Any exercise is better than none, that’s for sure. But we can’t deny that gender-specific workouts are beneficial for getting the best results. Women have certain physiological needs that men don’t necessarily have, and vice versa. Using a targeted, 5-day workout split explicitly tailored to female needs can be one of the best ways to get the most out of your gym time. And while research into gender-specific fitness protocols is limited, we have some insight into what sets women apart and why a 5-day split might be the right choice. In this article, we’ll highlight the benefits of a 5-day workout split tailored to women, how to customize your own routine and the ultimate strength-training plan that will help you achieve your fitness goals.
Is A 5-Day Split Effective?
First, it’s important to note that a 5-day split is not right for everyone. Depending on your fitness level and goals, you might benefit more from a 3- or 4-day routine. However, if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter looking for optimal physical performance and a well-rounded fitness routine, then a 5-day split could be just what you need because:
You’ll Maximize Training Volume
Training volume is one of the most important aspects of an effective routine, as it’s directly related to the amount of muscle you can gain (5). To truly understand the benefits of a 5-day split, you need to understand that volume is simply the amount of work you do in any given session, measured by sets, reps, and the amount of weight lifted.
The process of muscle growth, and even strength gains, is largely dependent on how much total volume you can do per week. Let’s dive deeper into why this is; when you train, you’re actually breaking down your muscle fibers.
The more volume that you do, the more damage is done. This doesn’t sound great, but it’s actually a good thing. The body responds to this damage by repairing and rebuilding the muscle fibers stronger than before, so when you do the same exercise again, they’ll be able to handle more weight.
As for strength gains, they come down to tiny neural adaptations, which means that the more volume you do in each session, the better your body will get at recruiting muscle fibers and executing complex movements (1).
Women who’ve been on a 3 or 4-day split for a while will often reach a plateau and find it difficult to make progress. If that’s the case for you, then increasing your training volume with a 5-day split can be the answer.
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You’ll Get Better Rest And Recovery
Rest and recovery are just as important as training (4). If you don’t give your body enough time to rest between workouts, then you won’t be able to perform optimally and you won’t be able to make the most out of your time in the gym.
It might sound ironic that increasing your training volume can mean more rest, so let’s explain.
When you’re following a 3- or 4-day split, the days that you work out can be quite intense (especially if you’re progressing in strength and weight). Sometimes, the workouts can be too taxing on your body and you won’t have enough energy to go hard the next day. Other times, you might have to hit the same muscle groups two days in a row.
With a 5-day split, you get more rest between workouts by focusing on different muscle areas each day. This means that you’ll be able to hit each muscle group with more intensity, and still get adequate rest between workouts. You’ll also make the most out of your time in the gym.
You’ll Spend Less Time Exercising
Increasing your training volume isn’t only an effective way to get the most gains; it’s also time efficient.
The 5-day split allows you to focus on a specific muscle group or two each day, rather than multiple muscle groups in the same session. This way, you can spend less time in the gym and still achieve your fitness goals.
This quality can come in handy for those who are experiencing burnout as a result of lengthy 3- or 4-day splits, or for those who are on a tight schedule and need to get their workouts done in a short time period.
You’ll Burn More Calories
The rest you get while on a 5-day workout split allows you to increase the intensity of each workout session. This will result in more calories burned during each workout, and ultimately help you reach your fitness goals faster.
You’ll Achieve A More Balanced Physique
Aesthetics are a huge motivator for many people, and the 5-day split allows you to focus on different muscle groups each day in order to achieve a balanced physique. You can customize your split so that you work out certain muscle groups less frequently, in order to give those areas more time to rest and grow.
This will help you create a more symmetrical look, and ultimately make reaching your aesthetic goals easier.
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A Word Of Caution
A 5-day workout split is intense. At first, it might take some time to find out how much volume you can manage in each session. Going too hard too soon can lead to burnout or overtraining, so it’s important to take your time and increase the volume gradually.
Time-wise, a 5-day workout split can be unforgiving in that you only have 7 days a week; miss one day, and you can’t make it up. If you do make it up, you might have three workouts running back-to-back, which can be too exhausting.
There’s also less room for flexibility in terms of when you work out; if something important comes up and you can’t make it to the gym, then your entire routine will be thrown off.
For some, this price of dedication might be too steep, and they’d be better off sticking to a 3- or 4-day split.
What Is A Good 5-Day Workout Split?
You have a few options when it comes to splitting your 5-days a week workout. The only rule is to ensure you’re resting muscle groups by not targeting them on consecutive days.
You’ll need some knowledge of muscle anatomy to do this; some muscles that appear isolated are actually associated with other muscle groups. A better alternative is to focus on movement patterns rather than muscle groups.
Human beings have a number of natural movement patterns, like pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging and rotating. The muscles involved in a pushing motion are hardly ever the same as those involved in a pulling motion, (for example, your arm muscles while doing a chest press will be different from those while doing a bent-over row).
This way, you can target different muscles on consecutive days without straining any one muscle group.
