Lifting six days a week is not overtraining; it can be very effective for those who have a limited amount of time to spend in the gym and those who need to train more frequently to see results. However, lifting six days a week can increase the risk of overtraining if you are not recovering properly.
This article can help you develop the best 6-day workout split to improve your fitness without overtraining.
If you want to maximize your muscle growth and strength, let Fitbod help. On average, a new Fitbod user who trains 3 times a week for about 45 minutes will see a 34% strength increase after 3 months. Try Fitbod for free.
What Is (and is NOT) Overtraining
Overtraining is the imbalance between training and recovery. As you train hard, your recovery demands increase. Your recovery is impacted by your workouts, nutrition, sleep, hormones, and stress (life, work, emotion).
A properly designed training program should systematically progress the intensity of your workouts over many weeks to allow the body to adapt as demands increase, this is called progressive overload. This process will slowly place more stress on the body as you progress through your program.
This short-term imbalance (often towards the end of a training program) can result in overreaching, which is not the same as overtraining.
Acute overreaching can be productive for helping you progress to peak fitness levels for a certain period, followed by a deload, which is a period of training (days or weeks) meant to reduce stress and encourage recovery.
Overtraining occurs when overreaching continues past the acute phase and you neglect the body’s needs for recovery from hard training. Pushing past what your body can recover from will cause overtraining.
Related Article: 4 Day Push Pull Workout Routine
Can You Overtrain Lifting 6 Days A Week?
Yes, you can overtrain lifting six days a week, and you could also overtrain even if you’re only lifting 3, 4, or 5 days a week. The overtraining process is less dependent on the total number of workouts you do per week and more on the accumulated effect of repeat workouts over weeks and months.
A well-crafted 6-day program that allows lifters and athletes to recover between sessions is less likely to lead to overtraining than a 4-day program where a lifter trains too aggressively each session.
Signs Of Overtraining
According to the American Council of Sports Medicine, more than 125 signs and symptoms of overtraining have been published in the literature. The expansive list of documented signs and symptoms of overtraining can make it challenging for coaches and health professionals to diagnose it.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Persistent heavy, stiff, and sore muscles
- Persistent fatigue, washed-out feeling
- Decreased performance and ability to maintain the training regimen
- Increased susceptibility to infections, colds, headaches
- Nagging and somewhat chronic injuries (joint or connective tissue)
- Sleep disturbances
- Decreased mental concentration and restlessness
- Increased irritability
- Tachycardia (higher than normal resting heart rate) and, in some cases, bradycardia (lower than normal resting heart rate)
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Bowel movement changes
- Absence of menstruation
Can You Test for Overtraining?
While some research has shown some compelling evidence to suggest that you may be able to test for overtraining via a finger tap test (or at least predict it more accurately in lifters and athletes), it is still not a straightforward diagnosis process.
Researchers found that a finger tap test may positively detect central nervous system (CNS) fatigue from high-intensity workouts. This in combination with the symptoms listed above could help diagnose overtraining syndrome.
How To Train 6 Days A Week Without Overtraining
Below are five rules to follow to train six days a week while minimizing the risk of overtraining.
Rule #1: Follow a Program
Following a program that allows you to progressively overload your workouts is necessary to build strength and/or muscle, and also prevents you from doing too much in any single session.
Doing too much in a single session can hinder your next workout and create issues over time as a lack of recovery compounds.
This is why it is so important to have a workout split that meets your needs and abilities, as well as one that you can record and track your progress.
With the Fitbod app, you can do exactly that. The app will also help you track your workouts and suggest how to progress each week to get results without overtraining.
Rule #2: Listen to Your Body
Training six days a week is generally reserved for intermediate and advanced lifters because they have trained enough to know when their body feels good and when it doesn’t.
When you lift almost every day, you will certainly have days when you feel stiff, sore, and weak compared to normal.
While that is all part of the process of adapting to new stresses, you need to learn to recognize the difference between you being sore and low on energy, versus you losing stability and control, or having joint/connective tissue pain.
I often find that if I experience more and more body aches, low energy, and soreness when training six days a week, it is typically because I’m not prioritizing my recovery (eating enough food, getting enough sleep), lifting too heavy, or doing too much work in a single session.
