"Best Damn Workout Plan For Natural Lifters": Upper/Lower vs Push/Pull?

Hello Christian,

I read this article today and loved it from the first moment on.

But why is the push/pull split a better choice than for example an upper/lower?

I always liked upper/lower because of the agonist/antagonist exercise order. Stretching the one while training the other seems to help recovery wise.

So I would love to read your opinion and if an upper/lower is also a way of splitting this gread program up.

Thank you,

I haven’t tried a program like this before but here is why I like the split idea. My favorite program is push pull legs because it feels like a good ratio for upper/lower body, there is so much selection for upper body and only a handfull of good choices for lower so 2 upper and 1 lower works well for that. Most bodybuilding programs have even more emphasis on upper so if anything 2:1 is a good compromise between 1:1 or 4:1 or whatever.

This program keeps a similar ratio but allows for even more frequency

You can think of the program like this:

An upper lower split has you alternating between upper body work and lower body work. That way you get workouts like bench + rows + biceps + triceps, squats + stiff deads + abs + calves etc.

With a push pull split, you alternate between both upper and lower body pushing and pulling. That way you get workouts like stiff deads, pull-ups, curls etc and front squats, bench, shoulder work and triceps.

To put it simply, instead of working both the upper and lower body 3 times a week, you basically get 6 kind of full body workouts per week.

Hey CT,


I just wanted to say I thought your article made strong points that I’ve come to realize myself over my last 10 years of training. I’ve definitely had my best gains in both muscle and strength when training each muscle group at least 2x a week with low-moderate overall volume for each muscle group. My personal favorite split is push/pull/legs each done 2x a week.

Article Question:

It seems that this workout would be slanted towards building muscle. I had a couple of questions regarding a possible tweak to make it somewhat more strength oriented and would appreciate your feedback if you have time.

  1. I was thinking to do only squats and bench for the chest and quad portion of the push workout. Could I simply substitute these exercises in and remove the intensity techniques?

  2. Would dropping the reps to 3 on A1 day (so that its 3x3reps), 5 on A2 (3x5reps), and 7 on A3 (3x7) fit well into the program or do you think that this modification takes the program too far away from its intended purpose to serve a strength goal?



Geesh…1st the excellent article about 5 things natty’s can learn from the pros, and now this. So awesome there are articles gauged towards REAL nattys’s with AVERAGE genetics.

No, I am not a true natty though I have been since 2008 (so technically, I am not a true natty; full disclosure is I have dabbled with other things other than anabolics like peptides since then…so, yeah…not a true natty) and no, I do not have average genetics but I’m still going to comment anyways on an article aimed towards nattys.

That being said, I think the recommendation within the article of those intense techniques on the 3rd work set is still TOO MUCH WORK for true average natty’s. I think with the frequency suggested, a true natty has got to do that last set “close” to failure but not get there. Maybe only ONE workout for a bodypart can one apply these intensification techniques, but not 3. I think that is too much stimulation actually.

My comment is focused on the natty with AVERAGE genetics. One’s mileage will vary.

I personally think combining the suggestions from this article and from CT’s double stimulation training article is the best way to go for naturals with average genetics. 4 full body training sessions done Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday with Monday and Thursday being heavy work and Tuesday and Thursday being lighter pump work (more about getting blood filled with nutrients into the tissues on these ones) is the way to go. As indicated by today’s article, only one exercise per bodypart.

But that’s just my opinion. I don’t even pretend to know or out guess someone like CT.

Yeah great stuff really

CT if the gym I have only contains a powerrack (good amount of weights), barbell and my gymnastic rings, how would you recommend I tailor this?

Also have some DBs (up to 80 lbs).

For sake of clarity, was the Layers program originally designed for naturals or enhanced (Is it approrpiate long term template for naturals)?


CT, just to clarify for me , this article is about building maximale muscle gains and no for strenght ?

Hi Christian, I read this article, it looks interesting, but it seems to me that this is too little work. I cannot see complex exercises as well. I have excellent experience with your HPM training, also with the new version of HPM Look Like a Bodybuilder, Perform Like an Athlete, excelent is 6 Weeks to Superhero training, do you think that make sense for me have to try this your new training? Exercises such as Power Snatch, Power clean, Deadlift, Benchpress, Squat works, and I like them, this training uses a lot of isolated exercises.

-also a recipe for pissed of joints, injury even

Funny, I’ve always considered myself to have average genetics (on the rare occasions I even think about genetics on this matter), yet I still could easily recover from a six day split structured like this but with double the volume. I didn’t even do it for just a month or two, I did it for over 6 months and on a caloric deficit and tribulus is the most anabolic thing I have taken so far. I also did every single set to what I call a positive failure where I could not get another rep without seriously compromising my form.

Normally I would agree on heavy use of intensification techniques but this program honestly doesn’t look like too much to me. For the past six months I have trained with a 4 day push and pull split and depending on what workout I am doing, it’s either 44 sets with 24 sets using intensification techniques done until positive failure or 24 sets all done using intensification techniques and until failure. I was worried about recovery before but after doing this and gradually adding training to actual failure which I have never really done before and even training my forearms 4 times a week to failure without problems, I’m not sure anymore. Also that article never says take the exercise to failure. Going to failure with intensification techniques is entirely different than going to failure on straight sets or going to positive/technical failure with intensification techniques which is what this article advocates.

