6 Day Gym Workout Schedule

Are you looking for a workout schedule that will allow you to hit the gym 6 days a week? If so you’ve come to the right place!

A 6 day workout schedule is one of the most effective routines for building muscle. But this is true only for those who can recover well enough. For most beginners, working out 6 days a week is simply overkill.

In order to benefit from a 6 day split, you must be able to recover from a workout within 2-3 days. This is because 6 day splits often require training each body part twice a week. 

So, how do you determine if have recovered from a workout? For starters, the answer has nothing to do with soreness levels— a lack of soreness is not an indicator of recovery, and you can workout if you still feel sore (so long as the soreness does not hinder your range of motion). Really, the only way to determine this is through trial and error.

If you start training a muscle group twice a week and don’t see improved results, then you are not ready for the 6 day workout split. Additionally, if you cant push more weight every week or so (progressive overload), then you are also not ready for the 6 day split. This brings up a very important note:

The most single most important metric for weightlifting success is how much you can push. Progressive overload should be your primary focus. Not getting a pump, working out for long sessions, switching up your routine, etc.

In any case, this article will show you how to improve your recovery.

To benefit from this split, we must focus on optimizing recovery. If you really think about it, this is fundamentally what bodybuilding is about— optimizing recover so that you can build the most amount of muscle in the least amount of time.

This is why anabolic steroids are so rampant in bodybuilding. Steroids, such as testosterone, increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) which is the biological mechanism in which protein is built in order to repair damage caused by intense workouts. The opposite of this, muscle protein breakdown (MPB), occurs during a workout.

The ratio of MPS to MPB (MPS:MPB) determines weather muscle is built or lost. If MPS is greater than MPB, muscle is built (hypertrophy), and if MPS is less than MPB, muscle is lost (atrophy). Increasing MPS:MPB will improve your recovery and performance, and accelerate muscular development. But this is not vital when doing, for example, a 2 or 3 day split as these type of routines allow for enough rest days to recover.

If you can learn to improve MPS:MPB (via diet, exercise strategy, and supplementation), the 6 day gym workout schedule will yield gains if you have only dreamt of.

Before looking at the 6 day split, lets discuss how we can improve our bodies ability to recover.


Part 1: Optimize Your Ability to Recover.

As already mentioned, reaping the full benefits of a 6 day workout routine requires optimal recovery. Let’s break down this section into two parts- things you can do outside the gym, and things you can do inside the gym.

Things you can do outside the gym.

The first thing I always tell beginners is that muscle is built in the kitchen. Diet is the single most important factor in your fitness journey, especially if you are a beginner.

For beginners (and intermediate lifters who still eat incorrectly), improvements in diet will yield the greatest results. If you wish to really understand the topic of bodybuilding nutrition, I highly suggest picking up a copy of Bigger Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews.

Once you have mastered nutrition, you can started looking at supplements. Proper supplementation is important as it allows us to improve our body ability to synthesis proteins (MPS). Many fitness experts claim that taking branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs) immediately following a workout will improve protein synthesis because, well, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

For the most part, BCAAs will not help (unless your diet is severely lacking) as your body cannot store excess dietary amino acids. With that being said, many people swear by them and report positive results. They are fairly safe to consume so feel free to give them a try if you can afford to do so.

Consuming whey protein (post-workout), on the other hand, has been proven countless times to improve muscle protein synthesis. A study conducted in Birmingham university tested the effects of whey protein on MPS in adult males (1). It was discovered that consuming 10 grams (post-workout) had no effect, while consuming 20-40 grams improved MPS by over 50%!

In my opinion, the only supplement you really need is proper whey protein powder, and I cant recommend OPTIMUM NUTRITION Gold Standard 100% Whey highly enough. It has been my go to for over 10 years.

Once you have diet and supplementation taken care of, you should shift your attention to training. The way you train must be absolutely scientific (more on this later).

All along, you must insure that you are getting an adequate amount of sleep, in my opinion, is a huge limiting factor in building muscle. Aim for around 7-8 hours of sleep each night. More importantly, aim for as much uninterrupted sleep as possible. 

This can be quite difficult if you are a light sleeper like I am. If you do have trouble falling and staying asleep, I high suggest purchasing the LectroFan High Fidelity white noise machine (arguably one of the best investments I have ever made). This machine has been running non-stop in my room for the past 2 years and shows no sign of wearing down. At night, it helps me sleep well, and in the morning, it helps me focus on my work by blocking out background noise. 

