Training On A Time Budget: 4 Days Per Week

The Perfect Training Program: 4 Days Per Week

 

You can make gains no matter how many days per week you have for the gym.

It’s not necessarily the case the more sessions are better, as you’ve got to look at workout quality as well as quantity, but there does come a point where you get to an optimal number of weekly workouts & hit the muscles frequently enough to make them grow, but don’t risk overdoing it.

For me, that point might be 4 days per week. I’m a fan of training 4 days per week, and though I think training more often can work pretty well too, a 4-day split is what I’d recommend to most guys looking to maximise gym time without it eating into their life as much as training more often might.

(Not that you can’t do well training three days per week – like in the first part of this series, which you can read here)

Today though, let’s delve into the 4-day split.

 

The Benefits

Unlike training 3 days per week, you’ve got no full body sessions here, as each workout is either upper body or lower body.

This sets you up mentally for each session, as you can get your head in the game easier, knowing that you’re either working your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves, or your back, chest, shoulders and arms.

This not only means you can get more volume per body part per week, but also shortens your warm up and workout time too.

 

The Downsides

There’s still not quite as much volume as you’d get training 5 days per week, which can make bringing up stubborn body parts a little difficult. Plus, if you miss a session, it means only hitting a muscle once a week, so getting all 4 workouts in is vital.

 

The Premise

We’re going with an upper-lower split here, with two upper & two lower sessions; one of each focused on strength, and the other on hypertrophy.

 

The Routine

Workout A:

  • Squat variation – 4-6 sets of 1-5 reps at 80-95% 1RM
  • Deficit deadlift or rack pull – 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps at RPE 9
  • Barbell lunges – 3 sets of 6-8 reps per leg at RPE 8
  • Lying leg curls – 2 sets of 6-8 reps at RPE 9
  • Standing calf raises – 5 sets of 8-10 reps at RPE 9

Workout B:

  • Bench press variation – 4-6 sets of 1-5 reps at 80-95% 1RM
  • Incline bench press – 3-5 sets of 5-6 reps at RPE 9
  • Weighted chins – 3-5 sets of 5-6 reps at RPE 9
  • Pendlay rows – 4 sets of 5-6 reps at RPE 8
  • Seated dumbbell press – 2 sets of 6-8 reps at RPE 8
  • Seated dumbbell curls – 3 sets of 8-10 reps superset with dumbbell triceps extensions for 3 sets of 8-10 reps both to technical failure

Workout C:

  • Deadlift press variation – 4-6 sets of 1-5 reps at 80-95% 1RM
  • Leg Press – 3 sets of 15-20 reps using a 2-1-1 tempo (2 seconds down, 1 second pause, 1 second up) to technical failure.
  • Dumbbell stiff legged deadlift – 4 sets of 10-12 reps using a 2-1-1 tempo at RPE 9
  • Leg extensions – 3 sets of 15-20 reps using a 3-second eccentric, superset with walking lunges for 60 seconds both to technical failure.
  • Seated calf raises – 5 sets of 15-20 seconds with a 2-second pause at the top of each rep to failure.

Workout D:

  • Wide grip pulldown or machine pulldown – 3 sets of 10-12 reps at RPE 9
  • Dumbbell rows – 3 sets of 10-12 reps at RPE 8
  • Incline paused dumbbell press – 4 sets of 8-10 reps with a 2-second pause at the chest at RPE 9
  • Dumbbell flyes – 3 sets of 12-15 reps at RPE 9.
  • Standing lateral raises superset with standing dumbbell presses – 3 sets of 15 at RPE 8 on the laterals and 3 sets to technical failure (ideally 10+ reps) on the presses.
  • EZ Bar curls – 2 sets of 8-10 reps at RPE 8 superset with overhead rope extensions for 2 sets of 8-10 reps at RPE 8.
    Immediately after your second set, lower the weights for each by 20-30% and do 2 more sets to technical failure.

 

Notes: 

Pay close attention to the RPE scales here.

Notice that few exercises are taken to the point of failure, and when they are, it’s technical failure, which means you can’t perform another GOOD rep with perfect form. Bad technique and grinding out extra reps will get you nowhere except an injury, so be smart – working to an RPE 8 or 9 out of 10 is usually a wise decision.

You’ve got tempos for a few exercises too. For the exercises without a tempo though, just lift explosively, hold the contraction briefly, then lower under control.

Your squat and deadlift strength work is split up over the two lower sessions, so you actually work your strength deadlift on your hypertrophy lower day. This is so you have more energy for deadlifting, rather than your deads suffering after squats.

Where it has “variation” listed, you can choose what type of squat, bench and deadlift you do.

It could be back squat, regular bench press and conventional deadlift; front squat, paused bench and sumo deadlift; or safety bar squat, wide grip bench and a chain deadlift.

 

Progressions:

Aim to lift heavier or get more reps or sets than you did last time at the same weight with your strength work each session.

You can stick with the same lift variation every week, or cycle between a number of different ones, but every session, you should set some sort of PR.

Try to progress the weights in your hypertrophy sessions too, but make sure you’re still focusing on that mind muscle connection.

 

The Wrap Up

If you’re toying with the idea of doing 3 or 4 sessions per week … do 4.

That extra session will mean more volume & more progress!

At the same time though, training four days per week still gives you a bunch of time outside of the gym to ensure your training commitments aren’t holding you back from living your life & accomplishing things in other walks of life.

Just remember, no training plan is really the complete solution, and if you aren’t able to consistently overload & lift more and more total weight in time, chances are you’ll continue to spin your wheels.

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