4 Day Split Workout – Big, Brutal and Bold Muscle Building Program

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Many years ago I created a popular training system known as “Power, Muscle, Burn.” This 4 day split workout was based upon a system of training handed down to me in 1986 by my mentor Dr. Michael Gilbertson, a bodybuilder and English professor at New Mexico Tech.

The structure of his approach was 3-pronged. Target a muscle group with each of the following:

  • Heavy Work – 2 sets of 4 to 6 reps focusing on a heavy compound movement.
  • Moderate Work – 2 sets of 8 to 12 reps focusing on a more moderate compound movement or taxing machine exercise.
  • Light Work – 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps focusing on an isolation or mild machine exercise.

The heavy sets are your “bold” work. You’ll be building muscle and increasing strength by using weights above 80% of your one rep max.

Related: 50 Ways to Not Suck at Muscle Building

The moderate sets are performed in a more standard rep range. This is your “big” work. Typical hypertrophy (muscle building) sets.

The lighter sets focuses more on getting a good muscle pump. This is your “brutal” work. You are kicking a muscle while it’s down.

Anyone familiar with the power, muscle, burn system knows that I had modified it from Dr. Gilbertson’s initial guidelines. I dropped the 12 to 15 rep range sets and inserted 40 rep burnouts. While this was highly effective, it was a bit too challenging in my opinion.

One 40 rep burn set was enough.

I’ve modified the system a bit. Improved it. Taken it to the next level.

4 Day Split Workout – Big, Brutal and Bold

Here are the rules of war. For major muscle groups, including chest, back, shoulders, and quads, use the following plan of attack.

You are using the same weight for each set of a given exercise. Don’t complicate things by trying to use a different weight for each set.

  • 2 Bold Sets – Push each set for as many reps as possible, stopping that set when you feel like you might fail on the next rep, or when your form starts to break down. When you can perform at least 6 reps during both sets, add 5 pounds to the bar.
  • 4 Big Sets – Here you will utilize 2 different exercises, performing 2 sets per exercise. Again, each set will be pushed for as many reps as possible. For a given exercise, when you can perform at least 10 reps per sets, add a small amount of weight.
  • 4 Brutal Sets –  One isolation exercise performed for 4 sets with only 60 seconds of rest between sets. When you can perform 15 total reps for each of the 4 sets, add a small amount of weight.
  • 1 Burn Set – Pick a weight you can perform about 20 to 25 reps with. Now hammer out 50 total reps, resting only briefly when needed. Add a small amount of weight when you can.

For minor muscle groups, including arms and hamstrings you will use the follow plan of attack. Traps, abs, rear delts, and calves will be in the mix as well, but trained just a hair differently.

  • 3 Big Sets – Here you will utilize a single exercise, performing 3 total sets. Each set will be pushed for as many reps as possible. For a given exercise, when you can perform at least 10 reps per sets, add a small amount of weight.
  • 3 Brutal Sets –  One isolation exercise performed for 3 sets with only 60 seconds of rest between sets. When you can perform 15 total reps for each of the 3 sets, add a small amount of weight.
  • 1 Burn Set – Pick a weight you can perform about 20 to 25 reps with. Now hammer out 50 total reps, resting only briefly when needed. Add a small amount of weight when you can.

Here is the 4 day split workout:

  • Day 1 – Quads, Hamstrings and Abs
  • Day 2 – Chest, Triceps and Calves
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Back, Biceps and Abs
  • Day 5 – Shoulders, Traps and Calves
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off

Cardio can be performed for 20 minutes per day on off days, first thing in the morning, or after lifting. Rest about 2 to 4 minutes in between bold sets, and about 90 to 120 seconds in between big sets.

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I recommend the following nutrition and supplement approach while running this 4 day split:

  • 180 to 220 grams of protein per day.
  • 300 calories above maintenance.
  • 25 to 30% of daily calories from fats.
  • Keep a pre-workout on hand for days when you need a good kick in the pants. The combination of Vasky and Ruckus is unbeatable.
  • Post-workout take Huge Gainer. It has a 3:1 carb to protein ratio which is exactly what your body needs after lifting, and Huge Gainer contains 25 grams of top quality whey protein.
  • Fish oil and a multivitamin as a nutritional, recovery, and health backup plan
Quads, Hamstrings and Abs
4 Day Split
Exercise Sets Reps
Bold – Squats  2  6+
Big – Leg Press  2  10+
Big – Hack Squats  2  10+
Brutal – Lunges  4  15
Burn – Leg Extensions  1  50
Big – Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts  3  10+
Brutal – Reverse Hyper, Glute/Ham Raise or Reverse Hack Squats  3  15
Burn – Leg Curls  1  50
Planks (Optional)  3  60-120 sec
Chest, Triceps and Calves
4 Day Split
Exercise Sets Reps
Bold – Bench Press  2  6+
Big – Incline Dumbbell Bench Press  2  10+
Big – Machine Chest Press  2  10+
Brutal – Low Cable Crossovers  4  15
Burn – Push Ups or Pec Dec  1  50
Big – EZ Bar Cable Triceps Extensions  3  10+
Brutal – Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions  3  15
Burn – Close Grip Bench Press  1  50
Seated Calf Raise (Optional)  3  15
Back, Biceps and Abs
4 Day Split
Exercise Sets Reps
Bold – Deadlifts  2  6+
Big – Dumbbell Rows  2  10+
Big – Seated Cable Rows  2  10+
Brutal – Lat Pull Downs  4  15
Burn – Machine Rows or Machine Pullovers  1  50
Big – Reverse Lat Pull Downs  3  10+
Brutal – EZ Bar Curls  3  15
Burn – Alternating Dumbbell Hammer Curls  1  50
Ab Wheel Rollouts (Optional)  3  10-20
Shoulders, Traps and Calves
4 Day Split
Exercise Sets Reps
Bold – Overhead Press  2  6+
Big – Seated Alternating Dumbbell Press  2  10+
Big – Machine Shoulder Press  2  10+
Brutal – Upright Rows  4  15
Burn – Side Lateral Raise  1  50
Brutal – Face Pulls or Bent Over Rear Delt Flys  3  15
Brutal – Power Shrugs  3  15
Burn – Dumbbell or Machine Shrugs (With Versa Gripps)  1  50
Leg Press Calf Press (Optional)  3  15-20
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Name: Steve Shaw

Bio: I don’t believe in magic training systems or rep ranges. My philosophy is simple: remain consistent, use the best possible exercises, focus upon progression and enter the gym looking to maximize each set. When you maximize each set, you maximize progress. Easy, obvious, insanely effective.