T Nation

5x5, 5-day split

To all T-men and Vixens:

I just wanted to post this split as a second option to the one that I presented in my article. If you're anything like me, you like to keep the workouts as short as possible. By doing this, It keeps me fresh and looking forward to each consecutive workout. I have no problem spending a half hour in the gym 5 days a week, but a 70 minute session 3 times a week can leave me feeling quite burnt out. I realize that not everyone can fit 5 trips to the gym into their weekly schedule, but for those of you who can, it's an option you may want to choose. I find that taking a short amount of time out of my day to exercise allows me to alleviate some of the daily stresses of life and leaves me at the top of my game. Well, here's the split (this is actually what I do):

M- Chest and Back

T- Upper Legs and Back Extensors

W- Arms

R- Traps and Forearms

F- Shoulders and Calves

I'd still do the HIIT in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

If the thread interests you, then please reply; otherwise, it will get burried rather quickly and others wont get the chance to view the split.

Train hard,


Joel–do you do one exercise per muscle group only each workout?? I assume you switch exercises every 6th week. Thanks

Yup, apply all the same principles except you up the frequency and decrease the duration of each workout. In most cases, you would be alternating between 2 exercises and when you complete 5 sets of 5 of each; you’re done.

Please don’t take any offense to this, I thought your article was intelligent and informative, but Whoa. Are you using that split, and if so, are you still making progress on it? I mean REAL progress, aside from just losing bodyfat? 5 days lifting in a row + 3 HIT (cardio I’m assuming) sessions a week will cause a majority of regular folks to overtrain (with the possible exception of newbies). Even at 30 minutes a pop. The 3 workouts x 70 minutes would be better, but why not go for optimal recovery time, and make it 3 workouts x 45 minutes?

Actually, I feel much better, alert, fresh, ready to go, etc. with the 5 day split as opposed to the 3 day. And, I’m not the only one…many individuals that I know, train with, design programs for, etc. can testify that they too enjoy shorter sessions, even at the expense of frequency. The reason why I chose to include the 3 day split in the article is due to the fact that a lot of people work, have families, etc. and it’s not possible for them to hit the gym five days a week.

By alternating 5 sets of 5 with only 2 exercises per session, I can be in and out in 25 minutes. With the 3 day split, it takes around an hour to complete the 20 sets...and after a while, I don't look forward to those sessions. Not only do I not look forward to those sessions, but they become less effective...if I don't want to be there, my workout intensity/focus suffers. With the short workouts, I'm extremely focused and every workout is a GREAT workout. I don't neccesarily go 5 days in a row (actually, I rarely do this), sometimes I'll take a day off in the middle of the week, continue, and then take another day off on the weekend (usually sunday).

Overtraining is pretty much nuerological. When you feel like crap, no longer look forward to your workouts, and get to the point that you actually hate the thought of going to the gym, you can bet your "overtrained." Cortisol is certainly having its way and recovery is minimized. I tend to feel like this with longer sessions.

I just can't see how you're going to "overtrain" with 10 set/25 minute sessions. Taking 25 minutes out of my evening after dealing with the stress of work actually seems to improve my recovery through the release of endorophines. Basically, I feel less stressed after a short,intense weight training session. Most others will attest to this.

From my post, you should be able to tell that yes, I am still making "real" progress.

Finally, let me say this. I can only speak for me and from the feedback that I have gotten from others; I can not speak for everyone. YOU need to do what works for YOU; that is why I am trying to provide individuals with several options here.



Thanks for the 5 day spilit, I am one of those that likes or rather clears his mind with training each day, and getting back into the game for work. Great Article! Since Going From 46% to 10%BF, it Solved my Dilema of what to do next. You’ve given me my next step in training. Appreciated Greatly! Keep Up The Great Work. - Fred

Joel, this doesn’t seem like very much volume. 5 sets or a max of 25 reps for each bodypart per week seems kind of low to me. I agree with your comments about recovery but this seems a little extreme to me. For how long a period of time will you train like this and what type of volume will you follow it up with? I’m just now designing my July workout plan and am looking for new ideas and, perhaps, I may just try this but I am a bit skeptical.

Joel - the exercises you are using on this 5 day split are the same as listed in the article? And, are you presently in a cutting or bulking phase? Do you use 5x5 in either case? Just some thoughts…thanks

How about a more realistic alternative – the 4 day split

Check out the FAQ’s section of my article; there is an answer to the “low volume” question.

Del- Yes, use the same exercises. I use strength based programs while cutting for the various reasons mentioned in the article; 5x5 is a favorite.

Erik- The 4 day split is a great alternative. I personally like the 5 day split, but if splitting the workouts up into 4 weekly sessions is better for you, then by all means go right ahead. If you need any help designing the split, feel free to email me at maximizeyourefforts@hotmail.com. If not, go for it!


Here is a 4 day split that I really like with slight overlap and includes ab work. It is based on an Ian King type split, but the ab breakdown is my preference. It allows each muscle group to be worked directly once during the week and indirectly a second time.

Day 1 - Hip Dom Legs, Calves, Trunk Flexion

Power Clean or Snatch
Cable Crunches

Day 2 - Vertical Push/Pull, Biceps, Rotation

Push Press or some type of overhead press
Bicep Curls
Wood Chops or Bent Press

Day 3 - Quad Dominant Legs, Calves, Lower Body Flexion

Back Squats or Front Squats
Calf Raises
Hanging Leg Raises

Day 4 - Horizontal Push/Pull, Triceps, Lateral Flexion

Bench Press
Side Bends

Of course all of these exercises are just examples. Substitue appropriate exercise where you see fit. I think this is an optimal way to work each body part twice in a direct and secondary way and to include ab training into the picture.


I hear what you are saying Joel but I think I would follow up each 5X5 set with a back off set of 10 to 15 reps. It will take you 5 minutes longer each workout but really add a pump. That is what I will be doing in July with the following routine: A) Chins (last month was pull ups); One Arm DB Rows (upper back is being prioritized in July) b) Incline Bench Press; Seated Barbell Press C) Leg Press; Squat; Leg Curl (Triple Drop Set) D) Weighted Dips; Seated DB Curls. What do you think? ps, no deadlifts this month.

The split looks fair even though it lacks significant trap, forearm, and calve work. Honestly, I’d rather you train the traps and drop the seated press as the shoulders are getting plenty of work with dips, one arm rows, and incline presses.

I don't see the need for the back off set, but I don't see a major problem with incorporating it either.

If you choose to directly work the shoulders, perform the barbell press in a standing position as opposed to seated- safer and more effective.

I would absolutely drop the leg curls and replace them with good mornings or romanian deadlifts; both are much more effective exercises and will add volume to your lower back training.

Good luck with your program; I know you will do well.


Joel: wouldn’t this routine be good for pre-contest training? Curious. I think I like this format better than the 3-day format.

BTW: Ko and I are going to begin the "bulking" routine this weekend.

Yes, this would be optimal for a contest prep training regimen.

Glad to hear that you will beginning the program this weekend. Please email me with your thoughts and any questions before starting. If you need further clarification on any issue, you know how to reach me.


Did you mean to put calves in both the first and third day? Overall, I do like the general design, and the direct/indirect alternation is a good way to carefully increase volume.

Patricia, Are you talking about the bulking routine that Joel posted in my discussion over “sets per bodypart?”

Hey Joel or Patricia - what are you referring to? Is this mentioned or outlined somewhere else that I missed? Would be interested in taking a peek - got a bulking phase coming up! Thanks in advance…