When trying to build the optimal amount of muscle mass and develop your physique, one of the most common questions that you will ask is how often you should train and what sort of workout you should do.
If you are someone that can commit to a lot of gym time, then I’ve previously covered the best 6 day workout routine and it proved to be such a popular topic that I want to cover a workout routine that more people can follow and that is the 5 day workout routine to build muscle.
Why choose a 5 day workout schedule to build muscle? A 5 day workout routine will allow you to get a significant amount of training frequency to stimulate muscle growth whilst also ensuring you get enough rest in between sessions. A 5 day routine is best suited to those that can commit to more gym sessions each week.
The key to this routine is training frequency, I’ll cover this in more detail shortly but if you want to be in the gym more days than not, you won’t be able to train with a great deal of volume each session. Intensity should still be high but you won’t be performing countless sets of curls on this workout (especially if you want to make progress and build muscle).
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Frequency for Muscle Growth
When it comes to training for muscle growth there is no single best training principle, routine, or method that you can use to build the most muscle. If this was the case, everyone would be able to gain 15-20lbs of lean muscle mass with relative ease.
Finding the best approach for your physiology, the time you can commit to the gym, motivation, and a range of other factors means that some experimentation is needed. If you’ve come across this article it means that you have more days in the week to commit to training than what you would take off.
What this essentially means is that you are looking to adopt a high-frequency training approach to muscle building. For the majority of people, you can either train high frequency (training a body part multiple times per week) or high volume (training a body part less often but with more sets).
Whatever approach you look to take, the industry recommendation is that you should look to do the same sets per body part regardless of your approach. This means you could do 12 sets for legs in a single session or 4 sets spread out over 3 different sessions.
Where people believe training frequency has the advantage is that you can activate protein synthesis more times in a week. This would mean you spend more time in an anabolic (muscle repair and growth) state which would ultimately lead to gaining more muscle mass.
Studies show this to be true (source 1)(source 2) and research by top trainers including Christian Thibaudeau and Menno Henselmans also shows this to be the case, especially for natural/unassisted lifters.
This article is not meant to be a debate about the best style of training though and therefore I’ll say that the focus of a 5 day workout schedule will be frequency over volume.
5 Day Workout Routine to Build Muscle
5 days is a very common number for people training “bro” splits for one simple reason, you train all week and then take the weekend off. Also, by bro splits I mean training a single body part per session so Monday could be chest followed by back on Tuesday, etc…
This will work well for professional bodybuilders who take certain substances that allow them to stay in a muscle-building state regardless of how they train, but for your average lifter or person looking to build a physique, this approach will yield minimal results.
This isn’t just my opinion either, the articles I listed earlier are from industry professionals (especially the Christian Thibaudeau one) who forgets more about training than most of us can learn in the first place!
Training a muscle group just once per week will leave a significant amount of progress and muscle growth on the table.
There is certainly a case of people doing too much in the gym as you’ll see by the people doing endless amounts of bicep curls yet see no progress, especially when compared against the person in the gym squatting multiple times per week and lifting some decent weight.
With that said, you can also do too little in the gym. A stimulated muscle group will remain in a state of protein synthesis for up to 48 hours. This is an anabolic state meaning you utilize nutrients to recover and build muscle tissue.
As an individual becomes more trained, this window gets reduced to around 24 hours. This means if you train legs on Monday as a complete beginner, by Thursday you will no longer be utilizing nutrients to build muscle in the legs.
This doesn’t factor in DOMs and a few other factors which are at play but for most beginners, the more frequently you can train a muscle group the greater your potential for muscle growth. This is why programs like Starting Strength are so popular and effective.
You train the big muscle groups multiple times in a week (always taking advantage of the anabolic state up to 48 hours after a workout) and you focus on getting stronger. A 3 day split would therefore be my recommendation for optimally building muscle for beginners but if you have landed on this article, you want to commit to 5 days, which is also fine.
Is It Ok to Train 5 Days per Week
You might be wondering whether training 5 days per week is necessary or if it might be too much for most to handle? Honestly, 5 days could be more than most are able to recover from and it’s the reason why I keep mentioning intensity, muscle stimulation but not annihilation.
