The Ultimate Upper Lower Body Workout Split

Over the 20 years of my bodybuilding journey, I have tried just about every workout split you can think of. 

You name it, I tried it. 

I know the ins and outs of every workout routine, the pros and cons, and what you should and shouldn’t do. 

Honestly, when I first started doing the upper-lower body split, I hated it. But eventually, after many tweaks and adjustments, I started not just liking it but adopting it as my main routine. 

Below, I’ll tell you why I hated it. Then, I’ll save you about 10 years of trials and error and show you how to best tweak the split to make it flawless. 

But be warned. My adjustment is not for beginners. It is really intense. 

So, let’s get to it.

What does the Upper Lower body split consist of?

As the name suggests, you split the workout into two main days. 

One day you train the upper body which includes: chest, shoulders, back, and arms.

In many ways, it is similar to the full body workout but considered an upgrade since it is more intense.

The other day you train the lower body: Legs, which include: quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

The Pros and Cons of the Upper Lower Body Split

Like any other split, there are reasons to like it and many to hate it. So, let’s get to why you should incorporate it into your routine, first, before I talk you out of it! 

Pros of the Upper Lower Body Split

  • Easy to implement. You have two main days and that’s it. You won’t go to the gym wondering what you should train.
  • Suitable for beginners (see beginners level below). 
  • Suitable for natural bodybuilders and weightlifters.
  • Suitable for those who are short on time. If done right, you can train the whole body only two days a week! 
  • More suitable for women who like to focus more on the lower body.
  • Favors strength as it incorporates the big three lifts (bench press, deadlift, and squat).

Cons of the Upper Lower Body Split

  • May result in muscular imbalances. The upper body has a lot more muscle groups that may not be fully trained in one day.
  • For the same reason above, the upper body may need more frequency training. 
  • Hard to get the right amount of recovery. If the lower body is trained twice a week, recovery may not be adequate. And if it’s trained once a week, you get plenty of recovery for the lower body but not necessarily for the upper body, and hence, less recovery for the entire body as a whole. 
  • May not favor muscle hypertrophy if done less frequently.

Below, I’ll show you how to better adjust the training schedule so that you hit the right balance between the upper and lower body parts. 

You’re going to like it!

Upper Lower Split vs. Push Pull Legs

In this post, I wrote about the push, pull, legs split, and how it can be adjusted to fit all trainees from beginners to advanced.

That split consists of three main days, while the upper-lower split consists of only two main days. 

Both of these splits favor strength training when done with the desired low frequency. 

One of the common disadvantages of both splits is the exhaustion of the muscles trained after the first main group. For example, the bicep gets fatigued when trained after back. 

Nonetheless, in one of the adjustments below, I’ll show you how to get rid of this problem using a modified upper-lower split.

Upper Lower Split vs. Bro Split

Bro split is a pro split!

Every muscle group is trained on a separate day. Therefore, you could easily overcome muscular or strength imbalance by dedicating several days to a particular weak muscle group.

The upper-lower split does not favor hypertrophy as it’s usually done less frequently than the bro split. With that being said, if you like to gain serious strength the upper-lower split is the one for you.

Now Let’s get into the frequency of the upper-lower split for beginner, intermediate and advanced trainers.

The Schedule and Frequency of The Upper Lower Body Workout Split

Here is the workout split for all three levels. Below each level, you are given two options of workout frequency to choose from.

Upper/Lower Split Schedule - Beginners

Entire Upper Body:

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Flat barbell bench press (alternate with dumbbell)

5 (2 warm-up, 3 working)

12-6

1-5

Incline dumbbell bench press (alternate with barbell)

3

12-8

1-5

Deadlift-Back (alternate with barbell or dumbbell rows)


3

15-6

2-5

Machine pull-down (Lats)

3

15-10

1-3

Shoulder dumbbell presses

3

12-8

1-3

Shoulder dumbbell lateral raises

3

15-10

1-2

Bicep curls (dumbbell or barbell)

3

15-10

1-2

Tricep cable pushdown

3

15-10

1-2

Entire Lower Body:

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Squat (alternate with leg presses)

5 (2 warm-up, 3 working)

12-8

2-5

Leg extension

3

15-10

1-3

Leg curls


3

15-10

1-3

Walking lunges (glutes)

3

15-10

2-5

Standing or seated calf raises

5

20-15

1-2

Workout Frequency 1

week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

week 1

Upper

Lower

Off

Upper

Lower

Off

Off

week 2

Repeat

Workout Frequency 2

week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

week 1

Upper

Off

Lower

Off

Upper

Off

Lower

week 2

Off

Upper

Off

Lower

Off

Upper

Off

week 3

Repeat

Notice that deadlifts are considered in the upper body section because of two reasons. First, it incorporates not only lower back muscles but also the lats and traps. Second, having a deadlift and squat on the same day can take a serious toll on your body.

To compensate for this, and also since there are fewer exercises, two abs workout could be included on the lower body day.

Upper/Lower Split Schedule - Intermediate: level1

Entire Upper Body:

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Flat barbell bench press (alternate with dumbbell)

6 (2 warm-up, 4 working)

12-6

1-5

Incline dumbbell bench press (alternate with barbell)

4

12-8

1-5

Deadlift-Back (alternate with barbell or dumbbell rows)


4

15-6

2-5

Machine pull-down (Lats)

4

15-10

1-3

Shoulder dumbbell presses

4

12-8

1-3

Shoulder dumbbell lateral raises

4

15-10

1-2

Bicep curls (dumbbell or barbell)

4

15-10

1-2

Tricep cable pushdown

4

15-10

1-2

Entire Lower Body:

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Squat (alternate with leg presses)

6 (2 warm-up, 4 working)

12-8

2-5

Leg extension

4

15-10

1-3

Leg curls


4

15-10

1-3

Walking lunges (glutes)

4

15-10

2-5

Standing or seated calf raises

5

20-15

1-2

2 abs workout of your choice.

4-5

30-20

1-2

This is very similar to the beginner level but there are now 4 working sets on all the upper body and lower body parts (except calves and abs). 

Intermediate: level2

Entire Upper Body:

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Flat barbell bench press (alternate with dumbbell)

5 (2 warm-up, 3 working)

12-6

1-5

Incline dumbbell bench press (alternate with barbell)

3

12-8

1-5

Deadlift


3

15-6

2-5

Machine/dumbbell rows

3

15-10

1-2

Machine pull-down (Lats)

3

15-10

1-3

Shoulder dumbbell presses

3

12-8

1-3

Shoulder dumbbell lateral raises

3

15-10

1-2

Bicep curls (dumbbell or barbell)

2

15-10

1-2

Bicep concentration curls (machine, dumbbell, or barbell)

2

15-10

1-2

Tricep cable pushdown

2

15-10

1-2

Skull crushers with a barbell or dumbbell

2

15-10

1-2

Entire Lower Body:

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Squat

6 (2 warm-up, 4 working)

12-8

2-5

Leg Presses

4

15-10

2-3

Leg extension

4

15-10

1-3

Leg curls


4

15-10

1-3

Walking lunges (glutes)

4

15-10

2-5

Standing or seated calf raises

5

20-15

1-2

2 abs workout of your choice.

4-5

30-20

1-2

Workout Frequency 1

week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

week 1

Upper

Lower

Off

Upper

Lower

Off

Off

week 2

Repeat

Workout Frequency 2

week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

week 1

Upper

Off

Lower

Off

Upper

Off

Lower

week 2

Off

Upper

Off

Lower

Off

Upper

Off

week 3

Repeat

Intermediate level 2 is really a serious workout split. While the number of workout sets is reduced, there are now additional exercises to add variety.  

