Best 4 Day Split Routine And 6 Multi Joint Exercises To Get You Ripped

Are you looking for the best 4 day split routine to pack on muscle and get you into shape?  If so then this is the article for you.  I cover all the benefits and drawbacks of using a 4 day split, plus I will show you the best ways to program your training and give you a routine proven by science to help you build muscle.  And on top of all of this, I will show you the best 6 multi-joint exercises that must be included in your plan.

Table Of Contents

How Often Should a Muscle Group Be Trained Each Week? (The Never-Ending Debate)

Is Training Every Muscle Multiple Times a Week Better Than Your One Muscle Group A Week Bro Split?

A Properly Designed Bro Split Is Essential To You Progressing

The BFG Muscle Principles You Must Follow

Your 4 Day A Week Training Plan

How To Avoid Hitting Plateaus

Key Multi-Joint Exercises That Should Be The Bread And Butter Of Your Routine.

Key Takeaways


How Often Should a Muscle Group Be Trained Each Week? (The Never-Ending Debate)

When it comes to training frequency in the gym, this may be one of the topics that really divides peoples opinions.

Although there are so many opinions flying about, on how many times you should train a muscle group, and how much rest you should be taking before training again, there are just simply too many variables involved for a one size fits all approach.

It really all simply boils down to genetics and the rate in which your body can recover.  The truth is, certain people are simply able to torture their bodies a lot more and still recover.

It sucks I know, and believe me, I personally would love to have the ability to recover fast, train 7 days a week, twice a day and still get amazing results,  Unfortunately, this is one of those dreams that won’t come, and it’s now simply a case of finding the right training frequency to enable full recovery and achieving the best results possible.

However, please remember that even the most genetically gifted weightlifters out there will still only be able to train a certain muscle group so much before things start to go pear-shaped, and what they do in the gym will be more of a hindrance than a help.

What I mean by this is, you will only be able to punish your body through a certain amount of reps, sets, exercises and volume before you outstrip your bodies capabilities to recover properly.

Overtraining occurs frequently with gym-goers, even when they don’t realise.  Regardless of whether you train a muscle group twice a week or 4 times a week, it will only be able to be put through a certain amount before it smacks into the inevitable overtraining wall.

There may be the odd one, but on the whole, I can’t imagine any single person with the slightest knowledge of weightlifting would that eventually if you keep throwing reps, sets and exercises at a muscle group, its eventually going to crap out.

Although this is where on the whole, the bodybuilding/weightlifting community is in total agreement.  That’s where it seems to end.  The debate on how we look at splitting up those exercises, sets and reps over a weeks period of training will forever live on.

I have noticed a trend though recently, and that is, I see more and more people (both beginners and advanced lifters) training every muscle group at least twice a week and sometimes even 3 times a week.  This type of training frequency is definitely starting to become more popular then training everything just once a week.


Is Training Every Muscle Multiple Times a Week Better Than Your One Muscle Group A Week Bro Split?

Female athlete in a vest and shorts deadlifting as part of the best 4 day split routine.

So is training everything 2 or 2 times a week better than just once a week.  Definitely not.  Training everything once a week can be extremely efficient when it comes to building muscle.  The issue is, the so-called bro split has developed such a bad reputation now due to inferior and sucky programming.

You will soon realise that it actually has nothing to do with only training one muscle group a week, it’s the way people train within those sessions that’s the problem.  It’s just unbelievable the number of things people get wrong when using this split.  Now please don’t think I am blaming the people who actually train like this.  Most of the times these types of workouts are learnt from magazines being endorsed by genetically and enhanced muscle freaks.

Let’s take a look at the common errors made when following the bro or one muscle per day split.

  1. So many people follow insane pump training routines.  Often having you do 100s and 100s of reps over a session.
  2. These programs always include the so-called fancy stuff, getting you to completely destroy your muscles and nervous system with things like drop sets, triple sets, rest-pause sets, forced reps etc.
  3. Finally, too many people put most of their focus into single-joint isolation exercises when doing a bro split.  I can’t begin to tell you how inefficient this is when it comes to building muscle.  I think this all goes back to people like to get that pump and burning feeling, and isolation exercises will achieve this easier than compound movements.