Things you can do inside the gym. 

As mentioned in previous section, the rate of MPS must be greater than the rate of MPB in order to build muscle. Studies have shown that high intensity training increases muscle protein breakdown without increasing muscle protein synthesis (and furthermore, increasing MPS:MPB).

More specifically, lifting with an intensity that is greater than 60% of the intensity you require for a 1PM (1 Rep Max), has a tremendous impact on muscle recovery.

However, lifting to failure is not quite the same and doing so will not yield the same benefits. You should always try to lift to failure, but what is more important is that you do so with a high intensity.

The other thing you can do is to structure your split in a way that maximums recovery. This is the most important part of this article and is discussed in the next section.


Part 2: Building the Foundation for Our 6 Day Workout Split

In this section, you will learn the art of constructing a workout routine, and in doing so, develop allot of effective bodybuilding knowledge! We will treat exercising as if it were a science. If this seams excessive it you, realize that this much analysis is only necessary for advanced splits.

Let’s go through the motion of building the best 6 day workout split.

When constructing a workout routine, the first thing to consider is which muscle groups should be paired together.

Here are the 11 major muscle groups:

  1. Chest
  2. Back
  3. Triceps
  4. Biceps
  5. Hamstrings
  6. Shoulders
  7. Calves
  8. Quadriceps
  9. Forearms
  10. Trapezius
  11. Abs

The larger muscle groups (such as chest, back, shoulders and legs) should be trained once a week (or at least according to popular convention). The smaller muscles groups (such as biceps, triceps, and calves) should be trained twice a week. And with a 6 day workout routine, you are allowed one rest day per week. Lets pop some of this information in:

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

As you can see, if we construct our split using the “1 muscle per week” paradigm, we won’t be able to train 6 days a week. Another issue is the proximity of shoulder to chest day.

Quick Tip!
Consider any chest press and any shoulder press. A chest press activates the anterior deltoid muscle to a certain degree. A shoulder press (such as the military press) only hits the shoulder muscles when done with proper form. Let’s call the military press a 90° press. The flat bench is therefore a 0° press and the incline press is a 45° press.

As you increase the angle, you active more of the deltoid muscles and less of the pectoral muscles. Therefore, a flat bench press activates less deltoid muscles then an incline bench press which activates less deltoids muscles than a military press. You can go below zero degrees to isolate the chest even more (i.e a decline bench press).

The concept also applies to flyes. This is important to keep in mind as you are constructing your own split. If you separate chest and shoulder days by one or two days, you should focus on flat and decline presses and flyes during chest day

. Another thing to consider while pressing is your hand placement. The farther your hands are, the more you target the chest. The closer your hands are, the more you target the triceps. So if you are hitting triceps the day after chest day, do not do any close grip presses.

At this stage in your fitness career, you shouldn’t be afraid of shifting away from the common exercise paradigms and trying something new.

Lets ditch the bro split and introduce some new ideas.

  1. So long as you can recover well enough, there is nothing wrong with training large muscle groups twice a week. As a matter of fact, if you have optimized your diet, sleep, and supplementation, doing so would will accelerate your gains to whole new level. This was the basis for the routine that helped Arnold Schwarzeneggerr win the Mr. Olympia competition 7 times!
  2. Chest and Shoulders are two very interconnected muscle groups and should be trained together. Instead of doing two full-on chest+shoulder workouts twice per week, consider doing one “heavy” and one “light” workout.
  3.  The same should be applied to back. I learned a great technique from a local pro bodybuilder that involved separating back workouts into two types— those that target back “thickness” and those that target back “width”. More on this later.
  4. Because triceps, chest, and calfs are relatively small muscle groups, they should also be trained twice a week. But unlike with chest and shoulders, both arm workouts should be completed at full intensity as these muscle groups recover very quickly.

Lets update our split;

  • Day 1 : Chest (Light) + Shoulders (Light)
  • Day 2 : Back (Width)
  • Day 3 : Legs
  • Day 4 : Arms
  • Day 5 : Rest
  • Day 6 : Chest (Heavy) + Shoulders (Heavy)
  • Day 7 : Back (Thickness)

Our 6 day split is starting to shape up, but we still have to consider a few more things. The first thing is the proximity of certain workout days, and the overall ordering of the split.

