T Nation

Starting 4 Day Bodypart Split


Me and my friend starting working out together recently doing a 3x per week total body program. But one week we got bored and decided to switch it up and do a split and we both liked it more enjoyment wise.

However i have read some stuff suggesting that Body part split training is not optimal for a beginner due to neurological inefficiency, and that you can't practice correct technique as well on a split.

However i have read CT article "Training For Newbies" and decided if i was going to start a split it would be 4 days a week and look something like this.


I have not decided my set/rep scheme yet. I'm not sure if i should stay on 5x5 or if i should go for total hypertrophy with 3x12. Both our goals are to gain as much muscle and size as possible with strength as a secondary goal.

Exercises per muscle group would probably looks something like this.

(Chest)Barbell Bench Press,Barbell Incline Bench Press,Cable Crossover
(Triceps)Triceps Pushdown,Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension

(Back)Deadlift,Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown,Seated Cable Rows
(Biceps)Dumbbell Bicep Curl,Machine Preacher Curls

(Deltoids)Seated Dumbbell Press,Front Dumbbell Raise,Side Lateral Raise
(Traps)Barbell Shrug,Upright Cable Row

(Quads)Barbell Squat,Leg Extensions,Lying Leg Curls
(Calves)Seated Calf Raise,Standing Calf Raises

Now that you know my layout for what i would like my split to look like i will give you some standard background on me and my friend.


My Friend:

My squat started off really bad because i lacked the hip flexibility to go to parallel, however i have overcome that problem and it doesn't feel weird squatting to parallel so i am expecting some larger numbers very soon on the squat.

Also i left out dips and pull-ups because neither of us can do more then a couple of these, and we don't feel the muscles being worked. However we will add them in when our strength is up to par.

From what i have told you, do you guys think i should try a split like this or suck it up and keep doing 5x5 total body?


im thinking you should stick with lower rep sets to get your numbers up. work on perfecting your form. depending on how long youve been doing tbt, id say stick it out. you have to give it time to reap the full benefits. do 2-3 months of tbt, then switch it up with a split for a couple months or so. and i know everyone will say this, but it is essential... make sure your nutrition is in check. but thats just me, everyone will have different pieces of advice. all i can say is read read and read some more


Keep doing total body, at least for a while. Like you said, learning neural efficiency will allow you to recruit more motor units and stimulate more overall growth. When you're benching and squatting 95lbs for 5 reps then what is the point in smashing the hell out of your chest once a week and then leaving it a whole week to recover? You just won't need that long. Far better to begin with to train it more often and take advantage of quicker recovery periods and learn to use the muscles properly. Then when you're capable of using more of the muscle to lift, that is when you look to increase volume as well as recovery time.


With training weights like that, go with an upper-lower split if you are going to split it up. Squatting more often will help you put on quality size and strength.

Something like this could work:

Monday: Upper
Bench 5x5
Barbell Row 5x5
Dips 3x whatever
Barbell Curl 3x12

Tuesday: Lower
Squat 5x5
Stiff-leg Deadlift 4x8
Calves 3x12
Abs 3x12

Thursday: Upper
Incline Bench 5x5
Pull-ups/Chin-ups 5x whatever
Shrugs 3x12
Skull Crushers 3x12

Saturday: Lower
Deadlift 5x5
Squat 4x8
Calves 3x12
Abs 3x12

It's simple, its basic, and if you eat right and if you focus on getting strong on the key 5x5 movements, then you will make amazing progress.


Out of curiosity why 4x8 for squat and Stiff-leg Deadlift?

Also me and my friend cant really do pull-ups or dips. In fact dips hurt our hands and make our clavicles and chest hurt plus our shoulders feel awkward, not sure if thats normal. Pull ups we just suck at right now but we will work on them.

Also what are your thoughts on ramping up the weight? i noticed doing 5x5 of working sets really wore us down and by the time we got to our second or third exercise we would just be wiped, especially starting with squats or bench.

Other then that your program looks good and i do admit neither of us have textbook form but my friend is definitely the better of the two of us. this looks good for practicing my technique while on a split.

Also for progression i will assume we would continue to just add 5 lbs to our lifts every week until we stall right?


Beginners giving advice to beginners? Fancy that.

