When it comes to training for the greatest possible results in terms of muscle size, strength, and leanness, we are always looking for a better day. Young bulkers discover that using heavy compound movements several times per week is a useful technique for building raw, unadulterated muscle mass. More intermediate lifters stick with 5 days a week split training, giving each major muscle groups its own training day as they blend mass training with isolation work to etch in detail. Advanced lifters often train 6 days each week, giving each muscle group full training attention twice, as they focus upon fine muscle detail while keeping the muscle foundation they built from years of training.
Wherever along that spectrum you fall, you are always seeking a boost to your training. Usually, that boost arrives when you attempt a training protocol you haven’t used in a while. Your muscle fibers grow accustomed to any workout you use, given enough time. Therefore the most successful lifters are the ones who change up their routines every few months in an effort to keep their bodies continually guessing. Training your body four times each week offers such a changeup that you just might find very beneficial. Let’s look at some of the most commonly asked questions regarding this training system.
How should I split my muscle groups?
This is the most important question. Let’s look at a simple split for 4-day training success:
Day 1 – Quads, Abs
Day 2 – Chest, Back
Day 3 – Hamstrings, Calves
Day 4 – Shoulders, Arms
You can split these training days up any way that you’d like. Most people like to use Day 1 on Monday, Day 2 on Tuesday, Day 3 on Thursday, and Day 4 on Friday, with Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday being devoted to rest & recovery.
How many sets & exercises should I be using for each training day?
You have roughly one hour to complete each workout. Choose 6 to 8 exercises for 3 to 4 sets each. You aren’t a beginner trainer, so you should be experienced enough to utilize instinctive training. Enter the gym, and tackle one heavy compound movement for 4 sets. Then knock out another complimentary movement for another 4 sets. Now, examine the clock, how you feel, what machines are open, and what direction you would like to move this workout. You know the basic exercises to use as you move from the heavy compound lifts which started your workout, to the isolation burn out movements which finish the day. Get creative!
Should I use straight training sets, or some modification?
When training in this manner, every set counts! Therefore any opportunity you have to introduce a training variant to shock the muscle groups, you should do exactly that. Of course, each workout should be started with some heavy compound lifts for 4 to 8 sets. After that, you are free to get creative. Down-the-racks are a great way to complete 8 sets of biceps curls in 5 minutes. Pre-exhaust is a great method for targeting the pectoral muscles with a movement like DB flyes, only to obliterate the entire region with incline barbell bench press.
What are the advantages of 4 workouts a week?
First off, this training protocol offers advantages in terms of time management. Enjoying three days OUT of the gym each week provides you more time for cooking, recovering, and many of the other ‘non-lifter’ aspects of your life which often become bogged down by training 5 to 6 days each week. Spending less than 4 hours with the weights each day means you have plenty of time to make sure you’re covering all of your other bases.
Additionally, training in this manner allows you to use high intensity with maximum creativity. You have enough time in the gym that not every set has to be perfect, as when training with HIIT or High Intensity Training. Some sets will not hit the mark, and that is fine. The idea is to enjoy the maximum amount of intensity for the most possible sets. And you can do that – if you are creative, focused, and driven. Remember that no workout has to last longer than 60 minutes, and you are only in the gym four days each week. You don’t have to be perfect – but you do have to be consistently driven on the days which you do train.
Can I modify this workout in any way?
Of course! This training system is ideal for those lifters seeking a boost to their lower body training, who might be quite satisfied with their arms and shoulders at the moment. For most lifters, who choose an early preference on the showpiece muscle groups like chest, biceps, and shoulders, an escape to leg emphasis training is preferable. However, if you are one of those rare breeds with strong legs and lagging arms and shoulders, you can change up this 4 day routine to meet your needs. Try combining the leg training, using Day 1 for Quads, Hams, and Calves. Then, use Day 2 for chest/back, Day 3 for Shoulders, and Day 4 for biceps & triceps. If you want to get really creative, you can alternate this system every other week. This would really keep your muscle groups guessing!
Should I stay active on my rest days?
For those lifters who are accustomed to training 5 to 6 days each week, there will be a metabolic drop-off as they start spending 1 to 3 fewer hours in the gym each week. You can accommodate for any loss in activity in two ways. First off, you can bump up your light cardiovascular activity (such as walking or mild treadmill work) on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Secondly, you can drop your calories gradually to accommodate for any surplus you now notice is starting to add a little weight to your waistline.