A routine like this is pure crap and the only place this will lead you to is the City of no muscle and overtraining.

I’m pretty sure all of us have been there though.  I spent years training like this, learning everything I know from my so-called idols splashed all over the top bodybuilding magazines.  Looking back now I can’t believe how long I had trained this way before actually thinking to myself, “hang on, have I actually made any progress”.  The answer was, of course, a big whopping NO.


A Properly Designed Bro Split Is Essential To You Progressing

So we now know why so many people fall short of achieving the best they can when following a one muscle group a week split.

However, if you follow a properly structured and designed one muscle group a week body part routine, then the results you can achieve are crazy.

Muscle gains you never thought were possible can easily be achieved when you follow a program that has you doing the right amount of reps and sets with a huge focus on heavy compound (multi-joint) movements and progressive overload.

Now please understand this isn’t just my opinion and me speaking from my own personal experience.  This is 100% backed by scientific research which looks at the relationship between training frequency, intensity and volume when it comes to building muscle.

Studies on the subject show that the frequency in which you train your muscles is far less important than training with the right amount of volume and intensity.

From research and my own experience not only with myself but 100s of clients as well, shows that any intermediate or advanced weightlifter will have far better results following a well structured one muscle group a week body part split due to being able to overload each muscle group and then having maximal recovery.

Unless you plan on training 6 or 7 times a week, following a program where you are hitting each muscle group 2 or even 3 times a week, means you are going to have to group major muscle groups together in the same workout.

Although starting out you may see some progress, eventually due to the lack of recovery time and simply not being able to put the same effort into the muscle groups later on in the sessions, you are going to hit a brick wall and possibly create a situation where certain muscle groups will dominate the ones stuck at the end of your workouts.

An example of this is if you were barbell bench pressing and barbell shoulder pressing in the same workout.  Whichever movement comes second in the session is going to suffer, meaning you won’t be able to push the same amount of weight you could, if you trained your chest and shoulders and these two movements on separate days.

This all leads to less progressive overload which means your long term gains will majorly suffer.

Another downside to training everything 2 or 3 times a week is trying to fit all this training in around your current lifestyle.  Most programs designed to train your muscles so frequently will have you training all throughout the week and at the weekend.  Now unless you are a teenager with nothing better do, then this can become a real problem.

It can become really demotivating when you start to feel like the gym in taking over your life.  Once that motivation goes, every workout will become a chore and it will be near impossible to progress.

Don’t get me wrong, there are ways to make training muscles multiple times a week work.  But if your ultimate goal is to build strength, muscle and be in the best shape of your life, why do something that’s going to use up far more of your time and that’s much less efficient.


The BFG Muscle Principles You Must Follow

black and white picture of a female weightlifter facing away with a barbell on her back

One advantage of training each muscle group just once a week is that it makes it incredibly easy to design a training plan.  I am going to share with you the BFG Muscle principles you should follow when it comes to structuring a weightlifting routine that will get you the results you want.  After this I am going to show you an example training plan you can follow, and what you need to do to keep progressing and avoid hitting any plateaus.

  1. You will train between 4 and 5 days a week only (for maximum results have consecutive rest days off)
  2. You will train between 45 minutes and 1 hour per session
  3. You will only train with big compound movements (apart from the odd exception)
  4. You will train only 1 to 2 muscle groups per session (1 large and 1 small, but never 2 large)
  5. You will train only 4 to 6 reps per muscle group (with an exception to isolation exercises)
  6. You will do only 9 to 12 working sets over the session.
  7. You will rest between 3 to 5 minutes after each completed set

Your 4 Day A Week Training Plan

Monday (Shoulders)

Standing Barbell Press

  • BFG Muscle Warm-Up Routine
  • 3 Sets of 4 to 6 reps (pick a weight you can get a minimum of 4 reps but no more than 6 reps. Once you achieve 6 reps, move the weight up by the smallest increment possible)

If you managed to achieve 5 reps on your first set, then chances are you will only get 3 reps on your second and third sets.  This is absolutely fine.  The goal is to achieve 6 reps on your very first set.

