The 4 Day Strength Training Program That Actually Works

4 Day Strength Training Program

It doesn’t matter where you look, everyone has “the perfect strength training program” and gives you some out-of-this-world claim about how well it really works.

If you are reading this, it’s obvious you aren’t one of those people who see “add 500 pounds to your total” and automatically think how you are going to be the next world record holder.

Strength training boasts many different tried and true methods from 5/3/1 to Starting Strength, or simply different set and rep schemes.

What’s so special about this strength training program?

I’m not a world record holder and I do not have a track record of getting some of the biggest and strongest people on the platform, but I do know what works and what doesn’t.

Everyone’s body is a little different and responds to weight training differently, but the tools I’m going to give you in this program will get you on the right path to total powerlifting domination. (or at least stronger than you were)

Table of Contents

I am going to start writing more detailed training programs and I don’t want you to have to endlessly scroll through chunks of text just to find what you are looking for… so here is a table of contents.

  1. Intro
  2. What to Expect
  3. Supplementation
  4. Cardio and Conditioning
  5. Progression Scheme
  6. Warming Up and Injury Prevention
  7. Sample Program Schedule
  8. 4 Day Strength Training Program
  9. Exercise Substitutions
  10. Strength Training Program Tips

Strength Training Program

Intro

This 4 day strength training program is designed for beginners to early intermediates. Once standard progression and peaking doesn’t work, you are going to have to take a completely different approach to training.

This is a straight-forward approach that works with some time, effort, and eating. There’s no special hidden ninja secrets in this routine, if you are looking for that instead of results… I’m sorry.

What to Expect

This strength training program uses big compound lifts for the meat of the exercises. Assistance work will be done with dumbbells and machines and I will provide a list of exercise substitutions in case you have a limited equipment home gym or if the exercise is not as effective for you as another.

For those of you who are going to use their home gym, here’s the basics of what you will need.

  • Barbell
  • Dumbbells
  • Adjustable multi-use cable machine
  • Bonus: Dip Bar
  • Bonus: Pull Up Bar

Supplementation

I’m a firm believer that you need to dial in your diet and your sleep schedule before you start using supplements so you can get the most out of them.

I am going to break down the different supplements that I use or have used into 2 groups, “great to have” and “would be nice to have.” So if you have a limited budget on what to get, this will help you decide what to purchase.

Great to Have Supplements

These are supplements I prefer to use and when I am low on funds I buy these.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is something that’s been around for a long time. There are so many brands that are out there, you need to be careful to buy a reputable brand or you might get screwed out of your protein.

I have been a long time fan of Optimum Nutrition and still would buy their products. I currently prefer MTS Nutrition because they taste amazing, mix well, and their transparency with their process is great.

Pre-Workout

Pre-workout is a great way to get amped up for some heavy lifting, increase endurance and stamina, and help you get your pump on. There are a lot of pre-workouts around and I’ve tried quite a few.

I will have to say that I enjoy MTS Nutrition Clash because it doesn’t taste like ass and doesn’t make my stomach hurt if I take it. If you were around when Jack3d was made with DMAA, you know that there aren’t many pre-workouts that can hold a candle to that. I also like Cellucor’s C4 pre-workout, it’s not as pleasing of a taste but if you slam it you’ll be ready to tear up some weights.

I’ve heard a lot of great things about MTS Vasky which is a non-stim pre that you could also stack with a regular pre for an even bigger result.

Creatine Monohydrate

This is the most studied supplement in the industry and makes a huge difference on endurance and recovery. I highly recommend this supplement.

Pick a brand you like and buy theirs; I currently use Optimum Nutrition’s. I forget how long ago I bought this and I don’t know if I’ll ever use it all.

BCAAs

I almost put these into the nice to have supplements category but these serve more of a purpose to me than simply an intra-workout drink. I enjoy drinking these on some ice on a nice hot day or while I’m sitting at work, etc. Most of them taste good and it’s something I recommend. Again, MTS Nutrition’s Machine Fuel tastes the best and it is what I use.

Would Be Nice to Have Supplements

Multi-Vitamins

Multi-vitamins are never bad to take (unless you take too many) and these are a nice to have supplement. While I personally believe if you have a well-rounded diet and you eat fresh foods you don’t need to have a multi… it sure doesn’t help to get a boost in something you may be deficient in.

I like:

Probiotic

I was fortunate enough to use a probiotic for a short time and I will say that they are nice to use. If you don’t know what a probiotic does, they are bacteria and enzymes your body needs to keep your gut healthy.

I tried MTS Machine Uptake and it was a chewable chocolate wafer. It was eerily tasty and it was hard to eat only one.