Upper/Lower Split Schedule - Advanced: level1

Upper Body - Day A:
Chest and Back

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Flat barbell bench press (alternate with dumbbell)

5 (2 warm-up, 3 working)

12-6

1-5

Incline dumbbell bench press (alternate with barbell)

3

12-8

1-5

Chest flyes (Dumbbell, cable, or pec deck)


3

15-10

1-3

Deadlift

3

15-10

1-2

Machine or dumbbell rows

3

15-10

1-3

Machine pull-down (Lats)

3

15-10

1-3

Upper Body - Day B:
Shoulders and Arms

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Shoulder presses

5 (2 warm-up, 3 working)

15-8

2-5

Shoulder dumbbell lateral raises

4

15-10

1-3

Shoulder rear raises (dumbbell or reverse pec dec)

4

15-12

1-2

Bicep curls (dumbbell or barbell)

3

15-10

1-2

Bicep concentration curls (machine, dumbbell, or barbell)

3

15-10

1-2

Tricep cable pushdown

3

15-10

1-2

Skull crushers with a barbell or dumbbell

3

15-10

1-2

2 abs workout of your choice.

4-5

30-20

1-2

Lower Body:
Legs

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Squat (alternate with leg presses)

6 (2 warm-up, 4 working)

12-8

2-5

Leg extension

3

15-10

1-3

Leg curls


3

15-10

1-3

Walking lunges (glutes)

3

15-10

2-5

Standing or seated calf raises

5

20-15

1-2

2 abs workout of your choice.

4-5

30-20

1-2

Workout Frequency 1

week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

week 1

Upper - Day A

Lower

Off

Upper - Day B

Lower

Off

Off

week 2

Repeat

Workout Frequency 2

week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

week 1

Upper - Day A

Off

Lower

Off

Upper - Day B

Off

Lower

week 2

Off

Upper - Day A

Off

Lower

Off

Upper - Day B

Off

week 3

Lower

Off

Repeat

This is one of my ideal adjustments. It redistributes the upper body into two separate days or a 4-day workout split every other week.

One day for Back and Chest, and the other for Shoulders and Arms. This way, you don’t over-develop the lower body at the expense of the upper body.

Notice, however, it might be exhausting for you to train legs twice with the same intensity. Hence, the number of sets is reduced or you could alternate between leg presses and squat, instead. 

Upper/Lower Split Schedule - Advanced: level2

Upper Body - Day A:
Chest and Back

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Flat barbell bench press (alternate with dumbbell)

5 (2 warm-up, 3 working)

12-6

1-5

Incline dumbbell bench press (alternate with barbell)

3

12-8

1-5

Chest flyes (Dumbbell, cable, or pec deck)


3

15-10

1-3

Deadlift

3

15-10

1-2

Machine or dumbbell rows

3

15-10

1-3

Machine pull-down (Lats)

3

15-10

1-3

Upper Body - Day B:
Shoulders and Arms

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Shoulder presses

5 (2 warm-up, 3 working)

15-8

2-5

Shoulder dumbbell lateral raises

4

15-10

1-3

Shoulder rear raises (dumbbell or reverse pec dec)

4

15-12

1-2

Bicep curls (dumbbell or barbell)

3

15-10

1-2

Bicep concentration curls (machine, dumbbell, or barbell)

3

15-10

1-2

Tricep cable pushdown

3

15-10

1-2

Skull crushers with a barbell or dumbbell

3

15-10

1-2

2 abs workout of your choice.

4-5

30-20

1-2

Lower Body - Day A:
Hamstrings and Glutes

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Leg curls

6 (2 warm-up, 4 working)

15-10

1-3

Stiff legs deadlift (Hamstrings)

4

15-10

1-3

Walking lunges (glutes)


4

15-10

1-3

Hip thrusts (glutes)

4

15-10

1-3

Standing or seated calf raises

5

20-15

1-2

2 abs workout of your choice.

4-5

30-20

1-2

Lower Body - Day B:
Quads

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (mins.)

Squat

6 (2 warm-up, 4 working)

12-8

2-5

Leg presses

4

15-10

1-3

Leg extension


5

15-10

1-3

Workout Frequency 1

week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

week 1

Upper - Day A

Lower - Day A

Off

Upper - Day B

Lower - Day B

Off

Off

week 2

Repeat

Workout Frequency 2

week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3