TBT increasing "neural efficiency" better than splits is a complete load of bullshit. So is the concept that simply squatting more often will magically make you gain more weight and muscle....

If you are capable of training normally, there is no reason for you to "stick out" absolute novice training.

The 4 day split you and your friend came up with, and even the exercises in it, is perfect for right now. Commit to it.

And as far as your goals and how muscle mass is actually built, you seem a little confused:

Reading many of the articles on this website can give a lot of people the impression that training for "hypertrophy" and training for "strength" are two completely different, and opposing things. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Muscle mass is built by lifting progressively heavier weights, repped to failure (usually in the 6-10 rep range), and eating enough protein and calories to gain bodyweight.

The "X Factor" is how much willpower and intensity you put into your workouts, and you won't make progress without it.

To illustrate what I mean, if you can bench 95lbs x 5 now, and in 6 months you bust your ass in the gym and gain 15lbs of bodyweight, and then you can bench 195lbs x 5, this will correlate to an increase in pec size.

Here are a couple of links that should clarify any misconceptions about training to gain muscle mass:




Erm, OK then.


Squelchy please go back to lurking, thanks.


Mr. Popular, I was giving advice based on what I did when my lifts were like that. When I started out, my lifts were piss weak and I was a beanpole. I had zero leg strength whatsoever (squats with 95lbs were difficult - now I have a 308 squat, not great, but good progress). Once I tried a program like the one above and just focused on getting stronger, I made awesome progress.

Like you said, what really counts is getting much, much stronger at the basic lifts (and eating a lot of quality food). Since the OP is weak now, I think that benching more than once a week will do him good. Hell, most elite-level powerlifters bench around twice a week, and I don't think they qualify as small and weak.

Again, to re-iterate, I have personally had the best results with doing an upper-lower split 4x a week, just focusing on rep ranges from 3-8 in the big exercises like squat, deadlift, bench, and barbell row. Add about 5-10 lbs per week to each (5 for upper, 10 for lower with some leeway). If you want to ramp sets, go ahead, but make sure not to use that as a cop-out on doing hard work.

Also, if dips hurt, then don't do them. You could instead get in some shoulder work with some seated or standing overhead pressing. I included dips because they work your triceps a bit more. As for pull-ups, try to include them. You may not be able to do too many right now, but just progress on them. It may start as 5 sets of 2-3, but then keep adding a couple of reps to the total count each time you do them. When you can do 5x10, add some weight.


People should be focusing on getting stronger regardless of their routine. You don't need a 2-way split to gain strength.

You should be getting stronger just the same on a 4-way split, the only difference is instead of sacrificing exercises and volume for a higher frequency, you have the opportunity to make leaps in strength on a more complete variety of exercises, covering all your muscles more thoroughly.

A novel concept for someone interested in bodybuilding...

Let me get this straight... you think that because elite-level powerlifters bench press twice each weak, this newbie with goals of bodybuilding should imitate that?

Is there a reason you wouldn't make the comparison to an elite-level BODYBUILDER (who benches once a week) ? It sure would make more sense, even though either argument is retarded.


Yes, the strength is what it all boils down to. But do you really need all of those exercises to go from a 95x5 squat to a 225x5 squat? Or would just focusing on hard & heavy basics work out better? For example, why have 3 different bench variations on one day, when one would be sufficient? With the more frequent training, he can take advantage of those recovered muscles and work them twice as much in a week, leading to hypothetically twice as many growth opportunities.

I included that to make a statement about the recovery/frequency battle. The OP can recover much quicker than these powerlifter or bodybuilder behemoths and can therefore stimulate his muscles more often.

OP, go ahead and try a program - mine or your own - doesn't matter. Just focus on getting strong on the basic lifts and you will do fine.


Actually, more frequent training combined with quicker recovery times = more muscle gain. I seriously believe in running a probram like that for someone who just started lifting. But that doesn't mean to neglect bodyparts, and most people should switch to splits quicker then the kiddos in the beginner's section do. But whatever, I guess.


Are you flirting with me?

This doesn't make any sense. You can include the exact same exercises and rep and set layout over the course of a week, the only difference being how you group those exercises.