Chest + Shoulder day should not be too close to back day. Take a second and try to think of a reason why. (Hint: shoulders)

Shoulder workouts can be divided into two categories— presses and lateral raises. Lateral raises are very difficult to do without activating a great deal of back muscles. Try doing a side lateral raise while placing your hand over your traps and notice how much the upper back muscle flex as you raise your arm. For this reason, we should try to separate these two workout days as much as possible. Lets do so.

  • Day 1 : Chest (Light) + Shoulders (Light)
  • Day 2 : Legs
  • Day 3 : Back (Width)
  • Day 4 : Arms
  • Day 5 : Chest (Heavy) + Shoulders (Heavy)
  • Day 6 : Rest
  • Day 7 : Back (Thickness)

Now lets consider “arm” workouts. Its a good idea to have a dedicated arm workout (particularly in 6 workout schedules) once a week, so we will leave day 4 as it is. But we still need to trains twice a week.

Instead of adding another “arms” workout, lets add a biceps and a triceps workout somewhere in the split. Try doing so yourself (these is an ideal way to do this).

Because “push” movements (chest and shoulders) require a great deal of triceps activation, and “pull” movements (back) require bicep activation, it’s best to enter these workouts with fully recovered triceps and biceps, respectively. As such, we will place a triceps workout after the first “Chest + Shoulder” workout , and another after the second.

  • Day 1 : Chest (Light) + Shoulders (Light)
  • Day 2 : Legs + Triceps 
  • Day 3 : Back (Width)
  • Day 4 : Arms
  • Day 5 : Chest (Heavy) + Shoulders (Heavy)
  • Day 6 : Rest + Biceps
  • Day 7 : Back (Thickness)

Two problems: Firstly, our bicep workout now lies on a rest day. More importantly, the following workout day is back day. Have you ever tried doing barbell rows with sore biceps?

The pain is intolerable! Not only that, but you definitely won’t be able to pull as much weight as you normally can. Secondly, chest and shoulders are now being trained the day after a triceps workout (“arms” day). Try to rearrange the split yourself so that it avoids these problems.  

  • Day 1 : Chest (Heavy) + Shoulders (Heavy
  • Day 2 : Legs + Triceps 
  • Day 3 : Back (Width)  
  • Day 4 : Arms (Heavy biceps, Light Triceps)
  • Day 5 : Chest (Heavy) + Shoulders (Light
  • Day 6 : Rest 
  • Day 7 : Back (Thickness)

The two “Chest + Shoulder” workout days were swapped so that “Arms” day fell before the “light” version. Also, “Arms” day was modified so that biceps were hit “heavily” and triceps hit “lightly”.

Additionally, you may want to focus on fly movements during Day 5 as they don’t utilize as much triceps as push movements do.

To finish off the split, we need to consider calf and ab workouts. Calfs should be trained twice a week and abs every other day. One calf workout will be on leg day and the other on

  • Day 1 : Chest (Heavy) + Shoulders (Heavy) + Abs
  • Day 2 : Legs + Triceps + Calfs
  • Day 3 : Back (Width)  + Abs
  • Day 4 : Arms (Heavy biceps, Light Triceps) + Calfs  
  • Day 5 : Chest (Light) + Shoulders (Light) + Abs
  • Day 6 : Rest 
  • Day 7 : Back (Thickness)

Part 3: The 6 Day Gym Workout Schedule

Below you will find the final, polished version of our 6 day workout split. Note that “Heavy” = 4 workouts total and “Light” = 3 workouts total. So for Day 4, we would do 4 biceps workouts and 3 triceps workouts. Also note that back is divided into “width” and “thickness” days. Exercises that work on the width of your back, begin with our hands above your head and end with your hands at shoulder level.6 Day workout routine

“Thickness” exercises involves pulling weight towards your chest.

Each workout should take around 60-90 mins to complete. If you find that you are completing the workout early, feel free to include an additional exercise or two.

Here is the best 6 day gym workout schedule:

