One of, if not the most debated decisions that many need to make when trying to build muscle is what sort of workout routine you should follow.
Are you short on time and need to fit a muscle building routine into as few days as possible each week or at the other end of the scale do you have an abundance of time and therefore can commit more days each week to working out.
The purpose of this article is to look at the latter and that is in the form of a 6 day a week workout routine. This is the first article in a series where I will look into the best splits for building muscle based on the number of days each week that you can commit to working out.
Why choose a 6 day workout routine to build muscle? Choosing to workout 6 days per week will mean that you can increase your training frequency and ultimately increase your workout frequency for each muscle group. A muscle group trained twice per week is likely to have more potential for growth than a muscle group trained only once.
This is really the key point when it comes to dedicating your time to a 6 day per week routine, the increased training frequency for each muscle group should yield quicker results when it comes to muscle growth providing you can recover fully before working the muscle group again.
To understand this a bit better you can relate it to any other skill or life endeavour, if you wanted to get better at playing the piano then two practise sessions per week will be better than one and if you wanted to learn a new language then two lessons per week will again be better than one.
This of course takes into account the fact that these sessions need to be the same quality, I’m not saying that more is necessarily better but that more frequency with the same quality of work/practise/study will yield better results.
How Many Days Should You Train to Build Muscle
Despite what many will try to argue, there is no set figure for the number of days you should train to build muscle.
There are so many factors that influence muscle growth that the number of days you train is just one small part of the overall puzzle. Individual characteristics, diet, rest, workout intensity, hormonal balance, nutrient partitioning, the training program itself and countless other factors all play a part in your rate of muscle growth.
Therefore the number one factor that you need to consider before choosing a workout program and split is how many days per week can you actually commit to training. It needs to be realistic and something that you can adhere to in order for the program to be effective.
If you can only commit to training for 3 days per week then your best approach is to select a 3 day per week training split and follow it completely sticking to the basics like progressive overload and consuming a calorie surplus.
This approach will work much better than selecting a 5 day training split but missing a few sessions each week because you can’t commit to it. This will not do the training program any justice and your progress will suffer significantly as a result.
Therefore the number of days that you should train to build muscle each week is dependent entirely on the number of days that you can firstly commit to and secondly the number of days that you can fully recover from.
If you can’t train maximally each session because you are fatigued then this will once again negatively impact the results that you can expect to receive from your training program.
A sweet spot for most training programs tends to be 3 – 6 training days per week in order to maximally build muscle mass.
6 Day Workout Routine to Build Muscle
With the above being said I’m going to assume that you can fully commit to training 6 days per week and that this is also something you know that you can recover from. There is no benefit in committing to a more frequent schedule if you can’t actually recover from it.
The more is better approach is not always best when it comes to physique development and building muscle. Your ability to train and build muscle is only as good as your ability to recover from the training session, a workout stimulates muscle growth but it’s during rest that the actual growth occurs.
What makes the 6 day training split so good is the training frequency and muscle stimulation that you can get from it. Working a muscle stimulates the process of protein synthesis, this is the anabolic muscle building process that results from repeated muscular contractions.
This process can stay active for 24 – 72 hours depending on your training level (beginners have this switched on for a longer period of time) which means that for 24 – 72 hours following a workout you are essentially in a muscle building state for the muscle worked.
After this time frame however protein synthesis switches off to a degree, if you only train a muscle group once per week then you are leaving potential muscle building time on the table and missing out.
6 day routines are good for increasing frequency but don’t be mistaken by thinking this is the only way to improve frequency. If you train 3 days per week but hit the major muscle groups in each of these sessions with squats, deadlifts, rows, chest press and overhead press then you are working certain muscle groups 3 x per week.
That’s a high rate of training frequency whilst also allowing a lot of time for rest and recovery. A 6 day workout split instead allows you to train with more frequency than a simple body part split approach but allows you to work a muscle group with more specific exercises.
While a bench press might be good for overall strength and upper body development a incline dumbbell chest press is a great exercise to target the pecs directly. Body parts like the arms, shoulder and legs can also be neglected with full body, compound exercise focused routines.
Therefore a 6 day per week split is for those that want to focus on the bodybuilding and muscle growth aspect of training by bringing up larger muscle groups but also the smaller muscle groups that might otherwise be neglected.
Is It Ok to Go to the Gym 6 Days a Week
The key to any training program as mentioned is managing your training volume, frequency and most importantly recovery. The reason I say that there is no specified number of days that work best is because some people have amazing recovery capabilities whereas others have a very low capability for recovery.
This is important to note because you might have a training partner or watch workout videos from someone that seems to push it very hard in the gym with high volume and frequency and feel tempted to copy them but what you won’t be considering is whether you have the same capacity for recovery.
If you push your body to the limit but it takes a week for you to fully recover from a session (both from a muscle soreness standpoint and nervous system standpoint) then you are restricting the amount of progress that you can make.
