Monday, March 21, 2011

Four Day and Six Day Splits

I'm big on training 3X a week and then doing conditioning 2-3 more times a week, however sometimes I have trained more days a week, often times with good results depending on how I setup the split, how much volume and PI I used on the movements.

There are definitely some benefits to training more often, like practice of movements, ability to bring up lagging muscle groups, and the ability to eat more and not gain as much fat because of the greater calorie expenditure.

So you see, I'm not a zealot.  I do embrace diversity.  But it has to make sense to me as well.

Splits for 4X a week -

There are a few ways to do this effectively.  If we are talking about maximum size I still like the 3 way split across 4 days of the week.  You simply use my current fave setup and add an extra day in.

Day 1 - Chest/Shoulders/Triceps

Day 2 - Legs

Day 3 - Back/Biceps

Day 4 - Chest/Shoulders/Triceps

Legs, Back/Biceps, Chest/Shoulder/Triceps, ete just keep repeating.

One thing you should do here is have two or three different workouts for the rotation.  So you would have....

C/S/T workout #1
Leg workout #1
Back/Biceps #1
C/S/T workout #2
Leg workout #2
Back/Bicep workout #2

A good thing about this split, is that you can just pick a couple of big movements, and then hit some conditioning for 10 minutes or so, and you're getting it all in 4X a week without overloading shit.

This is a good option.

One rule I like to stay with, but I do break it sometimes, is that I like to keep training sessions to no more than 3 big movements, and two lesser movements.  For example...

Leg Workout #1
Calf Press - lesser movement
Squats - big mvoement
SLDL - big movement
Shrugs - big movement
Abs - lesser

A lot of times I don't even include the lesser movements in the write up, I just do whatever I want to do or what I feel needs to be done.  Sometimes I don't do anything other than the two or three big movements slated for the session.  This keeps the workout "clean" and focused.  I don't want to have to think about doing 5 big movements in 1 session after I'm wiped out from squatting or pulling.  I'm ok with soldiering on with 1 or maybe 2 more after that, but any more than that and I find that I either cut my effort short on the initial movements, or don't have enough gas left for the latter ones.  Better to be a master of few, than "good" at everything.

Another way to do a 4 way split, is to ignore "arms" and just hit the big shit.

Day 1 -
Leg Press

Now after a big leg day, have an easier day...

Day 2 -
Standing Press
Side Laterals
Bent Laterals or Face Pulls

Don't want to press again the next day, so.....

Day 3 -
Deadlifts/T-bar Rows (alternate each week)

Day 4 -
Bench/Incline (alternate)
Db Incline/Db Flat (alternate)

This is an outstanding way to train and similar to my Ultimate Beastdom 4 day split.  You get some crossover too, as you will pull a few days after squatting, and press twice that week.  This is why you need to be mindful of volume and PI during these kinds of splits.  You may recover a little slower than if you had been training 3 days a week.

These splits are mainly for what I would call powerbuilding/mass work.  If we are talking training for 1 rep max strength, here are some options.

Day 1 - Heavy Squat/Light Pull

Day 2 - Heavy Bench and Triceps
Close Grip Bench

Day 3 - Heavy Pull/Light Squat
Squat - 60% of heavy day
Block Deadlifts

Day 4 - Light Bench/Heavy Shoulders
Bench - 60% of heavy day
PBN / Standing / Db Overhead Press
Side/Bent Latearls

Be mindful of the light workouts.  In other words, keep the light movements for the day light and crisp.  Otherwise, you can get overzealous and find yourself muddled down real fast.

Another thing to do here, is to give each day it's own day and then have the light bench session too with some arm work thrown in.

Day 1 - Squat
Pause Squat

Day 2 - Bench

Day 3 - Deadlift

Day 4 - Light Bench
Light Bench

This is very similar as to how Kirk Karwoski trained for the majority of his lifting career.  He was kinda strong.  Ed Coan favored a similar style split.  He was kinda strong too.

6 day a week splits -

Believe it or not, I was using a 6 day a week split when I went from 170 to 210 over the summer when I was 17.  I was eating like a ravenous lion, sleeping a ton, and training my ass off.

Here was the split I used at that time.

Day 1 - Legs and Calves
Day 2 - Chest, Back, Shoulders
Day 3 - Arms and Forearms

I did a lot of bodybuilding pre-exhaustion type work during this time, with circuit type stuff, leg ext/leg curl/squat then leg ext/leg cur/leg press.  Pretty much for each bodypart.  Pre-exhaustion with super slow negatives.  This hurt like a javelin to the taint.  But combined with tons of food and rest, it worked well.  I did this pretty much over the whole summer, or around 2.5 months.

If you are really adventurous and would like to try hitting bodyparts three times a week, give this a run...

Day 1 - Chest/Back/Shoulders
Day 2 - Legs/Arms

repeat 2 more times

Keep shit simple here.  Since you're hitting each bodypart 3 times, do 1 movement per bodyparts and that's it.  So each bodypart would actually get three different movements over the 6 days...

Chest/Back/Shoulders - #1
Incline Press
Press Behind Neck

Chest/Back/Shoulders - #2
Db Bench Press
T-Bar Rows
Side Laterals

Chest/Back/Shoulders - #3
Standing Press

Legs/Arms - #1
Barbell Curls

Legs/Arms - #2
Leg Press
Db Curls
French Press

Legs/Arms - #3
Hack Squats
Preacher Curls
Overhead Rope Extensions

If you were in a position to just rest, eat, and train this wouldn't be a bad option on a short term basis.  However if you are really pushing the poundages at some point it will become tough to recover from this kind of split.  If you're squatting 600 for reps on one day, and two days later doing hacks with 8 plates per side, that will eventually catch up with you.  But for 8 weeks or so, with a lot of food and rest, it can and will work.

