Training

How to Design your own Upper / Lower Body Program with Examples

Once you’ve past the Beginner Stages of Working Out and are able to Follow a Regimented Fitness Routine for Body Building Purposes. You already know how to find your Way around the Gym and are able how to Connect with each Muscle & Body Part Individually. You’re able to Structure your Day & Diet in a way to Improve Recovery and Maximize Training Intensity.

Then you’re ready to Progress from a Full Body Workout, into an Upper / Lower Body Workout Split. Hopefully you’ve also Figured out which Rep-Ranges each Muscle Group responds to with Regards to Hyper-Trophy, but it’s not a Prerequisite before Switching!

In this Article I’ll describe how to Beginners can Switch into a 2-Day Workout Program and make the most Progress possible, before they need to Transition into a Push-Pull-Legs or Multiple-Day Training Split.

You can read more about other Training Splits & Progressive Overload in these Articles below:
Progressive Overload Principles, Intensity Techniques & Structuring a Deload with Examples
Full-Body Workout Split for Beginners with Examples
How to Design your own Push-Pull-Legs Training Program with Examples
How to Design your own 4, 5 & 6 Day Training Program with Examples



Upper / Lower Body Split

We’re going to Assume that you’ve been Following a Full-Body Training Program for 3 to 5 Days per Week, prior to Starting the Upper / Lower Body Split. During this Time you’ve figured out which Exercises you’re Bio-Mechanically able to Perform, Exercises you Enjoy doing and know which ones you don’t Enjoy doing. Keep in mind that certain Exercises are Required to Develop a Balanced & Proportioned Physique. Not because they’re DO-or-DIE & Mandatory Exercises, but because you’ve Developed Lagging Body Parts and you need to Perform Specific Exercises to Improve these Body Parts to Compliment your Physical Development!

However, in order to make a Generic Upper / Lower Body Split that most People can Incorporate, I won’t take Lagging Body Parts into Consideration in the Examples below.

Similar to a Full-Body Program, you can use Budget of Exercises that you Cycle through, throughout the Week or X Amount of Upper / Lower Rotations. For the Sake of Completeness, we’ll Choose from 1-2 Different Exercises per Body Part, although some might cause some Overlap with either Upper or Lower Body and should be Programmed Accordingly!

Upper Body Free Weight Exercise Options
Chest:

• Incline / Flat / Decline – Dumbbell / Barbell Bench Press (Compound)
• Wide Grip Body Weight Dips (Compound)
• Incline / Flat / Decline – Dumbbell Flyes (Isolation)
• Incline / Flat – Dumbbell / Kettlebell Hex Press (Isolation)

Shoulders:

• Seated Dumbbell or Barbell Shoulder Press (Compound)
• Standing Barbell Shoulder Press (Compound)
• Dumbbell Lateral Raises (Isolation)
• Dumbbell / Barbell Front Raises (Isolation)
• Pendley Barbell Rows (Compound)
• Bent Over Reverse Dumbbell Flyes (Isolation)

Back:

• T-Bar / EZ Bar / Barbell Rows (Compound)
• Pullups (Compound)
• Dumbbell Rows (Compound / Isolation)
• Dumbbell Pullovers (Isolation)

Triceps:

• Tate Press (Isolation)
• EZ Bar Skull Crushers (Isolation)

Biceps:

• Alternating / Hammer – Dumbbell Curls (Isolation)
• EZ Bar Preacher Curls (Isolation)

Abs:

• Lying Crunches (Isolation)
• Hanging Leg Raises (Isolation)

Upper Body Machine Exercise Options
Chest:

• Incline / Flat / Decline – Cable Machine / Unilateral / Hammer Strength Chest Press (Compound)
• Cable Machine / Unilateral / Hammer Strength Dips (Compound)
• Cable Crossover / Chest Flyes (Isolation)
• Narrow Grip – Smith Machine Hex Press (Isolation)

Shoulders:

• Cable Machine / Unilateral / Hammer Strength Shoulder Press (Compound)
• Standing Calf Raise Machine Shoulder Press (Compound)
• Cable / Hammer Strength Lateral Raises (Isolation)
• Cable / Hammer Strength Front Raises (Isolation)
• Cable Face Pulls (Compound)
• Seated Reverse Machine Flyes (Isolation)

Back:

• Close / Medium / Wide Grip – Seated Rows (Compound)
• Close / Medium / Wide Grip – Cable Pulldowns (Compound)
• Low / Medium / High – Cable Machine / Unilateral / Hammer Strength Rows (Compound / Isolation)
• Cable / Seated / Hammer Strength Pullovers (Isolation)

Triceps:

• Close Grip – Machine Dips (Isolation)
• Seated Triceps Extensions (Isolation)

Biceps:

