T Nation

Program Feedback 4-Day Upper/Lower Split

I’ve read, 5/3/1, Forever, Beyond and a bunch of other program books. I created the below program as a simple alternative for doing only main lifts. The primary reason for this was/is time. I am severely time crunched since january and will be for around another year. I am also new to barbell lifting and wanted more frequency of lifts for form reasons (my power clean still sucks, but getting better)

I can do the below sessions in about 30-40 minutes. Lower if I really squeeze rest time and feel good about it. I have been running this program for 5 months and it seems to work well for me.

Upper Day:

Overhead Press - 5/3/1 sets/reps
Bench Press - 5/3/1 sets/reps
Barbell Row - 5/3/1 sets/reps

Lower Day:

Squat - 5/3/1 sets/reps
Power Clean - 5/3/1 sets/reps
Deadlift - 5/3/1 sets/reps


Monday - Upper
Tuesday - Lower
Wednesday - Other/Barbell Complex (Think MRT/endurance)
Thursday - Rest/Active Rest (treadmill desk with weight vest. that can happen any day)
Friday - Upper
Saturday - Lower
Sunday - Rest

When I do have extra time, I like to jump rope or do ab focused TRX (rare for both)

I have been doing this for 5 months. I am getting to the point where I have difficulty setting PR’s on + day lifts consistently. Current calculation based 1RMs:

Overhead Press - 140lb (126 TM)
Bench Press - 215lb (193.5 TM)
Barbell Row - 215lb (193.5 TM)
Squat - 270lb (243 TM)
Power Clean - 155lb (139.5 TM)
Deadlift - 320lb (288 TM)

I have been using a 90% Training max. I try to deload every 6 weeks. Recently I took a deload after 3 weeks because it felt like continuing was not what my body needed. Came back strong.

My intent is/was to do this program for about a year or until I can do unassisted pull-ups and dips. Then move to a program with more traditional accessory work (I will also have a larger more capable gym at that point and hopefully more time). And, you know, be able to do pull-ups and dips unassisted.

So, now, constructively tear it apart. Why would this not work for a year?

I am definitely seeing the gains slow down. To the point where I started wondering if an 85% or even 80% TM or simply slowing down the weight additions every cycle makes sense. Or is the program simply too much now that my “newbie” gains are vanishing?

One note: My goals are not pure strength. I want a functional level of fitness. Putting a bigger number on the bar does not matter to me at all in and of itself. I am 38 with a 5 year old. I want to be able to keep up with him, and this program has already accomplished that. Eventually I want to be the dad at the playground that muscles up on to monkey bars with his kid on his shoulders. You get the idea. I am doing this because it makes me fitter to keep up with my son and invigorates. (I actually currently find rest days hard to deal with. which is another issue)

Thoughts? Thanks!

I’m in a similar situation to you, I’m 40, have a 6 year old daughter, started training again for same reasons last december after 9 years off.
I couldn’t do unassisted Dips or pull ups so did lots of negatives only to begin with. Once I could do one I’d try to get a few singles each time I was in the gym.
Once you can get a few and do them regularly it amazing how quickly you can build up the reps.
I’m no expert but I think your only going to get good at doing Dips and pullups by doing them.

Ok I may have missed it but what supplemental work are you running with this? Or just the base 5/3/1 sets week to week? Typically in forever you’ll see workouts something like this:

Squat -5/3/1
Dead lift- 5x5 fsl

Press-5x5 fsl

Now that’s if you’re wanting to hit every lift 2x weekly of course. Be just as easy to do:

Power cleans5/3/1

Buts it’s your preference.

As low as your current 1 rm is at the moment you should have no issue running this for a long time. Also on your split if your wanting to lift Saturday, I always found M-W-F-Sat was great cause you get rest days between most sessions. But again that’s youre preference.

I personally ran something like this for about 14 months:

Squat 5/3/1 with Pr set
Drop set fsl amrap
Then supplemental work (abs, lunges, jumps, leg press etc)
I’d change some stuff here and there but that was always my go to especially when crunched for time.

As I got stronger I had to monitor recovery more. It’ll be the same for you most likely. The main thing on any program is to go in and give it 100% effort. Good luck on your goals.

No supplemental or accessory work at all. What you see is what I do. The reason for this is time.

The schedule is again due to time availability. It is also why I did the upper lower split since I knew I would need back to back days twice per week.

I just wanted to make sure I am not hurting myself long term.

I know I should do accessory work and ideally split things up more. But right now I can’t.

In fact for a while I may only have 20-30 minutes daily. Still working out a routine for that.


Let me say on time limited workouts that the PR set and amrap at fsl worked great. If crunched for time you can hit that and a few sets of triceps, ham curls, leg press or whatever you’re working that day really fast. I mean 25 minutes work tops when I first started. Super set rowing or pull ups with pressing for more work less time. Good luck to you man!!!

I have tried joker, pyramid and FSL after the main sets. I like them but time is a problem.

I would love to superset a compatible accessory lift to each one. I just haven’t figured it out yet. Plus when I do add volume on lower day I get wiped out. Upper seems good to go for it. (Time permitting)

Just haven’t figured out what to superset yet. (The eventual goal would be dips, pull-ups and maybe light front squats. Maybe just some ab focused TRX.)

Just wanted to make sure the core program is good. If it wasn’t, I would be going down the wrong path.