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  • 3 Sets of 4 to 6 reps

Lateral Raises

  • 3 Sets of 8 to 10 reps (pick a weight you can get a minimum of 8 reps but no more than 10 reps. Once you achieve 10 reps, move the weight up by the smallest increment possible)

Rear Delt Flyes

  • 3 Sets of 8 to 10 Reps


Tuesday (Back And Biceps)

Deadlifts

  • BFG Muscle Warm-Up Routine
  • 3 Sets of 4 to 6 reps (pick a weight you can get a minimum of 4 reps but no more than 6 reps. Once you achieve 6 reps, move the weight up by the smallest increment possible)

Bent Over Rows

  • 3 Sets of 4 to 6 reps

Pull-Ups

  • 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (add weight using a chain around your waist when needed)

Click here for your definitive guide on how to do pull-ups properly for huge gains

Straight Bar Bicep Curls

  • 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Wednesday (Day Off)


Thursday (Chest And Triceps)

Flat bench press

  • BFG Muscle Warm-Up Routine
  • 3 Sets of 4 to 6 reps (pick a weight you can get a minimum of 4 reps but no more than 6 reps. Once you achieve 6 reps, move the weight up by the smallest increment possible)

Incline Barbell Press

  • 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Flat Dumbell Press

  • 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Tricep Pushdowns

  • 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Friday (Legs)

Squats

This is actually one exercise I don’t recommend going to failure on.  firstly, it can be extremely dangerous if you are training on your own and secondly if you are at a point of failure its almost inevitable your form will be sloppy.  This could then lead to potential injuries.

Pick a weight that if you carried on doing the exercise past 6 reps, you would potentially fail at around 8 or 9 reps.

Due to the number of muscles involved, this exercise creates such an anabolic reaction you don’t need to go to failure to benefit from it.

45 Degree Leg Press

  • 3 Sets of 4 to 6 reps

Romanian Deadlifts

  • 3 Sets of 4 to 6 reps

Please make sure your form is perfect when doing this exercise to avoid injury.  If it is not, then increase the number of reps and avoid failure until it is.


Saturday (Day Off)


Sunday ( Day Off)


How To Avoid Hitting Plateaus

It’s inevitable that if you followed exactly the same routine over a long period of time, you will start running into brick walls.

What we want to do is try to avoid this before it happens.

Consistency is vitally important to progress so it’s all about finding the right balance of consistency in following the same plan and making changes.

When changing elements to any weightlifting plan, it will be of no benefit changing the entire thing.  All you need to do is make tiny changes every 4 to 6 weeks.

  • This could involve doing the same exercises but swapping the order of them.
  • Only changing one of the exercises for a new one but keep the rest the same.
  • Switching the order of the workouts during the week.

I would also recommend a deload week once every 8 to 10 weeks.  This will involve following most of the principles but dropping all your weights by around 25% and avoiding failure.  This will allow your muscles and central nervous system to fully recover.


Best Multi-Joint Exercises That Should Be The Bread And Butter Of Your Routine.

I will keep this section nice and short.  Below you will find the 5 top compound exercises that should be included in every plan you follow.

These movements create the most overload on the targeted muscle.  Which simply means you will build muscle far more efficiently when including these.

Let’s check them out.

#1.  Squats


#2.  Deadlifts


#3.  Pull-Ups


#4.  Bench Press


#5.  Overhead Barbell Press

#6.  Bent-Over Row


Best 4 Day Split Routine Key Takeaways

  1. Research tells us that volume and intensity play a much bigger role over frequency when it comes to building muscle.
  2. The one muscle group a week split when structured correctly is the most efficient way to build muscle.
  3. Doing high reps (aiming for that pump), fancy sets like drop sets, giant sets, forced reps will get you nowhere fast when it comes to building muscle.
  4. You must focus on lifting doing heavy compound movements for the correct amount of reps and sets that are proven to be the most efficient when it comes to building muscle.
  5. Make sure you include, squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bent-over rows, bench press and overhead barbell press as your core exercises.