For example, to use the upper/lower split over 4 days and a 4 day body part split to illustrate my point (and before anybody gets on my ass about exercise choices this is just for simplicity, obviously you would maybe do more for bigger muscle groups and less for smaller):

Leg day:
Back squat
Front squat
Stiff legged deadlift

Chest/tricep day:
Dumbbell bench
Close grip bench

Back day/bicep:
Barbell curls
Dumbbell curls

Shoulder day:
Military press
Upright rows
Lateral raises
Rear raises

OK, so you noted the exercises there? Now for the 4 day upper/lower:

Upper 1:
Barbell curls
Military press
Lateral raises

Lower 1:
Back squats

Upper 2:
Dumbbell bench
Close grip bench
Dumbbell curls
Upright rows
Rear raises

Lower 2:

Front squats
Stiff legged deadlifts

Again, that was for the sake of simplicity, but same exercises for both.


Good luck with that leg day lol

CGP after skullcrushers? Whatever

Back day... 2 days after heavy deadlifts and front-squats AND stiff-legged deadlifts (not that any smart trainee would use a leg day like that, unless he had alien genetics)?


Why do upright rows here? What about traps?

Great idea, training shoulders after triceps.. Maybe for a powerlifter who doesn't care much about them, but a bodybuilder?
Also please note the amount of exercises here. By the time you get to mil presses, how well can you possibly perform on them?

Not smart for a bodybuilder going 6-12 reps on deadlifts and 1 low rep + 1 high rep, grinding set on squats. Works if you do low reps on both maybe, but even then the injury risk for the low back and overall stress on the spine... Doesn't make much sense to me to pare these two lifts up. Also, you're doing SLDL's and front squats on the second leg day, that means more low-back involvement and a fatigued upper back from upper day 2 (rows, rear raises)... Hence bad front-squat performance to boot, as the upper back is heavily involved in those.
A complete beginner may be able to train like this no problem but only until he starts getting his shit together.

2 exercises for legs each time, but a ton of work for the upper body? Also, heavy low-back involvement on both leg days and probably also during BO rows on upper body day 2 if one would do them?

Some of the ideas behind a split:
a) You aren't totally exhausted after a workout and can go on for a long time without taking time off/deloading.
b) You are fresh for the main exercise of every muscle group and in generally perform better on shoulder work and such as you aren't doing it after 4 other heavy exercises. Hence more weight increases.

So it seems like you kind of missed the point of mr. popular here?

One cannot simply do twice the amount of exercises per day and expect to do as well on the last half of them as you would be able to if they were trained on a different day. There is a point to splitting things up more... And considering that most beginners and intermediates still eat too little, using an overall more stressful approach like your 2-way with higher frequency makes how much sense?


I just noticed you have your own thread dedicated to how you train, which tells me people actually recognize your results and respect your opinion. i will assume you have been where me and my friend are right now.

In a nutshell what would you recommend for us?

Also still wondering on any thoughts for ramping up weights to working sets rather then 5x5 sets all with my max load.


This is a good routine...

If you wanted to leave the gym on a stretcher come leg day...


Another TBT vs split debate thread on the bodybuilding forum... 'nice'.


Not the OPs fault he asked a question and got a bunch of different conflicting advice he is probably confused as fuck as to what to do next.


Well i am pretty much down to deciding between a few things.

  1. To do an upper lower split or a 4 way split.

  2. what set rep scheme i should be using.

  3. if i should ramp the weights or do 5 straight sets.

I'll admit I'm to new at this to disprove anything anyone has said. all there reasons as to why there suggested method works makes sense to me.

I think in the end i may have to just choose someone who is trusted on this sight and will help me figure out how to get started on the right foot.

I mean every padawan needs a Jedi master right? :wink:


Fella, I posted that in a hurry. I realise you would assume I put those in some sort of order but if you look then you'll see the order I put the exercises in on the upper/lower split is the same order I put them in on the four way split for the sake of listing ease (I couldn't remember what I wrote), not what order you would perform them in, or what order you would put the days in or anything like that. It's funny, even though I said I was JUST listing exercises for the sake of simplicity and not anything else you still picked me up on things I hadn't even said!

Why is it people keep missing my points?! Do I really have to spell every last thing out? It seems even when I do that people don't seem to understand.