The Ultimate Guide To Upper-Lower Training Splits

December 14, 2016

What you are getting yourself in for -

 

Word Count - 1600 Words

Reading Time - 10 Minutes 

Topic - Upper Lower Splits

 

 

 

 

 

What is an Upper Lower Split?  

 

It’s seriously as simple as it sounds. An Upper Lower split is where you split your training into your Upper Body & then your Lower Body.

You train your ENTIRE Upper Body in one day, and your ENTIRE Lower Body in another, it’s very different to your traditional ‘Bro Split’ where you will usually see one body part trained per day.
 

 

Who should use an Upper Lower Split?   

 

Good Question, and the answer is actually not massively simple.

If -

 

  • You are an intermediate trainee ( 0 - 2 Years Experience_

  • You have never logged or programmed your training.

  • You have never been fully consistent in the gym.

  • You find it hard to get in your 6 bro sessions.
     

Then the Upper Lower Split is great for you.

 

Don’t think because you have already used a Push Pull Legs, or Bro Split, that you can’t revert back to the Upper Lower Split, because you definitely can. 

 

 

 

 

Why the Upper / Lower Split?  

When looking for maximal muscle growth, we have to consider both your overall training volume & your frequency.

Studies  have shown that an increased training frequency potentially has an superior effect on hypertrophy - therefore we have to consider HOW often can we get in the gym.

 

We also have to consider, if you are relatively new to training and have a low level of time in the gym, the rate of progression that you can make is absurd, you can literally progress EVERY single session - so getting you in the gym with 2 - 3 opportunities to progress is an absolute must in my opinion, to maximise your potential gains at this stage.  

Let’s consider this - the issue with training body parts once per week.

 

  • Your work sets become of a reduced quality as you continue through your bro session, imagine a 2 hour Chest Session - do you really think you are going to be able to continue matching your initial intensity and quality by the end of the work sets?
     

  • You have ONE chance and ONE chance only to make progression, whereas with an Upper Lower split you will have at least two opportunities to get back into the gym and make further progress on your log book. 
     

  • You miss one day and your entire week is ruined. If you are a busy guy or girl, missing one day on a single body part split is practically game over, you NEED to be on the ball with every single session otherwise you simply will not train every body part. 
     

  • Learning the BASIC moves - if you capitalize on a Upper Lower split you can potentially Squat, Deadlift, Bench & OHP or a perform a variation of these up to 3 times per week, which just really opens up a LOT of opportunity for growth.   
     

  • Using a variety of rep ranges - with a single body part trained in one day, you will not get the chance to use a variety of rep ranges in the compound moves until the next week comes around, so having two chances to split rep ranges is going to put yourself in an even more beneficial place for growth - this is due to the research on daily undulating periodisation and it’s positive influence on strength and therefore hypertrophy.  

     


 


Split Set Up & Frequency -  

Ok, so now you’ve read the details.

 

It’s time to get stuck into the set up, how are you going to start YOUR Upper Lower Split?

 

An Upper Lower Split can generally work very well with four training days, and three rest days, however as you progress, a 5 day approach could be optimal.

Mon - Upper

Tues - Lower

Wed - Off

Thurs - Upper

Fri - Lower

Sat - Off

Sun - Off

 

Progressed Upper Lower Model

 

Mon - Upper

Tues - Lower

Wed - Upper

Thurs - Off

Fri - Lower

Sat - Upper  
Sun - Off


You can taper this and adjust until you have found your right balance, if you really want to improve or perform more leg training sessions then situating a third lower body session instead of the Upper Session could work well. 
 

The fact is, you are going to be in the gym for a decent while with these sessions so you have to bare in mind that training anymore than 5 days per week with this kind of frequency is going to be very hard - and will definitely see your lifts start to regress as you overreach if you are not controlling your intensity and volume adequately.
 

 

Your Intensity & Volume -  

These are ABSOLUTELY essential that you get right, you have two real routes that you can go down, obviously if you ENJOY and can adhere to a higher volume, lower intensity ( more reps, lower weight) style of training, then this may be something for you to consider - but I would highly recommend that you look towards a low volume, HIGH intensity approach as recommended by Jordan Peters in my Podcast Episode with him.

