How To Split Up Workout Days : Your Complete Guide

how to split up workout days

One of the most underrated and overlooked parts of working out, how to split up workout days.

Sure, you can kind of just go into the gym, do some random machines, and hope for the best.

Or, you can follow another random youtube video workout that has you dying and out of breath in t minus 69 seconds.

Yet just to be quite frank with you, neither one of those are going to get you the results you are looking for.

Now don’t get me wrong, it is certainly better than not working out at all. You doing any exercise is something you should be damn proud of.

Yet that’s just it, those two things I mentioned above are exercise. You are not following a real program.

You are just kind of “guessing” instead of following a real program, which means, you will get “guessing” results.

If you want to maximize your results and take things to the next level, this article is for you, so stick around and read the whole way through.

How To Split Up Workout Days

How Many Days Per Week?

Before diving into the meat and potatoes of how to split up workout days, let’s first lay out how many days you are looking to workout.

For this article, when I say “workout”, I mean strength training and or any kind of high intensity work (ie, hiit cardio, which we will talk about later in this article).

I am not necessarily speaking to the lower intensity modalities of training, like low intensity steady state cardio and or simply walking / getting steps in. (Which yes, walking IS in fact exercise!).

Though I will talk about ALL forms of exercise in this article and how you can fit it into a weekly workout split, when I say “workout” I mean higher effort / higher intensity work.

Therefore, I recommend someone “working out” anywhere from 2-5x per week, depending on a few different variables. (Which yes, we will cover soon, don’t worry!).

This is the “sweet spot” I have usually found that allows people to not only see progress, but also be able to sustainably fit it into their lifestyle.

It sounds like a great idea to workout 6 or 7x per week, trust me, I used to do that. Not only did I workout 7x per week I did two a days 7x per week.

I am speaking from experience here. Before the end of this article you will learn why working out say 3-5x per week is going to get you MORE results than working out 6-7x per week.

People often think “more is better”. Working out 7x per week must clearly allow you to see more progress than working out 4x per week, right?!


In fact, why don’t we just go ahead and cover it right about now.

Working Out LESS To See MORE Results

Something the average gym goer doesn’t understand is this.

You don’t make progress when you workout. That’s not when your body changes.

During your workout, your body actually breaks down. Working out is a stress on your body.

It is a “good” stress and a stress that is needed in order to change your body, yet a stress nonetheless.

Therefore you don’t change your body when you are doing your workout, you change your body when you RECOVER from that workout.

If your body is broken down and stressed, how can it change? Well, it recovers from that stress and says “oh damn, that was tough! We need to adapt to that stress in order to make sure we can withstand that stress next time!”.

Thus, how the “adaptation” stage comes about. This is where your body changes by building more muscle, getting stronger, changing in size / shape, etc.

Three stages. Stress, recover, adapt. The adaptation stage is the stage you need to get to in order to change.

Get it?

Well, here’s the deal. Remember how I said working out is a “Good” stress?

It can be, for sure, if you are able to recover from that stress. Yet if you are placing more stress on your body than what it can recover from, you are going to be under recovered.

I like to think of this like money. Let’s say a pair of shoes you want costs $100. If you got $100, then hell yea you can pay for it and get those new pair of shoes!

But, if it costs $100, and you only have $75, sucks to suck bud but you won’t be getting said pair of shoes, no matter how much you kick, scream, or yell.

Just the law of the land.

Same goes for recovering from workouts. You only have so many recovery points to go around and working out isn’t the only “stress” you put on your body.

There is stress if you aren’t sleeping a full 8-9hrs per night, plus work stress, relationship stress, kid stress. I could go on and on.

If you have 100 recovery points to go around and your stress in total is 125.

Sorry Jack but you aren’t going to change your physique, get stronger, build muscle, any of it!

Quite literally the only way you can do that is by having this recovery stage completed which then leads into the adaptation phase.

Therefore most people who try to workout 6-7x per week are simply running themselves in circles by putting more stress on their body than what their body can actually recover from.

This leads to under recovery, burnout, plateau, and no progress.

Now, can SOME people workout say 6x per week and see progress?

Sure, some can. Usually those who..

  • sleep 8-9hrs per night
  • are in a calorie surplus (eating MORE food than their body burns intentionally )
  • potentially are on performance enhancing drugs to speed up their recovery
  • lives a very, very low stress lifestyle
  • has their nutrition dialed in with nutrient dense Whole Foods, high protein, tons of fruits + veggies, etc

& on and on.

But the average Joe (which, I consider myself!) who lives a real life, has other stressors (work, kids, spouse, etc), working out intensely 6x per week is just going to be a lot to recover from. Bottom line.

