Best 5 Day Workout Split For Building Muscle and Strength

best 5 day workout split for building muscle and strength

A 5-day workout split is one of the most popular splits. It allows you to train frequently enough to get results while giving you two full rest days for recovery.

There are many ways to structure a 5-day workout split, so how do you know which option is best?

The best 5-day workout split is a bro split in which each training day is dedicated to a particular muscle group. Alternatively, you could structure your 5-day split so you’re training each muscle group twice a week by combining an upper/lower split with a push/pull/legs split. 

Five-day training splits are ideal for individuals who have been training for at least a year. Whether you’re trying to lose fat, gain muscle, or improve strength, a 5-day split can help you reach your goals.

In this article, I’ll show you how to structure a 5-day training split, customize it for your goals, and progress it so you can continue getting stronger and seeing changes in your physique. I’ll also discuss the pros and cons of a 5-day training split and the results you can expect from following a 5-day training split.

At the end, I’ll give you a sample 5-day training routine.

If you want to get started right away, download the Fitbod app. You can customize your workouts based on your schedule, equipment availability, and goals, and you have access to hundreds of demo videos to ensure you’re doing each movement correctly. Download Fitbod today to get your first three workouts for free!

Benefits of a 5-Day Workout Split

benefits of a 5-day workout split

The benefits of a 5-day workout split are that:

  • You get two full rest days
  • Workouts can be shorter
  • It’s effective at building muscle

1. You Get Two Full Rest Days

Training 5 days a week gives you two full rest days, which are necessary to help your body recover and grow. Muscles aren’t built during exercise – they’re built afterwards as they repair themselves from the stress you’ve just put them through.

It’s frequently recommended to have at least 1 rest day each week, but bumping that up to 2 rest days a week gives your muscles even more opportunities to recover and grow.

Related Article: How To Deload For Bodybuilding (Ultimate Guide)

2. Workouts Can Be Shorter

Following a 5-day training split may mean that you can spend less time in the gym. Your training volume is spread out across more days, so you don’t have to try to cram a ton of sets into each workout.

And since you likely won’t be doing full-body workouts, you don’t have to warm up multiple muscle groups before you start lifting.

After you complete the first one or two movements, you may not even need to spend a lot of time building up to your working sets for the rest of your exercises. Your muscles will already be primed and ready to go, especially if you’re training complementary muscle groups on the same day (for example, chest and triceps, which are both heavily trained with push movements).

Furthermore, if you keep your rest periods short and superset some movements (moving from one exercise to the next with little to no rest in between), you can likely be in and out of the gym within an hour.

Related Article: How Long Should A Workout Be? (Science-Backed)

3. It’s Effective at Building Muscle

Five-day training splits are so popular because they work. They allow you to focus on just one or two muscle groups each workout, which means you can potentially do a higher amount of volume per muscle group per week while still giving them plenty of time to recover before you train them again.

These workout splits are especially beneficial for advanced individuals who are no longer seeing progress from doing full-body or linear strength routines fewer days per week.

Bumping up the training frequency to 5 days a week means you can either train specific muscle groups twice a week or dedicate entire training days to one muscle group, allowing you to maximize your muscle-building efforts.


Need a workout program? Get 3 free workouts on Fitbod right now.


Drawbacks of a 5-Day Workout Split

The drawbacks of a 5-day workout split are:

  • It requires dedication
  • It doesn’t leave much flexibility for other workouts
  • You may only train certain muscle groups once a week
  • It’s not ideal for beginners

1. It Requires Dedication

I mentioned earlier that a 5-day training split can result in less time spent at the gym. But you still need to actually get there 5 days a week, which can be a challenge if you have a busy work schedule or a lot of family responsibilities.

2. It Doesn’t Leave Much Flexibility for Other Workouts

Lifting weights 5 days a week can be tough if you also like to play recreational sports or do cardio or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts throughout the week.

Your body needs time to recover so your muscles can repair themselves, and trying to cram additional activities onto your rest days with a 5-day split can hinder your progress. The same may be true if you try to do two workouts a day. It can also lead to muscle strains or overuse injuries, which can sideline you for several weeks.

3. You May Only Train Certain Muscles Once a Week

Depending on how you structure your 5-day split, you may end up only training certain muscle groups once a week. This is a disadvantage if your hamstrings, for example, are a weak link in your other lifts or your physique and you only dedicate one workout day a week to them.

Additionally, the length of time that passes before you train a muscle group again can increase if you have to miss a workout. You may end up having to skip working out a muscle group entirely for the week or push all of your workouts back, which can mess up your training schedule.