The reason for this is you are trying to train at a very high frequency, this means that you need to be very aware of your recovery capabilities, a lower volume higher intensity approach will see you back in the gym for the next session fresh, and well rested for another dose of volume.

You will NOT be able to use the same amount of training volume PER SESSION as you would with a bro split, and this is usually what leads people to thinking they are ‘not doing enough’ - when in reality they are doing almost the same amount of work (as it’s split up over the week) but they are also doing the work BETTER as a result of having less and more meaningful work sets.

I think the only limitation is that as a very novice trainee - handling intense loads (heavy weights) can be a skill learnt over time, so it’s important to start safe and learn the movements well before progressing forward.

Alongside this, I think it’s favourable to have a two way approach to things, the first set up is for a trainee with under a year of gym experience, the SECOND if for a trainee with MORE than a year of solid, log-booked training under their belt.

New Trainee * Rep Ranges for compound lifts.

 

Mon - Upper - 5 - 8 Rep Range

Tues - Lower - 5 - 8 Rep Range

Wed - Off

Thurs - Upper - 5 - 8 Rep Range

Fri - Lower - 5 - 8 Rep Range

Sat & Sun - Off  

 

 

The reason we keep the rep ranges the exact same is because you can progress incredibly fast as a new trainee and the 5 - 8 rep range allows you to keep volume low enough to recover well and progress into your next sessions.

Over a year of gym experience  

 

Mon - Upper - 5 - 8 Rep Range

Tues - Lower - 5 - 8 Rep Range

Wed - Off

Thurs - Upper - 8 - 12 Rep Range

Fri - Lower - 8 - 12 Rep Range

Sat & Sun - Off  

The rationale here by introducing a undulating pattern of rep ranges or “Strength & Hypertrophy” days, is due to you having to introduce a new method to optimise progress. You WILL end up stalling at some point on the previous programme, you will NOT be able to progress every session in the 5 - 8 rep range forever, but you will be able to make a HUGE amount of progress in that environment, so once you have capped out your potential in the 5 - 8 rep range, move on over to the 8 - 12.

 


Your Exercise Selection & Sets.

 

Okay, so now is the time for me to give you a little bit more structure to your workouts.

Let’s take the four day split, and break it down into what you’ll be doing each day.

Monday - Upper -

Chest Compound - 3 Sets - 5 - 8 Reps.

Shoulders Compound - 3 Sets - 5 - 8 Reps.

Horizontal Pull (Back Row)  - 2 Sets - 5 - 8 Reps

Vertical Pull (Back Pulldowns) - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps.

Shoulders Isolation - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Chest Isolation - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Tuesday - Lower -

 

Squat OR Deadlift - 3 Sets - 5 - 8 Reps

RDL OR Leg Press - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Bulgarian Split Squat - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Leg Curl - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Calves - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Thursday - Upper -

Shoulders Compound - 3 Sets - 5 - 8 Reps.

Chest Compound - 3 Sets - 5 - 8 Reps.

Horizontal Pull (Back Row)  - 2 Sets - 5 - 8 Reps

Vertical Pull (Back Pulldowns) - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps.

Bicep Isolation - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Tricep Isolation - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps


Friday - Lower - *Pick the OTHER of Squat/Deadlift RDL/Leg Press on this day.

 

Squat OR Deadlift - 3 Sets - 5 - 8 Reps

RDL OR Leg Press - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Bulgarian Split Squat - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Leg Curl - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Calves - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps


 

Your Tools.

You will HAVE to log-book your training.

 

Pop down to WHSmiths, grab yourself a cheap notepad and you are away, logging is simple and very very effective - you will be able to track your progress and also track how difficult each lift was, I’d recommend doing the majority of your work in the 8 - 9 RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) range - see the table below - courtesy of Mike Tuscherer of RTS.   

Other tools you will have to capitalise on will be recording your lifts to ensure consistent form throughout. 

 

 
 


Rounding things up.  

As you progress, you may want to mix things up and add in new movements and potentially more isolation work - I highly recommend that you leave these until you have fully used your potential with the current amount of training volume.

 

If you have any questions on the article - please email me at - aj@madebymorriscoaching.com and I can answer your questions there.

Thanks again for reading and I will see you in the next post.  


 

 



 

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