower body routines first before discussing the details of this training method. Check it out:

Upper Body Day

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press, sets of 2**, 3/0/X/0, no rest
  • A2: Narrow neutral grip chin ups, sets of 2**, 3/0/X/0, no rest
  • B1: 60 degree incline DB press, sets of 8***, 2/0/1/0, no rest
  • B2: Seated cable row (v-handle), sets of 8***, 2/0/1/0, no rest
  • C1: Standing cable pushdown (v-handle), sets of 20****, 1/0/1/0, no rest
  • C2: 45 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), sets of 20****, 1/0/1/0, no rest

**Performed with your estimated 8-rep max.

***Performed with your estimated 20-rep max.

****Performed with your estimated 40-rep max.

Lower Body Day

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), sets of 2**, 3/0/X/0, no rest
  • A2: Bilateral seated leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing straight), sets of 2**, 3/0/X/0, no rest
  • B1: Alternating DB reverse lunge, sets of 8***, 2/0/1/0, no rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (holding DB at chest), sets of 8***, 2/0/1/0, no rest
  • C1: 45 degree leg press, sets of 20****, 1/0/1/0, no rest
  • C2: DB stiff-legged deadlift, sets of 20****, 1/0/1/0, no rest

**Performed with your estimated 8-rep max.

***Performed with your estimated 20-rep max.

****Performed with your estimated 40-rep max.

Each workout consists of 6 exercises. You have 2 “A” exercises, 2 “B” exercises and 2 “C” exercises.

The “A” exercises are performed for the first 30 minutes of the workout. The “B” exercises are performed for minutes 31-45 and the “C” exercises are performed for minutes 46-60.

Your goal is to perform the “A”, “B” and “C” exercises back and forth with no rest in between sets. For example you would perform exercise “A1”, then immediately walk over to the “A2” station and perform your set, then immediately walk back to the “A1” station and perform your next set etc.

Your goal is to perform as many sets as possible during the time period. If you get tired and cannot perform the listed number of reps (2, 8 or 20) then don’t worry, that is OK. Just perform as many reps as you can and keep going back and forth between your exercises.

Every time you repeat this workout your goal is to perform more total sets while keeping the weight the same. The 30-15-15 method takes advantage of antagonistic supersets by letting you use a very high density of training to stimulate hypertrophy gains.

If you want to learn more about the 30-15-15 method then check out the following article:

Escalating Density Training: The Ultimate Guide!

5/3/1 Wave Loading

Another one of Charles Poliquin’s favourite methods to use with the 4 day upper / lower split was wave loading. Wave loading works extremely well if your main goal is to get stronger.

A wave is a series of 3 sets performed with decreasing rep ranges. For example here is what a 5/3/1 wave looks like:

  • Set #1: 5 reps
  • Set #2: 3 reps
  • Set #3: 1 rep

All 3 sets together count as 1 wave. A 5/3/1 wave loading workout normally consists of 2-3 waves. If you have really good recovery ability then you could use as many as 3 total waves.

On the other hand if your parents smited you by giving you average recovery ability then 2 total waves is probably better. For example:

Wave #1

  • Set 1: 5 reps
  • Set 2: 3 reps
  • Set 3: 1 rep

Wave #2

  • Set 4: 5 reps
  • Set 5: 3 reps
  • Set 6: 1 rep

All of these sets should be heavy but slightly submaximal. For example you might perform your 1st set of 5 reps with your 6-rep max. If the weight is too easy then you would bump up the weight for your second wave.

Wave loading works awesome when paired together with antagonistic body part supersets. The waves and the antagonistic supersets “excite” your nervous system which allows you to lift heavier weights than normal.

Here are some sample upper body and lower body 5/3/1 wave loading workouts that you may want to try. Check it out:

5/3/1 Wave Loading Upper Body Workout

  • A1: Standing behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 6 x 5/3/1**, 4/1/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Chin ups (shoulder width / supinated grip), 6 x 5/3/1**, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: T-bar rows, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a 5/3/1 wave loading scheme. Perform 5 reps on your 1st set, 3 reps on your 2nd set, 1 rep on your 3rd set, 5 reps on your 4th set, 3 reps on your 5th set, and 1 rep on your 6th set.

5/3/1 Wave Loading Lower Body Workout

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels elevated), 6 x 5/3/1**, 4/1/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Kneeling leg curl (Poliquin method**** / feet pointed in), 6 x 5/3/1**, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated split squat (holding DBs), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Romanian deadlift, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a 5/3/1 wave loading scheme. Perform 5 reps on your 1st set, 3 reps on your 2nd set, 1 rep on your 3rd set, 5 reps on your 4th set, 3 reps on your 5th set, and 1 rep on your 6th set.

