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Best 5 day workout split For Maximizing Muscle Growth

The best 5-Day Workout Split will maximize muscle growth for all your major muscle groups using its frequent training plan and 2 full days of recovery.

The 5-day workout split is “split” into 2 groups. 

  1. The Bro Split – Hitting every muscle group, one session at a time
  2. The ULPPL Split – Hitting major muscle groups twice a week

In this article, I will explain what these 5-day workout splits are, their pros and cons, how to align them with your goals, and my experience with them after 5 years of training.

What’s a Bro Split?

A bro split is the most commonly used 5-day split. It’s all about giving care to every muscle group. Like sculpting a statue, every part requires attention. Here’s what a Bro Split could look like.

  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Back
  • Day 3: Arms
  • Day 4: Shoulders
  • Day 5: Legs
  • Day 6 & 7: Rest

Side note: Days are not set in stone. The common rule is that shoulder day should be at least a one-day gap away from chest day since the shoulders are actively involved during chest exercises.

Modern Bro Split

The modern bro split comes from my experience in the gym and the fitness industry. Nowadays gym goers (particularly the “bros” of the gym) like to pair chest day with tricep exercises and back day with bicep exercises.

To make this work, you switch arm day for leg day so that your arms recover fully before you train them again. This would look something like this:

  • Day 1: Chest + Triceps
  • Day 2: Back + Biceps
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Shoulders
  • Day 5: Arms
  • Day 6 & 7: Rest

Side note: You may notice that this is similar to Push/Pull/Legs—more on that next.

What is the ULPPL Split?

ULPPL is an acronym for Upper/Lower and Push/Pull/Legs. ULPPL is 2 splits put together.

Upper/Lower refers to 1 upper body workout and 1 lower body workout. The upper body includes the chest, back, shoulder, triceps, biceps, and everything. It is then followed by a day of lower body exercises for the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

It may seem like a lot but once you see my example training plan, it is very manageable for your goals.

Push/Pull/Legs is similar to the modern Bro split however, On push you work on the chest, triceps, and shoulders. On pull day you work the back and biceps. And on leg day you work… the legs.

Here’s an example routine

  • Day 1: Upper Body
  • Day 2: Lower Body
  • Day 3: Rest
  • Day 4: Push
  • Day 5: Pull
  • Day 6: Legs
  • Day 7: Rest

Or the more intense version:

  • Day 1: Upper Body
  • Day 2: Lower Body
  • Day 3: Push
  • Day 4: Pull
  • Day 5: Legs
  • Day 6: Rest
  • Day 7: Rest

Split Considerations – What’s best for you?

Before you choose which split is best for you, you should first consider these variables:

  1. Your training level – Are you a beginner? Regular gym–goer? Bodybuilder?
  2. Your goals – Do you need the 5-day split to build muscle and gain weight? Build muscle and lose weight?
  3. Your Availability – How is your work schedule? Could School or college limit your efforts? Any other unavoidable commitments?

Benefits of the Bro Split

With the bro split you can focus on one muscle group per session, giving each muscle adequate volume and intensity.  As opposed to the ULPPL split, the bro split is very straightforward. On chest day you work on the chest and on back day you work back, and so forth.

By giving adequate volume and intensity to each muscle group, you maximize muscle growth for said muscle group. A meta-analysis from 2017 interpreted results that a minimum of 10 weekly sets per muscle group is necessary to maximize muscle mass.1

By using the Modern Bro split, you can increase the efficiency of your training. Here’s what it could look like.

  • Day 1: Chest (10 sets) + Triceps (5 sets)
  • Day 2: Back (10 sets) + Biceps (5 sets)
  • Day 3: Legs (10 sets split between quads/hamstrings/glutes), (plus 1-3 calf sets)
  • Day 4: Shoulders (10 sets split between front/side/rear delts)
  • Day 5: Arms (5 sets triceps & 5 sets biceps)
  • Day 6 & 7: Rest

Benefits of the ULPPL Split

The main benefit of the ULPPL split is that you can train the same muscle group twice a week. A meta-analysis conducted by the same professionals as the previous meta-analysis “inferred that the major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to maximize muscle growth”.2

This may be because protein synthesis lasts up to 36 hours before going back to baseline. It would therefore make sense to train that same muscle again after that time to trigger protein synthesis again.

It’s good for your mental health

A benefit of both splits is that many people simply enjoy being in the gym more often. It’s often considered “therapeutic ” for an individual’s mental health.

Whether its because gym-goers enjoy the environment of the gym community or the act of lifting dumbbells and barbells, you won’t find people saying they regret going to the gym

Drawbacks of 5-Day Workout Splits

They are not for beginners

This applies to both splits (more so the ULPPL)

Working out 5 days a week for someone who has been in the gym for less than 6 months is not only unnecessary but can be harmful to your future in the gym.

Newbie gains are very real. If you’re a beginner, check out my guide on how often you should go to the gym. TLDR, Push/Pull/Legs is enough.

As a beginner, you have to realize the ultimate goal of building muscle can only be achieved by first getting the form right. Once you’ve got the form right, you need to build a mind-muscle connection. Once you’ve got the mind-muscle connection, then you can progressively overload. And now you’re maximizing your muscle growth potential.

So what happens if you ignore this advice and train anyways?