If you feel more beat up than usual and are noticing more and more fatigue and stiffness, then try backing off for a few days because it could be the difference between long-term success or derailing your progress due to overtraining.
Rule #3: Eat Enough Calories
When training six days a week, you must ensure you are eating enough calories to train hard, recover, and meet your daily needs outside the gym. Most people should strive to eat at least maintenance-level calories (eating the exact number of calories you need to maintain your weight).
That said, if you want to maximize performance and build as much strength and muscle as possible, you should eat slightly above maintenance (calorie surplus).
If you are looking to train six days a week during a cutting phase, you can do so as long as you are realistic with how hard you can push yourself and how much you can progress every week.
When dieting, your goal should be to train hard enough to preserve muscle and strength and to increase energy expenditure rather than maxing out your intensity every set.
If you are dieting and training six days a week, train with moderate to lighter loads in the 5-10, or 10-20 rep range, leaving 1-3 good reps in the tank every set.
Related Article: Should I Lift Heavy of Light to Lose Weight?
Rule #4: Prioritize Sleep
Sleep is one of the best ways to ensure you are recovering properly. During sleep, your body repairs itself after hard training sessions and also improves hormone production (testosterone, growth hormone).
Low levels of sleep have been linked to reduced reaction time, motor performance, mental cognition, energy levels, and mood disturbances. This is why it is recommended that you should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
For some individuals, 7-9 hours a night of consistent sleep can be challenging, which is why it is important to establish a nighttime routine where you prepare yourself to sleep.
This can include minimizing phone and TV screen usage before bed, reading, or meditating before bed. There are many ways to unwind from a tough day that can all be explored as needed.
Napping can also be useful for improving recovery, especially if you find you need more sleep than 7-9 hours a day or are unable to get that amount of sleep regularly.
Naps should be limited to no more than 30 minutes and should not be done in the afternoon or evening (otherwise, they will interfere with your sleep).
Rule #5: Don’t Train Through Joint/Connective Tissue Discomfort
Training through soreness and low energy is one thing, but when your joints and connective tissues start to have aches and pains, it’s time to back off.
I find this happens when I have done the same movements for many weeks at a time when I lifted too heavy, or a combination of the two.
Training through joint and tissue pain and discomfort can cause injuries to the surrounding tissues that can take months to overcome.
Choosing the right movements and understanding how hard to train at each point in your program is also key.
With the help of the Fitbod app, you can properly design a program based on your goals and needs while also ensuring you progress slowly to allow your body to adapt and improve over the long term.
Who Should Lift 6 Days A Week?
Those who would benefit most from lifting 6 days a week are:
People Who Want to Lift 6 Days a Week
If you have the desire, and motivation, and have developed the habits to allow you to train six days a week, then by all means, go for it.
However, if you decide to train six days a week, you need first to ensure you have developed the discipline to stick to your program and create time in your schedule to complete the entire 6-day workout split.
As long as you are following a program that progresses you in a controlled manner (and you have been training enough leading up to increasing your workout frequency), you should be fine.
More Advanced Lifters
Training more often during the week is one way that high-level lifters and athletes can have high-quality workouts without doing too much in any given session.
When you spread the total amount of work you need to do in a week from 3-4 workouts to 6, you allow yourself to do less overall volume on any given day. This can help recovery and help you attack each session with all your mental energy and focus.
As an advanced lifter and athlete, workouts can become very strenuous, and when they take longer than 45-60 minutes, your energy and mental stamina can become drained. This is one of the main reasons many advanced lifters choose 5-6 days split over 3-4 days.
Related Article: How Fitbod Determines Your Muscle Recovery Between Workouts
People Who Cannot Train for More than 30 Minutes A Session
While you certainly do a lot of good work in 30 minutes, the reality is that if you are someone who is in and out of the gym in 30 minutes and is struggling to get results, you simply are not putting in enough time and energy to bring about positive results.
Training more frequently is often the best option for people who cannot spend 60 minutes at the gym, as you can spread your training volume across many sessions.
For example, doing six 30-45 minute sessions a week vs. three 60-75 minute sessions.
