4-Day Muscle Building Routine

For those that can only make it to the gym 4 days a week I thought you might find it helpful to view a sample 4-day Max-OT workout schedule.

There is nothing special about this arrangement or any other Max-OT arrangement for that matter. You can group the body parts and the order of days in any number of ways and still be effective.

Here are some important principles to keep in mind when constructing your schedule:

  • Train each body part once per week.
  • 4-6 reps for major body parts.
  • 6-8 total sets for bigger muscle groups.
  • 4-5 total sets for smaller muscle groups.
  • Select mostly free weight compound exercises.
  • Don’t group large body parts together like chest and back or legs and chest.

Day 1 – Chest & Triceps

Flat Bench Press….3 sets 4-6 reps
Incline Bench Press ….2 sets 4-6 reps
Weighted Dips….1 set 4-6 reps
Tricep Cable Pushdowns….2 sets 4-6 reps
Lying Triceps Extensions….2 sets 4-6 reps

Day 2 – Back & Biceps

Barbell Rows….3 sets 4-6 reps
Cable  Rows….2 sets 4-6 reps
Pull-Downs….2 set 4-6 reps
Barbell Curls….2 sets 4-6 reps
Dumbbell Curls….2 sets 4-6 reps

Day 3 – Legs & Abs

Squats….3 sets 4-6 reps
Leg Press….2 sets 4-6 reps
Stiff Leg Deadlifts…2 sets 4-6 reps
Cable Crunches….3 sets 8-12 reps
Swiss Ball Crunches….2 sets 12-15 reps

Day 4 – Shoulders & Calves

Shoulder Press….3 sets 4-6 reps
Side Lateral Raises….2 sets 4-6 reps
Rear Lateral Raises….2 sets 4-6 reps
Calf Raises On Leg Press …. 3 sets 6-8 reps
Seated Calve Raises….2 sets 6-8 reps

77 comments

  1. Hi Jeff for shoulder press, is it better to use dumb bells or a bar bell . :) thanks

  2. It is really cool to have a good muscle build, body fit and healthy body. Muscle building is not just for a show, but it also makes your body healthy and strong. As we all know that building muscle is not easy to accomplished, it needs good discipline. And thanks to this post, it gives me more idea about body fitness and muscle building.

  3. Hey Jeff

    I was wondering what is more effective in your opinion a four day plan such as this one or a five day plan. The reason i ask is because with a five day plan i get worried about overtraining my triceps because they are used on chest and shoulder days along with a workout targeting biceps, triceps and forearms

    Thanks

    Ben

  4. Hi Jeff, I’ve decided to start going to the gym and I want to follow this Max OT routine as 4 days a week is ideal for me. I was just keen to know how long do you think it would take for visible changes to kick in under your routine (given that I’m currently 200 pounds, around 14 – 16% body fat, 6’2″ and eating a healthy high protein diet and doing regular intense cardio). Would it really benefit me that much to increase the workload or should I stick to the routine? Thanks, and I love your site, Bill.

    • I would stick to the routine. There is not an advantage to adding more volume. The key is continual execution of the plan and 24 hour attention to nutrition.

      I think it is a good estimate to give yourself a solid 6-8 weeks of good execution to start noticing visible changes keeping in mind the better you execute all phases of the plan, the quicker you will see results.

  5. Hello there, You’ve done an excellent job. I’ll definitely digg it and for my part suggest to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this website.

  6. hi Jeff.

    in my chest workout there is bench press, incline dumbell press and dips. the question is that ; will the dips work the lower pecs as well as decline press?

  7. Hi Jeff,

    When im doing side and rear lateral raises i feel this pressure on my rotator cuffs when im lifting heavy shoulders, is that normal? because once im done with the workout i feel minor soreness and 1-2 hours later they feel normal again. I do not feel ive sustain any injuries because i am able to life my arms fine no problem.

    • If you are not feeling pain during the movements and you are focusing on maintaining good control and execution you should be fine.

  8. I Am deffintley going to try this 4day split:P It’s perfect for me

  9. Hi Jeff, thanks for the sample max-ot 4 day split routine. I have just come off a 4 day routine with 2 upper and 2 lower days. My goal is to do some strength training for 5-6 weeks before going back to hypertrophy 8-12.

    I have completed 2 days of this so far and I know that isn’t enough to judge the routine, however I must say that I am slightly concerned that I am not working each muscle group enough.

    I have been training regularly for over 6 years and more serious in the past 2-3 years with various routines so I am used to working for more sets.