Opposed to working out somewhere between say 2-5x per week, you will be able to put that “good” stress on your body, while also being able to recover from it, and see progress in the end.

Which isn’t that why you are working out in the first place, to see progress?

Happy dances and smiles all around!

Does that make sense?

How To Split Up Workout Days : “Bro Splits”

how to split up workout days

Now that we know working out somewhere between 2-5x per week is going to be most optimal, let’s also talk a bit of science here.

You have probably seen before the typical “bro splits” where someone will do something like…

Monday : Chest

Tuesday : Back

Wednesday : Shoulders

Thursday : Arms

Friday : Legs

And they repeat that week to week. Essentially just doing one body part per day, hitting each body part once per week.

Unless you are on steroids or performance enhancing drugs, this is going to be something you do NOT want to do. Let’s talk about why.

There is something called “volume” in your workouts. There are a few different ways to define volume, but for the purpose of this article, let’s define volume as

The number of working sets per muscle group per week

A working set means if your life depended on it, you MAYBE could have done 1-3 more reps in that set for that exercise. Maybe.

So if you were supposed to do 10 reps on a lat pulldown, you need to get to that 10th rep and say you MAYBE could’ve done 1-3 more reps, maybe. That is a “working set”.

Volume does not include warm up sets or sets where you do not push super close to failure for whatever rep range you are doing.

Volume only includes working sets taken close to or at failure.

Now that we have that down, let’s break down some of the research.

According to the research analysis by James Krieger & others, the amount volume needed per muscle group per week to see change in your body is

10-20 working sets per muscle group per week

This typically refers to the bigger muscle groups like glutes, chest, back, quads, hamstrings , etc.

Smaller muscle groups, like biceps, triceps, side / front / and rear delts may be a bit less, but that is because they get worked during your bigger muscle group work.

For example, if you are doing a bench press, you are inherently going to work some tricep.

Or if you are doing a chin up, you are inherently going to work some bicep.

Depending on the muscle group, your experience level, and how you set your split up, these smaller muscle groups may need somewhere between 5-10 direct sets per muscle group per week.

That is if you are really trying to improve that specific muscle group. If you are someone who building huge bicep peaks isn’t overly important to you, you may be able to get away with less and or even minimal to no direct bicep work. Again, this all depends on the individual.

Yet for this article, let’s stick with the 10-20 sets per muscle group per week data because without that, the smaller muscle group sets per muscle group per week won’t matter anyway.

Cool, we know we need to hit somewhere between 10-20 sets per muscle group per week.

Well why can’t we just do that all in one day?

Just absolutely obliterate our chest or glutes with 20 sets in one workout?

Well again, this things called science * Cue the magical stars and rainbows *.

Once again, according to research analysis by James Krieger, studies show that after about somewhere between 8-12 working sets per muscle group per workout, you start to see diminishing returns.

Think of it like a bell curve. You are able to add sets and push hard until you reach about a certain point. After that certain point, the bell curve starts to drop off and you start to actually make LESS progress.

how to split up workout days bell curve

This is what happens after you pass let’s just take the middle number and say 10 sets per muscle group per workout.

Why is this? Many reasons.

From a scientific standpoint, muscle protein synthesis starts to get negatively affected once you pass the top of the bell curve.

But also from a “practical” standpoint, if you are training with hard, intense, working sets.

Sets that you are taking very close to failure.. After you reach the 8, 9, 10 set per muscle group mark for that session.. You are gassed.

No other way around it, and if you aren’t, this is the sign you aren’t training anywhere near hard enough.

I see people do these workouts that call for like 25 total sets of chest or glutes in one workout. They’ll have something like

Hip thrust 5 sets of 10

Squats 4 sets of 8

Lunges 4 sets of 8

Glute kick back 4 sets of 12

RDL 4 sets of 10

And on and on.

No chance in hell that workout is going to yield any results for you.

There is simply no way you are going to be able to go close to failure on those exercises for that much volume.

You might fail from a muscular endurance standpoint, but that’s working more of a cardiovascular stress, not a muscle building / strength training stress.

Which, when we talk about seeing change in strength and muscle adaptations, one of if not the biggest components is having proper intensity. Aka, going close to muscular failure, not just muscular endurance or cardiovascular failure.

By doing more than 10 sets per muscle group per workout, your intensity and how close to failure dips off, which means your results do to.

But wait, we needed 10-20 sets per muscle group per week to see progress?!

Yep so that means if you have the typical “bro” split of working out one body part per day, you can only hit the minimum threshold of about 10 sets per week.