Therefore it’s certainly ok to workout 6 days per week but you need to make sure you can recover from this and the way to do that is to manage your training volume. This is the area where many people hinder their progress by doing too much work than their body can handle.
When frequency is increased volume needs to be decreased and what I mean by this is that if you were doing 20 sets for back one day a week you will now do 10 sets for back twice per week and not the assumed 20 sets twice per week.
Even though you are doing the same number of sets on a weekly basis you will now be stimulating protein synthesis twice per week instead of once and this is the benefit of increased frequency. It’s not about doing more work but rather putting yourself into a muscle building state more frequently.
The most well known and respected trainer when it comes to training frequency is Christian Thibaudeau who has an in-depth article on training frequency and volume here.
What Is the Best 6 Day Workout Routine for Building Muscle
When it comes to a 6 day workout routine for building muscle my personal favorite split is push/pull/legs. This basically means you work the pushing muscles one day (chest, front/side delts/triceps), pulling muscles the following day (back/biceps/forearms) and legs the final day (quads/hamstrings/glutes/calves).
A push/pull/legs split can be done for 6 consecutive days followed by a rest day or by having a rest day every 4th day, the second approach would still mean that you train every 6 days out of 7 but it wouldn’t fit into one week.
Therefore if you want to schedule your workouts on a weekly basis then the 6 day straight approach would need to be your go to program. Just keep in mind that this will of course be much harder to recover from if you do not manage volume well and therefore a cautious approach needs to be taken.
I also like this split because you can split your training up throughout the week to place more emphasis on a particular muscle group. Take legs for example, on your first session you can place more emphasis on a quad focused leg routine whereas on the second session you can focus more on hamstrings.
As long as you do a compound exercise like the squat or lunge then you will still create a stimulus for both muscle groups but then your secondary exercises can focus more on the specific muscle group. The same can be true for your pull day training back.
A deadlift and pull up will target both the lats and upper back but then to take it further you could focus on rows for one session for upper back thickness and then lat pulldowns and pullovers for your second session to focus on back width.
This is the great thing about a push/pull/legs split that still allows for some flexibility and specialization but also the required frequency for growth.
Example 6 Day Workout Routine (Push/Pull/Legs)
The following is an example workout routine that you could follow for a 6 day workout routine, this is a framework and guideline only so it’s best to modify the exercises for your own personal preferences and requirements.
Workout 1 (Push)
Dumbbell chest press – 3 sets x 12 reps
Incline barbell chest press – 3 sets x 8 reps
Barbell overhead press – 5 sets x 5 reps
Dumbbell lateral raise – 4 sets x 12 reps
Weighted dips – 4 sets x 8 reps
Cable tricep pressdown – 3 sets x 15 reps
EZ bar skull crusher – 3 sets x 8 reps
Workout 2 (Pull)
Deadlift – 3 sets x 5 reps
Barbell row – 4 sets x 8 reps
T-bar row – 3 sets x 12 reps
Rear delt dumbbell raise – 3 sets x 15 reps
Barbell shrugs – 3 sets x 12 reps
Barbell curl – 3 sets x 8 reps
Seated preacher curl – 4 sets x 10 reps
Dumbbell wrist curl – 3 sets x 15 reps
Workout 3 (Legs)
Barbell front squat – 4 sets x 12 reps
Narrow stance leg press – 5 sets x 10 reps
Leg extension – 5 sets x 15 reps
Standing calf raise – 3 sets x 12 reps
Seated calf raise – 3 sets x 15 reps
Walking lunges (narrow steps) – 3 sets to failure
Workout 4 (Push)
Barbell chest press – 3 sets x 5 reps
Incline dumbbell fly – 4 sets x 12 reps
Dumbbell overhead press – 3 sets x 10 reps
Plate front raises – 4 sets x 12 reps
Weighted dips – 3 sets x 8 reps
Underhand cable tricep pressdown – 3 sets x 12 reps
Dumbbell overhead tricep extension – 3 sets x 12 reps
Workout 5 (Pull)
Cable straight arm pullover – 4 sets x 15 reps
Weighted pull ups – 5 sets to failure
Lat pulldown – 3 sets x 8 reps
Dumbbell row – 3 sets x 8 reps
Reverse pec deck – 4 sets x 12 reps
Dumbbell shrugs – 3 sets x 8 reps
Dumbbell curl – 3 sets x 8 reps
Incline dumbbell curl – 3 sets x 10 reps
Dumbbell reverse wrist curl – 4 sets x 12 reps
Workout 6 (Legs)
Lying hamstring curl – 4 sets x 12 reps
Barbell back squat – 3 sets x 5 reps
Wide stance leg press – 4 sets x 15 reps
Romanian deadlift – 3 sets x 12 reps
Smith machine calf raise – 3 sets x 15 reps
Seated calf raise – 3 sets x 12 reps
Walking lunges (wide stance) – 3 sets to failure
Also check out:
3 best routines for ectomorphs to build muscle
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