Notes -

My staple has always been 3X a week but you can work in 4 and 6 day a week splits as well, just so long as you pay attention to your recovery, session grading, and rest and food intake.  Remember there is always an ebb and flow to training.  The more time you put in, the more energy that is required, and the more food and rest involved as well.  I may take a 4X a week split a run again in the future but I'm still contemplating it.

As with anything, your mileage may vary so if you try to run one, ask yourself why  you're running it, how long you will (6 weeks minimum), and what other factors in your life might come into play.


  1. I've been doing 5/3/1 for a while now and like the upper body split where each day is both push/pull. What advantage do you get from doing push and pull on their own days vs a little of both each day? Last week I was thinking about the following setup for 3 day split 4 times a week and you kind of mentioned it in this post. For example push would be, Day1: Bench, OHP, assistance, Day2: OHP, Bench, assistance. So you would bench every 5-6 days but only heavy/primary lift every 10-12 days. I made most of my newbie gains on the standard 3 day split but have not done it in a while.


  2. Advantage of doing a push/pull on their own days is generally that you can do more volume for each. Where when you do them together and you do more movements, you will find the big movements at the end don't get worked quite as hard.

  3. Paul love the post,

    I am going to be using it with my 5/3/1 stuff.

    My general split has been:
    Day 1: OHP, Day 2: Power Cleans, Deads, Day 3 Bench, Day 4 Squat. I love the idea of then using 1-2 bigger and 2 smaller assistance in each session with 10 minutes conditioning thrown in at the end.

  4. If I could and was willing to mentally, I would lift 4 days a week with a rotation like the 3way DC split but do it mon-wed-fri-sat but right now mentally, three days a week is all I am up for but make those three days hard and heavy. I started my lean mass phase last night, 3 days a week like the routine in your ebook with a few different lifts here and there..maybe this fall I will try the 4 days a week workout. thanks


  5. Gotta give a big shout out for trying a program for at least 6 weeks. 5/3/1 going 6 weeks and cutting out the deload weeks and taking week 7 off has been one of the best strength programs I have ever used. Thanks Paul!

  6. Yup. I think 6 weeks is a minimum time, and I mean minimum, to try a program.

  7. ". . and then hit some conditioning for 10 minutes or so,. . ."

    what sort of stuff do you do for these short conditioning sessions?


  8. Treadmill sprints are a decent option

    Prowler pushing if you have access

    If you have a track some intervals

    Just get something tough in for a few minutes. Like a 3 minute warm up, then do 4-5 short intervals.

  9. Hi Paul
    Just a quick question about your routines putted in Training for mass book :

    Are they suitable for someone how is in the 4—5--6 stage or an medium volume program like Blue collar training for mass or 5x5 50% are better choices ?

    Tks, Marius

  10. All are good choices, however as noted, the best gains I over a long period came from the routines in my manuals.

  11. Im doing the bare bones routine you outlined. If Im looking for more arm size,how many reps/sets should I do after I hit the major muscles?

  12. 5 sets of each (biceps and triceps) with 1 movement, then vary the movement every other workout or so.

  13. So if I'm looking for more upper body size while doing the bare bones routine. Instead of 2 sets per exercise,should I do 5 sets for size or is that just if I want to work on a certain body part? Nick

  14. More weight on the bar and more reps with that weight + food = size.

    It's not about a magical number of sets.

  15. Hey Paul! I would like to try that 6 day split. I dont compete in powerlifting or bodybuilding. I just want to put as much upper body mass as possible. If Im looking for more size then anything,what would be the best set and rep range for those exercises? Thanks for your help!

  16. 10-15 reps for upperbody size. 2-3 sets at that range per movement.

  17. Question about the 3 way split over 4 days. Im happy with my leg strength and size at the moment and am more concerned with gaining more upper body size. Could I rotate the 3 way split like this? (week 1) C/S/T, B/Bi, Legs, C/S/T (week 2) B/Bi, Legs, C/S/T, B/Bi and then rotate back to week 1 instead of having a week where Im hitting legs twice in a week? Thanks! Nick

    1. LEgs tend to do fine once a week anyway in my experience. Go for it.

    2. I found this workout on your blue collar article.
      Day 1 -
      Bench-2 working sets
      Dips-50-100 total reps
      Upright Rows-2 working sets

      Day 2 -
      Squats-2 working sets
      Rows-2 working sets
      Chins-30-50 total reps

      Day 3 -
      Incline-2 working sets
      Press Behind the Neck or Standing Military Press-2 working sets
      Side Laterals-2-3 working sets

      Day 4 -
      Deadlifts-2 working sets
      Rows-2 working sets
      Chins-20-30 total reps weighted

      Pretty much what Im looking for being that it mostly upper body ,squats and Dl mixed in. I know its a 3 day split but if I felt like I could recover from it, could it be done 4 days a week as written? Hittin each body part twice a week? Thanks for all your help!

  18. Hey Paul
    Just have a question regarding the 6 day split. What kind of set & rep range do you recommend for both upper and lower body? At 150 lbs, I am looking to get bigger and stronger. Also, any PI techniques thrown in or would that be too much to recover from?

  19. I understand the guidelines for the 3 and 4 day splits, but I was just wondering if they change or not if someone were to use the 6 day split. What page is the info on about the 6 day splits? I've read all of your books, just may have missed it. Sorry about that.

    1. Actually my bad, I have answered so many questions lately I didn't even look to see what topic this was under.

      If you're looking for mass, apply the big-15 methodology here.

      8-12 for upper, 15-20 for lower.

  20. No worries Paul, thanks for clearing that up!