For the average lifter, a workout split that involves lifting weights 6 days a week will be too much.
That’s not to say it can’t be done. But most people will be better off lifting weights 4 or 5 days a week, rather than 6.
In this post, I’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of training 6 times a week, so you can decide whether or not it’s right for you.
Then I’ll lay out a complete 6-day workout split, so you can see which exercises you’ll be doing on which days, how many sets and reps to do, as well as how much rest to take between each set.
- What Does a 6-Day Workout Split Involve?
- How Well Does a 6-Day Routine Work?
- Who Should Use a 6-Day Workout Routine?
- Why a 6-Day Workout Split Is Too Much for Most People
- Are 6-Day Workout Routines Suitable for Beginners?
- What’s the Best 6-Day Workout Split?
What Does a 6-Day Workout Split Involve?
For the purposes of this post, I’m defining a 6-day workout split as a routine that involves six training sessions per week, done on six different days.
And by training, I’m talking specifically about weight training. While there are workout routines involving a mixture of cardio and weights, where you might lift weights 3 times a week and do cardio on the other 3 days, that’s not the type of thing I’ll be covering here.
This post is geared specifically towards people who want to build muscle, and want to know more about the benefits and drawbacks of a 6-day split routine.
How Well Does a 6-Day Routine Work?
That depends on who’s using it, and the specifics of the 6-day split they’re using. Most people will do better with a training program that involves training 3-5 days a week. But there are some cases where a 6-day routine is a viable option.
And there are so many different ways to design a 6-day workout routine that it’s impossible for me to say that it either does or doesn’t work well.
How often are you training each muscle group? Depending on how it’s set up, a 6-day workout plan can involve hitting a muscle group once a week, twice a week or three times a week.
Two people might embark on a 6-day split. But one of them hits each muscle group once a week, while the second trains each muscle group three times a week.
The difference in frequency can have a big impact on the amount of muscle gained, despite the fact the number of total training days are the same.
How hard are you training? If you’re pushing yourself to the absolute limit in every work set of every workout six days a week, you’ll see different results compared to leaving a few reps in reserve at the end of each set.
Training to failure isn’t necessary to make your muscles grow, and does have the potential to impair your gains if you’re not careful.
How many sets are you doing, both in a single workout and over the course of a training week? A training program that involves 6 sets for the major muscle groups twice a week is going to produce different results to a program that involves 12 sets three times a week.
In short, the effectiveness of any 6-day split is going to depend on the nitty gritty of how that routine is put together, and not just the number of training days.
So, who should use a 6-day workout routine? And who should steer well clear?
Who Should Use a 6-Day Workout Routine?
If you’re someone who prefers shorter, more frequent workouts, and you can make it to the gym on a consistent basis six times a week, a 6-day split can work very well.
That’s because you’re dividing your training across six days, rather than four or five. As a result, the workouts are shorter, making them easier to fit them into your day.
Training more often can also make your workouts feel easier and less draining, which in turn makes it more likely that you’ll actually do them.
Why Bodybuilders Like 6-Day Workout Splits
A 6-day workout split is also useful if you’ve got several years of serious training behind you, and you’re finding it hard to put on muscle.
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They’re popular with bodybuilders, who typically need a large amount of training to ensure that every region of every muscle is developed to its full potential.
Competitive bodybuilders will often lift weights six days a week, sometimes twice a day, simply because that’s the only way to fit in all the exercises and sets they need to make their muscles grow.
Even if you have no plans to step on stage in a bodybuilding contest, but you’ve moved past the beginner and intermediate stages of training and your progress has come to a halt, a 6-day split can get things moving in the right direction.
There’s a link between the number of hard sets you do for a muscle and the speed at which that muscle grows. Put differently, a higher volume of training, up to a point at least, will lead to a faster rate of muscle growth.
For advanced lifters, increasing your weekly training volume (which I’m defining here as the number of hard sets you do for a muscle group) is sometimes all the stimulus your muscles need to start growing again.
If you’re getting enough rest between each set, which you should be if you want to maximize muscle growth, more sets will mean longer workouts. For a lot of people, longer workouts are neither practical nor convenient.
Moving to a 6-day routine allows you to get some extra volume in while still keeping the workouts down to a reasonable length.
6-Day Splits Can Deliver Rapid Results
If you need rapid results in a short period of time, and you can devote many hours of time to training and recovery, hitting the gym 6 days a week is one of the best ways to go about it.
For example, I remember reading about the training Josh Brolin did when he was preparing for his role as Cable in Deadpool 2.
Brolin was in the gym 5-6 days a week for around three hours in total, split between two daily workouts.
