This 6-day upper/lower split is designed for intermediate and advanced lifters who want to build muscle, particularly in the upper body.
There are six different workouts – three upper body workouts and three lower body workouts.
You train six days a week on set days, Monday through Saturday, alternating between upper body and lower body days. Sunday is a rest day. Each muscle is trained three times a week.
Here’s what it looks like:
- Monday: Upper Body
- Tuesday: Lower Body
- Wednesday: Upper Body
- Thursday: Lower Body
- Friday: Upper Body
- Saturday: Lower Body
- Sunday: Off
Here are the muscle groups you’ll be training in each workout:
Upper Body Workout
Lower Body Workout
6 Day Upper/Lower Split: The Workouts
This is a 6-day training program focused on the upper body. You’re still training the legs, but with less overall volume.
Each of the upper body workouts emphasizes certain muscle groups while deemphasizing others.
That is, your first upper body workout of the week is focused on the chest. You still hit the shoulders, back and arms, but with fewer sets and exercises.
Workout two is focused on the back, with less work for the chest, shoulders and arms.
In your third training session, volume is ramped up for the shoulders, with correspondingly less work for the rest of your upper body.
As a rule, 6-day splits aren’t ideal for beginners. If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend a 3 or 4-day training program.
Once you’ve moved past the novice stages of training, then you can think about progressing to a program that involves lifting weights five or six times a week.
Upper Body Workout 1
- Bench Press 3 sets x 5-8 reps
- Wide Grip Lat Pulldown 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Flyes 3 sets x 15-20 reps
- Lateral Raise 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Incline Curl 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Triceps Pressdown 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Lower Body Workout 1
- Squat 4 sets x 5-8 reps
- Seated Leg Curl 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Standing Calf Raise 4 sets x 5-8 reps
- Weighted Crunch 3 sets x 15-20 reps
Upper Body Workout 2
- Push-Up 3 sets x 20-30 reps
- Chin-up OR Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown 3 sets x 8-12 reps *
- Dumbbell Bench Press 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Single Arm Dumbbell Row 3 sets x 5-8 reps
- Barbell Row 3 sets x 8-15 reps
- Hammer Curl 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Lying EZ Bar Triceps Extension 3 sets x 12-15 reps
* If you’re doing chin-ups rather than pulldowns, just aim for as many good reps as possible.
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Lower Body Workout 2
- Romanian Deadlift 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Bulgarian Split Squat 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Seated Calf Raise 4 sets x 12-15 reps
- Incline Reverse Curl 3 sets x 15-20 reps
Upper Body Workout 3
- Low Incline Dumbbell Press 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Wide Grip Lat Pulldown 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Overhead Press 3 sets x 5-8 reps
- Face Pulls 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Bent Over Lateral Raise 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Dumbbell Preacher Curl 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Overhead Triceps Extension 3 x 12-15 reps
Lower Body Workout 3
- Leg Extension 4 sets x 12-15 reps
- Lying/Seated Leg Curl 2 sets x 12-15 reps
- Hip Thrust 2 sets x 8-12 reps
- Standing Calf Raise 4 sets x 15-20 reps
- Weighted Crunch 3 sets x 15-20 reps
How long should you rest between sets?
Most research shows that longer (2-3 minutes) rest periods work better for muscle growth than shorter rest periods lasting 60 seconds or less [1, 2].
Why do longer rest intervals work better?
As the inter-set rest periods go down, the accumulation of fatigue goes up. This limits the number of repetitions you’re able to do in subsequent sets.
As a result, the strength of the muscle-building stimulus generated by a given workout is weakened, and muscle will be built more slowly.
I’d suggest taking at least two minutes of rest between sets of compound exercises that work a large amount of muscle mass, such as squats, barbell rows, deadlifts, leg presses and so on.
Need more than a couple of minutes between sets to catch your breath? If so, take it.