Therefore you are automatically handicapping your results by choosing this split due to the fact you won’t be able to increase your volume at all throughout the week.

It also makes it so you spike muscle protein synthesis in that muscle group ONE time.. It takes 48-72 hrs to recover.. But then you don’t spike it again in that muscle until next week.

It has this HUGE spike up one day, yet the rest of the week it is decreasing and then dormant until next week.

There are benefits to having multiple muscle protein synthesis spikes in a muscle multiple times throughout the week.

Therefore, the typical bro split, is not going to be the most optimal route to take when talking about how to set up workout days.

Hitting your muscle groups 2-3x throughout the week with a bit more moderate volume each session generally lead to more results over time.

How To Set Up Workout Days : Recovery Days

how to split up workout days : rest days

Another thing to consider when talking about how to set up workout days is taking into consideration rest days.

Again, looking at the science, it shows us that when you workout a muscle group, you want to be waiting at least 48 hours, if not 72 hours to hit that muscle group again (reference The Science & Development of Muscle Hypertrophy by Brad Schoenfield).

This is because if you workout the muscle before it is done going through the muscle protein synthesis / recovery process, you impair that process.

Which is going to impair results because remember, like we said, unless you recover from your workouts you cannot adapt.

If you can’t adapt, you can’t change.

Not to mention that if you continuously hit a muscle group back to back to back day after day like a lot of these hiit bootcamps or gym classes do, you not only risk not recovering, but also risk injury.

Your muscles and the surrounding tendons, joints, ligaments, connective tissue, and so on, are not adequately recovering.

This is a big no no for your body. It is going to get very angry with you and backfire sooner or later. Backfire by injuring so that you are FORCED to stop working out.

Which when you consider you want to see progress in your workouts, if you are injured, you can’t workout at all.

If you can’t workout at all, good luck seeing progress!

You won’t be able to be consistent if your workout split is set up poor due to injuring yourself and from not optimizing your recovery.

This is why it is recommend you wait at least 48 hours, if not 72 hours.

If you are working out glutes on Monday, you should not hit glutes til at least Wednesday, if not Thursday.

How To Set Up Workout Days : 2-5 days

Alright, now that we have the knowledge from the previous sections, let’s actually dive into what some weekly workout splits will look like for 2-5 days, respectively.

You may be wondering “Eric, how the H E DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS am I supposed to hit muscle groups 2x per week with adequate volume if I am only working out 2-5x per week?!”.

Don’t worry, I got you.

Let’s take 2x a week for example.

2x Per Week Workouts

I will be very honest with you, 2x per week workouts are not my favorite workouts by any stretch of the imagination.

You are quite limited in options here and you will inherently not be able to hit as much volume as you would with other options we will list out.

Yet if you insist on “only” being able to workout 2x per week, I would 100% go with 2 Full Body Days.

Something like..

Monday : Day 1 Full Body (A)

Thursday : Day 2 Full Body (B)

This way you have a few days in between like we talked about above to let your muscles recover to be able to optimize progress and hit it hard the next session.

Also, since you are working your full body each workout, you are hitting your muscle groups 2x per week and can work in adequate volume.

Now I will say, you may really need to bias specific muscle groups if you are taking this route because you only have so much volume / time to spend in a workout.

So you may really want to focus on say glutes and back and make your workouts very focused on those two while keeping everything else more so just at “enough” to get by.

Also, before you ask, yes those workouts should be different workouts.

I wrote an entire article on why if you want to check it out HERE.

Yet for some cliff notes, you see the most progress when you hit your muscles from different angles, resistance profiles, and exercise variations.

If you do the same workout both days, you are missing out on an entire day where you could be throwing in different exercise variations, hitting the muscles from different angles, etc.

How many exercises per session?

Well, it depends.

I would say anywhere from 6-12 exercises per session.

If you want help on how to structure your workouts, I can link a video I did HERE On my youtube that will help you out a ton.

Again, I will say, if you are only working out 2x per week, you are not someone who is SUPER keen on making a TON of progress because if you were, you would be probably opting for the 3 or 4x per week option we are going to discuss here in a second.

Not trying to sound harsh just being honest. I know you are “busy”, but we all are. Today, I woke up at 4am this morning and it is currently 6pm as I am writing this article.

I will work til about 9pm and do it all over again tomorrow. Not to brag about how much I work, but to say we all make time for the things that are very important to us.

I don’t have to sit here and write this article to you, for free.

I am doing it because I value you and want you to win.

