Have you been lifting for a while and are looking for a new routine to keep things exciting at the gym? The 6-day workout split can be one of the most effective routines for building muscle. But this is true only for those who can recover well enough. For most beginners, working out six days a week is simply overkill.
This article explores the basics of an intense 6-day workout split bodybuilding routine. It also contains a 6-day workout split program that you can follow if you are used to high-volume routines and are dedicated enough.
What Is A 6-Day Workout Split?
A 6-day workout split is a bodybuilding routine that involves working out for six days in a week with only one rest day in the same week.
In such a workout, you split your entire body up into different muscle groups and work them out on different days (15). You then give yourself one day off before going back to the gym for another round of lifting.
An example of an intense 6-day workout split could be:
- Monday: Chest, Shoulder, Triceps (light)
- Tuesday: Legs and Core
- Wednesday: Back, Biceps, Forearms
- Thursday: Chest, Shoulder, Triceps (heavy)
- Friday: Rest day
- Saturday: Legs and Core
- Sunday: Back, Biceps, Forearms
The 6-day split is an intense workout that is only suitable for intermediate or advanced bodybuilders. For beginners, a less intense 3-day split might be more sustainable because it allows you more recovery time.
Is A 6-Day Workout Split Effective?
6-day split workout routines are some of the most effective workouts for accelerating and maximizing muscle growth and strength. However, this is only true if you know how to do the following:
- Allow your body proper recovery time after each session.
- Maintain motivation to train six days a week.
- Push your body to its limits while avoiding strength training-related injuries.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the points listed above:
Allow Your Body Proper Recovery Time After Each Session
To benefit from a 6-day split, you must be able to recover from a workout within 2-3 days. This is because 6-day splits often require training each body part twice a week. There are several things you can do to ensure optimal recovery, and we’ll break them down into two: things you can do outside the gym (diet, supplementation, sleep), and things you can do inside the gym (high-intensity training, structure your split to aid recovery).
Things You Can Do Outside The Gym
Here are three factors that determine how well you recover during an intense workout program:
You must eat a diet high in protein and carbohydrates (4). A good rule of thumb is to get 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day from lean, natural sources like chicken, fish, dairy, and eggs. Runners should get about 5-6 calories per pound of body weight (if you’re a 180 lbs runner, eat around 1350 calories).
Carbohydrates are the most vital component for energy production during intense exercise sessions (7). Carbs can also help prevent muscle breakdown while training intensely for long periods without adequate fuel. At night time, it is recommended to eat plenty of fruit because they contain high levels of sugars, which can replenish glycogen stores quickly. Proteins are best consumed at each meal for maximum recovery.
Make sure you limit carbohydrate intake before bed as it can interfere with sleep patterns. It is also advisable to drink plenty of water throughout the day and eat foods that contain a high level of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium – nutrients that help reduce muscle cramping (6).
Protein shakes are an easy way to get some extra protein in your diet. There are many kinds available on the market (whey, casein, etc.) Creatine monohydrate is by far the most researched supplement out there. It’s been proven to improve performance during high-intensity exercises such as weight lifting and sprinting (5).
Not only that, but it can also aid in producing new muscle cells after a workout. Beta-alanine is another supplement that might help give you an edge when training intensely. It helps boost the production of carnosine levels, an amino acid that has been found to reduce fatigue during high-intensity exercise (8).
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Studies show that sleep deprivation slows down the body’s recovery process by impeding protein synthesis (10). There are several things you can do to ensure more quality sleep, such as:
- Limit caffeine intake at night time, especially before bedtime.
- Don’t drink alcohol too close to hitting the hay (2 hours before is best).
- Don’t eat 3 hours before bedtime because your digestive system will keep up with activity.
- Relax and take your time to wind down before bedtime. The more relaxed you are when getting into bed, the faster you’ll fall asleep.
Things You Can Do Inside The Gym
Here are some considerations you should make inside the gym for maximum recovery:
The best way to maximize your workout potential is by training with high intensity and heavyweight. However, this doesn’t mean that sets should be taken to failure. Research shows that training in this manner reduces strength levels and does not cause muscle hypertrophy (11).
Instead of doing multiple sets per exercise and taking each set to failure, it’s better to do 2-3 sets per exercise at a slightly lower intensity level (about 75% 1RM), so enough glycogen remains for the next session. This will help reduce muscle soreness after the workout and will allow you to train with better intensity the next time.
Choosing The Right Exercises
As for exercises, isolation movements (bicep curls, leg extensions) are not recommended. Instead of using machines or dumbbells that isolate individual muscles, use compound lifts (bench press, squats) as they’ll have a more profound muscle-building effect on your physique. However, don’t rely too much on these lifts either, some moderate rep work is required to build muscle and strength.
You should be able to maintain good form when training with high intensity (3). If you’re unable to maintain proper technique, it’s not worth taking the set to failure. Isolation exercises like cable flyes are okay because they won’t cause any technical problems.
Structure Your Split To Aid Recovery
When constructing a workout routine, the first thing to consider is which muscle groups should be paired together.
Here are all the major muscle groups you should consider while planning your split:
Training antagonistic muscles in a specific group, like biceps and triceps or back and chest, activates the same muscles you’ve just trained, which can reduce recovery time. It is therefore advisable to separate those muscles into different workouts. For example, don’t train your chest on Monday and follow up with a workout for your shoulders on Wednesday.
You’ll recover faster if you limit the number of training days that target similar muscle groups. Training two days in a row might work well for beginners who are still adapting to this type of routine, but experienced lifters should consider limiting their sessions to one day apart.
