T Nation

5 Day Splits for Natural Bodybuilders?


I've been training for around 10 years now. I started off with full body 3x a week, from there I went to a 3x a week split, and after a few years I began a 5 day split.

I'd just like some confirmation/assurance that what I'm doing is adequate. I know I shouldn't really be looking for reassurance from other people about the way I train, but having been a long time lurker of these forums there are a lot of knowledgeable people around, and I just felt you guys may be able to put my mind at ease.

I mean, it's not like I'm NOT progressiong on a 5 day split, but I tend to get really anal about these things and once I start thinking there's something wrong with it, I start overthinking and panicking about it. I've been reading up a lot on how training a muscle twice a week is 'supposedly' much better for natural bodybuilders, than training them once a week, and that's really what has caused me to start thinking about my current routine.

I really enjoy working out 5x a week, using a traditional bodybuilding split. I like to be able to focus on the muscle I'm training 100% which an upper/lower or full body routine wouldn't allow me to do. I guess maybe I AM overthinking it, but I can't help thinking that maybe my bodyparts don't need 7 days of rest, and that I'm doing myself a disservice by only training them once a week.

Would really appreciate some input on this, thanks guys.


Many people would argue that getting the sets, for example, 12- 20 per muscle group, per week is what really matters for hypertrophy.
Hopefully I didn't take too much with my choice of words, but what I mean is 10 sets for lats on a back and tri day, and 10 sets for lats on chest day, equally 20 sets per week; has actually been shown to be more effective for grwoth due to Increased protein synthethis.

Would cite the article but it was posted on a competing website


Why does a trainee have to use the same split year round? If your progressing, stick with it, it not try something else for a bit.




Thanks guys, that's helpful.


You answered your own question my man. The training split DOES NOT matter at all as long as you are progressing towards your goals, Of course we all like scientific evidence and studies to back us up haha.
I do believe that a 5-6 day split hitting every body part once is effective for some people, I like doing a single body part split when Im deloading or need a few weeks to rest up and get back to 150%.

On the same page though my go to split is a 6 day split hitting eveything at least twice, especially for a natty athlete this is important since protein synthesis is only going on for a day or two tops, but all in all its up to you and as long as yoru having fun and progressing your good haha.


A 5 day split is absolutely fine for a Natty BB'er, especially one who has been lifting for 10 years and tried several other methods of training. Many highly successful Natural BB'ers use body part split routines.

Also, depending on how you structure your split you can increase or decrease the number of times you hit each muscle group.


Hey, was hoping you'd come in and comment, as you've given some great advice to other members from what I've seen.

Can I just ask, how would you structure the split to allow muscles to be hit twice a week? The only viable one I can come up with is Upper/Lower, but I'm running into problems constantly with it.

  • Where do Deadlifts go in an Upper/Lower? If they go on Upper days, then it's just added volume to a whole load of other exercises used on Upper day. If I include them on Lower day, then by the time I'm done with either Squats or Deadlift, I'll be too fried to put in a decent amount of effort on the other exercise.

  • I tried using the minimum amount of exercises I could cope with, in the Upper part of the split although even then it seemed like an excessive amount for one workout. I had:

Deadlift (Lower Back)
Barbell Row (Upper Back)
Flat Barbell Bench (Chest)
Incline Barbell Bench (Upper Chest)
Barbell Military Press (Anterior Delt)
Dumbbell Lateral Raise (Lateral Delt)
Barbell Shrug (Traps)
Barbell Curl (Biceps)
Weighted Dips (Triceps)

Even then it seems as though each bodypart won't be getting hit enough, even though the overall volume of the workout itself is high, due to the number of exercises. But the thing is, if I drop even one of those exercises to make the workout less excessive in regards to volume, then a bodypart will end up being neglected. For example, I could take out Incline Bench but then Upper chest won't get worked as well, or I could take out Barbell Military Press which would then cause my front delts to not get worked as well. I know that the front delt is worked secondarily in Flat & Incline Bench, but I like to work muscles directly. I think that is what has lead me to follow a 5 day split for so long, because each muscle gets worked with the exact amount of volume that YOU decide, not the split itself.