The same goes for your fitness. If you want to really maximize your workouts I’d shoot for the 3 or 4x a week option we will cover now.

3x Per Week Workouts

Now it is time to cover how to split up workout days if you are doing 3x per week workouts.

Before I dive into this, I just want to make this point.

Oftentimes I get people asking me “Eric, is working out 3x per week really enough to see progress?!”.

The only answer I have to this question is to drop below some of my clients transformation pics here below.

how to split up workout days 3x per week

All of these people you see above have worked out 3x per week, every week, consistently.

You can be the judge to let me know if 3x per week workouts “work” or not 😉 .

Now, when it comes to how to set them up, I personally like the option of something like.

Monday : Day 1 – Lower Body Day

Wed : Day 2 – Upper Body Day

Fri or Sat : Day 3 Full Body Day

This way you once again allow for proper recovery in between sessions, as well as you can hit your muscle groups 2x per week with this split since the full body day you are hitting lower and upper.

Sometimes people will ask about a 3 day per week full body workout. You can do this, I am not the biggest fan typically because I believe it is a bit harder to recover from for most people.

Plus, I think being able to have a lower and upper body day

  1. Allows you to focus on those specific muscles a bit more which most people enjoy
  2. Allows you to put more volume (working sets) into your weekly routine since you have a whole day spent on ½ of the body instead of the full body

4x Per Week Workouts

In my opinion the “gold standard” of how to split up workout days.

4x per week workouts are my personal favorite as well as I have used it on literally thousands of clients and Clubhouse members to get them kick a** results.

The 4x per week really allows you to work in a good amount of volume over a weekly basis, while also still allowing for optimal recovery.

I would split up the 4x per week workouts like this below.

Monday : Day 1 – Lower Body (A)

Tuesday : Day 2 – Upper Body (A)

Wed : Rest

Thursday : Day 3 – Lower Body (B)

Friday : Day 4 – Upper Body (B)

In case you aren’t familiar, the A and B indicates different workouts.

So yes, each of these 4 workouts you should be having different workouts. Again, if you need further clarification on this, check out this article HERE.

This split is money because as you can see, you are hitting your muscle groups 2x per week, while also allowing for proper recovery in between.

It also allows you to add more volume because you now have a 4th day and the days are dedicated to ½ of the body instead of the whole body.

People sometimes ask if they have to rest in between or if they can go all 4 days in a row.

You CAN go all 4 days in a row, yes, I just typically don’t recommend that because that day off in between really lets you go into the latter half of your weekly workouts recovered, refreshed, and ready to kill it!

As opposed to those last 2 workouts being “half assed” because you were exhausted and tired from the first two workouts in the week.

But if you absolutely need to, yes you can do all 4 of these back to back since they are different muscle groups.

5x Per Week Workouts

how to split up workout days 5x per week

When talking about how to split up workout days and 5 days a week, this is typically something I reserve for advanced individuals who are very focused on body building.

The reason is 5x per week allows you to put more volume on more specific muscle groups.

Unless you are advanced, you typically do not need to spend the extra volume on the muscle groups.

Also, like I mentioned, unless you ARE focused on body building, then you typically don’t care about doing 3 extra sets for your side delts to make your delts pop more.

Or you don’t care about doing 3 extra sets of biceps to make your biceps pop more.

You are more focused on simply wanting to get stronger, get healthier, build muscle, drop body fat, etc.

Also, 5x per week workouts doesn’t allow for much life flexibility.

For example, what if you wanted to take a long weekend with your spouse.. But you can’t because you gotta get that friday workout?

Or if something pops up with work or school or kids or anything.. Most “normal” people who again aren’t super focused on bodybuilding can’t or don’t want to consistently workout 5x per week for months and years on end.

Again, I would know, I tried.

Therefore if you are NOT focused a ton on bodybuilding – I would stick to 3-4x per week workouts.

Now if you are focused more on bodybuilding, which to be honest I am for certain periods of the year, I would suggest a 5x per week split and it would look like this.

Monday : Day 1 Lower Body (A)

Tuesday : Day 2 Upper Body

Wed : rest

Thursday : Day 3 Lower Body (B)

Friday : Push Day

Sat : Pull Day

Push just means pushing muscles workout (chest, shoulders, triceps).

Pull just means pulling muscles workout (back, biceps, rear delt).

Again, this would allow for adequate recovery while also working each muscle group 2x per week.

This time since you have a “push” and a “pull” day you can usually put more volume on muscles like biceps, triceps, and shoulders.