4. It’s Not Ideal for Beginners

A 5-day training split isn’t ideal for beginners, who need to slowly build up to working out at a higher frequency.

Going from not working out at all to training 5 days a week can cause excessively sore muscles (or worse, injuries), which can lead to demotivation and resentment towards working out.

As well, beginners are able to make strength and physique gains more quickly than advanced gym-goers because their bodies haven’t yet fully adapted to the training stimuli. A 5-day split simply isn’t necessary if you’re new to working out because you can make a significant amount of progress from following a 2- or 3-day workout routine.

Related Article: How To Pick The Best Workout Split For You

How to Split Up Your 5-Day Workout Split

how to split up your 5-day workout split

One of the most common ways to split up a 5-day training routine is to follow a bro split. A bro split is one in which you train each muscle group once per week.

Your training schedule would look something like this:

  • Monday – Chest
  • Tuesday – Back
  • Wednesday – Legs
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Arms
  • Saturday – Shoulders and core
  • Sunday – Rest

Another way you can split up a 5-day workout split is to combine two other popular training splits: an upper/lower split and a push/pull/legs split.

In an upper/lower split, you train all upper body or all lower body muscle groups in the same workout. In a PPL split, you train muscle groups based on the functions they perform. Push muscles include the chest, triceps, and shoulders while pull muscles include the back and biceps. Legs are trained on their own day.

The benefit of doing this is that you can train your muscle groups twice a week instead of once a week, which you may want to do if you’re trying to break through a strength plateau or grow your muscles at a faster rate. The schedule would look like this:

  • Monday – Upper body push
  • Tuesday – Lower body and core
  • Wednesday – Upper body pull
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Upper body (full)
  • Saturday – Lower body and core
  • Sunday – Rest

With either plan, you can change the days on which you train certain muscle groups, but just be mindful of which muscles you train on back-to-back days.

For example, training chest and shoulders on consecutive days isn’t ideal because the shoulders are involved in a lot of pressing movements that target the chest. You won’t have a very successful shoulder day if you train them the day after training the chest.

Can You Do Full-Body Workouts 5 Days a Week?

It’s generally not recommended to do full-body workouts 5 days a week. Inevitably, you’ll have to work out at least 3 days in a row. This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but it can be detrimental if you’re training the same muscle groups over and over again without giving them enough time to rest in between each workout.

If you prefer to do full-body workouts, I recommend doing them no more than 3 days per week on non-consecutive days. You can always do two days of active recovery or low-impact cardio if you’re keen on making it to the gym 5 days a week.

Related Article: Full-Body Workouts Every Day: Will You Get Better Results?

How to Progress a 5-Day Workout Split

One key element of any successful workout routine is consistently progressing so you continue getting stronger and improving your physique. To progress on a 5-day workout split, you have to take things like exercise selection, volume, and training intensity into consideration.

Exercise Selection

The exercises you choose to do in a 5-day workout split will depend on your goals, weaknesses, any physical limitations you may have, and your preferences.

For example, if you want to grow your quads but don’t have any plans to compete in powerlifting and dislike barbell back squats, you don’t have to do them. There are plenty of other quad exercises to choose from such as hack squats, leg presses, or Bulgarian split squats.

Related Article: Can You Get Big Legs Without Squats? (Yes, Here’s How)

To ensure you’re building an even physique and not over-developing certain muscle groups while neglecting others, I recommend choosing 3-5 exercises per muscle group per week.

I also recommend stickjng with the same exercises for 4-6 weeks rather than doing different exercises each week (for example, doing walking lunges one week and then Bulgarian split squats the next week). This gives you enough time to be able to progress each movement while still ensuring that you’re training your muscles through different movement patterns and angles.

It’s also a good idea to choose a combination of both compound and isolation exercises.

Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at a time. They include barbell squats, deadlifts, bench presses, lunges, and pull-ups. Isolation exercises work one muscle group at a time. They include bicep curls, lying hamstring curls, leg extensions, and skull crushers.

Including both compound and isolation exercises in your 5-day split is ideal for muscle building and strength. The compound lifts help you get stronger because you can move heavier loads, while the isolation exercises help you target the muscles that don’t get a lot of attention in the compound exercises.

Volume

Volume refers to the total number of sets and reps you do for each muscle group per workout or per week. Regardless of what workout split you follow, it’s important to make sure you’re training each muscle group relatively evenly throughout the week to avoid muscle imbalances, injuries, and an uneven appearance.