The 6 Day Gym Workout Schedule
  • Day 1 : Chest (Heavy) + Shoulders (Heavy) + Abs
    • Flat Barbell Bench Press
      • 5 Sets:  Warm set of 15 reps followed by sets of 10,8,6,4, reps.
      • After the 5 sets, complete 1 drop set for 20-25 reps.
    • Military press:
      • 5 Sets:  Warm set of 15 reps followed by sets of 10,8,6,4, reps.
    • Incline Barbell Press:
      • 6 Sets: Sets of 10,8,6,6,4,4 reps
      • For ever other set, substitute a barbell press for a dumbbell press.
    • Arnold Dumbbell Press
      • 4 sets of 10,8,6,6 reps
      • Follow up with a burnout set of 20-25 reps
    • Low Cable Crossover
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,8,8 reps
    • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,8,8 reps
    • Incline Dumbbell Flye
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,8,8 reps
    • Front Dumbbell Raise
      • 4 Sets of 12,10,8,8,8 reps
    • Your choice of a 15-20 mins core workout
  • Day 2 : Legs + Triceps + Calfs
    • Barbell Squat
      • 6 sets: 20 rep warm-up, followed by 10,8,8,6,6 sets
    • Triceps Pushdown – V-Bar Attachment
      • 5 sets: 15 rep warm-up, followed by 12,10,8,8 sets
    • Hack Squat
      • 5 sets of 10,8,8,6,4 reps
    • Standing Calf raises
      • 4 sets of 10,8,8,6 reps
    • Skull Crushers
      • 4 sets of 10,8,8,8 reps
    • Box Squat
      • 5 sets of 10,8,8,6,4 reps
    • Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdown
      • 4 sets of 10,8,8,8 reps
    • Lying Leg Curls
      • 4 sets of 10,8,8,6 reps
    • Seated Calf Raise
      • 4 sets of 10,8,8,6 reps
  • Day 3 : Back (Width) + Abs     (Note: Alternate each back workout with your choice of a 10 min ab workout)
    • Wide-Grip Front Lat Pulldown
      • 6 sets: 20 rep warm-up, followed by 10,8,8,6,6 sets
    • Hammer strength pulldown
      • 5 sets of 10,8,6,6 reps
    • Rope Straight-Arm Pulldown
      • 5 sets of 10,8,6,6 reps
    • Barbell Shrugs
      • 5 sets of 10,8,6,6 reps
  • Day 4 : Arms (Heavy biceps, Light Triceps) + Calfs  
    • Ex-bar Curl
      • 5 sets: 15 rep warm-up, followed by 12,10,8,8 sets
    • Dips – (Triceps Version)
      • 5 sets: 15 rep warm-up, followed by 12,10,8,8 sets
    • Seated Calf Raises
      • 5 sets: 15 rep warm-up, followed by 12,10,8,8 sets
    • Hammer Curls
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,6 reps
    • Seated Triceps Press
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,6 reps 
    • Wide-Grip Standing Barbell Curl
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,6 reps 
    • Concentration Curls  
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,6 reps 
      • End with a 15-25 reps burn-out set.
    • Smith Machine Calf Raises
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,6 reps
  • Day 5 : Chest (Light) + Shoulders (Light) + Abs
    • Flat Bench Press
      • 5 Sets:  Warm set of 15 reps followed by sets of 10,8,6,4, reps.
    • Military Press
      • 5 Sets:  Warm set of 15 reps followed by sets of 10,8,6,4, reps.
    • Dumbbell Flyes
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,8 reps
    • Side Laterals to Front Raise
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,8 reps
    • Decline Dumbbell Flyes
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,8 reps
    • Reverse Flyes
      • 4 sets of 12,10,8,8 reps
    • Your choice of a 15-20 min ab workout
  • Day 6 : Rest 
  • Day 7 : Back (Thickness) + Abs     (Note: Alternate each back workout with your choice of a 10 min ab workout)
    • Seated Cable Rows
      • 6 sets: 20 rep warm-up, followed by 10,8,8,6,6 sets
    • Bent-Over Barbell Row
      • 5 sets of 12,10,8,6,6 reps
    • Axle Deadlift
      • 5 sets of 12,10,8,6,6 reps
    • One-Arm Dumbbell Row
      • 5 sets of 12,10,8,6,6 reps

Arnold’s 6 day split workout

Arnold Schwarzenegger was a big proponent of the 6 day split workout. On page 175 of his book The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, he presents this workout as one his advanced training routines (2). 

Here is an overview of the split:Unlike our split, his incorporates Double-Split training (a technique in which the days workout are broken up into two sessions). Another distinction is that each body part is trained 3 times a week as opposed to twice a week.  

