Illustration of a lifter doing a 5-day workout split to build more muscle.

The Best 5-Day Workout Splits for Building Muscle

5-day workout splits can be incredibly good for building muscle if you program them properly. When you’re training this often, it’s easy to beat up your hands, tire out your back, or accumulate nagging aches. Fortunately, there are simple methods for avoiding all those problems, which we’ll delve into in a moment.

My two favourite 5-day workout splits are the Bro Split and the Outlift Split. Both are equally good for building muscle, but the Bro Split has more emphasis on aesthetics, whereas the Outlift Split puts more emphasis on progressively overloading the big compound exercises. We’ll break down both splits in detail.

A skinny guy building muscle. Illustrated by Shane Duquette for Outlift.

What Are 5-Day Workout Splits?

5-day workout splits are workout routines that have you doing 5 different workouts per week. The most common is the Bro Split, where each day focuses on a different body part, like so:

The underlying idea is that rigorously training a muscle stimulates 2–3 days of growth. If you train a muscle every day, you won’t be fully recovered, hindering your performance. If you wait longer than 3–4 days before training a muscle again, that muscle will be waiting with you, not growing.

You can train your muscles more often if you train them less vigorously. This is called high-frequency training. You can find 5-day splits that train every muscle every workout. That’s rare. It doesn’t seem to yield any extra muscle growth, and overuse injuries become more common.

All the classic 5-day workout splits have a way of dividing up the body into different areas. There are tons of variations. You could alternate between training your upper body and lower body. You could cycle between pushing, pulling, and leg exercises. You could even combine both, like so:

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Tuesday: Lower Body
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Push Day
  • Friday: Pull Day
  • Saturday: Leg Day
  • Sunday: Rest

My favourite 5-day split is a variation on the upper/lower/upper/lower/upper split. More on that in a moment.

Illustration of a man doing the bench press on Chest Day.

Are 5-Day Workout Splits Effective?

5-day workout splits are great for building muscle. They aren’t necessarily better than 3-day, 4-day, or 6-day routines, though. It all depends on what exercises you choose, how well you train, how much effort you put in, and how you divide up your training volume.

Dividing your training volume into 3 full-body workouts is a great default, especially for beginners. I gained my first 50 pounds that way. But as your lifts grow gradually heavier, those workouts become more fatiguing, eventually devolving into neverending nightmare slogs.

A 4th workout spreads your volume thinner, making each workout a little easier. A 5th day makes those workouts easier still. In fact, when you have 5 training days, your work is spread so thin you often have time for more.

So, there are two reasons you might want to use a 5-day split:

  • You could do short workouts. 2–3 exercises 5 days per week. A few sets of dips, a few sets of pull-ups, and you’re out in 20 minutes. I do this during periods of maintenance. I really enjoy it.
  • You could take a maximalist approach to building muscle. You could use your generous training schedule to pack more volume into your workout routine, stimulating even more muscle growth. This can work great while bulking.

We’ll start with the 5-Day Bro Split, which is a maximalist approach to building muscle. Then we’ll go to my favourite 5-day routine, which you can scale up or down depending on how much time and energy you want to devote to your training.

Illustration of a bodybuilder deadlifting in his 5-day workout split.

The 5-Day Bro Split

How the Bro Split Works

The 5-Day Bro Split is a traditional bodybuilding routine. It’s by far the most common workout split among serious bodybuilders, and with good reason. Bro Splits are great for building muscle, especially in your upper body.

  • Monday: Chest Day
  • Tuesday: Back Day
  • Wednesday: Shoulder Day
  • Thursday: Leg Day
  • Friday: Arm Day
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Bro Splits are body-part splits, meaning that every day focuses on a different body part. At first, that might sound like each day focuses on a different muscle group, but that’s not quite right. Arms aren’t a muscle group. Neither are shoulders. And that’s good.

The magic of a Bro Split is how these days overlap with one another. You can train your front delts on Chest Day and Shoulder Day. You can train your biceps on Back Day and Arm Day. This lets you train your muscles 2–3 times per week, ensuring they grow all week long.

Let’s use your chest as an example. You can do dips on Monday (Chest Day), the incline press on Wednesday (Shoulder Day), and the close-grip bench press on Friday (Arm Day). That’s perfect for your chest. But it does mean you need to be clever with your exercise selection.

Pros & Cons of the Bro Split

The 5-Day Bro Split is great for building muscle, great for bodybuilding, great for aesthetics, and great for building bigger arms. It’s a great routine overall.

