Minimal but Ruthless Upper Lower Split Workout

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I was challenged to write a minimalist workout. So I asked myself,

Self: How would you train if you wanted to go low volume? How would you build muscle using only a handful of sets each training day?

Good question. Here is what I came up with.

  1. Attack each muscle group with lower volume but greater frequency.
  2. Use a taxing exercise for each major muscle group.
  3. Find a way to increase the intensity (challenge) of each set. I decided to superset the second effort of each big exercise with a timed set (block set) using an isolation exercise.

You can perform this upper lower split either three or four days per week. Here are the sample schedules.

4 Day Upper Lower Split
  • Day 1 – Lower Body A
  • Day 2 – Upper Body A
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Lower Body B
  • Day 5 – Upper Body B
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off
3 Day Upper Lower Split Week One
  • Day 1 – Lower Body A
  • Day 2 – Off
  • Day 3 – Upper Body A
  • Day 4 – Off
  • Day 5 – Lower Body B
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Upper Body B
3 Day Upper Lower Split Week Two
  • Day 1 – Off
  • Day 2 – Lower Body A
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Upper Body A
  • Day 5 – Off
  • Day 6 – Lower Body B
  • Day 7 – Off

…Continue with this training day progression.

Progression of weight is king. Add a small amount of weight to each exercise when it makes sense. Don’t stagnate.

For each movement, use the same weight for both sets. When you can reach the stated number of reps without being close to failure, add weight. For the superset exercise, add weight when the 3 minute window feels somewhat manageable.

Strength gains will propel the muscle building process, especially in concert with the intense nature of this program.

Note: Only use the supersetted exercise following the second set for a given body part.

Lower Body a
Upper Lower Split
Exercise Sets Reps
Quads – Squats  2  12
Quads Superset – Bodyweight Lunges or Step Ups  1  3 Minutes
Hamstrings – Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts  2  12
Hamstrings Superset – Leg Curls  1  3 Minutes
Calves – Seated Calf Raises  2  15
Calves Superset – Bodyweight Calf Raises  1  3 Minutes
Abs – Ab Wheel Roll Outs  2  12-15
Abs Superset – Rope Cable Crunches  1  3 Minutes
Lower Body B
Upper Lower Split
Exercise Sets Reps
Quads – Leg Press or Hack Squats  2  15
Quads Superset – Leg Extensions  1  3 Minutes
Hamstrings – Reverse Hack Squats  2  12
Hamstrings Superset – Reverse Body Weight Lunges  1  3 Minutes
Calves – Standing Calf Raises  2  15
Calves Superset – Bodyweight Calf Raises  1  3 Minutes
Abs – Plank  2  60-120 Seconds
Abs Superset – Hanging Knee Raises  1  3 Minutes
Upper Body A
Upper Lower Split
Exercise Sets Reps
Chest – Bench Press  2  15
Chest Superset – Push Ups Timed Set  1  3 Minutes
Back – Barbell Rows  2  15
Back Superset – Pull Ups, Inverted Rows or Assisted Pull Ups  1  3 Minutes
Shoulders – Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press  2  15
Shoulders Superset – Side Lateral Raises  1  3 Minutes
Cable Triceps Extensions  1  3 Minutes
EZ Bar Curls  1  3 Minutes
Upper Body B
Upper Lower Split
Exercise Sets Reps
Chest – Dumbbell Bench Press  2  15
Chest Superset – Low Cable Crossovers or Machine Press  1  3 Minutes
Back – Lat Pull Downs  2  15
Back Superset – Seated Cable Rows  1  3 Minutes
Shoulders – Seated Overhead Barbell Press  2  15
Shoulders Superset – Dumbbell Upright Rows or Machine Shoulder Press  1  3 Minutes
Close Grip Bench Press  1  3 Minutes
Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls  1  3 Minutes
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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.