Here is the full version of Arnold’s 6 day split workout:

Arnold's 6 Day Split Workout

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

  • Chest
    • Barbell Bench Presses
      • 4 sets: 1 set of 15 rep warm-up; sets of 10, 8, 6, 4 reps—stripping last two sets
    • Barbell Incline Bench Press
      • 4 sets: same formula as Bench Presses Every third workout, substitute Dumbbell Presses andIncline Dumbbell Presses for barbell exercises.
    • Dumbbell Fly’s
      • 3 sets of 10, 8, 6 reps
    • Parallel Bar Dips
      • 3 sets of 15, 10, 8 reps
    • Pullovers
      • 3 sets of 15 reps each
  • BACK
    • Chin-Ups
      • 4 sets: 10 reps minimum each set. Use a dumbbell fastened around your waist for greater
        resistance; do chins to the rear one workout, to the front
        the next.
    • Close-Grip Chins
      • 4 sets of 10 reps each
    • T-Bar Rows
      • 4 sets of 15, 12, 8, 6 reps
    • Bent-Over Barbell Rows
      • 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
  • THIGHS
    • Squats
      • 5 sets of 20 rep warm-up; 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
    • Front Squats
      • 4 sets of 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
    • Hack Squats
      • 3 sets of 10 reps each
    • Leg Curls
      • 4 sets of 20, 10, 8, 6 reps
    • Standing Leg Curls
      • 4 sets of 10 reps each
    • Straight-Leg Deadlifts
      • 3 sets of 10 reps each
  • CALVES
    • Donkey Calf Raises
      • 4 sets of 10 reps each
    • Standing Calf Raises
      • 4 sets of 15, 10, 8, 8 reps
  • ABDOMINALS
    • Crunches
      • 3 sets of 25 reps
    • Bent-Over Twists
      • 100 reps each side
    • Machine Crunches
      • 3 sets of 25 reps
    • Crunches 50 reps

Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

  • SHOULDERs
    • Behind-the-Neck Barbell Presses
      • 5 sets of 15 rep warm-up; 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
    • Lateral Raises
      • 4 sets of 8 reps each
    • Bent-Over Dumbbell Laterals
      • 4 sets of 8 reps each
    • Dumbbell Shrugs
      • 3 sets of 10 reps each
  • UPPER ARMS
    • Standing Barbell Curls
      • 5 sets of 15, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
    • Incline Dumbbell Curls
      • 4 sets of 8 reps each
    • Concentration Curls
      • 3 sets of 8 reps each
    • Lying Triceps Extensions
      • 4 sets of 15, 10, 8, 6 reps
    • Triceps Cable Pressdowns
      • 3 sets of 8 reps each
    • One-Arm Triceps Extensions 3 sets of 10 reps each
  • FOREARMS
    • Barbell Wrist Curls
      • 4 sets of 10 reps each
    • Reverse Wrist Curls
      • 3 sets of 10 reps each
  • CALVES
    • Seated Calf Raises
    • 4 sets of 10 reps each
  • ABDOMINALS
    • Reverse Crunches
      • 4 sets of 25 reps
    • Seated Twists
    • 100 reps each side
    • Vertical Bench Crunches
      • 4 sets of 25 reps

References

  1. Witard, Oliver C, et al. “Myofibrillar Muscle Protein Synthesis Rates Subsequent to a Meal in Response to Increasing Doses of Whey Protein at Rest and after Resistance Exercise.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 99, no. 1, 2013, pp. 86–95., doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.055517.
  2. Schwarzenegger, Arnold, and Bill Dobbins. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding:Simon & Schuster USA, 2014.

Mike S.

Mike is the main contributor for Olympic Muscle. He is a full time college student majoring in computer science and biochemistry. When when not in school, Mike spends his time practicing his true passion in life— pushing heavy a** weight.
Mike S.

3 thoughts on “6 Day Gym Workout Schedule”

  1. Hello!
    Great work you did on creating that, I just had one question regarding the plan as it says it trains every body part twice, what about biceps and upper arms? I could only see triceps being trained twice?

    thanks in advance!

    Mike

  2. Hey Mike,

    Love the read lot’s of information. I have one question as I have read both 5 day split and 6 day split. You say on 5 day split you should keep shoulder work away form chest day. But then on 6 day split you have shoulder and chest on same day. I am puzzled on this approach.

    • Hey Marc,

      Thanks for the question.

      So, on the 6-day split article, I mentioned that the chest and deltoid muscles are very interconnected. By that I mean that they are quite difficult to completely isolate while working out. For arguments sake, let’s say that they are so interconnected that we can consider them a single muscle. And Let’s make an analogy to the two heads of the biceps. You can train the two heads of the biceps once a week, or you can train it twice a week. But if you decide to train it twice a week, you should separate those days are far as possible.

      Does that make sense?

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