However, Bro Splits aren’t very good for beginners. They aren’t great for building bigger legs. And lifting weights 5 days per week doesn’t leave much time for cardio.

The Bro Split Workout Routine

We’ve got a full 5-day Bro Split workout routine in our Bro Split article. Everything is fully explained there. It’s a good routine. I think you’ll like it.

Illustration of a lifter doing the military press on Push Day to build muscle.

The 5-Day Outlift Split

How the Outlift Split Works

The 5-Day Outlift Split is a classic progressive overload program. This approach is more common in strength training programs, but it works just as well in hypertrophy training programs like this one.

When you choose good muscle-building exercises and do them in a moderate rep range, the strength you gain corresponds almost perfectly with muscle growth. As you grow gradually grow stronger, you grow gradually bigger. It’s the most reliable way of building muscle, especially once you start hitting size and strength plateaus.

  • Monday: Bench Day
  • Tuesday: Deadlift Day
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Overhead Press Day
  • Friday: Squat Day
  • Saturday: Chin-Up Day
  • Sunday: Rest

Instead of splitting up the workouts into body parts, we’re splitting them up by exercise. Instead of a Chest Day designed to blast your chest, it has Bench Day designed to help you bench more weight or get more reps. In my experience, this is a more reliable way to build muscle as an intermediate, natural lifter. I’ve written about our method here.

You pick which lifts you want to emphasize. You can focus on weighted dips instead of the bench press or back squats instead of front squats. It’s entirely up to you. Pick the lifts that challenge the muscles you want to grow.

Every main exercise has supporting exercises. For example, the bench press is supported by overhead pressing, dips, push-ups, and skull crushers, all of which are strategically spread throughout the week. Those exercises bulk up your chest, shoulders, and triceps, giving you a better chance of outlifting yourself the next time you do the bench press.

The other big difference is the Outlift Split uses supersets to stimulate more overall muscle growth per workout. While you’re resting between sets of the bench press, you can do rows for your back. This turns the routine into a 5-day upper/lower/upper/lower/upper split.

Pros & Cons of the Outlift Split

The 5-Day Outlift Split is more efficient than the Bro Split. You’ll be doing more work in less time, keeping your heart rate higher, and training your muscles more often. It’s much better for gaining strength, better for improving your fitness, and it stimulates just as much muscle growth.

However, the Outlift Split isn’t very good for beginners. It’s also more challenging than the Bro Split, especially on your postural and stabilizer muscles. And lifting weights 5 days per week doesn’t leave much energy for cardio, especially when you’re working your muscles this vigorously.

Illustration of a bodybuilder squatting in his 5-day workout split.

Day 1: Bench Day

Bench Press4–5 sets6-12 reps
Dumbbell Rows3–5 sets8-12 reps
Skull Crushers3 sets10-15 reps
Pullovers3 sets12–15 reps

Bench Day is built around the bench press or whatever big chest exercise you prefer. I like to use the dumbbell bench press, barbell bench press, or weighted dip. The chest press machine is another good choice.

You can superset the bench press with rows. I recommend bringing a heavy dumbbell over to the bench and doing 1-arm rows, but you can use any row variation that doesn’t tire out your spinal erectors. The t-bar row machine is another great choice.

Skull crushers are an important part of building a bigger bench press. That’s why they’re here. They also ensure balanced growth in your triceps. When you finish them, you can use the same setup for doing pullovers.

Day 2: Deadlift Day

Deadlift3 sets6-8 reps
Crunches3 setsAMRAP
High-Bar Squat3 sets8-12 reps
Neck Curls3 sets12–15 reps

Deadlift Day is built around the deadlift. I’ve always done sumo, Romanian, or conventional deadlifts here. Trap-bar deadlifts are great as well.

The squat is a good assistance exercise for the deadlift, but it’s mainly here to support your front squat. I like low-bar or high-bar squats here because they’re hard on your quads without being as demanding on your spinal erectors (which are probably tired by now).

Crunches and neck curls are discretionary exercises that superset well with the bigger exercises. You could just as easily choose calf raises and leg curls.

Day 3: Press Day

Overhead Press4–5 sets6-12 reps
Pull-Ups3–5 setsAMRAP
Dips3 setsAMRAP
Dumbbell Curls3 sets10-15 reps
Forearm Curls3 sets12–15 reps

Press Day is built around an overhead press variation. I like the standing barbell “military” press. The push press is another great option. If you’re especially eager to build a big bench press, you could even do a close-grip bench press here.

If you’re doing your pressing in a power cage, you’ll have a pull-up bar handy. Pull-ups superset well with presses. Dips and dumbbell curls can be supersetted together, too. Forearm curls are a discretionary lift you can replace.

