The 5-Day Workout Routine

Most of the workout routines I design are based around 3-day or 4-day splits.

Why? Because 3-4 workouts per week tends to suit most people’s schedules, recovery capabilities, and personal preferences, and allows for an optimal training stimulus to be provided.

But… what if you wanted to use a 5-day workout routine instead?

Well, in that case, this one’s for you.

I’m going to show you what I consider to be the best 5-day split there is, and then provide you with a completely free workout routine to go along with it.

But first, let’s cover what not to do.

The Problems With Most 5-Day Workouts

The vast majority of the 5-day routines I’ve seen have some (or all) of the following characteristics in common:

  1. It uses a stereotypical “body part split.
    For example, one day is chest day, the next is back day, the next is shoulder day, and so on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. However, it’s overkill for most people (hardly anyone will truly need or benefit from a dedicated “shoulder day”), and it all-but-requires a lower training frequency to be used. Speaking of which…
  2. It uses a once-per-week frequency.
    At this point, we have quite a bit of research and real-world experience showing us that training each body part once per week is the least effective training frequency. Even with volume being equated, hitting each muscle group twice per week simply works better than hitting it just once per week (source).
  3. It involves 5 consecutive workouts in a row.
    Many 5-day workout splits involve training Monday – Friday, and then taking the weekend off. And while there are certainly people who can make this schedule work and do well with it, 5 consecutive workouts is going to be more than most people can handle (at least in terms of optimal progression) from a recovery standpoint.
  4. There’s negative overlap between muscle groups, joints and tendons.
    Well-designed workout splits take overlap and balance into account, both from the perspective of optimizing recovery as well as for injury prevention. For example, with a push/pull/legs split, you’re training all of the upper body “pushing” muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps) and “pulling” muscles (back/biceps/rear delts) in their own individual workouts. But with a typical 5-day split, you often have schedules like chest on Monday, shoulders on Tuesday, biceps/triceps on Wednesday, back on Thursday, and legs on Wednesday, which can create problems with overlap.

Examples Of Bad 5-Day Splits

With the above four points in mind, you want to avoid using a 5-day split that looks anything like these examples…

Bad Split #1

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Shoulders
  • Thursday: Biceps/Triceps
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: off
  • Sunday: off

Bad Split #2

  • Monday: Chest/Triceps
  • Tuesday: Back/Biceps
  • Wednesday: Shoulders
  • Thursday: Abs/Forearms
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: off
  • Sunday: off

Bad Split #3

  • Monday: Legs
  • Tuesday: Chest
  • Wednesday: Shoulders
  • Thursday: off
  • Friday: Arms
  • Saturday: Back
  • Sunday: off

This is the kind of “bro-split” nonsense you see all the time, yet it rarely works well (or even at all) for anyone besides bodybuilders with great genetics who also happen to be using steroids.

So unless you fit that description, you’ll want to stay away from workout routines using the types of schedules you see above.

Instead, let me show you the schedule you should be using.

The Best 5-Day Split

What we want here is a split that involves 5 workouts per week that are scheduled in a manner that solves all of the problems we discussed a minute ago.

And for that purpose, this is the split I recommend the most…

The Upper/Lower/Push/Pull/Legs Split

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Tuesday: Lower Body
  • Wednesday: off
  • Thursday: Push
  • Friday: Pull
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: off

The upper/lower/push/pull/legs split is a combination of two of the most popular and proven training schedules of all time: the upper/lower split and the push/pull/legs split.

As you can see, this hybrid approach doesn’t involve an unnecessary (and often counterproductive) “shoulder day” or “arm day,” nor does it involve working out 5 days in a row.

Even more importantly, every body part is trained twice per week, which is the optimal training frequency for most people, and it does so in a way that allows for a perfect amount of balance without any major issues with overlap.

It’s everything we want, and nothing we don’t. And in my experience, it’s the best 5-day split there is.

Now let’s put together each of the workouts…

Designing An Upper/Lower/Push/Pull/Legs Plan

I’ve already written entire guides (and a book) that covers how to design a workout routine.

So, if you’re looking to go more in depth on topics like volume (how many sets/reps to do), intensity (how heavy to lift), exercise selection and order, rest periods between sets and so on, I’d highly recommend checking out my free step-by-step guide (How To Create The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine) or my book (Superior Muscle Growth).