You’re better off giving yourself too much rest rather than not enough. Some lifters will rest for upwards of 5 minutes between sets, especially when they’re training the lower body.
You’re not going to need as much rest between sets of single-joint exercises involving fewer muscle groups, such as dumbbell curls, lateral raises and pressdowns. Somewhere between 90 and 120 seconds will do the job.
How hard should you push yourself in each set?
Building muscle takes a lot of hard work and effort, and you may end up failing on some of your work sets whether you planned to or not.
However, doing so will give you no better gains than finishing each set feeling like you could grind out another rep or two. While muscle fatigue plays a role in stimulating growth, it’s not necessary to take a set to failure in order to create that fatigue.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if you hit muscle failure, or cut a set short knowing that you could have cranked out another rep or two. Your muscles will still grow at much the same rate.
You also need to consider the issue of safety. Towards the latter stages of a set, the build-up of fatigue can easily lead to a breakdown in technique.
It’s not so much of a problem with exercises like the leg extension or dumbbell curl, which don’t require a great deal of skill to perform. But training to failure on big compound lifts like the squat and deadlift, where technique is paramount, isn’t a great idea.
On the flip side, the popularization of concepts like reps in reserve and RPE has left many people worried that hitting failure is going to sabotage their results.
When you reach failure, all that’s happened is the amount of force produced by the various muscles involved in an exercise – not all of which are fatigued to the same extent – is no longer sufficient to move the bar past a certain point.
In the bench press, for example, failure is the point when, after lowering the bar to your chest, you can’t get it back to the starting position.
While your chest, triceps and shoulders are experiencing high levels of fatigue, they’re still capable of doing more work.
Once you hit the point where you’re unable to lift the bar, you’ll still be able to lower it under control. And when you’re unable to lower it under control, you’ll still be able to hold it in place, if only very briefly. Even after reaching concentric failure, your muscles still have plenty left in the tank.
While failure isn’t something you need to chase, it’s not something to be feared either.
Stimulating growth does require that you reach a certain threshold of effort, and pushing yourself to the limit is one sign that you’ve crossed that threshold.
However, there’s very little evidence to suggest that intentionally training to failure needs to be the focus of your workouts, or that doing so is necessary for muscle growth.
How fast (or slowly) should you do each rep?
For most exercises, the lifting, or concentric phase of a lift, should last roughly 1-2 seconds. Lowering the weight should take a little longer than it did to lift it.
That is, if it took you one second to lift a weight, take a couple of seconds to lower it back to the starting position.
With very few exceptions, slow training speeds won’t make your muscles grow any faster compared to simply lifting and lowering the weight under control .
Researchers from the University of Sydney, for example, report that taking six seconds to do a dumbbell curl is no better for muscle growth than a rep lasting two seconds .
A similar trial, this time using the leg extension, found that reps lasting four seconds were no more effective for building muscle than reps lasting two seconds .
In short, there’s very little point in trying to extend the duration of a rep beyond the point where you’re simply lifting and lowering the weight under control.
How to Make Your Muscles Grow
To build muscle, you need to apply the principle of progressive overload.
By that, I mean your goal in every workout should be to push yourself to increase the amount of work your muscles are doing, whether that’s lifting heavier weights, doing more reps with the same weight, or increasing the number of sets you do for each muscle group.
You’re not going to register an improvement in every single workout. To do so indefinitely isn’t realistic, and there’ll be training sessions where you end up using the same amount of weight, doing the same number of sets and reps you did in the workout before.
However, you need to expend a high level of effort in each training session, striving to add reps or weight.
The last 1-2 reps of every work set should be extremely difficult. Those are reps that take a muscle out of its “comfort zone” and make the largest contribution to muscle growth.
You don’t need to take each to failure, or the point where you’re unable to complete another rep, but you want to get close.
Doing so will give your muscles a reason to grow. Without a sufficient level of training stress, your muscles will remain stuck at the same size they are right now.
More Upper/Lower Split Routines
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