Fat Burner

If you’re trying to operate on a calorie deficit, you know how hard it is to stay going throughout the day and train. If you’re looking for some extra punch to get through the day while getting rid of some fat, a fat burner may help. *This supplement relies heavily on having your diet and exercise on point.

  • Cellucor D4 – I’ve tried this and I will say that you will run hot. You get a lot of energy but you also product a lot of heat. *sweat warning*
  • MTS Drop Factor – I’ve also used this and combined it with some yohimbine and it was great as well. I ran a little hot but that’s the name of thermogenics.

Recovery

There are a couple of ways I recommend taking care of your recovery; supplements to shuttle nutrients to muscles, and sleep.

Personally I feel that sleep is the number 1 piece of the puzzle you need to make progress in the gym.

Shuttle Nutrients:

This can easily be done with a post-workout shake or a big healthy meal, but if you are short on time then these supplements will help.

Get Better Sleep:

ZMA is something I’ve used a lot and helps you get more REM sleep. A unique benefit to ZMA is vivid life-like dreams.

Casein Protein

Casein protein digests slower and is nice to take just before you sleep. I’ve never invested in any, I generally just used regular whey.

Optimum Nutrition Casein would be my choice if I were to get a casein protein.

Strength Training Program

Cardio and Conditioning

Cardio, conditioning, GPP, or whatever you want to call it… aerobic exercise is important for your health and to build strength.

There are so many different things you can do to increase your aerobic and anaerobic capacities, I can’t go over everything in this article but here’s what I recommend.

  • Sprints
  • Box Jumps
  • HIIT Cardio on Machines
  • Sports
  • Jump Ropes

Some low intensity cardio before you train is recommended for warming up your nervous system and muscles.

A sample conditioning program would look like this:

  • 5 minutes pre-workout warm up
  • Train
  • 20 minutes HIIT post-workout

or

  • 5 minutes pre-workout warm up
  • Train
  • 10 minutes sprinting

Getting off your ass and keeping your heart rate up is the key. Building your explosive power carries over to strength sports and I guarantee that your lifts will go up.

Progression Scheme

The progression scheme for this is easy; add more weight, take a deload week every 3rd week, and strive to improve form every session.

If you’re a complete beginner, I recommend starting light and working your way up. It is much easier to add 5 pounds a session with good form than it is muscling up the weight and hitting a plateau from poor form habits.

If you know what your personal records are for the big compound lifts, start with 75% and then add 5 pounds per week. For example if you bench 205, start with 150-155 and move up from there.

Since training for strength taxes your nervous system the hardest, picking a weight that is near or at your maximum weight will limit you on how far you can go with this routine… remember, we are building strength, not testing it.

Warming Up and Injury Prevention

Warming up seems to be something many people don’t understand… hell even I didn’t for a long time.

Warming up is important because it helps prime your body to perform exercises at its peak ability and helps prevent injuries. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t get injured if you warm up properly, but you are reducing the chances by doing so.

If you do not know how to warm up properly or if you are questioning how you warm up, listen up.

A lot of warming up goes by feel which means you have to start listening to your body and writing down in your log how the weight feels and learn to make adjustments.

My general rule of thumb for someone who is just beginning training or is not familiar how to properly warm up is to start with the bar and work your way up to about 80% of your working weight.

Example for warming up:

It is bench day and you will be doing 205 for 3 sets of 8. Here’s generally what I would have a client do.

  • Bar x 20
  • 95 x 10
  • 135 x 8
  • 155-160 x 8

Some people will argue there is science to warm ups and I will tell you that these book readers would rather critique your training and citing science studies than getting under the bar and training. Simply put, learn your body. I personally like a little more volume for warming up chest and shoulders.

Sample Program Schedule

Everyone has different schedules and that’s okay. If you can follow a schedule similar to what I’m going to show you, I feel it is optimal… but not necessary.

  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: Bench, Triceps, Calves
  • Tuesday: Deadlifts, Back, Biceps
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Military Press, Shoulders, Traps
  • Friday: Squats, Legs, Abs
  • Saturday: Off

Of course it doesn’t matter what days you do the program on but if you can do 2 days on, 1 off, 2 on, 2 off that would be ideal. Try to get a break in between 2 or 3 days of training so you don’t beat yourself up too much.

