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Strength and Size Upper/Lower Program for Intermediate Trainer

Hey guys! I’ve been doing a full body program for the last 3 months and I’d like to switch to upper/lower split now. Full body has become too exhausting and to be honest I’d like some change. I made the following program with the idea that one day would have more strength emphasis and the other higher volume for bodybuilding purposes.

Upper strength:
Pendlay row 3x5
Bench press 3x5
Chin ups 3x10
Dips 3x10
Hammer curl 3x10
Skullcrushers 3x10

Lower strength:
Front squat 54321
Deadlift 54321
Hack squat 3x10
Shrugs 3x10
Calf raises 3x10
(Face pulls 3x15)

Upper hypertrophy:
Chin ups 4x6
Incline bench press 4x10
T-bar row 4x10
Military press 4x10
Incline bicep curl 3x10
Pushdown 3x10

Lower hypertrophy:
Front squat 4x10
RDL 4x10
Leg extension 4x10
Back extension 3x10
Calf raises 3x10
(Face pulls 3x10)

I’d like to try the 54321 rep scheme after reading an interesting article about old school athletes and use the basic 3x5 on the upper body strength days. I added facepulls on the lower days to improve the push:pull ratio. Slightly lower reps on the chin ups on upper hypertrophy day since they are lacking for me. Whats your opinion on training to failure? Stopping at one rep before failure? How about 3x5 and 54321 lifts? How should I start on a new program? Should I start at 50% of my 1rm on hypertrophy days and also 5-10kg away from my top lifts on strength days just to let my body work up to the weights? Only go to failure on isolation movements? In some upper/lower powerbuilding programs one has overhead press on strength day but I figured it would interfere with the bench so I have it on my hypertrophy day with higher volume but I am not sure if I should be doing it with more strength emphasis but I reckon higher volume on assistance exercises can be beneficial as well. What’s your opinion on my program? Are the facepulls ok/necessary on the lower days? Thank you in advance!

If I had all of these questions, I genuinely would not try to build my own program. And I say that with at little malice as possible.


I hear you. The thing is that I’ve been lifting for well over a year now but I’ve just recently started to take interest in bodybuilding as well. I’ve been doing SS and Madcow which are more focused on getting stronger. It has been easy to just focus on getting stronger using lower reps but it differs a lot when you try to combine strength and bodybuilding together. Also there is a lot of conflicting information about training to failure, some say do and some day don’t. At this point I am increasing my volume by a lot and I was wondering what would be the optimal way to go about it. How about the push:pull ratio? Is there a consensus? About the overhead press, obviously it does interfere with the bench press when done in the same session but I was interested about the connection between lower rep exercises and higher rep assistance exercises since the reps don’t always tell everything. My over thinking nature might give the expression of me being a complete beginner but I’d like to be extremely educated about something I am about to do.

I do not claim to be an expert, far from it. My program doesn’t really differ that much from proven programs like Phul and Lyle’s generic bulking program but I’m not the type of guy who just does something based on someone else’s words since authority bias happens and I’d like to learn myself some aspects of things and not just do something without giving it a second thought since those programs mentioned have also been critiqued by others for the push:pull ratio etc.

To clarify, are you trying to combine strength and bodybuilding together, or strength and size together? The former is going to be much more complicated than the latter.

Have you read any books on training? If not, I can recommend some that might help.

This is worth worrying about in a logical argument, but not an empirical one. This is far more an empirical exercise here. I’ve learned what I know about training by following the training plans and ideas of those far more accomplished than I am and then figuring out what worked and didn’t work for me. You might find similar success.

I’ve been recommending Jon Andersen’s Deep Water program for a while now, and if your goal is to get as big and strong as possible, I’d give it a run. Run it exactly as written with no changes the first time through. See how it works for you. Change it as needed after that.

I meant the latter, the words are interchangeable in my mother of tongue, hence the mistake.

I’ve read Starting Strength years ago when I started and later I’ve read Berkhan’s Leangains book. I prefer articles.

I understand the difference but I just like to plan things to perfection, Can’t help it I’m afraid.

I took a quick look and found it very interesting, I will read more about it. The thing with many programs for me is that they have back squats. My long femurs and short torso just cause the back squat to grow my ass and not my legs. Also the exercise looks more like a good morning with tremendous forward lean and other small problems like pain in hip abductors and in my calfs (anterior tibialis). My quads are severely underdeveloped and I have found the front squat to be much better version for me.

So I guess I have learned already a lot from figuring out from more accomplished men and that is the problem I face, many routines include the back squat. I’ve just worked around it and added the romanian deadlift as an assistance exercise to work my hamstrings as well. And I understand that you shouldn’t modify the bread and butter of these programs that have the back squat as a main lift by changing it with some other squat. If I was able to back squat without pain I would probably be doing Wendler’s 531 BBB-template but I figured it would be better to make my own and not bastardize well established ones.

Wait what? Your mother tongue uses a physique competition and musclar size as the same word?

Starting Strength is an ok book for learning movement mechanics, but Rippetoe’s opinion on programming is pretty goofy. If you want to educate yourself, definitely pick up more books. Check out the Elitefts Basic Training Manual, 5/3/1 Forever, Brawn, The Complete Keys to Progress and Powerlifting Basics Texas Style for a good start.

“Can’t” is vulgarity.

Also, I too good morning squat. Program still grew my legs.

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Either of these would be preferable…