    Because of the higher reps that I am used to it also feels with the lower rep range that because I am not getting the pump as much that I am not working as hard. However all of the sets I have done have been solid and no more weight could be added.

    Any input is appreciated. Maybe you think this routine is not right for me or possibly I just need to get used to the less sets and reps?

  10. avatar
    Doug Dozier

    Hey Jeff your 5 day workout routine, is it done on a 5 consecutive days or split up?

  11. Hey Jeff! How could I incorporate forearms and traps into the routine? Thanks!

  12. Jeff.. I am using your four day split http://www.jeffwillet.com/newsite/2011/08/4-day-muscle-building-routine… currently in my second week and loving the work out… My question is how many week do should I stay on this routine before making changes? And what type of changes should I make. What I am looking for a full 12 week program for four days a week. Do I stay with this routine for the full 12 weeks?… Thanks

    • I recommend 8-10 weeks on the same routine then take a recovery week off from training. When you come back you can do a different Max-OT arrangement if you choose. The principles will be consistent but you can change the order of days OR some body part groupings. As long as the core principles are in place that is the main thing.

  13. Hey Jeff! Could you please explain side raises done Max-ot style or maybe post a video? Going heavy in the 4-6 rep range I just dont feel it in my shoulders and they are not responding very well. I feel like Im gettting more of a back workout. I have been having trouble getting my traps,shoulders and arms to grow. Should I just slow the movements down in the same rep range and make sure I feel it? Thanks!

    • You may be going to heavy and swinging the weight too much. You want to find the balance between maximal weight and loose form. You don’t want to swing too much that gravity and momentum get involved. You need to make sure the majority of the overload is on the intended area.

  14. avatar
    ken hofler

    I been back working out hard for the last 2 yrs after a 20 year lay off but I did construction for those years I am 5’9” I am 220 36”waist 14.97 bodyfat what weight would I need to be at 12% bodyfat

  15. Hi Jeff. What are your diet recommendations. I’ve been training max ot for a while now. And I must say I’m making very impressive gains. But I’m putting together a diet now and was wondering how your protein, carbs and fats ratio. Cheers

  16. avatar
    Steve burt

    Hi I’ve been training for ten years doing each bodypart once every six days with ten to twelve sets per bodypart. I have seen zero gains for the last year so i’m going to try max ot. It seems too little to me but as you are vastly superior in condition to me I will take your lead. At the moment i’m 6ft at 90kg 14% bodyfat 17 inch arms n 43 inch chest can’t wait to see what a year on this routine yields

    • I think you will really enjoy the change and the gains. Just be patient. At first it is likely you will feel like you are not doing enough but once you settle on your weights and are working at a maximal level in the 4-6 range you will know you are doing plenty and won’t want any extra sets!

  17. Hi Jeff

    I am a natural bodybuilder and I have competed in UIBBN worlds before.
    My offseason weight is 98kg and competition weight around 90kg. I switched from 5 days training to 4 to emphasize on more recovery and I have lowered my volume. I find that my workouts feel a bit long but am worried about lowering the volume to the volume you suggest. Do you explain your low volume methods in detail in your books and your reasons behind why you prefer low volume and low rep(it obviously works judging by your accomplishments). Or if you can just give me some pointers as to
    why you believe so much in this low volume as many guys would feel this is too little volume. My volume is low but not that low and I would definitely want to try and give it a shot, but am little scared of doing it.

    Thanks

    • You can find a lot of blog entries that will help explain the basic Max-OT principles. In the Training DVD’s I also explain the basic Max-OT principles in detail. I’ve trained with the low volume Max-OT approach for over 14 years and instructed countless others with the methods to great success.

  18. Hi jeff,
    i’m using a 4 day plan, results are alright not sufficient for me.what do you think, is it right plan or not? am i over training? should i split them into 4 days and how? can you please help

    day 1 and 3

    chest press
    bench press
    dumbbell bench press
    dumbbell flyes
    low row
    seated row (cable machine)
    dead lift
    shoulder press (dumbbell)
    Military shoulder press
    lat pulldown
    leg press
    leg curl
    leg extention
    ab exercises-(6-7 exercises) 20 min

    day 2 and 4

    incline dumbbell press
    bent over row
    standing row
    squats
    lunges
    shoulder shrugs (dumbbell)
    shoulder shrugs(barbell )
    shoulder shrugs(plates)
    post/lateral raises
    side lateral raises
    bicep curls(cable machine)
    barbell curls
    one arm preacher curls
    hammer curls
    triceps push down
    triceps push down(rope attachment)
    skull crushers
    bench dips

  19. Hi Jeff! With time, I have realized that performing a 4 day split is best for my needs. Although, I really enjoy having an arm day and shoulder day.