****Dorsiflex your ankles (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantarflex your ankles (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

This wave loading routine is quite difficult. Many trainees find that they have a hard time recovering from 2 heavy lower body workouts in one week. If you have good recovery ability then you will have no problem running this Poliquin-style routine as part of a 4 day upper / lower split.

If your recovery ability is not your greatest asset then you may want to try running this routine as part of a 3 day upper / lower split instead.

Part 3: The Westside Barbell Training Program

It’s impossible to talk about the 4 day upper / lower split without talking about Westside. The Westside Barbell training program was invented by Louie Simmons in the 1980s.

Today Westside is one of the best and most popular powerlifting programs of all time. Many of the strongest powerlifters and strongman competitors in the world train using Westside Barbell training principles.

The Westside Barbell program focuses on three main training methods:

Westside Barbell Training Methods

  • The Max Effort Method
  • The Dynamic Effort Method
  • The Repetition Effort Method

All three of these training methods are used each week by Westside trainees. Here is how the weekly workouts are organized:

The Westside Barbell Training Schedule

  • Sunday: Dynamic Effort Bench Press
  • Monday: Max Effort Squat / Deadlift
  • Wednesday: Max Effort Bench Press
  • Friday: Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift

You train your entire upper body on the bench press days and your entire lower body during your dynamic effort days. You start each workout with either the max effort method or the dynamic effort method.

The max effort method involves performing sets of 1-3 reps at or above 90% of your 1-rep max. You never max out on the actual competition lifts such as the squat, bench press or deadlift. Instead you max out on some type of special exercise.

These special exercises are similar to but slightly different from the competition lifts. Good examples include board press, band presses, rack pulls and box squats.

Here is Westside expert Matt Wenning talking about the max effort method:

The dynamic effort method is completely different: you are going to lift weights around 50-70% of your 1-rep max as explosively as possible. The purpose of the dynamic effort method is to build strength by teaching your body to produce more force.

Finally you finish your workout with the repetition effort method. The repetition effort method is often called the “bodybuilding method” because it is used by bodybuilders to increase muscular size. Louie Simmons often tells his athletes to perform 2-5 sets of 5-20 reps for the repetition effort method.

Here is a basic template for how Louie Simmons organizes his bench press days:

Max Effort Bench Press Template

  • Exercise #1: Max effort bench press
  • Exercise #2: Bench press supplementary exercise
  • Exercise #3: Triceps assistance exercise
  • Exercise #4: Lats assistance exercise
  • Exercise #5: Shoulders assistance exercise

Dynamic Effort Bench Press Template

  • Exercise #1: Dynamic Effort Bench Press
  • Exercise #2: Bench press supplementary exercise
  • Exercise #3: Triceps assistance exercise
  • Exercise #4: Lats assistance exercise
  • Exercise #5: Shoulders assistance exercise

Louie Simmons believes that the most important muscle groups for a big bench press are the triceps and the upper back. Almost all of the Westside accessory exercises focus on these muscle groups.

Some great triceps accessory exercises include close grip bench presses, board presses, tricep pushdowns and all types of triceps extensions.

Louie also has his athletes perform a ton of rows and cable pulldowns to build up their upper back. As Bill Kazmeier said, “strong back equals strong man.”

Now let’s look at how Louie Simmons organizes his squat and deadlift days. Check it out:

Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Template

  • Exercise #1: Max effort deadlift / squat / good morning
  • Exercise #2: Supplementary squat / deadlift exercise
  • Exercise #3: Posterior chain assistance exercise
  • Exercise #4: Posterior chain assistance exercise

Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift Template

  • Exercise #1: Dynamic effort deadlift / squat / good morning
  • Exercise #2: Supplementary squat / deadlift exercise
  • Exercise #3: Posterior chain assistance exercise
  • Exercise #4: Posterior chain assistance exercise

Louie Simmons believes that the “posterior chain” is key to a big squat and deadlift. The posterior chain consists of three muscle groups: the hamstrings, the glutes and the lower back. These three muscle groups work together to perform hip extension during squats, deadlifts, good mornings and many other exercises.

Louie’s favourite posterior chain assistance exercises are the glute ham raise and the reverse hyperextension. If you have access to these 2 machines then you should definitely use them in your Westside training program.

Other good posterior chain assistance exercises include 45 degree back extensions, 90 degree back extensions, good mornings and sled drags.

Now let’s take a look at some sample Westside Barbell workouts that you can perform using the classic Westside 4 day upper body / lower body split. Check it out:

Sample Dynamic Effort Bench Press Day:

  • A1: Speed bench press against bands, 9 x 3**, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB press, 2 x 15-25****, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Dead stop skull crushers, 3 x 8-10, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Lat pulldown (medium / supinated grip), 3 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Seated DB lateral raise, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 50% of your 1-rep max bench press and additional band tension. Perform 3 reps with a shoulder-width grip, 3 sets with a medium grip and 3 sets with a wide grip.

