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July 29, 2021 9 min read

When it comes to building a workout routine, most people start by putting together a list of exercises they want to do.

However, knowing which ones to do is only part of putting together a workout plan. The other part is knowing which ones to do on what day of the week.This is where workout splitting comes in handy! Workout splitting refers to how you divide up your weekly training sessions and what exercises you do at each session.

The purpose of workout splitting is to maximize hypertrophy.  It is a method that many of the world's top bodybuilders swear by for building muscle! To help you reap the benefits of workout splitting, we're sharing the best four-day split workout routine.

That way, you can make the most of your training days and build as much muscle mass as possible!

What is Workout Splitting?

Workout splitting refers to how you divide up your weekly training sessions and what exercises you do at each session. There are a couple of different ways you can do it.

Common training splits include by:

  1. Muscle group
  2. Body part
  3. Push/pull movement

But this is just the beginning, because you can split your sessions by a wide-variety of combinations of these three tactics! One of the most popular ways to split up strength training is by major muscle group.

Your seven main muscle groups include:

  • Chest
  • Arms
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Abs
  • Glutes
  • Legs
  • Calves

For example, someone doing a 5-day split could train their chest Monday, back on Tuesday, Shoulders on Wednesday, Legs on Thursday, and arms on Friday. 

Eddie Hall is an excellent example of someone who splits their workouts by muscle group.

The second way to split training is by body part. Workout splitting by body part is similar to workout splitting by muscle group.

There are eleven main body parts to work out:

  • Chest
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • ​Forearms
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Abs
  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves

For example, someone doing a 3-day split will work their chest, biceps, and triceps on Monday; forearms, shoulders, and back on Wednesday; then their entire lower body on Friday.  Again, this is just one of the many ways you can split by body part.

The last most popular way to split up a workout routine is by movement type. Push/pull movements are the most popular movement workout split type. If you are unfamiliar with the push/pull method, check out our complete guide to the  push/pull training split!

Moreover, workout splitting is a fantastic way to stimulate as much muscle growth as possible. With that said, here is our 4-day workout split that splits training sessions by a combo of muscle group and body part!

Day 1: Shoulders & Triceps

Kick the week off with shoulders and triceps! We chose to combine these two because the shoulders are a large muscle group composed of many muscles, while the triceps are a single body part. That way, you won’t completely overload your body for the day!

Muscular bodybuilder in a free weights zone in the gym

Start off by doing these shoulder exercises:

  • Dumbbell shoulder press
  • Lateral raises
  • Shrugs
  • Delt flies
  • Rear delt raises

The dumbbell shoulder press is one of the best upper body bodybuilding and powerlifting exercises. We suggest making it the first exercise in your workout program.

What makes the shoulder press so effective? It targets the entire deltoid muscle, the largest muscle in your shoulders. Deltoids of steel give you that broad, v-shaped shoulder look.

Here is how to do the dumbbell shoulder press (standing) with proper form:

  1. Place your dumbbells on the floor in front of you.
  1. Send your hips backward and slightly bend your knees so that your upper body comes close to parallel with the floor.
  1. Reach down and grab your dumbbells with an overhand grip.
  1. Exhale and power your hips forward to stand up straight and bring your dumbbells up to shoulder height. Your palms should face forwards, shoulders press back, and abs engaged.
  1. When you are ready, exhale and press your hands overhead until your arms are almost straight.  Do not arch your lower back to the top of the lift!  Try to imagine that there is a rod running through the dumbbells, your head, torso, and hips to keep your body in one straight line.
  1. Squeeze your shoulders at the top of the lift, then slowly release the squeeze and lower the dumbbells back to shoulder height.
  1. Repeat! Do two to three sets of six to ten reps, then move on to the next exercise in the workout split.

Once you finish with shoulders, move on to triceps with these exercises:

  • Tricep extensions
  • Tricep dips
  • Skull crushers

Like the dumbbell shoulder press, tricep extensions are at the top of the tricep exercise food chain. While the triceps are a smaller muscle, they have a major impact on your entire body. Strong triceps promote shoulder and arm stability and improve your maximum range of motion for other exercises.

Here is how to do tricep extensions with proper form:

  1. Hold a dumbbell by the stem with both hands at chest level.
  1. Exhale and lift the dumbbell over your head. Shift your hands from holding the stem to cupping one of the ends of the weight. Extend your arms until they are almost straight.
  1. When you are ready, engage your abs and slowly drop the dumbbell behind your head by bending your elbows. As you lower the weight, keep your elbows facing forward. Do not let your elbows flare!
  1. Once your elbows bend to 90-degrees, press the dumbbell back up and straighten your arms.

Day 2: Legs & Calves

Day 2 of the 4-day split is a combined leg day and calf day! It is the only lower-body split day of the week, so work your hardest to build the most muscle possible.  Like on day 1, we combined a large muscle group with a single body part.  The leg exercises target the quads and hamstrings as well as the hip flexor and gluteal muscles.

Start the day with these top leg exercises, including:

  1. Deadlift or Romanian deadlift
  2. Front squats
  3. Lunges
  4. Leg curls
  5. Leg press
  6. Leg extension

These leg exercises are a mix of compound and isolated movements. Compound exercises work several large muscles at once. For example, your legs do most of the work in deadlifts. But, at the same time, other muscles in your back and shoulders also get targeted. Moreover, compound exercises are more like full-body exercises.

On the other hand, some of these leg day exercises, such as the leg curl, are isolated exercises.  Isolated exercises target only a single specific muscle at a time.  Most machine-based exercises are isolated ones, while those done with free weights are compound exercises.