Research shows that anywhere from 10-20 sets per week per muscle group is ideal for hypertrophy. If you’re doing 4 exercises per muscle group per week, this would be anywhere from 3-5 sets each.

It’s also important to pay attention to rep ranges. Training in lower rep ranges from 1-5 with heavier weights is best for improving strength. Higher rep ranges from 6-20 with lighter or more moderate weights are best for hypertrophy.

To get the best of both worlds, you may choose to do your compound movements in the lower rep ranges and your isolation exercises in the higher rep ranges.

However, it’s best not to keep following the same set and rep schemes for weeks on end. You can break your training split into smaller blocks so you’re performing higher reps for hypertrophy for 6 weeks then lower reps for strength for 6 weeks. Not only will this help you build both muscle and strength, but it will also prevent you from getting bored.

Training Intensity

Training intensity refers to how easy or difficult your sets and reps feel. Lifting weights 5 days a week can be a lot, so it’s important to manage training intensity properly. It will allow you to keep training consistently while reducing your risk of injuries and overtraining.

At the same time, you want to keep challenging yourself so you get stronger and continue to grow. You can aim to add weight to each of your lifts each week (for example, 5lbs for upper body lifts and 10lbs for lower body lifts), but this kind of progress isn’t sustainable for long, especially for advanced lifters.

Furthermore, I don’t recommend training to failure (the point where you can no longer perform a rep with proper form) with each workout. Doing this puts a lot of stress on your central nervous system and can make it more difficult to recover.

Instead, I recommend leaving 2-3 reps in reserve (RIR) with each of your sets. This means selecting a weight that allows you to complete all reps across all sets with proper form while feeling like you can complete 2-3 more reps.

You should only move up in weight once you can complete all reps in all of your sets with good form following the RIR protocol. Otherwise, you should stay at the same weight the following week or only increase weight for the number of sets you were able to complete your prescribed reps.

Let’s take barbell back squats for example. If you have 4 sets of 6 and complete all reps across all sets at 175lbs, you can increase the weight to 185lbs the next time. If you were only able to complete 2 sets of 6 at 175lbs and could only do 4 reps for the next 2 sets, you could either repeat all 4 sets at 175lbs the next week or do two sets at 185lbs and two sets at 175lbs.

Tailoring a 5-Day Workout Split for Your Goals

Gaining Muscle

A 5-day training split is ideal for those looking to build muscle. As I mentioned earlier, you can train just one or two muscle groups per workout while giving them several days to recover before training them again. That focus on specific muscle groups with ample recovery time provides optimal conditions for allowing them to grow and strengthen.

For muscle-building goals, one of the most important elements is eating in a calorie surplus (more calories than your body needs to maintain its weight). You can’t build muscle if you aren’t eating enough.

You can figure out how many calories you need and an ideal daily macronutrient split (the breakdown of protein, fats, and carbs) using a calculator like this Precision Nutrition one.

I mentioned earlier that 10-20 sets with 6-20 reps per muscle group per week is effective for hypertrophy. If you have muscle-building goals, I recommend training at the higher end of those ranges.

You’ll likely also need to train with more volume if you have a year or two of training experience under your belt. As you get more advanced, your body adapts and stops responding to the training stimulus the same way it did when you were a beginner. Thus, it becomes necessary to increase your training volume as you get more experienced.

Fat Loss

A 5-day training split is also ideal for fat loss. You may not be able to gain a lot of muscle or strength when you’re in a calorie deficit (fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its weight), but this split can help you preserve as much muscle mass as possible.

As I mentioned above, a 5-day lifting split doesn’t leave much room for you to add other workouts and have time for adequate recovery during the week. But if you have the time to do so, you could add 30 minutes of low-impact cardio to the end of your lifting workouts or lift in the morning and do cardio at night.

But if that’s not feasible for you and you want to add some cardio to your routine to help accelerate your fat loss efforts, you may consider cutting your lifting down to 3 or 4 days instead so you can have 1-2 cardio days per week.

This could look like a 3-day full-body split with 2 cardio days or a 4-day upper/lower split with 1 cardio day per week. 

Related Article: 10 Types Of Cardio Workouts For Fat Loss (That Actually Work)

Another thing to consider when following a 5-day workout split for fat loss is overall training volume and intensity. When you’re in a calorie deficit, you may feel weaker and more sluggish than usual. Dieting is also a stressor on the body, and adding intense workouts on top of that can make it harder for you to recover.