Right now, though, I want to get straight into the template I use when designing the workouts for an upper/lower/push/pull/legs routine.

The “Upper Body” Workout

On this day, you want to train the entire upper body to some degree. Here’s how that breaks down in terms of body parts targeted, along with the amount of exercises I’ve found to be ideal for each.

  • Chest: 2 exercises
  • Back: 2 exercises
  • Shoulders: 1 exercise
  • Biceps: 1 exercise
  • Triceps: 1 exercise

The “Lower Body” Workout

On this day, you want to train the entire lower body to some degree. Here’s how that breaks down in terms of body parts targeted, along with the amount of exercises I’ve found to be ideal for each.

  • Quads: 1-2 exercises
  • Hamstrings: 1-2 exercises
  • Glutes: 1 exercise
  • Calves: 1 exercise

The “Push” Workout

On this day, you want to train all of the “pushing” muscles of the upper body to some degree. Here’s how that breaks down in terms of body parts targeted, along with the amount of exercises I’ve found to be ideal for each.

  • Chest: 2 exercises
  • Shoulders: 1 exercise
  • Triceps: 1 exercise

The “Pull” Workout

On this day, you want to train all of the “pulling” muscles of the upper body to some degree. Here’s how that breaks down in terms of body parts targeted, along with the amount of exercises I’ve found to be ideal for each.

  • Back: 2 exercises
  • Biceps: 1 exercise
  • Rear Delts: 1 exercise

The “Legs” Workout

In this context, “legs” and “lower body” are just two different ways of referring to the same thing, so you want to train the same muscle groups from the “lower body” workout earlier. Here’s how that breaks down.

  • Quads: 1-2 exercises
  • Hamstrings: 1-2 exercises
  • Glutes: 1 exercise
  • Calves: 1 exercise

Now let me put it all together for you into a program I call…

The 5-Day Workout Routine

Upper Body

  1. Bench Press: 3×5-8
  2. Rows: 3×5-8
  3. Shoulder Press: 3×8-10
  4. Lat Pull-Downs: 3×8-10
  5. Chest Flys: 2×10-15
  6. Biceps Isolation: 2×12-15
  7. Triceps Isolation: 2×12-15

Lower Body

  1. Romanian Deadlifts: 3×6-8
  2. Leg Press: 3×6-8
  3. Leg Curls: 3×8-10
  4. Split Squats or Lunges: 3×8-10
  5. Standing Calf Raises: 4×6-8

Push

  1. Incline Press: 3×6-8
  2. Dumbbell Bench Press: 3×8-10
  3. Lateral Raises: 3×10-15
  4. Triceps Isolation: 3×10-12

Pull

  1. Pull-Ups: 3×6-8
  2. Rows: 3×8-10
  3. Rear Delts: 3×10-15
  4. Biceps Isolation: 3×10-12

Legs

  1. Squats: 3×6-8
  2. Barbell Hip Thrusts or Weighted Hyperextensions: 3×8-10
  3. Leg Extensions: 2×10-12
  4. Leg Curls: 2×10-12
  5. Seated Calf Raises: 4×10-15

Frequently Asked Questions

Now let’s answer a few questions you may have about these workouts, the split, or anything related to getting the most out of this program.

What do the numbers after the exercises mean (e.g. 3×6-8)?

This is how many sets and reps to do for that exercise. For example, 3×6-8 means 3 sets of 6-8 reps. And 3×8-10 means 3 sets of 8-10 reps. And so on.

How long should I rest between sets?

Generally speaking, you should rest 2-4 minutes between sets of the lower rep exercises (5-8 reps), 1-2 minutes for the higher rep exercises (10-15 reps), and something in the middle (about 2 minutes) for the stuff that falls somewhere in between (8-10 rep exercises).

What about abs?

You can add about 10 minutes worth of direct ab training to the end of 1 or 2 of these workouts. People typically train abs on the same day as legs, but you can really feel free to put it on whatever day(s) you prefer. Just keep it to no more than 2 times per week (and not on consecutive days), and about 10 minutes or so each time. Feel free to pick whatever ab exercise(s) you like best, and remember that this is the least important part of having nice looking abs (details here: How To Get A Six Pack).