• Standing Cable Curls (Isolation)
• Overhead Lying – Cable Curls (Isolation)

Abs:

• Lying Crunch Machine (Isolation)
• Cable Crunches (Isolation)

Lower Body Free Weight Exercise Options
Quads:

• Back / Front – Barbell Squat (Compound)
• Dumbbell / Plates – Sumo / Goblet Squats (Compound)
• Sissy Squats (Isolation)
• Dumbbell / Barbell Walking Lunges / Bulgarian Split Squats (Compound / Isolation)

Hamstrings:

• Dumbbell / Barbell Stiff Legged Deadlifts (Compound)
• Smith Machine Swinging Hamstring Curls (Isolation)
• Dumbbell Hamstring Curl (Isolation)
• Body Weight – Hamstring Lean (Isolation)

Adductors:

• Barbell Jefferson Squats (Compound / Isolation)

Glutes:

• Barbell Hip Thrust (Compound / Isolation)

Calves:

• Standing Barbell Calf Raises (Isolation)
• Seated Barbell Calf Raises (Isolation)

Lower Body Machine Exercise Options
Quads:

• Cable Machine / Plate Loaded / Seated Leg Press (Compound)
• V-Squat / Pendulum Squat / Hack Squat (Compound)
• Leg Extensions (Isolation)
• Unilateral / Single Leg Press (Compound / Isolation)

Hamstrings:

• Lying Hamstring Curl (Isolation)
• Seated Hamstring Curls (Isolation)
• Standing Hamstring Curl (Isolation)
• Glute-Hamstring Developer (Compound)

Adductors:

• Seated Adductor Machine (Compound / Isolation)

Glutes:

• Hip Thrust Machine (Compound / Isolation)

Calves:

• Donkey Calf Raises (Isolation)
• Seated Calf Raises (Isolation)


Structuring the Workouts

From this Wide-Variety of Exercise Selection you can chose 1 Free Weight or Machine Compound and 1 Free Weight or Machine Isolation Exercise for the Larger Body Parts; Chest, Shoulders, Back, Quads & Hamstrings. While you can choose either 1 Free Weight or Machine, Compound / Isolation Exercise for the Smaller Body Parts; Biceps, Triceps, Adductors, Glutes & Calves.

If you’ve already Figured out your Rep Ranges for each Respective Body Part, then you can stay with the Rep Ranges that work well for you. Otherwise you can Break the Body Parts down according to the Following Rep Ranges:
• Chest, Shoulders, Back, Hamstrings & Glutes; 6-10 Reps
• Biceps, Triceps, Adductors; 8-12 Reps
• Quads, Calves & Abs; 10-15 Reps

Bigger Body Parts with 2 Exercises have 4 Sets in the 1st Compound Exercise, followed by 2 Sets in the 2nd Isolation Exercise. While Smaller Body Parts with 1 Exercise, can have Sets during the Compound / Isolation Exercise. Each Body Part is Performed in it’s Specific Rep-Ranges, Cycling from the Higher End of the Range at the 1st Set, to the Lower End of the Range towards the latter Sets.

In order to Warm-Up before you start your Workout, you can either choose to do 10 Minutes of Elliptical Cardio at Medium Intensity or do 2 Sets of 20 Reps of the First Exercise you chose to do, before increasing Weight in order to get 4 Sets that Body Parts Specific Rep Range.

If your Day & Diet has been Structured to your Fitness or Body Building Aspirations, in order to Improve Recovery & Maximize Training Intensity, you can choose to Train 2 Days ON & 1 Day OFF; Upper, Lower, Rest, Upper, Lower, Rest, etc.!

Otherwise it’s best to Stick with a Every other Day Approach to allow for Adequate Recovery Time in between Workouts.

Either way, it’s best to Limit your Exercise Selection on Upper & Lower Body Days to 10 Exercises Maximum. Including Warmup Sets, this usually Results in a Workout Budget of around 25-30 Sets over the Entirety of the Workout.

It’s also VERY Important to Constantly Select Different Free Weight & Machine Exercises throughout the Upper / Lower Rotations. In order to Prevent Overlap of Exercises & Over Training, as you’re Training Body Parts every 3 Days!

The Aim is not to go to Beyond Failure on ANY of the Sets as you’ll be Training each Body Part again 2-3 Days later. Your Goal is to improve your Mind-Muscle Connection with each Exercise and learn how to Properly Contract your Muscles against Resistance. Once you’ve learned to Master that, you can Progress into a Push-Pull-Legs Routine! P-P-L has more Recovery Days in between Workouts, which allows for Beyond Failure Training.