    Sometimes I just dont have the energy or time to complete a heavy chest workout, then do triceps after or biceps after a heavy back workout.

    I dont plan on competing and was wondering if this split would be ok since I dont need a full day dedicated to legs. Im just want to make sure they are strong. Im happy with my leg development and strength.

    Mon- Shoulders/Traps
    Tues-Arms
    Wed-Off
    Thurs-Back(Alternating DL and Squats from week to week)
    Fri-Chest

  20. No need to comment back Jeff.. I got the split figured out! Happy New Year…

  21. Hey Jack.. I think I am gonna try your split.

    What would you say to do 30 min cardio after each workout and maybe also on rest days?

    Thanks a lot and happy new year

    • I think it is more effective to keep cardio shorter (16-20 minutes) and high intensity. Separate it apart from your workout if possible, if not it is OK to do it after training.

      • Is it effective to do cardio before weightlifting?

        • I think cardio is best after training so you don’t expend glycogen and pirate away energy Pre workout. You always want to be strong as possible for weight training.

  22. Hey Jeff,
    I’ve followed your routine and Max OT training and have gotten great results. But now, I am training for a marathon. I have to run 40 to 50 miles a week and dont know if I keep lifting max OT 5 days a week, my muscle will be eaten away. I’m obviously increasing calories from good carbs and prot, but the lifting schedule is what I’m not too sure about. How can I avoid loosing my muscle?

    • Continuing to train with the Max-OT principles is the best way to encourage muscle maintenance while endurance training. Keep heavy emphasis on post workout nutrition and high/consistent protein intake.

  23. Jeff,
    I just finished a 6 month deployment where I trained 5x per week with a dedicated training partner. Needless to say that after several months of Max-OT training I pressed more weight and look better than I ever have in my life. My only concern is: now that I’m home I won’t have a training parter to help with that spotting and to get that “final rep”. Should I expect my progress to suffer due to this? Curious as to what your thoughts are. Thanks.

    • Not necessarily. I think the main point is learning to stop at positive failure. You can still effectively overload the muscle. In fact, sometimes a partner encourages you to go for an extra rep rather than stopping on the last one which you could complete on your own.

      Focus on good execution and stopping at positive failure and you should still do well.

  24. Hi Jeff, I was looking at the OT principles and way of training, i noticed this kind of workout is very similar to H.I.T training done by Casey Viator/Athur Jones/Mike Mentzer/Dorian Yates. Did some of these men i mentioned inspire the OT way of training. Although it is similar i can see differences.

    • I never really followed any of the people you mentioned but certainly have respect for their intense work ethic.

      I learned Max-OT training from Paul Delia the founder and CEO of AST Sports Science. I was originally introduced to it by Skip LaCour.

  25. What kind of training did you used to follow prior to stumbling upon this preferd way of training methods? I tried OT chest and triceps while performing triceps push downs with a straight bar, within the first working set to 6 reps with a spotter i had received instant pump. Now it would usually take 3-4 sets 8-12 reps for a pump. However i have not received muscular soreness, do you believe in muscle soreness for optimal growth?

    • Muscle soreness doesn’t indicate overload success or the success of the workout.

      Just before I found/started Max-OT i had been training similar as far as volume and frequency so it wasn’t a huge jump for me. Biggest changes were keeping reps at 4-6 and using only compound lifts with little to know isolation movements.

  26. avatar
    Mike Davis

    Jeff,

    I just finished a training cycle using a 4-day split as follows:

    1) Chest/Traps/Abs
    2) Legs/Calves
    3) Delts/Triceps
    4) Back/Biceps/Forearms

    After my week off, do you recommend changing up the pairings or keeping the same routine?

    • Whether or not you change your arrangement mostly depends on if you want a change to keep things fresh mentally. I don’t think it is necessary to change every 8-10 weeks from a physiology stand point.

  27. Hi Jeff! I have been weight training for over 10 years and have made some great progress. Although, I have never felt that I needed a separate leg day. 3-4 sets of squats in the 4-8 rep range usually works just fine for me since I don’t have a training partner . Im not looking for cut hamstrings and calves. Just strong legs…I am not interested in competing and wanted to see if I could do squats on arm day in order to keep my 4 workouts per week and not having to worry about doing arms after chest or back?
    Thanks!

    • I personally don’t like to do legs with anything else but if you don’t have any issues with that and it suits your goals than I don’t see a huge issue.

