Upper/Lower Split: The Best Weight Loss Routines

I bet you are probably wondering what an upper/lower split is? It’s when you split the upper body and lower body workouts into separate routines. That probably confused you a little bit. It’s ok, bear with me.

Upper Lower Split

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Upper/Lower Split: The Best Weight Loss Routines

Typically, bodybuilders follow this type of routine. Don’t be alarmed, just because bodybuilders follow an upper/lower split doesn’t mean you will look like one if follow the same routine. For example, Monday would be your upper body workout routine. You could do something like back and biceps together, then switch to a lower body workout routine on Tuesday, which would involve incorporating one or more of the leg muscles.

This differs from a full-body workout, where you would involve both upper and lower body workouts. While I think it is beneficial to change up your routine and utilize all aspect of training, I prefer to split up the muscle groups (just my personal preference).

Now before you let anyone tell you one is better than the other, there are studies showing both full-body and upper lower splits yield similar results. At the end of the day, it’s all about preference. Anyways, I’ll end my rambling and get to the point. Let’s begin with the different muscle groups.

Upper Body Muscles Trained:upper lower split

  • Upper Back
  • Lower Back
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Traps
  • Forearms
  • Abs (can be included in lower split)
  • Obliques (can be included in lower split)

Lower Body Muscles Trained:upper lower split

  • Quadriceps (front of thigh)
  • Hamstrings (back of legs)
  • Calves
  • Glutes
  • Abs (can be included in upper split)
  • Obliques (can be included in upper split)

Now let’s divide these up into different routines.

The 4-day upper/lower split routine

This is probably the most common upper/lower split routine used today. It would look something like this

Monday: Lower Body Routine

Tuesday: Upper Body Routine

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Lower Body Routine

Friday: Upper Body Routine

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Rest

The reason why this method/approach is so popular is that it doesn’t require TOO MUCH of your time to devote to exercising. Another great benefit is it allows all the muscles you have trained AT LEAST 48 hours of rest before putting them under stress again.

Another added benefit is this type of routine is great for beginners. If I do a split routine, I usually do 5 times a week (depending on my goals), which I will cover shortly.

Here is a more detailed example of this routine:

upper lower split

Monday: (Lower Split)

Seated Calf Raises: Sitting Position – (calves*) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Standing Calf Raises – (calves*) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Seated Hamstring Curl – (Hamstrings*) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Standing Single Leg Hamstring Curl – (Hamstrings*) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Walking Lunges – (Quadriceps*, Hamstrings, Glutes) 2 Sets, 8-12 reps

Squats – (Quadriceps*, Hamstrings, Glutes) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Glute Bridge – (Glutes*) 2 sets, as many reps as possible

Side Leg Raise – (Glutes*) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Tuesday (Upper Split)

Pull-ups (Biceps, Upper Back*, Shoulders, Traps) 2 sets, as many reps as possible

Lat-Pull Down (Upper Back*, Traps, Biceps, Shoulders) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Push-ups (Chest*, Shoulders, Triceps) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Pectoral Fly’s (Chest*, Triceps, Biceps) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Dips (Triceps*, Chest, Shoulders) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Bicep Curls (Biceps*) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Sit-ups (Abs*) 2 sets, as many reps as possible

Abdominal Leg Raises (Abs*) 2 sets, as many reps as possible

Wednesday (Rest Day)

Thursday (Lower Split #2)

Reverse Lunges (Quadriceps*, Hamstrings, Glutes) 2 Sets, 8-12 reps

Sumo Squats (Quadriceps*, Hamstrings, Glutes) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Leg Press (Quadriceps*, Glutes, Hamstrings) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Donkey Kicks (Glutes*, Quadriceps) 2 sets, as many reps as possible

Dead Lift (Quadriceps*, Glutes, Hamstrings) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Seated Calf Raises (Legs Fully Extended on Leg Press Machine) (Calves*) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Jumping Lunges (Quadriceps*, Hamstrings, Glutes) 2 Sets, 8-12 reps

Curtsy Squats (Quadriceps*, Hamstrings, Glutes) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Friday (Upper Split #2)

Seated Row (Upper Back*, Biceps, Traps) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Hammer Curls (Biceps*, Forearms) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Chin-ups (Biceps, Upper Back*, Shoulders, Traps) 2 sets, as many reps as possible

Dumbbell Chest Press (Chest*, Shoulders, Triceps) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Crunches (Abs*) 2 sets, as many reps as possible

Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Shoulders, Traps) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

V-ups (Abs*) 2 sets, as many reps as possible

Dumbbell Lateral Raise (Shoulders, Traps) 2 sets, 8-12 reps

Reverse Curls (Forearms*, Biceps)

Saturday (Rest Day)

Sunday (Rest Day)

This can also be done in a 5-day split or a 3-day split. If you were to do a 3-day split, it is definitely going require a longer workout to guarantee you are hitting as many different muscle groups as possible. You also may have to shorten your sets. I personally prefer doing a 5 -day split. 

3-day upper/lower split

Monday: Lower Body Routine 

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Upper Body Routine 

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Lower Body Routine 

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Rest

There are pros and cons to following this workout schedule. Let’s cover the upside, you get more free time. If you have a busy schedule with limited time to hit the weights each week, then this is the perfect schedule for you. The drawback, you do not get to focus as much time on all the muscle groups compared to a 4-day or 5-day upper/lower split. 

Working out only 3 times a week leaves you with two options. Your options are to either do more exercises with fewer sets (probably only 1 set per muscle group) or keep the same amount of sets but miss out on some muscle groups. With three days a week, it is going to be very difficult to hit all the different muscle groups in 3 sessions a week. I will say this, if it’s between not working out at all or going three days a week, then this is obviously the winner without a question.

upper lower split

5-day upper/lower split

Monday: Lower Body Routine 

Tuesday: Upper Body Routine

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Lower Body Routine

Friday: Upper Body Routine

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Lower Body Routine

The downside to this routine, I’m hitting the weights more often. The upside, I get to spend more time on each muscle group. I am able to do three sets for each individual muscle group, and I don’t have squeeze as many muscle groups in each workout session.

Why didn’t I mention a 2-day upper/lower split?

Two days a week just isn’t frequent enough. It’s not to say that it would be completely ineffective, but the ability to hit all of the muscle groups with 2 sessions a week. is just not realistic. SORRY!

So…Which One is Better?

It really comes down to preference.

If you are a beginner, then I would suggest starting out with 3 days a week, and working your way up. In the end, you have to decide which routine works best for you.

If you have time constraints, and the maximum amount of time you can dedicate to working out is 3 days a week, then, by all means, commit to 3 days. 

If you have more time, then I would absolutely recommend committing to 4 or 5 days a week.

Alright, that sums up the explanation of upper/lower splits! Trying to figure out a good workout routine can sometimes be difficult without the right help. 

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