****Perform 2 sets to failure in the 15-25 rep range. Use the same dumbbells for both sets. Louie believes these high rep sets performed to failure are extremely beneficial for building a big bench press.

You can click right here for a perfect video of the Westside speed bench press against bands.

Sample Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Day:

  • A1: Rack pull against bands (mid-shin height), 3 x 1**, X/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Safety squat bar good morning, 2 x 5-7, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Reverse hyperextension, 4 x 10-12, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Glute ham raise, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Perform 3 sets at 85%, 92% and 100% of your 1-rep max.

You can click right here for a perfect demonstration of the Westside rack pull against bands.

Sample Max Effort Bench Press Day:

  • A1: Floor press with chains, 3 x 1**, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 4-board press, 2 x 5, 1/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Seated machine row, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Reverse pec dec, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest

**Perform 3 sets at 85%, 92% and 100% of your 1-rep max.

You can click right here for a perfect video of the Westside floor press against bands.

Sample Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift Day:

  • A1: Dynamic effort box squat against bands (medium-wide stance / heels flat), 6-8 x 2**, 1/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: Dynamic effort deadlift against bands (competition stance), 4-6 x 1**, X/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: 45 degree back extension (holding DB at chest), 3-4 x 10-12, 2/0/1/2, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Good morning machine, 3-4 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 50% of your 1-rep max plus additional band tension.

You can click right here for a perfect video of the Westside dynamic effort box squat against bands.

The Westside Barbell training program is easily one of the best ways to train for powerlifting or strength gains. It is also one of the best training programs to take advantage of the 4 day upper body / lower body split.

If you love to throw around heavy slag iron in the gym then I highly recommend you give it a shot.

If you want to learn more about the Westside program then check out the following articles:

These comprehensive articles will teach you everything you need to know about how to get strong as faaack using the Westside Barbell training program.

Part 4: Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Program

Jim Wendler was a world-class powerlifter who trained at the official Westside Barbell powerlifting gym in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

Jim never set any world records but he was an unbelievably strong human being. His greatest powerlifting accomplishment was squatting an Earth-shattering 1,000 pounds in 2005.

Check it out:

Talk about a huge squat!

After he retired from powerlifting Jim invented a new training program called 5/3/1. If you are looking for a simple way to get incredibly strong then Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 is a great choice.

Jim’s original 5/3/1 program was based around the classic 4 day upper / lower split. You have 4 separate training days: a bench press day, a squat day, an overhead pressing day and a deadlift day.

Here is how you might organize these workouts during a 7-day week:

Sample 5/3/1 Training Split

  • Monday: Bench Press Day
  • Wednesday: Squat Day
  • Friday: Overhead Press Day
  • Saturday: Deadlift Day

The bench press, squat, overhead press and deadlift are the core lifts in Jim’s 5/3/1 program. Each training day you are going to perform 3 heavy sets on one of these core lifts. Here is what 1 month of 5/3/1 training looks like:

5/3/1 Monthly Training Schedule

  • Week #1: 3 heavy sets of 5 reps
  • Week #2: 3 heavy sets of 3 reps
  • Week #3: 3 heavy sets of 5, 3, 1 reps
  • Week #4: Deload (3 light sets of 5 reps)

All of these sets are based on specific training percentages. Here they are:

5/3/1 Training Percentages

  • Week #1: 75% x 5, 80% x 5, 85% x 5**
  • Week #2: 80% x 3, 85% x 3, 90% x 3**
  • Week #3: 85% x 5, 90% x 3, 95% x 1**
  • Week #4 (Deload): 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

**On your last set you have the option of performing an AMRAP set. If you are feeling good then perform as many reps as you can with good from and try to hit a rep PR. If you are not feeling good that day then just do the required number of reps.

As you can see the 5/3/1 program is broken down into 4 weeks of training. You perform 3 sets of 5 reps on the first week, 3 sets of 3 reps on the second week and 3 sets of 5/3/1 reps on the third week.

On your last working set you have the option of performing an AMRAP set where you bust out as many reps as possible. For example if you are supposed to do 5 reps but the weight feels easy then you can keep going and bust out more than 5 reps.

Just make sure you don’t miss any reps on your last set.

On the 4th week you perform a “deload” week. The deload is critical for making long-term progress on the 5/3/1 program. Don’t worry, you won’t lose any strength from the deload week. If anything you will come back stronger.

On your 5th week you start the cycle all over again by performing a heavy 5’s week.

