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3 Day vs 5 Day Split: Pros/Cons
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Vanchatron
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Join date: Jul 2007
Location: England
Posts: 48

I've been training now for around 6 years am have mostly trained using 3-4 day splits, but I've never really used a 5 day split. Having watched the way the Pros train, around 95% of them use a 5 day split training a single body part each day. Now obviously I'm not gonna go ahead & copy the Pros exactly, but there must be a reason why the vast majority of them do 5 day splits as opposed to 3-4 day splits, and I was just wondering why.

The only reason I could think of for using a 5 day split, would be if you wanted to train a particular muscle TWICE per week as opposed to just once, but having spent the past few hours reading up on people's 5 day splits & the 5 day splits the Pros use (again, not copying them, just observing) they tend to just train a single body part each day, once per week (as opposed to twice), which looks something like the following.

Typical 5 Day Split:

Mon - Chest
Tue - Back
Wed - Legs
Thu - Shoulders
Fri - Arms

As opposed to...

Typical 3 Day Split:

Mon - Chest/Triceps
Wed - Legs/Shoulders
Fri - Back/Biceps


Surely Arms & shoulders don't need their own days & can be coupled longside the bigger muscle groups as shown in the 3 day split, but these 5 day splits training a single muscle each day seem to be really popular and I'm just wondering WHY. WHY use a 5 day split as opposed to a 3 day split, if you can spend less time in the gym on a 3 day split? There's got to be a reason why all the Pros etc use them. I don't think I've EVER seen an IFBB Pro's workout which is based on a 3 day split. As I said above, they almost always train using a 5 day split, training one muscle per day. The thing is, having been training now for 6+ years, I've been reading that the advanced trainee benefits MORE from a 5 day split as opposed to a 3 day split (which is why the Pros use it I guess) but I can't see how. How would training 5x a week be any MORE beneficial to growth for an advanced trainee than training just 3x a week?

Also, I'm hearing a lot lately of muscles growing BETTER off training them twice per week as opposed to just once, because apparently they don't need a week to recover, but I really can't see how you can train a muscle twice per week using a typical Split Program.

Anyway, what do you think?

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jck524
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Join date: Jul 2007
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Posts: 512

personally I feel as though i gain the most by doing a 5 day split. If i did a 3 day split i would feel as though i wasnt hitting the gym enough and if i did TBT i would feel as though my intensity wouldnt be as much.

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Vanchatron
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Join date: Jul 2007
Location: England
Posts: 48

I get what you're saying. I just don't get how splitting up the muscles from a 3 day split (e.g. Chest/Tri's on same day) into a 5 day split (Seperate Chest day & Tri's day) is any more beneficial. Surely this would only mean that you're splitting up the workout, thus making it shorter in length and in turn actually causing you to work LESS per workout because you're only training once muscle group as opposed to two in a single training session.

Hopefully people can understand what I'm trying to get across here.

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jck524
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Join date: Jul 2007
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What my current workout is:

Monday: Back
Tuesday: Shoulders
Wednesday:rest/or if im feeling up for it chest
Thursday: Arms
Friday: rest
Saturday: Legs

I do it like this because i like to give shoulders its own day because i feel as though if i did legs/shoulders i wouldnt have enough intensity as i would if i just worked them out on their own day. im prtty sure i would be tired and lag behind on training them after training legs.

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josh86
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Join date: Feb 2007
Location: California, USA
Posts: 2835

I know one of the reasons I like a 5day split is because if I was pairing up arms with other muscle groups I would be in the gym way longer than I'd like. I also like going in with the bodypart I'm training fresh and ready to hit it hard...rather than using most of my energy doing legs or shoulders or something and then doing my arms with whatever is left in the tank.

Also I've noticed that I get the best results when using a 5day split, and I've tried tbt, upper/lowers, push/pulls, etc..

My current 5day split is:

M - Legs
T - Chest
W - Back
Th - Shoulders
F - Arms

I don't like training back and legs one after the other without at least 1 day in between due to lower back fatigue and I love to train legs first in the week when I'm the most fresh because its the most intense.

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enigma666
Level 5

Join date: Jun 2007
Location: Ohio, USA
Posts: 148

I personally switch off between 2 routines a lot.

First is
day 1- Total body
day 2- Rest
day 3- Choose what part of my body I feel is lacking the most and work the hell out of it.
Day 4- Rest

Second is
day 1- Chest/Back
day 2- Legs/Core
Day 3- Shoulders and arms
Day 4 - Rest

I usually keep each work out on a hour time frame.

I have never tried the 5 day spit but I am eager to hear any thing else any one has to say about it, as I am bulking and wouldn't mind giving it a try.