What to take home from this: Don’t focus on genetics, please. A program like this can easily be done for a while even if your recovery capabilities are not that great and even then, you can simply drop some intensification work out if you feel like you are not recovering. Also I highly doubt this is a program to be done on maintenance or deficit calories so there’s that as well.

How would you work to progress this routine after time? How many weeks would you suggest going with this routine?

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I thought the same. For true nattys it MIGHT be too much.

I would start like this:

  1. Start with 5 days and rotate the days. So fist week you do 3 Push and 2 Pull. Next week it`s the opposite. When there is no problem with recovery, go to 6 days.

  2. Start without intensity techniques and include them on a weekly basis. Check how your body and joints feel.

  3. Start with intensity techniques only for big muscle groups (chest, back, legs,…). Ditch it on triceps, biceps, shoulders, calves.

  4. If there is no problem after all that, go with the full program. Even as a natty.

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On the other hand if your really doing a high frequency program regulate your intensity so you can get the full frequency (6 days a week here). I found intensity always ends up increasing as you make weekly weight progressions so its better plan on that being limited in the beginning vs trying to add other stuff like an extra day per week AND increasing weight.

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Oh dear… Ultimately you don’t have to follow or even agree with CT’s suggestions.

While I am sure everyone might have an idea as to what the best workout plan for natural lifters might be, CT offered HIS insight based on HIS experience. I welcome alternative views but if you feel that this is not the right approach why don’t you simply write your own article? Just make sure to let people know what you have achieved physique-wise to date or else it might not be all that interesting, especially if it less inspiring than CT’s work.

By not including percentages or pre-set weight progression, this program is fully autoregulated. When you feel banged as hell, you can just as well use less weight.

I don’t really get why the intensification techniques are the problem here since you are supposed to use them only for one single set for each exercise.

To me, this is not average genetics.

Again, you are stating a workload that I strongly believe many many normal naturals cannot sustain nor recover from. Going to failure, whether it be straight set (i.e. without added intensification techniques added on) or added on intensification techniques are individually tolerable. Everyone’s mileage varies. And no, not everything will work for everyone. Just because you give your own experience you cannot believe everyone else is like you.

I used to think just like you on this. But my observations of many many many trainers of all types but especially those who are “average” (this is not a knock on this at all…hell, average means MOST PEOPLE) will not be able to tolerate this workload. Workload meaning intensification methods on top of high frequency.

And focusing on genetics is really looking at things realistically. It automatically assumes variability among exercise tolerance, recovery, etc. Now, apples to apples comparison with “average” genetics with optimum sleep, low stress life, adequate amount of good healthy food and supplementation will be good for anyone…but one person who is genetically superior will reap way more rewards and can tolerate way more.

So I can’t put in MY own experience or MY suggestion. I don’t need to write an article. I’m commenting on one.

I think CT’s ideas are fantastic; I’m merely adding in some thoughts about how it might not be perfect for everyone. But that’s a given.

Don’t disagree at all.
Just mentioning the fact that for some (well, in my opinion MANY, but you will disagree with that…cool), even adding the intensification techniques coupled with the increase in frequency might just be too much for the common person. So in affect, what you are saying I agree with…not using the intensification techniques would be a form of autoregulation.

For the record, I am astounded by some misinterpretation of my post. I guess after reading it again (and again, and again), I can see how some folks are thinking I’m totally disagreeing with CT.

First of all, its OK to disagree with someone. Yes, even CT. But I’m not disagreeing with him at all in principle…maybe just in a small itsy bitsy item with regards to intensity in light of the frequency. His experience and mine are probably different here. That’s OK. I’m not knocking his.

Second, I am celebrating the fact that CT is focusing on training specifically for the natural athlete. I think that is simply awesome. I’m very happy with the fact that CT is not regurgitating training advice that isn’t different from the geared population or the genetically elite.

This article (and the previous one about what 5 things a natural can take from the pros) are such a welcome breath of fresh air with some great concepts. The explanations are so logical as well.

So I guess for those who think I’m a negative nelly, well, not my intention. Then again I’m an old coot so naturally I’m going to be more inclined to being a little extra persnickity and perhaps set in my ways. Believe it or not, I am still striving to have an open mind. : )

In my case I believe the number one factor in my recovery capability is that I worked into it. For the 4 years I have trained, the only time I did a once a week body part split was the first 6 months of training. Also each time I have been on a caloric deficit, I have utilized a high frequency program. Recovery is one aspect that can be trained and improved as well no matter what your genetics are.

Going to absolute failure differs a metric ton from going to positive or technical failure which is supposed to be utilized in this program. Coming from a powerlifting background, my number one training principle has been never to go to muscular failure. If you are not sure the next rep can be completed without seriously compromising form, don’t start it. Training this way is more than enough stimulus for growth but it also allows you to practice lifting as a skill and not learn harmful movement patterns and the mentality to make the rep no matter what. It also puts significantly less stress on your CNS I do not believe everyone is like me but still we are talking about relatively small amount of volume with only one actual work set per exercise with intensification techniques that still doesn’t train the muscle beyond failure like forced negatives etc. do.

Aside from frequency and intensity, one very important variable is volume. What this program lacks is continuous and cumulative volume on the same movement patterns. It uses isolation work, barbell work and machine work instead which again makes it easier to recover from it.

Focusing too much on genetics on the other hand limits what a person can and even wants to try to achieve. I do believe someone who hasn’t trained with a high frequency before shouldn’t do this program as it is but after easing into it, I believe it should be doable as long as you focus on working the muscle instead of just crushing the weights.