T Nation

Big 4 vs Bodybuilding Split


Hello T Nation,

I’ve been a lurker for many years now. Some updated stats before I get into my question:

21 years old
190 lbs
~15% body fat
Been lifting weights seriously for a couple years now.
Goals: more physique oriented, power/explosiveness secondary, but welcomed.

My question is which split would be more efficient for my goals, and if there are any significant differences between the 2.

Bodybuilding Split (5 day split)
Tuesday Chest/Bis
Wednesday-Squat, Deadlift, weighted dips
Friday- steady state cardio
Saturday-HIIT cardio

Power Split/Big 4 split (2 day split)
Day 1: Squat, Hang clean, Chest press variation, row variation, weighted pullups, weighted dips
Day 2: Deadlift, Snatch, Shoulder press variation, weighted pullups, weighted dips

In the past, the strongest I’ve ever was when i was 20, early 21, using the power split. Got up to a 225 lb clean, 170 lb snatch, and ~350 deadlift, 90 lb weight dip for 5, 45 lb weight wide pullup for 5, 95 lb incline DB press at 30 degrees, 185 lb bent over barbell row for 5, never maxed on that lift.

It’s also important to note that using the power split, I was able to increase my vertical significantly. I never recorded the numbers, but I was able to dunk a softball with relative ease.

Deadlift has always been one of my weaker lifts, consistent heavy DLs always made my lower back feel off. Most likely a form issue.

Recently, I’ve put on some good size with the bodybuilding split. Have been using it for almost a year, and was wondering if I have too much fluff with the bodybuilding split, and more consistent work centered around the olympic and big 4 lifts would be more efficient in improving both my physique and strength levels.

Any constructive input is welcome, thanks in advance.


Well, if your physique is what is of main importance to you, focus on that. It isn’t a matter of which is better, but which better allows you to achieve your goals.

Just personally, I do think a lot of bodybuilding splits are fluff-heavy - but if it works, who cares what I think? I certainly have improved my physique training solely for powerlifting, but that took off once I started training my assistance work for higher reps. So, more like a bodybuilding approach for assistance.

A couple of programs come to mind. Well, more than a couple. On this site, Christian Thibaudeau has written some great programs that focus on getting your stronger AND looking better; and the often use olympic lifts and variations.

Or, you could use a strength-focus and do 531 but for assistance do the periodisation bible assistance template - that has you basically doing lower body assistance on squat and deadlift day and upper body assistance on press and bench press day. The assistance work is trained like a bodybuilder. I’d recommend buying the book ($5-10) on Amazon just to check it out. The other advantage to that is that 531 sets out ways to include variations of the olympic lifts.


A good middle ground I see here that would allow you to stay physique-oriented while dropping some of the BB fluff would be a push/pull/leg split. Worked wonders for me in the past. It’s three weight training days per week, focused on big compound movements, which you can vary the rep range and intensity for hypertrophy work.

It will also allow you to add an extra day to do focused physique work. Use this fourth day to bring up areas on your physique you think need the most attention. Only focus on the one or two body parts that need it most until they come up, then move on to the next most glaring deficiency. This split will also allow you a couple days to work in your cardio and an off day. Just my 2 cents.


Thanks for the great replies. I guess my main concern is, will I lose the gains I’ve made from utilizing the bodybuilding split for the last year or so by switching to the power/big 4 split?

Or will I be able to basically continue where I left off, and continue gaining strength and mass?

Perhaps this is a stupid question, but is a legitimate concern of mine. Thanks guys.


I doubt you’ll get smaller if you focus on strength and eat to recover. Your physique might change slightly but you shouldn’t lose anything; or at least I wouldn’t think you would.


Exactly. “Fluff” is only fluff if it’s shit you don’t really care about.

I do exercises for quite specific bodyparts like my forearms (reverse curls), upper chest (incline stuff), the long head of my triceps (PJR pullovers), etc., which would be considered fluff by many, but considering the reason I train is to make my body look a certain way and these exercises do that, then they’re not fluff.

It’s really just a matter of what you’re training for.


@MarkKO @Yogi1

I guess my main concern is losing the size and definition I gained in my back from the bodybuilding split. My back has always lagged behind my chest, largely due to ignorance during my early days of lifting, and focusing on beach muscles.

Through the bodybuilding split, I performed numerous BB/DB rows, various cable rows, face pulls, variations of Lat pull downs, along with pullups. I’m worried with the power/Big 4 split (see above), my back development will stall, or slow. Are pullups and BB/db rows along with power snatches sufficient to thoroughly work the back muscles?


IMO if you do them often and heavy enough, sure. Especially when you consider deadlifts are kind of good back builders too.


“kind of good” is quite subtle way to put it. :stuck_out_tongue:


na it doesn’t work like that. As long as you’re still hitting the weights then your size and definition isn’t going anywhere, and can only improve.

Remember, your body doesn’t know the difference. It just knows that there’s a big heavy weight causing it problems so it has to adapt to that weight in order for it to be less of a problem in the future.