This combination of presses, pull-ups, and dips is my favourite combo for building a bigger shoulder girdle. I love this workout day.

Day 4: Squat Day

Front Squat4–5 sets6-12 reps
Hanging Leg Raises3–4 setsAMRAP
Romanian Deadlift2–3 sets8-15 reps
Neck Curls3 sets12–15 reps

Squat Day is built around the squat. I like the front squat here because it challenges our quads, glutes, and spinal erectors, making it a great assistance exercise for the deadlift. You could also choose a high-bar squat or leg press. If you’re squatting in a squat rack, you’ll have a pull-up bar handy, allowing you to superset leg raises.

The Romanian deadlift is next. It’s a great assistance exercise for the deadlift, and it’s great for bulking up your hamstrings and back. I like using a higher rep range here. I superset them with neck curls, but you can superset them with any small isolation exercise.

Day 5: Chin-Up Day

Weighted Chin-Ups4–5 sets5–8 reps
Push-Ups3–5 setsAMRAP
Barbell Curls3 sets10-15 reps
Overhead Extensions3 sets10-15 reps
Lateral Raises3 sets12–15 reps

Chin-Up Day is built around the weighted chin-up. Underhand, neutral-grip, and gymnastic-ring chin-ups do a better job of bringing your arms into the exercise, allowing you to go heavier. You can superset them with push-ups. You can raise your feet to make the push-ups more challenging.

Barbell curls and overhead extensions are next, supersetted together. I use an angled curl bar for both, using the same load for both exercises, bringing all sets to the cusp of failure. You can add lateral raises to the superset, turning it into a giant set.

Illustration of a man doing chin-ups to build a bigger back. Illustrated by Shane Duquette for Outlift.

How to Do the Workout Routine

The 5-Day Outlift split focuses on progressive overload. Try your best to outlift yourself every workout, especially on the first exercise.

  • Exercise selection: Choose exercises that suit your body and your goals. If you prefer dips to bench presses, choose dips. If you prefer leg presses to front squats, choose leg presses. If you prefer t-bar rows to chin-ups, choose t-bar rows.
  • Volume: We have 4–5 exercises in each workout by default. In our experience testing these routines on ourselves and clients, this tends to be the best starting point. If you want a minimalist routine, use the first exercise (the main exercise) and pick one more (of your choice). If you want more than 4–5 exercises, add another.
  • Progression: The goal is to gradually get stronger at the first exercise of each workout. If you hit your rep targets last workout, add a little weight. If you’re still trying to add more reps, try to get more total reps than last time. For example, if you got 12, 10, 9, and 8 reps (39 reps) last workout, try to get 40+ reps this workout.
  • Rest times: If you’re supersetting each exercise, rest for 2 minutes between sets. After the first pair of exercises, rest for a minute between sets. If you aren’t supersetting, add an extra minute to your rest times.
  • Reps in Reserve: Push yourself hard on the first exercise, trying to lift more weight or eke out more reps than last time. Leave 0–1 rep in reserve, ideally without failing your last rep. On the other exercises, leave 0-2 reps in reserve, as you prefer.
  • Schedule: We recommend scheduling your rest days after Deadlift Day and Chin-Up Day. That way, your back muscles have more time to recover before you train them again. However, back muscles are surprisingly tough. If you need to shift those rest days around, you’ll be okay.
  • Muscle-Building Diet: You need enough food to fuel muscle growth. If you’re skinny-fat or overweight, you can get extra energy from your body fat. If you’re thin or lean, you’ll need to get that energy from food—you’ll need to gain weight.


5-day workout splits are fantastic for building muscle. Training 5 days per week isn’t necessarily better than training 3–4 days per week, but it’s a good way of spreading out your training volume and exercises.

Ideally, you’d split up your workouts so that your muscles have 2–3 days of rest before training them again. That isn’t a hard rule, though. Some Bro Splits blast your muscles harder, then give them more rest. Some high-frequency splits go easier on your muscles but train them more often.

If you’re into bodybuilding, and your main goal is to build a more impressive upper body, I recommend a 5-Day Bro Split. If you want to build a balanced physique by getting stronger at the big lifts, I recommend the 5-Day Outlift Split. Both are similarly good for building muscle. They just use slightly different methods to do it.

If you have any questions, drop them below. I’ll answer all the comments. If you want the latest research and methods in your inbox, we have a free muscle-building newsletter.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained 65 pounds at 11% body fat and has ten years of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.