With the Exercise Selection, Workout Budget & Advised Rep-Ranges, you can Program the Split in the Following Way:

Upper Body Day 1

• Incline Dumbbell Bench Press; 20, 20, 10, 8, 6, 6 Reps
• Cable Flyes; 10, 8 Reps
• Seated Hammer Strength Shoulder Press; 10, 8, 6, 6 Reps
• Dumbbell Lateral Raises; 10, 8 Reps
• Pullups; highly individual Rep Range
• Machine Pullovers; 8, 6 Reps
• EZ Bar Skull Crushers; 12, 10, 8 Reps
• Standing Cable Curls; 12, 10, 8 Reps
• Lying Crunches; 15, 15,15 Reps
NOTE: Total 29 Sets over 9 Exercises for 6 Body Parts!

Lower Body Day 1

• Barbell Squats; 20, 20, 15, 12, 10, 10 Reps
• Leg Extensions; 15, 12 Reps
• Seated Adductor Machine; 12, 8, 8 Reps
• Dumbbell / Barbell Stiff Legged Dead Lifts; 15, 10, 8, 8 Reps
• Smith Machine Swinging Hamstring Curls; highly individual Rep Range
• Hip Thrust Machine; 10, 6, 6 Reps
• Standing Calf Raises; 15, 12, 10 Reps
NOTE: Total 24 Sets over 7 Exercises for 5 Body Parts!

Upper Body Day 2

• Flat Hammer Strength Press; 20, 20, 10, 8, 6, 6 Reps
• Dumbbell Flyes; 10, 8 Reps
• Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press; 10, 8, 6, 6 Reps
• Cable Front Raises; 10, 8 Reps
• T-Bar Rows; 10, 8, 6, 6 Reps
• Cable Pullovers; 8, 6 Reps
• Overhead Dumbbell Extensions; 12, 10, 8 Reps
• EZ Bar Curls; 12, 10, 8 Reps
• Hanging Leg Raises; 15, 15,15 Reps
NOTE: Total 29 Sets over 9 Exercises for 6 Body Parts!

Lower Body Day 2

• Leg Press; 20, 20, 15, 12, 10, 10 Reps
• Sissy Squats; 15, 12 Reps
• Jefferson Squats; 12, 8, 8 Reps
• Lying Hamstring Curls; 15, 10, 8, 8 Reps
• Seated Hamstring Curls; 10, 8, 8 Reps
• Barbell Hip Thrust; 10, 6, 6 Reps
• Seated Calf Raises; 15, 12, 10 Reps
NOTE: Total 24 Sets over 7 Exercises for 5 Body Parts!

Upper Body Day 3

• Decline Bench Press; 20, 20, 10, 8, 6, 6 Reps
• Wide Grip Body Weigh Dips; 10, 8 Reps
• Standing Calf Raise Shoulder Press; 10, 8, 6, 6 Reps
• Bent Over Reverse Dumbbell Flyes; 10, 8 Reps
• Cable Pull Downs; 10, 8, 6, 6 Reps
• Hammer Strength Rows; 8, 6 Reps
• Tate Press; 12, 10, 8 Reps
• Dumbbell Hammer Curls; 12, 10, 8 Reps
• Kneeling Cable Crunches; 15, 15,15 Reps
NOTE: Total 29 Sets over 9 Exercises for 6 Body Parts!

Lower Body Day 3

• Hack Squats; 20, 20, 15, 12, 10, 10 Reps
• Walking Lunges; 15, 12 Reps
• Seated Adductor Machine; 12, 8, 8 Reps
• Dumbbell Hamstring Curls; 15, 10, 8, 8 Reps
• Hamstring Lean; 10, 8, 8 Reps
• Close & High Stance Seated Leg Press; 10, 6, 6 Reps
• Donkey Calf Raises; 15, 12, 10 Reps
NOTE: Total 24 Sets over 7 Exercises for 5 Body Parts!


Adjustments & Variations for Additional Progress

Once you’re a little bit more Advanced in your Upper / Lower Body Routine, you might choose to Focus a bit more on Lagging Body Parts, by Choosing 3 Exercises for Lagging Body Parts, while Preserving Workout Intensity, by reducing Exercise Selection for other Body Parts. Or excluding certain Isolation Exercises as Biceps, Triceps, Adductors & Glutes are already Recruited in Heavy Compound Exercises for Chest, Shoulders, Back, Quads & Hamstrings.

It’s Impossible to Predict where you need to make Adjustments as everybody Develops their Physique based on their own Genetic Strengths & Limitations. Bio-Mechanics become more Important as you Progress from an Upper / Lower Body Routine into Push-Pull-Legs or a 4, 5 or 6-Day Training Program. Allowing for more Recovery in between Body Parts, eventually leads to more Strength, which Results in Accrual of new Muscle Tissue. This Changes your Leverages & Bio-Mechanics, which Impacts your Exercise Selection, Workout Programming and in some Cases, your Rep-Ranges as well!


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