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How to design a 4-day workout split for beginners

Apr 26, 2023


How to design

a 4-day workout split

for beginners


Article written by Katie Barrett, Master Instructor SUF-CPT

How to train a client 4x per week

When it comes to training, there are plenty of ways to help your client reach their goals. A majority of the time we program full body workouts for clients training 3x per week. However, we also want to be prepared when we sign a client who is looking to train 4x per week. In this case we will use what is called a split routine. A split routine for 4x per week will consist of two, non-consecutive lower body days and two non-consecutive push/pull upper body days. For example:

Monday: Lower Body

Tuesday: Upper body push/pull

Thursday: Lower Body

Friday: Upper body push/pull

Full Body vs Split Routine

You may be wondering, “but which exercises (or patterns) should I put where?” Hopefully, you are familiar with our CCA method of programming, which takes all the guesswork out of programming! If you are not familiar with the CCA, it stands for Core, Core, Accessory. Core; meaning core pattern of movement: Squat, hinge, unilateral, horizontal push, horizontal pull, vertical push, vertical pull, and transitional/jumps. Accessory; meaning a single jointed exercise (bicep curl, leg extension), abs, something your client loves to do, cardio, pre-hab/rehab; it's where we add the FUN!

The main difference when programming a split routine vs the full body routine is, in a full body routine, we will pick 6 different patterns (body parts) to train in a single workout. In a split routine we will train the same patterns (body parts) for several sets in one single workout. Check out the example below:

*Full Body CCA: *Split Routine – Lower Body Day CCA – CAA – CAA

1. Goblet squat 1. Jumps 10 (Jumps)

a. Horizontal Push a. Goblet Squat 15, 12, 10 (Squat)

b. Accessory b. Plank 30 seconds (accessory)

2. Unilateral 2. DB Step Up 12, 10, 8 each leg (unilateral)

a. Vertical pull a. Banded kickbacks 12 each side (accessory)

b. Accessory b. Clients favorite ab exercise

3. Hinge 3. DB floor bridge 15, 12, 10 (hinge)

a. Horizontal Pull a. Leg extensions 15, 15, 15 (accessory)

b. Accessory b. Cardio Intervals (rower, bike, ski erg&)

*Assuming it's a beginner client we typically stick within 10-15 reps to strengthen connective tissue and optimize movement competency. If a client has been training for more than a month (Yoga, Pilates, Body Weight, resistance training, etc) then heavier intensities between 6-10 may be given.

Show Up Fitness CCA vs CAA (Core, Core, Accessory vs Core, Accessory, Accessory)

Normally, a full body program calls for Core, core, accessory for 3 sets. When programming a split routine, you can juggle the patterns and accessories around to achieve the desired goals by prioritizing a core pattern followed by an accessory or two. When programming for the upper body push/pull, we've got a lot of options! Check out the example below:

Upper Body Push/Pull

1. DB Bench Press 15, 12, 10

a. Single arm DB rows 15, 12, 10 each arm

b. Bicep curl (accessory) 15, 15, 15

2. Pull Ups AMRAP

a. Push Ups AMRAP

b. Lateral raises 12, 12, 12

3. Lat Pull Downs 12-15, 12, 10

a. Landmine press 12, 10, 8 each arm

b. Tricep extensions 15, 15, 15

As you can see, we have a horizontal press followed by a horizontal pull and an accessory. In set 2, we have a vertical pull followed by another horizontal push and an accessory. In set 3 we have another vertical pull followed by a vertical-ish press and accessory. For upper body day 2 we will program the patterns we did not include in this workout, or just repeat the patterns and change small variables such as using a barbell vs a dumbbell, or elevating a push up as opposed to doing them on the ground.

Have fun and experiment with it! Remember, there is no such thing as the PERFECT program. You will look back at your programming 6 months from now and chuckle because the more you actually DO IT, the better you will become. Just like anything else, you have to get your reps in to become really good at it!

What a 4-day split routine looks like with Katie&

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Show Up Fitness CPT has daily classes LIVE online that are recorded for on-demand within the Show Up Fitness APP. Our hands on internship is two months in San Diego and Los Angeles which begins June 5th.

Programming is super fun and easy once you learn the basic principles. Anatomy, movement patterns, agonists and synergists for each pattern, and appropriate rep ranges. We teach you EVERYTHING you need to know to become a successful personal trainer! Now go develop a 4 day split of your own and send it to me at so we can review it in our next programming class every Wednesday at 12 PST! We will see you in class!!

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