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SquatDeep385
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I think one of the big draws to a 5 day split is that people want to feel like they''re working hard in the gym so if they are only doing one bodypart per day they can hit it with maximum intensity and high volume.

Also, many people (myself included) really enjoy going to the gym so a split that gets them in there more times a week is a good one.

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Goodfellow
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Join date: Sep 2006
Location: England
Posts: 2642

Vanchatron wrote:
I get what you're saying. I just don't get how splitting up the muscles from a 3 day split (e.g. Chest/Tri's on same day) into a 5 day split (Seperate Chest day & Tri's day) is any more beneficial. Surely this would only mean that you're splitting up the workout, thus making it shorter in length and in turn actually causing you to work LESS per workout because you're only training once muscle group as opposed to two in a single training session.

Hopefully people can understand what I'm trying to get across here.


With a 5 day split, each workout is shorter, compared to a 3 day split.

Each muscle group can be trained with maximal intensity.

Shoulder & Arm days could be considered active rest days. However, when I train shoulder & arms im usually coming out covered in sweat, but from what i've read most people consider them one of the easier workouts.

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datta
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^^^.

I also cant fathom doing triceps after chest. When I do 2 chest exercises, I cant even raise my arms properly.

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guaglione
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Join date: Apr 2007
Location: Italy
Posts: 64

I think everything can work well depending on various factors, however i'd personally dislike working out only 3 days a week. That's cause i love training.
My current program is a 4-day split with 3 out of the 4 days involving two training sessions each.

Day 1
Deadlifts, chinups, pullups, pullovers, neck work

Day 2
AM Db bench presses, Close grip bench presses, Db shoulder press
PM Db incline presses, db tri extensions, side laterals

Day 3
AM Front squats, db lunges
PM Romanian deads, calves, neck work

Day 4
Cardio(low intensity)

Day 5
AM BB rows, db rows, shrugs, biceps

PM Pullups, shoulder presses, BB upright rows, side laterals

Day 6
Cardio(low/medium intensity)

Day 7
Cardio(low/medium intensity)


I think a 3day split would be nice as long as you trained your ass off on each training day. Maybe twice a day weight training on a 3day split would be an interesting program to follow.

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Bill Roberts
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Join date: Mar 2003
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Posts: 8669

One can reach the point where, if using a volume based approach to making further gains, results are better -- or are forthcoming as opposed to NOT forthcoming -- if doing twice the amount of work for a bodypart half as often as opposed to doing a lesser amount more often. The lesser amount just may not be cutting it anymore.

For example the last 9 weeks my split was:

Tuesday: Squats, deadlifts, and calves (and som biceps)
Wednesday: Chest (and some triceps)
Thursday: Back
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Leg Press done with a semi-Doug-Hepburn type approach, and calves (and some biceps and forearms)
Sunday: Shoulders, traps (and some triceps)
Monday: Rest

Seeing as each workout is 2 hours, combining the exercises now taking 5 days into 3 days would be more than I can do per day. Or doing what I can do per day but in only 3 days would hit each bodypart with less work, which lesser amount is really -- as the regular, usual ongoing amount as opposed to a temporary changeup -- not optimal for me anymore.

The above is while performance-enhanced with the juice, though I can do it clean as well, but more generally have a number of the workouts reduced to one hour in that case. E.g. what I just started is an 11-day cycle, in which most things get trained twice, and only three of the workouts are 2 hours while the other six are 1 hour. However the same principle applies during "off" weeks as well: more work can be done per week when done in 5 days as opposed to 3 days. (The reason for the current 11-day cycle is because of incorporating two different progression programs at the same time.)

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Sentoguy
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Join date: Nov 2005
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Posts: 6084

There are several reasons why pro's (or anyone for that matter) use 5 day splits.

It could be as someone mentioned above, that they simply like going to the gym a lot and the more days they are there the better.

It could be that they are truly advanced and must split their workouts up this much due to the huge weights they are lifting and tremendous stress they are placing on their systems during their workouts.

It could be that they are trying to bring up a weak body part and therefore are training it twice a week.

As far as using a 3 day split, possible reasons could be:

The person might have a very fast metabolism and actually feel that the less days they're in the gym the easier it is for them to get in a surplus of calories.

The person could feel that an increased frequency of training each body part allows them to grow faster. This would actually be a "2 way split" (upper/lower, push/pull, DC), but it's still done 3 days a week.

The person is active in sports that don't allow them to put the energy/time into lifting that a 5 day split entails (not that a 3 day split is necessarily any easier, just less time consuming).

I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones I can thank of off the top of my head.

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chesspirate
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Join date: Jul 2008
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Posts: 8

Not to get to far off topic, but how is it that many of the old time original bodybuilding programs essentially were the same semi-total body routines done 3 times a week?