You can do a single set for an exercise with perfect form, lift 80%-85% of your 1RM, stimulate muscle protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy, and get the most from that single set.
Or, you could do 3-4 sets, with poor form, lifting a weight that is too heavy, doing too many reps, and fatiguing your muscle instead of stimulating it.
The way you will get the most out of more training frequency is by knowing your limits, training a muscle to stimulate it, and leaving enough in the tank so that you can recover and grow before your next session. If you manage volume, get enough rest/recovery, and hit your calorie requirements, you’re almost guaranteed to grow training 5 days per week.
What Is the Best 5 Day Workout Routine for Building Muscle
There is no single best routine when it comes to choosing a split and 5 days is arguably the most difficult frequency to develop a well-rounded routine. I’m not sure if this is because of how many major muscle groups we have or because of the same templates that are routinely used but the odd number for 5 days is always quite difficult to plan.
The best way around this is to combine two different (and well known) splits within the same week. This will allow you to hit all of the major muscle groups twice whilst still catering for two days of recovery in between.
The ideal split to follow is a Legs/Push/Pull combined with an Upper/Lower split. This can seem complicated at first as you are trying to run two completely different workout splits but I’ll explain why this is likely the best option for a 5 day routine (especially when trying to build muscle).
Firstly, you will train every major muscle group twice per week. This will provide enough frequency to almost be optimal (you’ll only be 24 hours off from the optimal frequency) whilst ensuring an even distribution of stimulation across muscle groups.
It will also allow you to target certain muscle groups harder than if you run either one of these splits separately (especially Upper/Lower). The first half of the week you can hit individual muscle groups with more volume and then the second half of the week you can taper this down to still get stimulation but also more recovery time.
This flexibility of approach allows for more programming freedom and an ability to manage training volume more sensibly and efficiently.
Example 5 Day Workout Routine
The following is an example workout that you could follow for 5 days to place emphasis on muscle growth. As mentioned early, you want to manage overall training frequency and volume when training for such a large portion of the week.
For this routine, the first half of the week will focus on volume whilst the second half will focus on heavy compound movements to increase strength.
Day 1: Legs
Lying or seated hamstring curls – 3 sets x 12 reps
Barbell front squat – 4 sets x 8-12 reps
Wide stance leg press – 5 sets x 10 reps
Stiff legged deadlift- 3 sets x 15 reps
Seated calf raise – 3 sets x 12 reps
Bodyweight walking lunges – 3 sets to failure
Day 2: Push
Dumbbell chest press – 3 sets x 12 reps
Incline barbell press – 3 sets x 12 reps
Weighted dips – 3 x 10 reps
Side lateral raises – 4 sets x 12-15 reps
Seated dumbbell overhead press – 3 sets x 8 reps
Cable tricep pushdown – 5 sets x 12-15 reps
Day 3: Pull
Pull Ups – 3 sets to failure
Barbell row – 4 sets x 12 reps
Wide grip lat pulldown – 3 sets x 8 reps
Low cable row – 5 sets x 12 reps
Reverse pec deck – 3 sets x 15 reps
Dumbbell shrugs – 3 sets x 8 reps
Dumbbell hammer curl – 4 sets x 10 reps
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Lower
Lying or seated hamstring curl – 3 sets x 15 reps
Barbell back squat – 5 sets x 5 reps
Leg press (shoulder width stance) – 5 sets x 15-20 reps
Bulgarian split squat – 3 sets x 10 reps
Reverse lunge – 3 sets x 8 reps
Standing calf raise – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
Day 6: Upper
Deadlift – 3 sets x 5 reps
Weighted pull ups – 3 sets to failure
Standing overhead press – 3 sets x 5 reps
Incline dumbbell chest press – 4 sets x 12 reps
Close grip bench press – 3 sets x 8 reps
Barbell curl – 3 sets x 8 reps
Day 7: Rest
A 5 day workout routine is quite a big commitment when it comes to training and there is a fine line to balance between training frequency, volume, and recovery.
The example workout above is just a basic guideline that you can follow as a starting point. With this example, you’ll train each body part a few times per week, get a mix of volume and strength-based training and most importantly, still have time to rest and recover.
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