Are you a real hardcore bodybuilder fan? Do you like to train the old school like Markus Ruhl and co?
The 5 split is extremely popular among competitive bodybuilders and has been around for decades. Rightly so? Is it still up to date?
In this article you will learn about the following things
- the definition
- for whom it is suitable
- the advantages and disadvantages of this concept
- the design
- the typical mistakes
- Monday: Chest/belly
- Tuesday: legs/calves
- Wednesday: back/abdomen
- Thursday: Free
- Friday: Shoulders/Neck
- Saturday: Arms/Calves
- Sunday: Free
So the principle is simply explained: on each training day you train exactly one primary muscle group and add abdomen/calves if necessary. For example, one would not train back with chest.
The idea is that it is better to work the muscle hard once a week than to work it moderately twice a week. This promises a more intense muscle stimulus and consequently better muscle growth.
Therefore the 5er Split for far advanced with increased musculature recommended. The more hypertrophied a muscle is (i.e. the bigger it is), the more regeneration it will need. a beginner will not be able to do much damage to his muscle yet, because there is simply not much muscle available yet.
In addition, a 5-piece split also presupposes a certain security and routine in the movement patterns, which is not yet given with beginners. These should first perfect the basic exercises as part of a full-body workout or 2-split training plan.
Advantages and disadvantages
Regeneration. Since we only load the muscle once a week, it also has seven days to recover. This is more than sufficient in most cases, so that the risk of overtraining is greatly reduced. But watch out: It is quite possible to overload a muscle so much that it does not regenerate completely even in 7 days!
Of course, strength and muscularity go hand in hand to a certain extent, but at their core, weight training and bodybuilding are 2 completely different sports. You may have wondered why Markus Ruehl performs the exercises differently and generally trains differently than most other fitness YouTubers.
This is because he is 100% bodybuilding and is not interested in anything other than increasing the size of his muscles. So the goal of this 5 split is to maximally exhaust the muscles and encourage growth. It is quite possible that this training concept is new to you.
- Training: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
- Training: Monday – Friday
With the first variant, you use rest days strategically to specifically prevent overload. The first three days of training are followed by a rest day, after which the remaining two days of training follow.
- Day 1: Chest
- Day 2: legs
- Day 3: Back
- Day 4: Shoulders
- Day 5: Arms
In the context of the 5-way split, we would like to introduce you to a new training principle: The Pre-fatigue.
With the help of isolation exercises we can specifically control the fatigue of the muscles. Usually isolation exercises are used only at the end of the training session to give the muscle to fatigue afterwards. However, especially with the 5-person split, many pros rely on planned prior muscle fatigue before moving on to the basic exercises.
This means you start the workout with 1-2 isolation exercises and pre-fatigue the target muscles. This conflicts with the usual approach of always putting the basic exercises at the beginning to gauge its power. Why should you do this?
The problem with the bench press is that the triceps are very involved in the exercise and are a much weaker muscle than the chest. So bench press performance is almost always limited by the triceps, not through the chest. So you can’t do another repetition because the triceps are too loaded, but the chest could still go on.
This is exactly the problem we are trying to avoid with pre-fatigue. Since we pre-tire the chest by doing an isolation exercise before the basic exercise, it will actually be pushed to its limits during the bench press.
This is how we ensure that we are really fully loading the pectoral muscles during the bench press and that the exercise is finished by the power of the chest, not the power of the triceps.
Since we are talking about a classic 5-piece split in bodybuilding style, your plan should include a lot of machine training and isolation exercises. Many pro bodybuilders have already said that they rely almost exclusively on machine training because it allows them to fully concentrate on the weight.
With machines, the movement is already predetermined, so there is a higher chance that you will actually hit the target muscle during the workout. Handling free weights requires a certain amount of coordination and tuning to one’s physical conditions.
This is not to say that you should ban barbells and dumbbells from your workouts, but a classic bodybuilder in fact relies mainly on machine training. How you weight the ratio is ultimately up to you.
You may remember the advice that beginners don’t need isolation exercises. The situation is completely different with the 5-piece split. Isolation exercises are almost mandatory here. Always remember that your goal is to maximally exhaust the muscle. Isolation exercises help immensely.
Sets, reps and rests
More volume correlates with more muscle growth in studies – this is exactly what bodybuilders take advantage of with the 5-piece split. The really advanced and pros sometimes complete 20 sets for the big muscle areas like chest or back to stimulate them to the max.
Legs, back, chest: 12-16 sets in total
The repetition range is 8-12, which is also what most professionals promote. This area is a healthy balance between strength training and strength endurance training, in which the Muscle fibers are damaged to the maximum. This leads to optimal muscle growth.
The Rest periods are mostly not prescribed at all. Many athletes intuitively pause and start the next set when they feel ready. While the advanced athlete can certainly do this, as a novice this method is not recommended.
- Basic exercises: 2 minutes
- Multi-joint exercises: 90 seconds
- Isolation exercises: 60 seconds
Questions and answers
Should I train as a Natural Athlete according to this?
Athletes who use anabolic substances have an advantage due to their increased protein synthesis and thus benefit especially from the 5-way split, but this is also a sensible training concept for the advanced natural athlete. At a certain level, you simply can’t stimulate your muscle enough if you load it multiple times a week (because otherwise overtraining would occur if you train too much).
Can I also train after a 6 set split?
To train intensively six times a week requires a very strict diet and sufficient rest in the form of sleep. At least eight hours a day should be. You can undoubtedly train six times a week, but only if you can provide optimal conditions. In addition, every six to eight weeks you should have a "cruise week" – a week in which you either don’t exercise at all or only exercise very lightly to give your body additional breaks.
Would you rather be special strong instead of muscular? Then you’ll have to train fundamentally differently – especially with heavy weights in low repetition ranges. The 5×5 system is a simple program to get started with strength training. Or maybe you are still a beginner and haven’t quite made up your mind yet?
Then first learn the basic exercises and how to do them as part of a full-body workout. You can opt for strength or hypertrophy oriented training afterwards.
Suitable for advanced athletes
If you are far enough along in your training or would like to try a different approach to training, the 5-way split is for you!