If you got the form correctly for most exercises, all power to you! If you haven’t, besides the glaring loss of muscle-building potential, you also risk injury. Injury from incorrect form and injury from overtraining.

Does it make sense for someone who doesn’t put their body under immense physical stress to suddenly do so 5 days a week?

Beginners should ease into the gym using the basic Push/Pull/Legs Split

It’s demotivating

Training 5 days a week requires discipline. It’s not easy to train 5 days a week let alone do it while juggling work or studies. Also, remember that the process of going to the gym consistently improves your discipline. 

I know plenty of people that go to the gym at 6 am before work and plenty of people that go at 9 pm after work. It’s hard in the beginning but it can be done.

Muscle building and weight loss on a 5-day split

From previous scientific articles I’ve referenced, you can infer that your muscle-building potential is greater on a 5 Day split rather than on a 3 Day split. And that ULPPL may be the most superior (although more complicated). 

You can take advantage of that muscle-building potential if you’re getting enough protein in.

When it comes to weight loss, it strictly depends on your diet. As long as you’re getting enough protein in and eating in a caloric deficit, you will lose weight and build muscle.

Example training plans

These training plans are purely examples. They should not be taken as absolutes. You can however give them a test and see if you’re a good fit for them. 

The Modern Bro Split Training Plan

Day 1 Chest day

  1. Bench Press 4 sets
  2. Incline dumbbell press 4 sets
  3. Cable crossover 2 sets
  4. Tricep pushdown 3 sets
  5. Overhead tricep extensions 3 sets

Day 2 Back day

  1. Wide grip seated row 4 sets
  2. Lat pulldown 3 sets
  3. Reverse fly 2 sets
  4. Barbell curls 3 sets
  5. Incline dumbbell curls 2 sets

Day 3 Leg day

  1. Barbell squats 3 sets
  2. Leg extensions 3 sets
  3. Hamstring curls 3 sets
  4. Calf raises 3 sets

Day 4 Shoulder day

  1. Shoulder press 3 sets
  2. Front delt raises 2 sets
  3. Lateral raises 5 sets
  4. Reverse fly 2 sets

Day 5 Arms day

  1. Tricep pushdown 3 sets
  2. Overhead tricep extensions 2 sets
  3. Barbell curls 3 sets
  4. Incline dumbbell curls 2 sets
  5. Reverse curls 2 sets

When making this training plan, I aimed to hit around 10 sets per muscle group per week. Each session is about 15 sets long making them not too short and not too long. 

You can use this plan as a base and make modifications to it based on your goals in the gym.

ULPPL [Modified] Training plan

This training plan is a little complicated. It’s very difficult to arrange the days to get 10 sets per muscle group without it going over 15 sets per session. Making sessions too long. To compensate for this issue, all I did was combine leg day with shoulders. 

Day 1 Upper body

  1. Bench press 2 sets
  2. Incline dumbbell press 2 sets
  3. Cable crossover 1 set
  4. Seated wide grip row 2 sets
  5. Lat pulldown 2 sets
  6. Reverse fly 1 set
  7. Barbell curls 3 sets
  8. Tricep pushdown 3 sets

Day 2 Lower body

  1. Barbell squats 2 sets
  2. Leg extensions 2 sets
  3. Hamstring curls 1 set
  4. Calf raises 2 sets
  5. Lateral raises 2 sets (shoulders)

Day 3

Rest

Day 4 Push day

  1. Bench press 2 sets
  2. Incline dumbbell press 2 sets
  3. Cable crossover 1 set
  4. Shoulder press 3 sets
  5. Tricep pushdown 3 sets
  6. Overhead tricep extensions 4 sets

Day 5 Pull day

  1. Wide grip seated row 2 sets
  2. Lat pulldown 2 sets
  3. Reverse fly 1 set
  4. Barbell curls 3 sets
  5. Incline dumbbell curls 4 sets
  6. Reverse curls 2 sets

Day 5 Leg day

  1. Barbell squats 2 sets
  2. Leg extensions 2 sets
  3. Hamstring curls 1 set
  4. Calf raises 2 sets
  5. Front delt raises 2 sets
  6. Lateral raises 2 sets

If you’re willing to accept the complexity of the ULPPL split then you’ll be rewarded with better muscle growth potential since your training the major muscle groups twice a week. 

Side note: If you’re willing to put in a few more sets of those major muscle groups, go right ahead. This plan was also made with the estimate of 15 sets per session and to hit 10 sets of each muscle group per week.

Advice from a Gym bro

From my time in the gym, I’ve run all sorts of splits. That includes the modern bro split and the ULPPL split. Speaking from my experience, choosing your 5-day split is a matter of preference after testing. Some people may prefer keeping it simple and hitting one muscle group per workout. Others might enjoy the pump of multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Try out different splits for at least a month each. From there you can gauge which one meets the criteria you have for achieving your goals. 

P.s. This is my current split

Day 1 Chest + Triceps + Side Delts

Day 2 Back + Biceps

Day 3 Legs

Day 4 Shoulders + Arms 

A little less emphasis on shoulders but other than that, I hit my minimum of 10 sets per muscle group.

References

  1. Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sports Sci. 2017 Jun;35(11):1073-1082. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2016.1210197. Epub 2016 Jul 19. PMID: 27433992.
  2. Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2016 Nov;46(11):1689-1697. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8. PMID: 27102172.

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