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Best 4 day split routine

9 thoughts on “Best 4 Day Split Routine And 6 Multi Joint Exercises To Get You Ripped”

    • Hi Lee

      The workout can be adapted to using bands for sure. Ideally, you would want a selection of bands so you can progress up the resistances as you get stronger.

      Unless you are a complete beginner it would be quite hard to get the required overload in the low rep range I have set out using bands as well. so you would most probably need to work in a higher rep range plus add in some overload techniques like really slow movements on the negative phase of each exercise. This will make using the bands much more challenging then.

      Hope this helps

      Reply
  1. Hey David,

    I really like your articles pertaining to training frequency. Your one of the few that believes hitting a muscle once per week IS, if not more effective for building muscle in the long run. Right now, Im doing a 3 day split over 5 days. Chest/Back, Shoulders/Arms, Legs because this is whats accepted in the fitness world?. I would really prefer to do a 5 day split with a once per week frequency though for enjoyment.

    I feel like I only reach burn out quicker on the high frequency programs because its not possible to give my all into 2 major muscle groups or 3 in one workout, regardless if I hit it twice per week…

    The only problem is I dont like to lift in the 4-6 rep range anymore as its just to close to my one rep max. I used to do Max Ot and followed similar protocols but couldnt hang with that very long. After 20 years of lifting I prefer to keep it in the 8-12 rep range or higher. Is this program not effective if I do it this way? I also have arthritis in my knees so squatting or lifting that heavy for legs is not likely due to pain.

    Just thought I would reach out because I have been trying to find a way out of these high frequency programs 🙂 because I feel I would actually enjoy working out again, as it sometimes feels more like a chore doing workouts I dont care for.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Nick

      I hope you are doing well and thanks for reaching out.

      I have always found the 4 to 6 rep range optimal, however, I do not stick to this like glue myself or with my clients. Training in the 8 to 12 rep range will also yield awesome results. I personally never go over 12 reps in a set, it’s just counter-intuitive to what I am trying to achieve.

      There are a few ways I rotate my programming. I will have phases where I am only sticking to the 4 to 6 reps range, stages where I incorporate both the 4 to 6 and 8 to 10 rep ranges in the same program and phases where I will stick solely to the 8 to 12 rep range.

      The later phase will still promote hypertrophy (assuming your eating is on point) but is also much easier on the joints.

      However, the principles laid out in this article still stand, it’s just the rep ranges you are changing.

      If you can go through phases training in the 4 to 6 rep range then it’s definitely beneficial, especially as it really improves your bottom line strength, which will enable more hypertrophy in the long term, but if you can’t then training in the higher rep ranges will still allow you to build muscle.

      Yeah, Max OT is s a great program. I remember watching the documentary years ago when it first came out. It’s actually what triggered me to look more closely and research the science behind this style of training.

      Hope this helps

      Reply
      • Hey David,
        Thanks for the response! I appreciate the advice. I do have some more questions for you…

        Is 9 sets really enough for a muscle to grow? I noticed triceps after chest is only 3 sets…Seems fairly low to not train them again, but maybe I’m doing way too much. With my 3 day split hitting everything twice per week, Im doing about 20 sets per week and about 12 sets for arms. Cant say Im exploding with growth, but cant imagine 9 sets is really enough?

        I’ve done a bro split in the past and was doing about 16 sets for bigger muscles and 9-12 for arms. Does this sound right for someone who has been lifting a while?

        So is progressive overload really the most important factor for building more muscle? If so, I guess frequency and volume doesnt matter as much.

        These days I would prefer to pick certain muscles to train twice per week, but not all of them in one program like I’m currently doing. I read your shoulder workout where your hitting it twice per week but it seemed like an a ton of work, which seemed opposite of what I’ve read on this site. So I guess that leaves me a bit confused on how to approach working a muscle twice per week.

        Where to place the extra workout? Separate day or after another muscle?

        How much volume is needed for the extra workout? If 9-12 sets is all you need, how much more can I do to stimulate growth?

        Thanks man!
        Nick

        Reply
        • Hi Nick

          Really sorry for the delayed response.

          I’ll try and cover all your questions.