Or, if you were focused on glutes or legs a bit more, you could do

Monday : Day 1 Lower Body (A)

Tuesday : Day 2 Upper Body (A)

Wed: Day 3 Lower Body (B)

Thurs : Day 4 Upper Body (B)

Fri or Sat : Day 5 Lower Body {C}

This way you could throw extra volume on your leg days as needed.

How To Split Up Workout Days : What About Cardio!?

As mentioned above, when I talk about “workouts” I am solely speaking to weight training above.

For “cardio” here is what I usually tell my clients.

I would simply

  • Get 5-10k steps in per day, closer to the 7-10k mark as best as you can
  • Once you do that, if you WANT to work in extra cardio on top of that, I’d work in 1-3 days 15-30min per week of low intensity steady state cardio (LISS). This is cardio that is something like walking on the treadmill, using a bike, going swimming, using an elliptical machine, etc. All while keeping your heart rate LOW. You should be able to hold a conversation while doing the cardio, that is how you know you are in the right heart rate zone.

Why the low intensity steady state and not HIIT?

Well, HIIT is very taxing and stressful on the body from a “recoverability” perspective. Remember how we said you can only recover but from so much.

Hiit takes up a lot of recovery, where at steady state low intensity cardio actually helps promote recovery (so as long as you follow the guidelines above and don’t do too much of it).

Plus, from a “calorie burning” perspective, the amount of calories you burn from hiit vs LISS is minimal at best.

The negatives that can come from too much hiit cardio would again dig yourself a deeper hole in recovery which can have you not see progress.

Therefore, you should leave the fat loss component of your journey up to your nutrition.

If your goal is to maximize your workouts and recovery, LISS is going to be a better option than hiit in 99.9% of scenarios.

How To Split Up Workout Days : 6x Per Week Push, Pull, Legs

As mentioned above, I am not a fan of working out 6x per week, for all the mentions listed above.

Yet I get this question a lot so I will offer my thoughts. There is a split that is a “Push, Pull, Legs” split.

This is working out 6x per week with again, the push pull legs cycle split up 2x per week with one rest day.

It is a split I personally ran in my life for a while. What happened?

I started to plateau on my progress (muscle development, strength gains, etc). The burn out started to get to me because I was under recovering. I did not have a very “flexible” lifestyle.

Now, I am not saying you CAN’T do it. Some people do it and love it, cool.

Again, I would say you would need to check all of the boxes talked about above (calorie surplus, sleep 8-9hrs a night, etc etc).

And you have to be someone who is really focused on bodybuilding, yet even then, it’s not something I would personally recommend.

I don’t think if you are working out 6x per week you are going to either be able to recover from it or be able to keep the proper intensity of going close enough to failure. Which, again, is a massive part of seeing progress.

Just my two cents.

Which Split Is The “Best”?!

Well, there really is no “best” one.

Again, like I mentioned above, I typically recommend a 3-4x per week split. For most people I have found this is a sweet spot to be able to see kick a** progress, while also making it a sustainably part of your life.

But between the two of those, there is no “right” answer. It would depend on you and your schedule.

Remember, if you follow a 3x week workout with 100% consistency, you will see better results than following a 4x per week workout with 70% consistency because “life” happens.

Or if you know you like a routine of 4x per week, rock with 4x per week.

The only “right” or “best” one is the one you can be the most consistent with.

But Wait, How Do I Set Up My Workouts?!

Listen, quite frankly, that is an entirely different article in of itself.

In fact, I did write an article on it HERE.

As well as did a video on it HERE.

If you would like to see some examples of this in action, I’d highly suggest checking out those resources.

This one article you just read is one small sliver of what goes into creating a “real training program” I talked about above.

Or, of you would like for me to simply just take the guesswork out of it for you with a plan that tells you exactly what to do, I suggest you check out my Clubhouse HERE.

The Clubhouse is a program where I create 3-4x per week training programs and you get a new one every single month.

How To Split Up Workout Days : Wrapping Up

Whew, I knew there was a lot of information here. I hope it helped and if you need to, go back and reread some areas.

As mentioned above, typically a 3 or 4x per week workout split would be the “sweet spot”.

If you are someone who really can only workout 2x per week, I would go with that.

Or if you are someone who is more focused on body building, I would go with 5x per week.

I hope this article helped you and if you feel you need even more in-depth 1:1 coaching, you can fill out our application form HERE to see if we may be a good fit for coaching.

Look to chat soon.


6 Replies to “How To Split Up Workout Days : Your Complete Guide”

  1. Wow I can’t thank you enough for sharing your knowledge and love of fitness. I look forward to hearing everything you talk about.
    I’m curious to know what your monthly fee is to join the clubhouse?

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