4 Day Strength Training Program

Bench, Triceps, Calves
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Bench Press 3 8
Machine Incline Bench 3 12
Dumbbell Incline Flies 2 15
Dips 4 8
1 Arm Tricep Extensions 3 10
Standing Calf Raise 3 12

 

Deadlifts, Back, Biceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts 3 8
Trap Bar Deadlifts 3 8
Bent Over Barbell Rows 3 6
Pull Ups 4 10
Cross Body Hammer Curls 4 12
Curl Machine 3 15

 

Military Press, Shoulders, Traps
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press 3 8
Barbell Upright Rows 2 15
Overhead Press Machine 4 12
Bent Over Laterals 3 15
Face Pulls 3 15
Dumbbell Shrugs 4 15

 

Squats, Legs, Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 8
Leg Press 4 10
Leg Extensions 4 12
Leg Curls 4 12
Weighted Decline Situps 3 20
Planks 3 ALAP

Exercise Substitutions

While I’ve chosen the exercises above carefully to create a balanced workout, some exercises we can’t do because of equipment or physical ability. Instead of guessing what exercises you could do instead, I wanted to make a list of exercises that I would suggest substituting.

  • Machine incline bench: Dumbbell incline bench
  • Dumbbell incline flies: Pec deck, flat dumbbell flies, cable cross machine
  • Dips: Dip machine, overhead dumbbell tricep extension
  • 1 arm tricep extensions: Tricep extensions with other attachments, tricep kickback
  • Standing calf raise: Seated calf raise, standing 1 leg calf raise
  • Trap bar deadlifts: Dumbbell deadlifts
  • Pull ups: Pull up machine, wide grip seated rows
  • 1 arm dumbbell rows: T-bar rows, barbell rows
  • Cross body hammer curls: Hammer curls, regular curls, preacher curls
  • Military press: Dumbbell overhead press, Arnold press
  • Barbell Upright Rows: Side dumbbell laterals, side lateral machine
  • Overhead press machine: Dumbbell overhead press, Arnold press
  • Face pulls: Reverse Pec Deck
  • Dumbbell shrugs: Barbell shrugs
  • Leg press: Hack squat, dumbbell deadlifts, goblet squats
  • Leg extensions: hack squats, pistol squats, goblet squats, reverse lunges
  • Leg curls: Stiff leg deadlift, Romanian deadlift, lunges, stiff leg dumbbell deadlift
  • Ab work: Whatever works for you; planks, sit ups, crunches, ab wheel, etc

Strength Training Program

Strength Training Program Tips

  • ALAP – As long as possible. The goal here is to increase your time you hold your planks.
  • Dont get in a rush – Training is a life-long thing and you should embrace the grind. Results come when you consistently train, eat right, and strive to get a little better every day. Ask any elite lifter and they will tell you how it doesn’t just come over night.
  • Learn to cook – This isn’t necessarily related to grabbing a bar and doing an exercise, but learning to cook will be the best thing you do for yourself. Cooking is fun and doesn’t have to cost a lot or take a lot of time to do; learn it and watch how much better you feel.
  • Record your lifts – Being able to go over your lifts and seeing what you may be doing wrong will help you dial in form. Don’t let a training partner cheat you out of progression when he says how “flawless and smooth” your squat is when you are squatting high and folding in the hole.
  • Keep a log – Whether it is on paper or your phone, keeping a log of your lifts, how they felt, and a general log of everything will help you learn what works for your body and what doesn’t. Hell I even recommend you keeping a log of your food whether you are looking to lose weight or not; you may find that you need more carbs before squat day or maybe cut down on calories before you deadlift to maintain optimal performance.
  • Don’t program hop – I invite you to try this program out for 12 weeks and see how far you can progress. If you program hop all of the time, you are never going to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
  • Have fun – This sounds cliché but being able to go into the gym and have some fun with the program is important if you want to succeed. Getting burned out and dreading going to the gym is not a good sign.

14 thoughts on “The 4 Day Strength Training Program That Actually Works

  1. Hey Cutty, I’m a college student and want to have a good lifting routine. Ideally I wanted to do a 5 day split but my schedule just will not allow it. Thursday’s I have class all day and volleyball practice at night and the gyms don’t open early enough or stay open late enough to get a lift in. I can’t find any good splits for four days where I can use my rest day as Thursday! Any suggestions? Thanks

    1. Scott,

      Sometimes even when you’re willing to put in the time things just don’t work out.. I hear you on that.. sucks that the gym isn’t available to you. I will say you could run 3 days in a row, have Thursday off and then Finish off on Friday. The way it’s set up you should be able to get along with having three workouts in a row. If you have weekends available you could also try a Mon/Tues, off Wed/Thurs, then Fri/Sat back on.. I don’t know what your schedule looks like but I would recommend trying it to see how you recover from it.