The most common 5-day split workout for women is the Push/Pull/Legs approach, which divides the body into three sections: upper body pushing muscles (chest, triceps and shoulders), upper body pulling muscles (back, biceps and core) and lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves).
An upper/lower body split is another popular 5-day workout for women, where you alternate between upper and lower body days. This can help if you find that one section of your body is getting worked too much or not enough.
An upper/lower body split can include a cardio day as well, which is important for weight loss and overall health (2). The choice of cardio activity, however, will depend on how it impacts your ability to recover from weight training. You don’t want to do cardio that will inhibit your performance in the gym.
Ultimately, the best 5-day workout split for women depends on the individual and their goals. The idea is to create a well-rounded program that focuses on all the major muscle groups, while also allowing adequate rest and recovery. You should be able to follow this program for at least 8 weeks before making changes.
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Which Exercises Should You Include In A 5-Day Split Workout For Women?
The basic rules of exercise selection to create a routine apply, regardless of the number of workouts per week. You’ll have a mix of compound (multi-joint) and isolation exercises (single-joint movement) to target all the muscle groups.
These exercises are divided based on your fitness goals, whether it’s strength, hypertrophy (muscle growth), toning or weight loss.Compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench press should be prioritized in a 5 day split workout for strength for women.
These exercises will help you develop overall strength with a focus on large muscles like glutes, quads and chest. Isolation exercises like leg extensions, bicep curls and triceps extensions should be added to supplement the compound exercises.
A workout split 5 day to build muscle for women might include exercises like lateral raises, kettlebell swings and cable flies. Here, you want to focus on exercises that target smaller muscle groups, like the deltoids, traps and lats.
Compound exercises are still important to build strength and size, but isolation exercises will help you target the smaller muscles for a more aesthetically pleasing physique.
A combination of compound and isolation exercises is best in a women’s 5-day workout split for toning. Toning is essentially strength training with lighter weights and higher reps, so you’ll want to focus on exercises that target all the major muscle groups. This can include any combination of squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, chest press, rows and bicep curls.
Finally, a 5-day split workout for weight loss will focus on exercises that burn the most calories. This can include a mix of cardio and strength training exercises, like running, jump squats, burpees and planks. You might consider a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) approach, which is a type of workout that alternates between periods of intense effort and low-level activity (3). If you do, your sessions must be short as HIIT can be very taxing.
We should mention that exercise choice for women will vary slightly from that for men. One reason is that some muscles respond and recover faster than the same muscle in men. For example, legs and glutes respond faster in women than men.
Another reason is hormonal differences, as women’s bodies respond differently to training. At certain points in their cycle, they may have less energy and structuring a workout with this in mind might help.
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Sample 5-Day Workout Split For Women
Now that you know a little more about creating an effective 5 day workout split for women, here’s one to inspire your program. This is a sample upper/lower body split program with a focus on strength and muscle growth, but you can modify it as needed.
The recommendation for rest in-between sets is that you take as much time as you need to feel recovered while keeping in mind how much time you’d allocated for your workout.
Day One: Lower Body
- Squats – 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Deadlifts – 3 sets x 5-8 reps
- Leg Press – 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- Lunges – 2 sets x 10-15 reps (each leg)
- Calf Raises – 4 sets x 10-15 reps
Day Two: Upper Body
- Bench Press – 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Bent Over Rows – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Shoulder Press – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Pull Ups/Lat Pulldowns – 2 sets x 8-12 reps
- Bicep Curls – 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- Tricep Extensions – 3 sets x 10-15 reps
Day Three: HIIT/Cardio
- Jump Squats – 30s x 10 reps
- Mountain Climbers – 30s x 10 reps
- Plank Jacks – 30s x 10 reps
- Burpees – 20s x 10 reps
- Jumping Lunges – 30s x 10 reps (each leg)
Day Four: Lower Body
- Squats – 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Romanian Deadlifts – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Step ups – 3 sets x 10-15 reps (each leg)
- Glute Bridges – 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- Calf Raises – 4 sets x 10-15 reps
Day Five: Upper Body
- Incline Bench Press – 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Rows – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Lateral Raises – 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- Seated Cable Rows – 2 sets x 8-12 reps
- Cable Flyes – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Tricep Pushdowns – 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- Kettlebell Swings – 2 sets x 12-15 reps
The Bottom Line
Gender matters when it comes to creating a workout split. Women may have different needs than men, and understanding those can help you create an effective program tailored to their goals.
A 5-day split can help you create a balanced program that targets all the major muscle groups and mixes both strength training and cardio. Sample splits for toning, muscle building and weight loss can provide a great starting point, but feel free to modify as needed.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Adaptations to Endurance and Strength Training (2018, nih.gov)
- Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour (2017, mayoclinic.org)
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Improves Cardiorespiratory Fitness (CRF) in Healthy, Overweight and Obese Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Studies (2020, nih.gov)
- Recovery from training: a brief review: brief review (2008, nih.gov)
- The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men (2015, nih.gov)