          Starting with the volume of sets in a workout. I always aim for around 9 sets on the major muscle group and if training a smaller muscle on the same day, I will aim for 3 to 5 sets max.

          I am not saying you should only every do 3 to 5 sets on your triceps. You could make triceps a focal point of a session and train them first and you could then hit them with 6 to 9 sets on that day. However, if they are placed after a major muscle group, and you try to smash them with a load of volume and intensity after you have already worked your body and nervous system extremely hard during that session, then you are simply going to negatively affect your bodies ability to recover.

          Each heavy/work set should be taken to positive failure (the point where you can no longer do a rep by yourself). The intensity and progressive overload are by far the most important aspects when it comes to building both muscle size and strength. Dorian Yates based his whole career on doing 1 to 2 ramp-up/warm-up sets and only one all-out balls to the wall work set per exercise.

          Although there does need to be sufficient volume for muscle growth, this actually needs to be a lot less then most people do and think.

          The volume I outline is what’s been scientifically proven to yield the best results. If you were putting in the intensity needed on each work set but did say 16 to 20 sets in a session, you would seriously start outstripping your body’s capabilities to recover. (This is not the case if someone is taking anabolics, but that is a whole topic in its entirety). This is where most people go wrong assuming you have to put in a silly amount of volume and destroy yourself to see results. It’s why most natural lifters see very little changes in their muscle size.

          It’s incredibly cheesy but so so true. You don’t grow in the gym. You use the gym to stimulate muscle growth, anabolic responses, protein synthesis, and then you grow during your recovery phases.

          The focus should be on doing 30 to 45-minute weight sessions, putting maximum mental focus, effort, and force into each working set and your strength and muscle will skyrocket. It is hard for people to understand but try not to get to caught up on, the whole, if I don’t do this much volume then I won’t grow muscle side of things. Progressive overload, intensity, recovery

          Onto the shoulder article. The body will be able to take and benefit from extra work for a certain amount of time before all the negative side effects come out. (again this depends on other factors like nutrition, sleep, recovery etc) So this is why if you have a lagging body part training it twice per week for a short period of time can be really beneficial. I have even done this for an 8 week period before on my shoulders.

          I will usually still only do a max 5 day training week when doing this, So I will group all the other muscle groups into the other 3 days. For example Legs, Back and tris, and chest and bis. However, if you are young, and everything else is on point then you can train for 6 days for a short period of time.

          When doing this I will also change training methods every now and then as well. For example if you look at the session I have outlined on the how to build huge shoulders article, it is totally different to the style and methods I normally advocate. For example Shoulder day one has tri-sets included with short rest times (totally opposite to my usual methods) I always believe any new stimulus your muscles are not used to will initiate change to start with, but the key is not overusing methods that are clearly going to be too much for your body to recover from naturally if overused. When you are a natural lifter you need to do enough to stimulate muscle growth then move onto recovery.

          I really hope that all make sense and I could be of help to you

          Reply
  2. Hi David firstly great site and really appreciate the effort that you have put into it , my question after the bfg warm up is there further warm ups required before the following exercises or do you jump straight to working weight.regards Richard

    Reply
    • Hi Richard

      Once you have done the initial warm-up you don’t actually need to then do another warm upon each of the following exercises. Unless you are training a totally different muscle group. For example if you train chest and biceps in the same day. However, recently I have been adding in a ramp up set before each exercise.

      For example, If I am training chest. and my first exercise is the flat bench press, I will do the full warm up strategy first, then go into my work sets. I will then move onto Incline Dumbbell Presses.

      Now instead of going straight into the first work set, what I do is a small ramp up set of 3 reps. So if I know my working set is 40kg dumbbells for 4 to 6 reps I will do a ramp up set of 3 reps using around 36kg dumbbells. By doing this I have found with myself and all my clients that they go into the first working set on that exercise much stronger.

      I have tried some exercises using this method and some without over the last 4 months, and each time my first working set is much more comfortable after the ramp up set. I will be changing the warm-up article to reflect this very shortly. This method really gets the muscle fired up for the slight change in movement patterns each exercise brings.

      I hope this helps

      Reply

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