Next up, move down to the calves by doing these exercises:

  1. Standing calf raises
  2. Seated calf raises (on leg press machine)
  3. Farmer's walk

The farmer’s walk is a perfect cross-training exercise for runners. Even if you are not a runner, it is a perfect exercise to end on because it works your calves and gets your heart rate up, so you finish the day on a high note.

Here is now to do the farmer's walk with proper form:

  1. Grab a kettlebell or dumbbell and hold it in your right hand. Allow your right arm to dead hang while holding your back up straight.
  1. When you are ready, take ten to twenty small steps forward, pressing into the balls of your feet to target your calves. You should feel the tension in your right calf from having to keep your right side lifted from the weight.
  1. Take your steps, then switch to hold the weight in your left hand and repeat! Take ten to twenty steps and feel the tension in your left calf.

Day 3: Active Rest

Because leg workouts are some of the most challenging, follow leg day up with a day of rest. However, make it an active rest day rather than a total rest day. Active rest is doing light physical activity to help your body recover from a challenging workout. It keeps blood flowing through your body to help your muscles recover better.

Some examples of light active rest activities include:

  • Light cardio
  • Yoga
  • Slow bike riding

Any activity that gets your body moving without putting a ton of strain on it is perfect for an active rest day!

Day 4: Chest & Biceps

Follow your rest day by jumping right back into things with the chest and biceps! Like on days 1 and 2, we combined a large muscle group with a single body part. The chest includes the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, serratus anterior, and subclavius, while the biceps are just the biceps.

Start with these top chest day exercises, including:

  1. Overhead press
  2. Incline bench press
  3. Dumbbell fly
  4. Cable crossovers
  5. Chest dips

Instead of doing the incline bench, you can also do the traditional flat bench press. We chose to include the incline press because it does a better job of targeting the hard-to-reach upper pecs than the regular version does.

Here is how to do the include bench press with proper form:

  1. Set your bench to a 30 to 45-degree angle, then set it underneath your barbell rack.
  1. Reach up to grab the bar with an overhand grip. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Pinch your shoulder blades together and press them downwards.
  1. When you are ready, lift the bar off the rack and slowly drop it down towards your chest. Your wrists should be stacked right over your forearms as you lower the bar.
  1. Lower the bar until it hovers right above your chest, then press it up to an almost lockout. 
  1. Repeat! Do four to ten more reps, then move on to the next exercise.

Next, move on to biceps with these top exercises, including:

  1. Dumbbell or barbell curls
  2. Hammer curls
  3. Chin-ups

Day 5: Back & Abs

On the last weightlifting day of the week, finish things off in the upper body with the back and the abs. The back and abs are two of the most important, if not the most important, muscle groups in your entire body. Why are the back and abs so important?

They are the two muscle groups that work together to stabilize your entire body. Stabilization protects you from potentially debilitating back injuries and controls your body during complex movements and lifts. If there are any two parts of your body we suggest working on the most, it is the back and abs!

Start off with these top back exercises, including:

  1. Pull-ups
  2. Lat pulldowns
  3. Barbell rows or dumbbell rows
  4. Cable rows
  5. Single-arm dumbbell rows

Wrap up the day with a lower split. Do these top ab exercises, including:

  1. Planks and side planks
  2. Mountain climbers
  3. Leg raises
  4. V-ups
  5. Russian twists

Russian twists are one of our all-time favorite ab exercises. Not only do they work your abdominal muscles, but they also channel your deep core and oblique muscles.

Male athlete exercising, doing russian twist with medicine ball outdoors

Here is how to do Russian twists with proper form:

  1. Grab either a weight plate, medicine ball, or dumbbell and sit in a pike position on the floor with a straight back. Hold the weight at chest level.
  1. Pull your feet in towards your glutes so that your knees bend to 90-degrees. Lean your upper body back about 45-degrees, and make sure to keep your back straight as you lean back!
  1. Lift your feet up so that they hover right above the floor and balance on your tailbone.
  1. When you are ready, exhale and twist your upper body to the right so the weight taps on the floor.
  1. Inhale, twist your upper body back to the center, then exhale and twist to the left.
  1. Repeat! Keep twisting back and forth while keeping your back nice and flat.

Days 6 & 7: Rest

Wrap the week up with two days of rest. On day six, you could do another day of active rest, but you don't need to. What should lifters do on their rest day?

Activities that allow your muscles to recover, such as:

  • Cooking meals with plenty of carbs
  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Stationary stretching
  • Catching up on sleep
  • Revisiting fitness goals

When you are an everyday gym-goer, taking two days off in a row can leave you feeling extremely bored. However, if you want to build as much muscle as possible, you must take rest days.

Rest days not only allow your body to recover, but they also allow your body to:

  • Go through muscle protein synthesis to build muscle
  • Restore its energy levels
  • Prevent excessive muscle breakdown

It may seem counterproductive, but taking a break will actually help you build more muscle mass in the long run!

Final Thoughts

If you want to work out like the bodybuilding pros, then you have to try our 4-day workout split routine!  We designed it specifically to enable you to build as much muscle mass as possible.

Remember, lifting is not just about what exercises you do, but it's also about when you do them. Maximize hypertrophy and reach your fitness goals with our 4-day split routine for muscle and strength!

Bonus tip:  We’ve talked a lot about how to lift like a bodybuilder, but what exactly does the perfect male bodybuilder body look like?  Get all the details in our complete guide to the ideal male body proportions!