Who is The 5-Day Workout Routine ideal for?

Mid/late intermediate and advanced trainees (both men and women) who A) have a schedule that conveniently allows them to fit in 5 workouts per week, B) can handle 5 weight training workouts per week in terms of recovery, and C) have the primary goal of building muscle.

Who isn’t it ideal for?

  • Beginners should stick with something more basic (i.e. The Beginner Weight Training Workout Routine).
  • Early intermediates, and all intermediate/advanced trainees who can only fit in 3-4 workouts per week and/or don’t do well with 5-day programs from a recovery standpoint should stick with a program like The Muscle Building Workout Routine or any of the other 3-4 day workouts in my Superior Muscle Growth program.
  • Anyone in a caloric deficit focusing on fat loss should ideally be using a 3-4 day plan to compensate for the drop in recovery that comes with being in a deficit. The Fat Loss + Muscle Maintenance routine from Superior Fat Loss is my preferred choice for that purpose.
  • Anyone training for pure strength, endurance, or something sport-specific. While this workout may benefit those goals to some degree, it’s not designed to be optimal for them. Rather, this is a workout designed to be optimal for people looking to build muscle and improve the way their body looks.

What do you mean by “Rows”?

I mean pick any rowing exercise for the back. Bent over barbell or dumbbell rows, t-bar rows, chest supported rows, seated cable rows, some type of machine row… whatever you like best.

What do you mean by “Rear Delts”?

I mean pick any rear delt exercise you want. Face-pulls, reverse pec deck, rear delt dumbbell raises… whatever you like best.

What do you mean by “Biceps Isolation” and “Triceps Isolation”?

I mean pick any isolation exercise you want for that muscle group.

For example, the biceps isolation exercise might be dumbbell curls, EZ bar curls, cable curls or any similar type of curling movement for the biceps. For triceps isolation, it might be cable pushdowns, overhead dumbbell extensions, skull crushers or any similar isolation exercise for the triceps.

What about shrugs?

Shrugs can optionally be added to the end of the “pull” workout. Keep it to no more than 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.

What if there’s an exercise I can’t do? Or an exercise I don’t like?

It’s really simple. Just replace that exercise with a similar variation of it. For example, bench press could be barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press, or a machine chest pressing exercise. Pull-ups could be lat pull-downs. Lateral raises could be dumbbell lateral raises, cable lateral raises, or a lateral raise machine. Flyes could be dumbbell flyes, cable flyes or machine flyes. Incline presses could be barbell, dumbbell or an incline press machine. And so on.

How do I progress when using this program?

Like most of my programs, I recommend using a double progression approach. This simply means setting a consistent rep goal for each exercise, working on getting additional reps until that rep goal is met, and then increasing the weight by some small increment when that happens.

So let’s say an exercise calls for 3×6-8. That means you could make the goal 8-8-8, or 7-7-7, or 6-6-6, or 8-7-6, or 6-7-8.

Exactly which you choose depends mostly on your own personal preferences and whether you’re using straight sets, reverse pyramid, descending ramp, or whatever else.

But for the sake of an example, let’s pretend you choose 8-8-8. And let’s say you’re currently lifting 100lbs for this exercise.

If you get anything less than 8-8-8 in your 3 sets, you’d try to get additional reps the next time. So, for example, if you got 6-6-6, you may get 7-7-6 next time. Then maybe 8-7-7 the time after that. And then finally 8-8-8 the time after that. When that finally happens, you’d go up to 105lbs the next time and repeat this process all over again.

Additional details here: The Progressive Overload Principle and How To Progress At Weight Training Exercises

Does my diet matter while using this workout?

Um, yes. Your diet always matters. And if you’re using this (or any) workout routine for the purpose of building muscle, it’s not going to work if your diet isn’t designed to support it.

But, it’s cool, I got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know: The Muscle Building Diet

Is there anything else you’d recommend to someone trying to get the best muscle building results possible?

I cover most of that right here: How To Build Muscle: The 15 Step Guide For Men And Women

And if you’re looking for something even more in depth, my book covers every single thing and puts it all together for you: Superior Muscle Growth

What if I have some other question that you didn’t answer?

You can contact me here and ask me. If the same question gets asked by enough people, I’ll add it to this page. 馃檪

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers and diet professionals at every level.