I find that people who struggle with energy during longer workouts also get better results when training more often during the week but with shorter sessions, as they can train harder for shorter periods and recover in between workouts more easily.
Disclaimer: This is based on my experience as a trainer and someone who has been lifting at a very high level for over 20 years. I understand this may not apply to everyone.
Who Should NOT Lift 6 Days A Week?
Those who would NOT benefit from lifting 6 days a week are:
People Who Have Not Mastered Lifting 3,4, or 5 Days a Week
There is really only one group of people who should not lift six days a week, and that is people who haven’t been training three to five days a week.
While some beginners and intermediates may want to train almost every day, the reality is that they can get similar results training four to five days per week consistently, instead of trying to train six days and being inconsistent.
Training six days a week is not only challenging for the body, but it is also mentally challenging. It forces you to prioritize your exercise, diet, and sleep which often causes you to sacrifice free time and poor eating choices.
Recovery is the name of the game when training six days a week, so if you have not mastered training hard four to five days a week, you should not progress your training to six days a week.
The only exception is if you want to train six days a week because you can only commit short time frames to the gym daily. In this case, doing shorter, almost daily workouts (when appropriately programmed) could be a great option to help you get your fitness in without being limited by your schedule.
Related Article: How to Recovery Better From Hard Workouts
6-Day Sample Workout Split
When you are training six days a week, this typically means you have concrete goals. This may be to build as much muscle as you can, prepare for a competitive event in powerlifting or weightlifting, or you are looking to improve multiple areas of your fitness at once.
Designing a plan needs to be done with the overall goal in mind, which is why not all 6-day workout plans will work for everyone.
That said, below, I have made a 6-week workout split geared for intermediate and advanced lifters who want to increase their strength in the compound lifts (bench, squat, and deadlift) while increasing their lean muscle mass for performance and aesthetic purposes.
If you want to use the program below, note that the exact workouts will not be found in the Fitbod app. However, the exercises will be. You can use the below workout split as a template to build your program in the app.
Lastly, if you are to do this plan or something like it, you are either in a maintenance or bulking phase of your diet. Training hard six days a week can be very intense and requires consuming enough calories to fuel hard training, daily life, recovery, and building new muscle tissues.
If you are doing this to lose weight, I suggest you only do 2-3 sets of every movement and be more conservative with loads and week-to-week progressions of weights, as dieting can make it difficult to recover from tough training sessions.
Day 1 – Chest and Back
- Barbell Bench Press: 5 sets of 3-5 reps with 80-90% max, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
- Hammer/Smith Machine Chest Press: 3 sets of 5-10 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets
- Machine Chest Fly: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Bent Over Row: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Lat Pulldown: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
Day 2 – Hamstrings, Quads, and Calves
- Barbell Romanian Deadlift: 5 sets of 3-5 reps with 80-90% max, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
- Machine Lying Hamstring Curl: 3 sets of 5-10 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets
- Hack Squat or Leg Press: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Smith Machine Back Squat: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Standing Smith Machine Calf Raise: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
Day 3 – Shoulders and Arms
- Barbell Military Press: 5 sets of 3-5 reps with 80-90% max, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
- Smith Machine Shoulder Press: 4 sets of 5-10 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets
- Barbell Bicep Curl: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Dumbbell Hammer Curl: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Cable Triceps Pushdown: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
Day 4 – Back and Chest
- Weighted Pull-Up: 5 sets of 3-5 reps with 80-90% max, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
- Barbell Deadlift: 3 sets of 5-10 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
- Dumbbell Row: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Barbell or Hammer Incline Bench Press: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Dumbbell Flat Bench Press: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
Day 5 – Legs
- Back Squat: 5 sets of 3-5 reps with 80-90% max, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
- Hack Squat or Leg Press: 3 sets of 5-10 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets
- Hip Thrust: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Seated Hamstring Curl: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Seated Calf Raise: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
Day 6 – Arms and Shoulders
- Dip: 4 sets of 5-10 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
- Skullcrusher: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Cable Curl: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Barbell Bicep Curl: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Dumbbell Front Raise: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
- Cable Lateral Raise: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 1-2 minutes between sets
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 Fitbod for free.
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.