It’s also better to separate upper body and lower body workouts (13). That way, you’ll be able to fully recuperate from a leg workout before hitting the iron again, and compound lifts won’t beat up your joints.
Maintain Motivation To Train 6 Days A Week
It can be hard to stay consistent with both workouts and recovery when training six days a week.
Here are some helpful tips that ensure you see your workout program through:
Make Physical Fitness A Part Of Your Everyday Routine
It can be hard to fit exercise into your busy lifestyle if you don’t prioritize it, but you have to try. Schedule workouts into your calendar, just like you would your work schedule and other important activities.
Many people do their workout at a certain time because they feel like they should, not because it’s the best time for them to give 100% of their effort. Verify your schedule to make sure you have enough time between work and family duties to get an effective workout so that you can maintain motivation.
Vary Your Routine
The human body adapts quickly to changes in diet and exercise demands, which makes it harder for you to achieve an effective workout routine. If your workouts are always on the same days or target the same muscle groups, the same way each week, then your body will be adapted (or acclimatized) by the end of the first week. To avoid this, change your routine every 4-6 weeks to ensure your workout stays effective and see progress.
Record Your Progress
A great way to keep motivation high is by tracking your progress (2). It’s normal to want to show off the improvement you’ve made at a glance, but before you set out to do that, take some time to catalog everything you’ve done so far. This could be something as simple as taking photos of yourself with your phone or jotting down measurements in a notebook.
Keeping track of how many pounds you can lift for each exercise will also provide insight into how much muscle or strength you have gained. No matter what method you use, all your records must be accurate because otherwise, they won’t help maintain motivation.
Surround Yourself With Accountability Buddies
The people you surround yourself with have a huge impact on your motivation. If you’re surrounded by people who are negative, lazy, or don’t support your fitness goals, then there’s a good chance that their influence will rub off on you and your ability to maintain motivation will be compromised.
To stop this from happening, make sure that the people in your life who are closest to you, like family members and close friends, are supportive of whatever it is that you want to achieve. If they won’t get on board for fear of being left out, then consider cutting them off so that they no longer have any sway over your routine. Getting a workout buddy is a great way to stay motivated and accountable (1).
By planning and staying accountable, you’ll be able to maintain motivation to train six days a week. It will take some time and effort, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll see your hard work pay off in no time at all.
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Push Your Body To Its Limits While Avoiding Strength Training Injuries
There are steps you can take to avoid injuries while lifting at the gym.
Use The Correct Technique
This is one of the most important factors when it comes to staying injury-free. If you do an exercise with bad form, then it’s only a matter of time until you injure yourself because your body will be put in a compromising position (14). When lifting weights at the gym, make sure that your technique is on point. You have to know how to move each muscle group through its entire range of motion while avoiding momentum at all costs.
Use The Right Weight
Don’t overestimate your strength, and go for weights that are too heavy. You can still use a good technique with lighter weights.
If you start big and sloppy, then you’re already setting yourself up to get injured because your body won’t be able to handle the added weight. It’s better to use the lightest possible weight for an effective lift than it is to risk injury by using a weight that’s too heavy for your strength level (14).
Stretch And Warm-Up
Some people get in the mindset that warming up isn’t necessary, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Stretching before your workout is important because it limbers up muscles and makes them more flexible, which lowers the chances of strains while lifting at the gym.
Warming up will increase blood flow to your muscles, which increases elasticity in the joints, reduces muscular tension, and prevents injury (12). A good warm-up prepares your body for exercise so that it will take the impact of a heavy bar or dumbbell much better than if you hadn’t warmed up.
Get A Good Spotter
A heavyset gone wrong can result in some serious damage if you don’t have someone there to spot for you. Having someone nearby who can help you lift a weight and keep from getting pinned under a barbell can mean the difference between injuring yourself or not. Don’t be afraid to ask someone who looks like they know what they’re doing if you need help, but just make sure that they’re not competing against you or trying to show off.
Don’t Over Train
Overtraining is the easiest way to get injured (9). Your body needs time to repair itself after a strenuous workout. When you don’t give it this chance, it will start breaking down muscle tissue instead of building it up, which will make it impossible for your muscles to grow over time. If possible, try training each muscle group twice per week with at least 48 hours between sessions so that your body has enough time to recover from the stress you put on it.
The signs of overtraining include:
- Unusual fatigue in and out of the gym
- A decline in performance and progress
- Muscle soreness that doesn’t go away
- Joint pain and injury
The Bottom Line
The 6-day split workout for building muscle and strength is grueling, intense, but extremely rewarding if you stick to it. It won’t be easy at first, but once you learn how to push yourself hard without breaking down, it will become easier, and the results will show in no time at all.
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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!
- 3 Reasons to Work Out With a Friend (2021, cdc.gov)
- 7 Reasons to Track Your Fitness Progress (2017, nifs.org)
- 7 tips for a safe and successful strength training program (2015, health.harvard.edu)
- All About Post-Workout Nutrition (n.d., precisionnutrition.com)
- Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update (2012, jissn.biomedcentral.com)
- Electrolytes (2021, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- High-Quality Carbohydrates and Physical Performance (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine (2015, jissn.biomedcentral.com)
- Overtraining Syndrome (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sleep and protein synthesis-dependent synaptic plasticity: impacts of sleep loss and stress (2014, frontiersin.org)
- Strength Training with Repetitions to Failure does not Provide Additional Strength and Muscle Hypertrophy Gains in Young Women (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The effect of warm-ups with stretching on the isokinetic moments of collegiate men (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Upper/Lower Split: The Best Workout Plan? (n.d., issaonline.com)
- Weight training: Do’s and don’ts of proper technique (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- What is the difference between total body strength training routines and split routines? (2009, acefitness.org)