I'm trying to understand how different splits affect my own recovery. Currently I am on a 3 day split, and honestly after my current squat workout, I couldn't imagine doing any other leg work till the following week.

How would the "old timers" do more than one squat workout in a week, or squat and dead in the same week?

Sorry to hijack.

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enigma666
Level 5

Join date: Jun 2007
Location: Ohio, USA
Posts: 148

chesspirate wrote:
Not to get to far off topic, but how is it that many of the old time original bodybuilding programs essentially were the same semi-total body routines done 3 times a week?

I'm trying to understand how different splits affect my own recovery. Currently I am on a 3 day split, and honestly after my current squat workout, I couldn't imagine doing any other leg work till the following week.

How would the "old timers" do more than one squat workout in a week, or squat and dead in the same week?

Sorry to hijack.



I am not sure how long you have trained solidly with no long durations in time off, but for me that all came with time. After a while my body got used to it and recovered faster, and eating proper helps as well, the old school and current body builders eat like horses with tons of stuff like oatmeal,eggs and whole milk in mass.

I am Not saying that you are doing any thing wrong because I don't know your situation but just saying what goes for me and others personally.

But I think once monday rolls around I am going to try this 5 day split thing, if I like it then I am going to start my first 11-t and Receptormax stack with it.

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enigma666
Level 5

Join date: Jun 2007
Location: Ohio, USA
Posts: 148

chesspirate wrote:
Not to get to far off topic, but how is it that many of the old time original bodybuilding programs essentially were the same semi-total body routines done 3 times a week?

I'm trying to understand how different splits affect my own recovery. Currently I am on a 3 day split, and honestly after my current squat workout, I couldn't imagine doing any other leg work till the following week.

How would the "old timers" do more than one squat workout in a week, or squat and dead in the same week?

Sorry to hijack.


I am not sure how long you have trained solidly with no long durations in time off, but for me that all came with time. After a while my body got used to it and recovered faster, and eating proper helps as well,

the old school and current body builders eat like horses with tons of stuff like oatmeal, eggs and whole milk in mass. I am Not saying that you are doing any thing wrong because I don't know your situation but just saying what goes for me and others personally.

I think once Monday rolls around I am going to try out the 5 day split, if I like it then I am goning to start my first 11-t and Receptormax stack on it. I will post updates in this thread.

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Bill Roberts
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Join date: Mar 2003
Location:
Posts: 8669

chesspirate wrote:
How would the "old timers" do more than one squat workout in a week, or squat and dead in the same week?


If for a bodypart you do the same total work per week and in similar manner that you would do in one workout per week but instead divide it into three workouts per week or any other number, once adapted to this this isn't any harder for the muscles to recover from.

Actually it's interesting to adopt every day training for one or all bodyparts (but for fair comparison, not changing total volume per week.) At first strength goes into the crapper, but soon you're just as strong despite having performed the lifts the last several days in a row as you would ordinarily be after a week's rest.

Not that I think that that is usually a better way to train: it's just interesting to try, and is an illustration perhaps of how the same sort of thing is true also of 3x/week TBT.

But not true if total volume changes or manner of performance changes.

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Dave Rogerson
Level 3

Join date: Jul 2005
Location: England
Posts: 348

I think Bills' points adequately sum up the arguments for adopting a 5 day split.

Simply, by dedicating one session to one particular muscle group, a greater volume of work can be performed for that muscle. Most BBers adopt a volume dominant approach to training on the premise that more work equates to greater muscle damage and greater muscle growth.

Obviously this would require a greater recovery period to ensure this occurs. And as Bill points out, if you were to try to perform that same amount of volume in a 5-day split for a 3 day split, then total training time per session would be pretty huge, and likely overkill.

The downside is, and particularly if you try to maintain a high intenisity too, is that the CNS fatigue can be quite apparent - especially if you dont have the work capacity.

However, if you build up progressively, there is no reason why you couldnt adapt to the volume and make great improvements, just be cognisant with your recovery.

One protocols that I like with 5 day routines is to undulate volume and intensity by rotating between sessions of high, medium and low intensity with corresponding low, medium and high volumes.

For example

Mon: Chest: High Intensity / Low Volume
Tues: Back: Medium Intensity / Medium Volume
Wed: Off / Recovery
Thur: Arms: Low Intensity, High Volume
Fri: Legs: High intensity / Low Volume
Sat: Shoulders: Medium Intensity Low Volume
Sun: Off / recovery
Mon: Chest: Low Intensity / High Volume

etc

Depening on what you classify as a high, med, low volume / intensity depends on your training status, however, I have found that with this method, over the course of a training cycle, you will develop multiple qualities, such as strength, endurance etc, and be able to training at a high volume of work for a longer period of time

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