My 4 and 5-day split workout routine

In my first 6 months of lifting, I gained 27 to 30 pounds. Diet had a lot to do with it, but in this article I’m going to cover my routine.

The routine you choose is going to depend on your goals and how much time/effort you can commit. If you can commit 5-6 days a week and want optimal results then you can start with this split. If you can only do 3 days a week (which I don’t recommend) then you can look at a program like 5×5 ICF (Ice Cream Fitness).

My routine is something like this:

Day 1 – Arms
Day 2 – Legs
Day 3 – Chest
Day 4 – Back
Day 5 – Shoulders
Day 6 – Rest
Day 7 – Rest (Optional)

I keep arms at least a day away from chest and back for optimal recovery as your triceps are worked on chest day and biceps on back day. I also keep shoulders away from chest as incline chest work will bring in the shoulders. If you want quicker results, drop day 7th, the additional rest day.

I’m going to write down some of the movements I do. Generally I like to do 16-18 sets in a workout. This can last anywhere from 45 to 75 minutes depending on the length of rest periods. My rest periods are longer on compound movements and shorter on isolation. After each set, I increase the weight. Each week, I try to add more weight or more reps to my sets.

Arms

  • Dips – On all 4 sets, go until failure. For example, to warm up I bang out 20 reps with no added weight. Then 10 reps with 25lb, 8 with 35, 8 with 45 and if I’m feeling good 5 or 6 reps with 55 or 65 pounds.
  • Curls – Either barbell curls with the E-Z curl bar, or seated hammer curls.
  • Some overhead tricep movement – I like to change it up. Sometimes skull crushers. Sometimes overhead cable tricep extensions or you can do extensions with the barbell while seated.
  • Rope curl and tricep push down super set – Probably my favorite movement to end with. Set up ropes both on the bottom and top of the pulley. I choose a lightwight. Example – For a bodyweight of 145, I do 45 or 50 pounds which is about 70% of what I would use for a normal 10 rep set. Here are the sets, and there’s no rest anywhere in this entire routine.
    • 20 reps of tricep pushdowns with the rope followed by 20 bicep curls with the lower rope. Immediately:
    • 15 reps of tricep, 15 reps of bicep.
    • 12 reps of tricep, 12 reps of bicep.
    • 10 reps of tricep, 10 reps of bicep.
    • 8 reps of tricep, 8 reps of bicep.
    • If I feel like I have an ounce of energy left after that, which is rare, I increase the weight 30% and bang out another 8 reps of each.

Legs

  • Leg extensions – Warm up with 3 sets of 15 or 20 reps.
  • Hamstring curls – Again, these are just warm up for squats. It helps exhaust the hamstrings and quads so you can hit the glutes harder next. 3 sets of 15 or 20 reps.
  • Squats – 4 or 5 sets of standard back squats with the barbell. This is the primary component of my workout. On my last set when I’m usually pushing for a new personal record, I rack the bar after and immediately drop the weight down 50% and go for 20 or even 30 reps.
  • Deadlift – 2-3 sets. They tax the central nervous system (CNS) pretty hard (which is necessary) so I don’t usually go up to 4 sets.
  • Leg press – I usually only do these if I don’t deadlift, even though the muscles are different. 4 sets.
  • Lunges – Did them more with bodyweight and dumbbells in my first 2 months.
  • Calf raises – Great isolation to finish with. Good calves are important for proportion. Especially on tall people.

Chest

  • Dips – I hit dips twice a week to help with development in my favorite areas (chest, tri, shoulders)
  • Flat dumbbell chest press – 4 sets, progressing to a PR
  • Incline dumbbell chest press – 4 sets
  • Fly machine – Be sure to pause during complete contraction

Back

  • Iso-lateral row – 4 sets
  • Overhand wide grip pull up – 4 sets. Use assisted if needed.
  • Landline row or barbell row
  • Lat pull downs – Close grip or traditionally with the bar is also fine

Shoulders

  • Shoulder Press – Either hammer strength or dumbbell
  • Vertical rows – Either with E-Z curl bar or overhand with rope pulley
  • Front raises – Dumbbell or rope pulley between the legs
  • Side raises – Dumbell or with the lower pulley and no attachment
  • Face pulls – Use the pulleys to hit the rear delts best.