April 18, 2024 2 min read

By Shane Robert

An upper/lower split divides workouts based on muscle groups worked and/or movement patterns involved. Workouts are divided into the two main title categories: upper body and lower body. Upper body workouts target the muscles of the upper body - chest, (mid & upper) back, shoulders, and arms. Lower body workouts focus on muscles in the lower body - quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves (sometimes lower back).

Many popular programs utilize this type of training, whether it be for bodybuilding, sport performance, or powerlifting. The Westside Barbell System, for example, is, in essence, an upper/lower split. One of the reasons for the popularity of this split is that it allows for customization of exercise selection and programming based on individual goals, preferences, and training experience. For example, the frequency of training can range from as few as 2 days per week up to 6, giving 3 workouts per body region. The nature of the alternating workouts ensures that there is balanced muscular development throughout the body.

It is common to emphasize different muscle groups on different days. Many lifters will have, for example, a “heavy” chest and back day on day 1 where they do compound exercises for lower rep ranges (5-8) for the chest, with more isolation, or “lighter” exercises in higher rep ranges (10-20) for shoulders and arms. Day 2 would flip this and put the heavy emphasis on shoulders and arms while keeping chest and back light. Lower body would see a similar switch with squats/quads emphasized on day 1 and deadlifts/hamstrings emphasized on day 2. 

One important thing to note with upper/lower splits is not to let certain muscle groups get forgotten. It’s not unusual for lifters to be tired after challenging bench/shoulder training to half-ass their back exercises, or put a massive amount of effort into their squats and quads, only to do a few lackluster sets of hamstring curls, often skipping calves entirely.


Balanced muscle development
Adjustable frequency
Flexibility in programming
Movement/Muscle emphasis possible


Can be challenging to get the amount of volume needed for all body parts
Potentially long training sessions
Potential overuse if movements and rep ranges don’t change
Lackluster effort toward the end of a session



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