Recently, I have noticed several of my clients make significant improvements to their physique by reducing the number of times they work out per week. Wait, what?
If you’re anything like me, you love working out. When you’re not in the gym every day, you sometimes wonder what to do with your life. Or you think you might hurt your progression or you think you might miss out on making gains that day. Or maybe the gym is your therapy session and you just really look forward to hitting the iron—day in and day out. But what if I told you that training seven times per week might actually be holding you back?
You’d be surprised how often I hear the story of athletes making significant progress by actually working out less and resting more. They go from seven days per week to six days. Or six to five. But why not take it further and drop it down to four? Think you’ll stop progressing? Think again.
The benefits of adding more rest days to your split include:
• Better muscle recovery
• Reduced risk of injury
• Reduced fatigue and risk of overtraining
• More intensity
The nice thing about a 4-day split is that it allows you to optimally train each body part in a balanced fashion, while allowing for a nice staggering of rest days in between.
• Sunday: Quads, Hams, Glutes, Calves
• Monday: Off
• Tuesday: Back, Traps, Abs
• Wednesday: Off
• Thursday: Biceps, Triceps, Calves
• Friday: Off
• Saturday: Chest, Shoulders, Abs
4-day splits are nothing new. There are plenty of athletes who think this is simply not enough time in the gym to get the job done, but I disagree. You can hit the gym four times per week and progress quite nicely, but the key is to maximize your intensity during those workouts. They need to be intense. One of the best ways you can accomplish this is by increasing your “time under tension” (TUT) during your workouts.
For example, if you perform 3 sets of 10 bench presses at a 1-1-1 tempo, you are essentially moving the load for a total of 30 seconds per set, or 90 seconds for the entire exercise.
Conversely, if you changed your tempo to include just a 3 count negative (3-1-1 tempo), you would increase the time under load to a total of 50 seconds per set, or 150 seconds per exercise. If you applied this principle to 3 additional exercises in your workout, you would be increasing the amount of tension on your muscles by +60%. This allows you to be more efficient with your time in the gym, and it doesn’t require you to lift absurdly heavy weights. It can make “lighter” weights feel much heavier. Additionally, your muscles will fail on the concentric and static portions of the lift earlier than the eccentric, meaning you should be able to do several forced negatives. Too many people ignore the negative portion of the lift. Try focusing on it instead and see what happens. It works great with this 4-day split.
Give this example 4-day TUT(TLE) split a try:
Back, Traps, Abs
Deadlifts: 3 working sets
Barbell Rows (3 count negative): 3 sets 12, 10, 10
Pull-Ups (3 count negative): 3 sets to failure. If you cannot get at least 8 reps, then use the assisted pull up machine and be sure to travel through a full ROM.
EZ-Bar Reverse Grip Pull Downs (3 count negative ): 3 sets 15, 12, 10
Upright Rows: 3 sets 12
DB Shrugs: 3 sets 15, 12, 10, each with a 2 second squeeze at the top
Abs Giant Set Style
• Hanging Leg Raise: 3 sets 20
• Ab Roller: 3 sets 15
• Rope Crunch: 3 sets 25
Chest, Shoulders, Calves
Incline Bench Press (3 count negative): 3 sets 12, 10, 8
DB Press: 3 sets 12, 10, 8, each with a 2 count pause at both the stretch and contraction
Weighted Dips (lean forward for chest stretch): 3 sets 15, 12, 10, each with a 3 count negative
Smith Shoulder Press: 3 sets 15, 12, 10, each with a 3 count negative
DB Laterals: 3 sets 15, 12, 10
Incline DB Rear Laterals: 3 sets 15, 12, 10
• Seated Calf Raise: 3 sets 15, each with a 1 count at the contraction
• Leg Press Calf Raise (knees slightly bent): 3 sets 12, last set two drops each to failure
Quads, Hamstrings, Calves
Smith Machine Squats: 4 sets 12, 10, 8, 8, each with a 3 count negative and a 2 count pause at the stretch
Leg Press: 3 sets 15, 12, 10 (3 count negative), last set drop 30% after failure and immediately go to fail again
Sumo Leg Press (feet high and wide with toes pointed at 45): 3 sets 15, each with a 3 count negative
Lying Leg Curls: 3 sets 15, 12, 10, 8, last set two additional drops to failure. Each working set to be done with a three count negative.
Barbell Stiff Deadlift: 3 sets 12
Dumbbell Walking Lunges: 3 sets 12 reps per leg
• Seated Calf Raise: after warming up, one all out set of 15 reps but the cadence is everything. 5 count negative, 10 count pause at the stretch, then up. That is one rep.
• Standing Calf Raise: Again, one working set of 15 reps here but with the same cadence as above.
Triceps, Biceps, Abs
Barbell Curls: 3 sets 15, 12, 10, each with a 3 count negative
Alternating Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets 12
Hammer Curls: 3 sets 12, each with a 3 count negative
Dead-Stop Skulls on the Floor: 3 sets 12, each with a 3 count negative
Smith Machine Close Grip Bench: 3 sets 15, 12, 10
Weighted Dips (head and chest up, if you drop your chin this becomes a chest movement): 3 sets 12
Abs Giant Set Style
• Rope Crunch: 3 sets 25
• Abdominal Vacuum: 3 sets 30 sec
• Plank: 3 sets 45 sec Good luck. After doing this, you’re going to be very grateful for those three rest days per week. Trust me.