The workout routine was designed by former bodybuilder Justin Lovato, who talks more about what he had Brolin doing in the video below:
Three hours of gym time, 5-6 days a week, comes to 15-18 hours a week.
That’s a lot of training.
Very few people have the time or enthusiasm to spend 15-18 hours in the gym each week.
If you need rapid results in a short period of time, and you’ve got a team of experts – dietitians, trainers, psychologists, massage therapists and whatever else – whose sole purpose is to help you get in shape as fast as humanly possible, that type of thing can work well.
But if you’re not an actor being paid $10 million to get in shape for the next Hollywood blockbuster, it’s not realistic.
Without the incentive of a multi-million dollar paycheck at the end of it all, most actors wouldn’t be training 6 times a week either. For them, it’s all part of the job.
So, those are the key benefits of a 6-day split. What are the drawbacks?
Why a 6-Day Workout Split Is Too Much for Most People
For the average lifter, a 6-day split will be too much. Lack of time and issues with recovery mean that many people who start out lifting weights six days a week will fall off the wagon before too long.
For one, going to the gym six times a week just isn’t practical.
Let’s say, for example, you’re training in a public gym three times a week, and you go there after work.
You’re already finding it a pain in the arse to drive there in the middle of rush hour, park, sign in, get changed, do your workout, have a shower, get changed again, then drive home.
The idea of repeating that six times a week is about as appealing as packing up all your belongings and moving to Afghanistan. If so, you may well be better off with longer training sessions done less often.
Not everybody wants to train six days a week, mainly because it limits what you can do with your spare time. You don’t even get the weekends free. Working out three or four times a week still leaves you with plenty of time to do other things.
Training 6 days a week, every week for months on end is going to be too much for most people to recover from.
And by recovery, I’m not just talking about individual muscle groups. Most 6-day splits will involve hitting a muscle group anywhere between one and three times a week.
As long as the program is set up properly, individual muscles should have no problem recovering from one workout to the next.
Rather, what I’m talking about is systemic recovery.
What does that mean exactly?
Every exercise you do has an effect on the muscle or muscles involved in that exercise. The bench press, for example, is going to stimulate the muscles in your chest, shoulders and triceps.
This is known as a local effect.
However, training also has what’s known as a systemic effect, which is the impact that a given workout has on your entire body. When you’re deciding how to set up your training program, you need to consider the recovery requirements of your body as a whole, not just the individual muscles.
In one study, for example, 60 minutes of downhill running led to a reduction in muscle strength in the quads when it was measured 24 and 48 hours after exercise.
No surprise there, as downhill running involves a large number of eccentric muscle actions, which are notorious for causing muscle damage, leading to a subsequent loss of strength.
However, the researchers also found that the biceps were significantly weaker when strength levels were measured immediately as well as 24 hours after the run.
In fact, the biceps were, on average, 17% weaker the day after the run. That’s despite the fact that the biceps are not heavily involved in downhill running.
Recovery is about more than allowing enough time between training sessions for the same muscle group. Your body as a whole, from connective tissue to your central nervous system, also needs a break.
The ability of your body to recover is affected not just by the type of training you do, but your diet, the amount of sleep you’re getting, as well as what else is going on in your life.
Anything causing you an undue amount of anxiety, worry or some other form of psychological stress that you don’t want to feel has the potential to impair your gains.
Physical and psychological stress make withdrawals from the same account. Too much of the latter can make it harder to recover from and adapt to the former.
A high volume of training performed against the background of a low-stress lifestyle will produce very different results to the same amount of training paired with a high-stress lifestyle.
Let’s assume you’re on a mission to gain as much muscle as you can in the shortest time possible.
You’ve moved beyond the beginner stages of training, there’s no great drama or stress going on in your life, and you’re getting plenty of sound, restful sleep each night. You also have the discipline and mental grit to eat right and train hard for months at a time.
If so, a 6-day workout routine is worth a try.
But how many people are in that position? Not many.
Are 6-Day Workout Routines Suitable for Beginners?
If you’re a complete beginner, you’re better off with a training program that involves lifting weights 3 or 4 times a week, such as a 3-day full-body workout, a 4-day upper/lower split or a 4-day push/pull routine.
Once you’ve built a solid foundation of strength and size, then you can think about adding a fifth or even a sixth training day.
If you are just starting out, and you’re adamant about wanting to train 6 times a week, do 3 or 4 main lifting sessions, combined with some light feeder workouts, or even some low-intensity cardio on the other 2 or 3 days.
However, let’s assume that after reading everything I’ve just written, you’ve decided to give a 6-day routine a try.