      Let me know if you have any more questions,

      Cutty

  2. Hey Cutty,
    How long do I rest between sets? As far as weight used, what percent of my 1 rep max should I use for bench, deadlift, military press, etc.? Thanks

    1. Jake,

      Sorry for not replying, I hit send but I guess it didn’t go through. I would start with 75% of your max and strive to add 5 pounds each week.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Cutty

  3. Hi Cutty Im a 42 year old male going back to gym after a long lay of will be training with my 17 year old son we are both very large is this a good program for us as our main goal is strength thanks.
    Mat

    1. Definitely Mathew. I would recommend spending a week or two getting back used to form and weight training before you start really packing on the weight. Eat plenty of nutritious foods and you’ll make some great strength gains.

      Good luck and keep in touch, let me know how you progress!

  4. Hello,

    I’m new to weight lifting and would consider myself to be the skinny kid. I’m 5’8′ and 135. I’m curious if this program would be good for packing on some muscle and building strength. I am currently a senior in college and am working my way into becoming a police officer so getting a little stronger would help me in the long run. Ideally I would like to get my bench up to about 170 by December if that is possible currently I can max out at about my weight. Also I wouldn’t mind some tips if you have any for someone looking to gain strength and muscle, especially when you have a fast metabolism.

    1. If you consistently can get to the gym to train, eating more food will pack on the muscle. Add more nutritious fats to your diet for easy calories. Since you are on the leaner side and plan on becoming a police officer, you can afford a few extra calories a day.

      For cardio do high-intensity interval training. This will help speed up your time in the gym, give you some conditioning that will be well-needed in that line of duty, and it helps with recovery.

      If you consistently eat about the same amount every day, add 300 calories to that. If you can afford some mass gainer or some whey, you can use whole milk to mix with them. I prefer MTS Nutrition, that’s what I use. You can get it at TigerFitness.com.

      You can certainly get that by December. If you just train and stick to it, there should be no reason why you can’t be closer to the 200 range by then.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  5. Hey!

    I finished a week of doing the 4 day powerlifting routine and stumbled upon this.

    It seems very similar because of the basics lifts, What are the differences between the two?

  6. I’m curious if I’m at a 155 squat 3rm, 75 overhead press 3rm, and 170 deadlift 3rm, what will my set increases look like? Am I correct in thinking that the weight increase happens weekly and not by set? A few moths back, was on a 4×5 (or something), where the coach had us go from warmup all the way up to 85 percent for each of the main exercises. I am damiliar with the large movements, but not the smaller accessory exercises- should I just stick to this program? Should I incorporate weight increases with every set? Thank you!

    1. You can pyramid each set, although ever since I started utilizing a warmup to my work weights (the weight you count as your reps) and maintain that. So if you were doing a 155 squat for your 3 rep max and your working weight was around 125 (around 80% of your 3rm), I would do: Bar by 8 reps, 85 x 5 reps, 105 x 5 reps, then I would do the 125 for your 3 sets of 8. The next week you will do 130 for 3 sets of 8. So you are only going up once per week.

      Warming up is on an individual basis – I would recommend doing as much work as you need before you get to your working weight without it fatiguing you. Bench I need more volume than I do for deadlifts. Squats I need more volume than deadlifts and bench needs more volume than squats. It’s all personal feeling on that.

      The smaller accessory exercises should be done after your big compound lifts, so you don’t really need much or any warming up since those muscles have already been worked. Let me know if you have any more questions… sorry it’s taken so long to respond!

  7. Hi Cutty. I recently found your website and so far, I’ve found it to be quite useful on the workout topics. I started last week on your 4 day strength training program, but with a bit of modification. I’d like to get your opinion on it or any suggestions you might have.

    I’m at 188 lbs now with a 24% body fat and I want to stick to this program for 12 weeks. My goal is to drop the weight to a range of 170-175 lbs with a 15% body fat goal.

    I’m following the exercises to the dot, but for warm-up on the 4 strength days, I’m doing about 25 minutes of jogging. Additionally, on the 3 days off, I’m focusing on jogging 4-6 miles on those days. Am I straining myself too much by adding significant jogging to the warm-ups and the days off. So far, I’m able to complete the workouts and I do feel the after workout muscle ache up to 2 days after, but I’m only in my second week.

    Also on my nutrition, I’m trying to go on a mild ketogenic diet. I mention mild because I still am having 1-2 bread slices/day or a cup of rice in one of the meals throughout the day. Additionally, I have about 2 cups of homemade plain yogurt daily made from whole milk. So overall, I’m focusing on meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, yogurt, olive oil, and avocados, with a some occasional exceptions of a cup or rice, potatoes, and some bread.

    1. Nutrition sounds on point. You’re making me hungry!

      The running is fine – you may test how you feel running after your lifting instead of before. If you feel ok or it’s not super strenuous – I’m just worried about your body being fatigued and it cause an injury. Other than that you are in decent shape so as long as you stay progressing in your lifts and feel good, stick to it man.

      Keep me updated.

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