The 5/3/1 “Training Max”

All of your working sets with the 5/3/1 are based on training percentages. Jim Wendler recommends that you use a “training max” rather than your actual 1-rep max for these percentages.

Your training max should be 90% of your 1-rep max. In other words if you can bench press 300 pounds then your training max will be 270 pounds.

Here is what the first 4 weeks of training should look like for someone with a “training max” of 270 pounds:

  • Week 1: 200 lbs x 5 reps, 215 lbs x 5 reps, 230 lbs x 5 reps**
  • Week #2: 215 lbs x 3 reps , 230 lbs x 3 reps, 245 lbs x 3 reps**
  • Week #3: 230 lbs x 5 reps, 245 lbs x 3 reps, 255 lbs x 1 rep**
  • Week #4: 110 lbs x 5 reps, 135 lbs x 5 reps, 160 lbs x 5 reps

**Optional: perform an AMRAP set if you are feeling good that day. Your goal should be to hit an all-time rep PR at that particular weight.

Here is one of the most important parts of the 5/3/1 program: after every 4 weeks of training (3 “heavy” weeks and 1 “deload” week) you are supposed to increase your training max.

Jim recommends you increase your training max by 5 lbs for upper body lifts and 10 lbs for lower body lifts. This means if you used a training max of 270 pounds on the bench press for your first month then you would bump it up to 275 pounds for your second month. For example:

  • Week #5: 205 lbs x 5 reps, 220 lbs x 5 reps, 235 x 5
  • Etc.

This is what makes the 5/3/1 program so simple and effective! Your training max gets heavier by a little bit each month. If you perform the program correctly then your strength on the “big 4” lifts should slowly increase.

5/3/1 Sample Workouts

Let’s take a look at some sample 5/3/1 workouts for your upper and lower body. Jim Wendler recommends that you perform some assistance work after your core lift for the day.

You can pick whichever assistance exercises you want – they are important but nowhere near as important as the main lift.

Now let’s take a look at the sample workouts!

Sample 5/3/1 Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Bench press (medium grip), 3 x 1-5**, 2/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Chin ups (shoulder-width / supinated grip), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
  • C2: Lying ez-bar triceps extension (to forehead), 3 x 10-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed using the 5/3/1 training percentages outlined earlier in this article. Optional: perform an AMRAP on your last set if you are feeling good that day.

You can click right here for a great video of Jim Wendler bench pressing.

Sample 5/3/1 Squat Workout

  • A1: Back squat (competition stance), 3 x 1-5**, 2/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Bilateral lying leg curl (Poliquin method**** / feet pointed out), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Walking DB lunge, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: 45 degree back extension (against bands), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
  • C2: Leg press calf raise, 3 x 10-12, 2/2/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed using the 5/3/1 training percentages outlined earlier in this article. Optional: perform an AMRAP on your last set if you are feeling good that day.

You can click right here for a great video of Jim Wendler squatting.

Sample 5/3/1 Overhead Press Workout

  • A1: Standing overhead press (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 1-5**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree incline DB press, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Wide overhand grip pull ups, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: T-bar row, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C2: Standing ez-bar overhead triceps extension, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed using the 5/3/1 training percentages outlined earlier in this article. Optional: perform an AMRAP on your last set if you are feeling good that day.

You can click right here for a great video of Jim Wendler overhead pressing.

Sample 5/3/1 Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 3 x 1-5**, 2/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree leg press against bands, 3 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Bilateral seated leg curls (feet plantarflexed / pointing in), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/1, 120 seconds rest

**Performed using the 5/3/1 training percentages outlined earlier in this article. Optional: perform an AMRAP on your last set if you are feeling good that day.

You can click right here for a great video of Jim Wendler deadlifting

The 5/3/1 program is an extremely effective training program. Jim Wendler might be right when he says that 5/3/1 is one of the simplest and most effective ways to train for strength.

If you are looking for a solid 4 day upper / lower program to help you get stronger then you have to try Jim Wendler’s 4 days per week 5/3/1 program.

Conclusion

The 4 day upper / lower split is one of the best training splits ever invented. Many of the greatest strength coaches of all time including Louie Simmons, Charles Poliquin, Josh Bryant and Jim Wendler use this exact training split with their athletes.

If you are looking for a training split that produces results in the real world then the 4 day upper / lower split is a great choice.

If you want to learn more about upper body / lower body splits then check out the following articles:

These articles should give you plenty of ideas on how to set up your next training routine to build slabs of new muscle tissue and get freaky strong.

“What holds most people back isn’t the quality of their ideas, but their lack of faith in themselves. You have to live your life as if you are already where you want to be.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen

I am the creator and owner of Revolutionary Program Design. I help advanced athletes take their training to the next level and achieve results they never imagined possible.

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