What’s the best way to put that routine together? What days of the week should you train? Where do you put your rest days? And what muscle groups should be worked together on a 6-day split?
What’s the Best 6-Day Workout Split?
One of the best ways to set up a 6-day split is to use a push/pull/legs routine. This involves hitting each muscle group twice a week. It’s an efficient way to train, mainly because muscle groups that work together are trained in the same workout, while the other muscles get a chance to recover and grow.
One training day is devoted to upper body pushing movements (chest, shoulders and triceps), a second day to upper body pulling movements (back, and biceps), and a third day to leg exercises (quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves).
- Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
- Day 2: Back, Biceps
- Day 3: Legs
- Day 4: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
- Day 5: Back, Biceps
- Day 6: Legs
Here’s what each workout looks like. The numbers in brackets tell you how long to rest between each set.
Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
- Bench Press 4 sets x 5-8 reps [2 minutes]
- Incline Dumbbell Press 3 sets x 8-12 reps [2 minutes]
- Dumbbell Flyes 2 sets x 12-15 reps [90 seconds]
- Lateral Raise 4 sets x 10-15 reps [90 seconds]
- Triceps Pressdown 3 sets x 10-15 reps [90 seconds]
- Overhead Triceps Extension 2 sets x 10-15 [90 seconds]
Workout 2: Back, Biceps
- Close Grip Underhand Lat Pulldown 4 sets x 8-12 reps [2 minutes]
- Single-Arm Dumbbell Row 3 sets of 5-8 reps [2 minutes]
- Kneeling Cable Pullover 2 sets x 12-15 reps [90 seconds]
- Face Pulls 4 sets x 15-20 reps [90 seconds]
- Standing Dumbbell Curl 3 sets x 8-12 reps [90 seconds]
- Hammer Curl 2 sets x 12-15 reps [90 seconds]
Workout 3: Legs
- Squat 4 sets x 5-8 reps [3-5 minutes]
- Leg Press 3 sets x 8-12 reps [2-3 minutes]
- Leg Extension 2 sets x 12-15 reps [90 seconds]
- Seated Leg Curl 4 sets x 8-12 reps [2 minutes]
- Standing Calf Raise 4 sets x 5-8 reps [2 minutes]
Workout 4: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
- Overhead Press 4 sets x 5-8 reps [2 minutes]
- Flat Dumbbell Press 4 sets x 8-12 reps [2 minutes]
- Cable Crossover 3 sets x 15-20 reps [90 seconds]
- Lateral Raise 3 sets x 15-20 reps [90 seconds]
- Lying EZ Bar Triceps Extension 3 sets x 12-15 reps [90 seconds]
- Cable Triceps Kickback 2 sets x 15-20 reps [90 seconds]
Workout 5: Back, Biceps
- Wide Grip Front Lat Pulldown 4 sets x 8-12 reps [2 minutes]
- Wide Grip Seated Cable Row 3 sets x 8-12 reps [2 minutes]
- Rear Delt Row 2 sets x 10-15 reps [90 seconds]
- Incline Dumbbell Shrugs 3 sets x 15-20 reps [90 seconds]
- Incline Dumbbell Curl 3 sets x 8-12 reps [90 seconds]
- Dumbbell Preacher Curl 2 sets x 12-15 reps [90 seconds]
Workout 6: Legs
- Romanian Deadlift 4 sets x 8-12 reps [2-3 minutes]
- Bulgarian Split Squat 3 sets 8-12 reps [2-3 minutes]
- Leg Press 3 sets x 8-12 reps [2-3 minutes]
- Seated Leg Curl 3 sets x 8-12 reps [2 minutes]
- Standing Calf Raise 4 sets x 15-20 reps [90 seconds]
Here’s what it looks like over the course of a week:
- Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
- Tuesday: Back, Biceps
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
- Friday: Back, Biceps
- Saturday: Legs
- Sunday: Off
You also have the option of taking a day off after training your legs, turning it into a 3-on, 1-off split. This way, 3 out of every 4 weeks involve 5 training days rather than 6 (see the table below), which is going to be a better fit for most people anyway.
|Day||Wk 1||Wk 2||Wk 3||Wk 4|
In the fifth week, the push workout ends up back on Monday and you start the cycle all over again. The main downside is that the workouts aren’t on set days, so you will need a flexible schedule to pull this one off.
For the average lifter, a workout routine that involves lifting weights 6 times a week will be too much. In most cases, you’re better off with a 4- or 5-day workout split, rather than 6.
That’s not to say it can’t be done. Some people will thrive on this type of routine, but they’re in the minority. If you are one of those people, I’d recommend going with a push/pull/leg split, using something along the lines of what I’ve described above.
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