  28. avatar
    mohammad

    commonly ” chest and biceps ” whats is the secret behind your different combination?

    • There is no secret combinations and non that are necessarily better than any other. The important thing when making the workout arrangement is to stick with all the basic Max-OT principles.

  29. Rest between sets?

    Sorry if this has already been asked

    Thanks

    • You want to take enough time between sets that you can exert another maximal effort. This is probably about 2-3 minutes. Some big exercises like squares may take a little longer and some exercise like wrist curls may take less.

      Again, enough time to exert another maximal effort and avoid fatiguing the muscle.

  30. also, forgot to ask, i train alone and find dumbbell shoulder press difficult to do alone. what do you recommend? standing barbell press?

    thanks

  31. Hey Jeff,

    I’ve been training according to Max OT principles for about 1.5 years now and I have experienced some tremendous gains. That being said, I’ve always incorporated Deadlifts in my schedules. What’s the reason you leave that exercise out sometimes?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Deadlifts are a great Max-OT exercise that I started doing later in my career and once I started them I included them in most of my routines.

  32. avatar
    Andrew Marvell

    Hey Jeff
    Can i do back with triceps and chest with biceps. My back day is really intense by biceps also get toasted during Max-ot back workout, i cant even life a 5lb dumbell after my back workout. One more thing is glutamine really that necessary ive seen on your other blog that yoy recoment it it gives me stomach cramps i want to stop taking it will it effect my performance.
    peace Andrew

    • Yes, you can use that body part grouping.

      I rate L-Glutamine as one of the most important supplements for building and maintaining muscle plus it’s immune system boosting effects. Make sure you are using a high quality micronized L-Glutamine product. If you are using a good quality product and still having stomach issues then you may have no choice but to discontinue use.

      • avatar
        Andrew Marvell

        Thanx for the advice Jeff. I will try to change the brand of L-Glutamine i have been taking Btw how many grams of L-Glutamine do you recommend. I take 30g a day i will switch to 10 g a day if i still have stomach cramps i will have to discontinue using it
        peace Andrew

  33. Hi jeff. With the Swiss ball crunches. If you do 15 reps easy. Should you start adding weight? Also should you do the entire warmup routine for abs after the leg workout? Or acclimation sets? Thanks jeff

    • Try to make the movement more difficult by making yourself less stable on the ball. One way to do so is by keeping only one for on the ground and the other leg extended straight. Alternate legs each set. If you can still do it easily after making the movement less stable you can add some weight.

      I think just a couple acclimation sets for abs should suffice.

  34. Hi im confused . So I do chest 3 sets or 6?

    • Total sets for chest should stay around 6. So if you do 3 chest exercises that would be 2 sets per exercise. If you do 2 chest exercises that would be 3 sets per exercise.

  35. Hey Jeff,
    In the last year I switched from long distance running to max OT and am really liking the strength improvements that I am seeing so far. However, I have crohn’s which can cause me to get sick for a few days where I eat very little. Once feeling better should I reduce the intensity of my lifting for a few days while I get my nutrition back on track, or is it safe to pick up where I left off? Thanks so much!

  36. avatar
    William E. Perna

    Hey Jeff,

    Would this be a good routine for beginners? Or should I do a training course on http://www.ast-ss.com first?

    Thanks.

  37. HI Jeff,
    I’m starting working out for almost 2 months and now I will follow the max OT program, my question is does amino 2222 will help me to grow my muscle faster or what effect should the amino will give me, I’m taking 1 before and 1 after work out… if possible is there any supplement that will help me to grow my muscle faster.. tnx jeff

  38. avatar
    Jason West

    Hi Jeff,

    A great thanks to your website and information! I keep photos of both you and Arnold to look at during my workouts to keep me dialed in.

    Im 6’2″ 225pounds 34 inch waist and Im so happy you posted a 5 and 4 day split routine for all of us to see. I love the change. Having to focus on 4-6 reps and keep workouts shorter and more intense has helped me so much.

    I hope to compete one day.

    Many thanks!!

  39. Thank you Jeff! I was looking for a 4 day split on Max-OT and this looks great. Thank you!

  40. I’m currently 16 and I’m trying to get bigger and more defined I’ve been lifting but it seems like I’m not getting the results I want i be been looking for programs asking around… But when I ask everyone tells me its all genetics it really makes me ticked.is this a true fact ?

    • People have different genetic potential for building muscle just as people have different genetic potential for running fast and jumping high. You can maximize your muscle building potential with a smart plan. Check out the tips on my blog for lots of helpful hints.

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