Then again, that's probably why I've begun to question it so much recently. I find that if something's been working for ages, then I begin to feel it's too good and end up trying to find flaws/faults with it. This seemed to be confirmed to me, or at least I feared it was when I read up a load about natural bodybuilders tending to fair much better with Upper/Lower as opposed to a 1x a week bodypart split, due to the fact that a muscle doesn't need 7 days to repair... Apparently.

I've been trying to find ways to make an Upper/Lower work, but I just can't seem to do it. No matter how I design the plan, there always seems to be a bodypart that will end up being neglected due to lack of exercise selection, which is something I'm not used to having been on a 5 day split for so long.


Interesting...I just started doing twice per week on a push/pull/leg 6 day split. I am natural and am moving from once per week per BP also. Will keep an eye on responses.


I am going to deadlift on the second pull day and then do leg ext and leg curls on the day after. No way I could squat and dead on same day or back to back days.


Upper/Lower could work, but personally if I were going to go the "2 way split" approach I prefer Push/Pull instead as that would allow less carryover between workouts. You also don't need to perform the exact same exercises in each workout in order to hit a muscle 2x per week.

So, you could put Conventional Deads in your first Pull workout, Front Squats in your first Push workout, then Rack Deadlifts in your second Pull workout and Back Squats in your second Push workout.

When structuring a Body part split to hit muscle groups multiple times you want to think about exercises which place secondary emphasis on muscles. For instance, you could do:

Mon: Chest and Back (shoulders and Triceps are automatically hit secondarily as are Biceps and Brachioradialis/Brachialis, and you can even add in some leg secondary emphasis by including Deadlifts and as always core is automatically working)

Tues: Abs/Core, Forearms and Calves

Wed: Quads and Hammies (secondary emphasis is placed on the core and Calves depending on your exercise choices)

Thurs: Shoulders (secondary emphasis is placed on the Triceps, Upper Chest, Upper Back, and even Biceps if you include any Face pull or Upright Row variations)

Fri: Arms (Secondary emphasis is placed on shoulders and chest if you do any compound pressing for the triceps and forearms while performing Biceps, you could also of course throw in a compound pull which you feel hits your Biceps well which would hit your back secondarily)

It's not as much direct work for each muscle group as a 2 Way split, but there is still a decent amount if you are pushing hard.

There are of course lots of variations on how to do this and manipulate frequency (all of which I don't have time to write out ATM), but hopefully this will at least get you started/thinking for yourself on how you might do this.


Also, as far as I understand it protein synthesis is largely systemic, so as long as you are continuing to strength train between Chest workouts (even if those workouts don't directly involve the pecs), your body is not going to start breaking down your pec muscles within a week's time. Also, if you are really hammering the pecs in your chest workout with heavy weights and lots of volume (which you should be if you are going to go the 5 way split route), then it may not actually be all that long between when your body is actually done healing, repairing, and improving itself and you hit the muscle again even on a once a week split.

You always need to take into account volume, intensive ness ("intensity" as defined by the HIT crowd), how strong you are, your diet, and of course your natural work capacity/recovery rate when designing a split. If you want to up the frequency, you'll have to decrease the volume, intensive ness, load, outside the gym stress (or maybe a combination of all of these) or really up the calories, rest, or work done on the "less important" body parts (basically do a "specialization" program) to allow your body to be able to adapt adequately. In contrast, if you are going to decrease the frequency to hitting each body part once every 7 days (directly), then you want to really hit it hard, heavy, and with lots of volume during that one workout (to make use of the extra time between sessions). Of course there is still likely an upper limit for most of us and after a certain point adding more volume, intensiveness, and load won't be productive, but it should still be more than you would do with a more frequent approach.


Thanks Sento, that's great. Always very helpful indeed.

Much appreciated!