If you struggle to get through your workouts, you can try lowering the number of sets you do per exercise (for example, decreasing from 4 to 2-3 sets).

I also recommend not trying to push very heavy weights when you’re in a calorie deficit (though you may still need to do so if you’re a competitive powerlifter or Olympic weightlifter trying to make a weight class for an upcoming competition).

It’s best to stick with lighter weights (anywhere from 70-80% of your 1RMs if you have that information, or leaving 3-4 reps in reserve with each set) that won’t stress your central nervous system too much.

Results You Can Expect From a 5-Day Training Split

The results you can get from a 5-day training split will depend on your experience level, diet, how consistently you are actually training 5 days a week, and how much other physical activity you get outside of your lifting workouts. Gender and starting body weight or body fat percentage can also affect your progress.

Let’s say you have two years of training experience and want to bulk to gain muscle. Assuming you are eating in a 200-300 calorie surplus and not doing an excessive amount of cardio, you can expect to gain 0.5-2lbs of muscle per month. 

This would equal 1.5-6lbs of muscle in a 3-month (12-week) period. Females and those with more training experience may be at the lower end of that range, while males and those with less training experience may be at the higher end.

You could combine a 5-day training split with a dirty bulk or eat in a higher calorie surplus to gain weight more quickly, but you risk gaining a higher amount of fat by doing this. 

If you’re trying to lose fat, it’s recommended to aim for 0.5-2lbs of fat loss per week, or 6-24lbs in 12 weeks. This allows you to decrease calories gradually (by about 200 of your maintenance calories), which can make your diet more sustainable and easier to stick to. It also prevents a signifiant loss of muscle mass.

Again, this assumes that you’re sticking to your calorie goals every day. Males and those who are starting with higher body fat percentages will likely experience greater fat loss results, while females and those who are already fairly lean may lose fat at a slower rate.

Key Takeaway: You can expect to gain 1.5-6lbs of muscle or lose 6-24lbs of fat in 12 weeks following a 5-day training split. However, this assumes that you’re consistently eating enough calories to support your goals and not doing too much cardio (if you want to build muscle) or doing moderate amounts of cardio (to support fat-loss efforts). How quickly you’ll see results will also depend on your gender, starting body weight or body fat percentage, and experience level.

5-Day Workout Split Example

5-day workout split example

Below is a sample 5-day workout routine. This routine is designed for individuals who have been working out for at least a year.

If you’re a Fitbod app user, keep in mind that you may not see this exact workout in the app. This is simply an example of how you can structure a 5-day split based on the recommendations I provided above. You can find additional routines in the app that automatically update based on your individual training history and progress.

Day #1: Chest Day

  • Barbell bench press – 4 x 6-8
  • Dumbbell incline bench press 3 x 10
  • Cable crossover fly – 3 x 12
  • Dip – 4 x 12
  • Push up – 4 x AMRAP (as many reps as possible)

Day #2: Back Day

  • Bent over barbell row – 4 x 6-8
  • Seated cable row – 3 x 10
  • Lat pulldown – 3 x 12
  • Dumbbell shrug – 4 x 12-15
  • Pull up – 4 x AMRAP (as many reps as possible)

Day #3: Leg Day

  • Back squat – 4 x 6-8
  • Romanian deadlift – 4 x 6-8
  • Barbell hip thrust – 4 x 10
  • Leg extension – 3 x 12
  • Leg curl – 3 x 12

Day #4: Arm Day

  • Close-grip bench press – 4 x 6-8
  • Barbell curl – 4 x 6-8
  • Cable rope tricep extension – 3 x 10
  • EZ-bar curl – 3 x 10
  • Diamond push up – 3 x AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
  • Hammer curls – 2 x 12 (per arm)

Day #5: Shoulder and Core Day

  • Barbell shoulder press – 4 x 6-8
  • Dumbbell shoulder press – 3 x 10
  • Front plate raise – 3 x 12
  • Cable face pull – 4 x 12
  • Ab rollout – 4 x 10-12
  • Hanging knee raise – 4 x 10-12

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try 3 free workouts on Fitbod.


Final Thoughts

Five-day training splits are popular because they’re effective. They provide a good balance of high enough training frequency to elicit results while allowing the muscles ample time to recover each week. However, they do require dedication and won’t work as well if you can’t make it to the gym 5 days a week consistently.

Additionally, these splits are not for beginners. They’re best for advanced individuals who have progressed beyond full-body and linear routines and need more specialized training.


About The Author

Amanda Dvorak

Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.