3 Day Split Workout – Comprehensive Guide For Beginners!

For years I found it hard to find enough time to work out. I was working long hours 6 days a week. I knew I had to find a workout split that would work for me. I would not achieve my goals if I didn’t.

Then I discovered the 3 day workout split. This is the ideal split for anyone’s busy schedule.

Here’s everything you need to know to get the most out of this workout split!

What Is A 3 Day Workout Split?

A 3 day workout split is a program that divides your body into 3 separate parts. For example, pushing muscles on one day and pulling muscles on another. Finally, you work legs on your own day. You can do a 3 day workout split once or twice in one week.

For example, you can do pulling muscles (back, biceps) on Monday. Wednesday will be pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps).

Finally, you would work legs on Friday. This approach provides optimal recovery. This is because of the number of rest days this routine provides. 

If you want more frequency, you perform the 3 day workout split over 6 days, with 1 rest day. This amount of frequency is better for natural lifters that want the most protein synthesis stimulation. 

The drawback is that recovery will be limited. One solution is to spread out the workouts over 8-9 days. This increases recovery time. 

Popular 3 Day Workout Splits

Here’s the most common 3 day workout splits. 

The Push/Pull/Legs Split

This is one of the most popular 3 day workout splits. It’s also known as the push/pull/legs split. It’s a classic routine that’s common among bodybuilders. It’s also popular with any style of lifting. This is because it works well with busy lifestyles. 

You can easily do this classic workout in your home gym. It can be modified to fit the equipment you have. 

Day 1: Push

Bench Press

Warm up over 3 sets:

  • Bar x 15 reps
  • 20% RM x 10 reps
  • 40% RM x 8 reps

3 Working sets x 8 reps

Incline Press : 2 sets x 8 reps

Overhead Press: 3 sets x 8 reps

Close Grip Bench Press: 3 sets x 8 reps

Crunch: 2 sets x 15 reps

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Pull 

Deadlifts – Same as bench press

Bent Rows: 2 sets x 8 reps

Pull Ups: 1 set x as many as possible

Alternate Exercise: 

Lat Pulldowns – Do this if pull ups are too difficult : 2 sets x 8 reps

EZ Curls: 2 sets x 8 reps

Hammer Curls: 1 set x 8 reps

Wrist Curl: 2 sets x 8-10 reps

Hanging Leg Raise: 1 set x 10 reps

Crunch: 2 sets x 15 reps

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Legs

Squats – Same as bench presses

Lying Leg Curls: 2 sets x 8 reps

Standing Calf Raises : 2 sets x 10-12 reps

Seated Calf Raises : 2 set x 10-12 reps

Crunch : 2 sets x 15 reps

Day 6 & 7: Off

Performance Notes

You can change the order around any way you like. For example, you can do legs on day 1, push on day 3, and pull on day 5. This makes sense because the legs will be heavily involved in deadlifts. 

You can change the days themselves to whatever works. Try to allow one rest day in between your workout days. This routine assumes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as workout days. 

You can change the exercises. If your goal is size and strength, stick with the exercises listed here. Otherwise, you can change exercises to fit your own goals. 

Concentrate on proper exercise form. Make sure you lift the weight under control, from start to finish. Don’t let momentum do the work. Emphasis the negative part of the rep. Take 2-3 seconds to lift the weight. Take 4-6 seconds to return to the start position. For general training goals, do not train to failure. Still, the last 1-2 reps should be difficult. 

If size and strength are your goal, you should train to failure. Then you can add techniques such as rest-pause. With rest-pause, you train to failure, then rack the weight for a 10 count. Next, unrack the weight and do as many reps as you can. Re-rack the weight, and repeat. 

Rest 60 seconds between sets. 

When you can do the listed reps easily, add 10% more weight. Try to add weight every other workout. Add weight to as many exercises as you can. If you can’t add more weight, add 1-2 more reps.  

The Upper/Lower Split

Another popular 3 day workout split routine is the upper body/lower body workout. Here, you’ll rotate your upper body and lower body, performing 3 workouts a week.

For example, you can do upper/lower/upper in week 1, and then lower/upper/lower in week 2.

Upper Body

Deadlifts

Warm up over 3 sets:

  • Bar x 15 reps
  • 20% RM x 10 reps
  • 40% RM x 8 reps

3 Working sets x 8 reps

Lat Pulldowns: 3 Working sets x 8 reps

Bench Press

Warm up over 2 sets:

  • 20% RM x 10 reps
  • 40% RM x 8 reps

3 Working sets x 8 reps

Seated Overhead Press: 2 Working sets x 8 reps

Dumbbell Side Laterals: 1 Working set x 8 reps

EZ Curls: 3 Working sets x 8 reps

Triceps Pressdowns (alternate every other workout with EZ bar Extensions): 3 Working Sets x 8 reps

Ab Wheel – Alternating Roll Side To Side: 2 Sets x 10 Rollouts

Crunch : 2 Sets x 15 reps

Lower Body

Squats

Warm up over 3 sets:

  • Bar x 15 reps
  • 20% RM x 10 reps
  • 40% RM x 8 reps

5 Working sets x 8 reps

Leg Curls: 3 Working sets x 8 reps

Standing Calf Raises: 2 Working Sets x 12 reps

Seated Calf Raises: 2 Working sets x 12 reps

Ab Wheel: 2 Sets x 10 Rollouts

Crunch: 2 Sets x 15 reps

Performance Notes

This is an alternating routine. As noted, that means Week 1 – Upper/Lower Upper. Week 2 – Lower/Upper/Lower. You can choose any 3 days that work best for your schedule. 

Use the information above regarding your exercise form. Follow the rep tempo suggestions. Add rest pause as needed. Rest 60 seconds and add weight as discussed. 

You can change the exercises. If your goal is size and strength, stick with these basic exercises. Otherwise, change exercises to fit your own goals. 

The Full Body Routine

Another popular approach is the classic full body routine done 3 days a week. This is a great choice for beginners. It has become more popular in recent years. You’ll find that several pro bodybuilders and athletes use this variation.

Here’s an example of a full body routine done 3 days a week. It’s common to do a full body Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Yet this is not mandatory. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday work fine. Like a regular 3 day workout, you can adjust the days you do this routine. 

Squats/Deadlifts – Rotate these exercises. One day do squats, the next do deadlifts. 

Warm up over 3 sets:

  • Bar x 15 reps
  • 20% RM x 10 reps
  • 40% RM x 8 reps

3 Working sets x 8 reps

Barbell Row: 3 sets x 8 reps

Bench Press: 3 sets x 8 reps

Overhead Press: 2 sets x 8 reps

Preacher Curls: 2 sets x 8 reps

EZ Bar Triceps Extensions: 2 sets x 8 reps

Ab Wheel: 2 sets x 8-12 rollouts

Performance Notes

This is a simple routine that’s great for beginners, or anyone limited on time. 

As noted, use the information presented above regarding form and rep tempo. Remember you can use rest pause as desired. Use a 60 second rest period between sets. Add weight every two weeks as discussed. 

You can change the exercises. If your goal is size and strength, stick with the big basics. Otherwise, change exercises to fit your own goals. 

What About Warmups?

You’re warming up on the first exercise of every workout. Still, you can do additional warm up work. Dynamic warmups are a good way to go. A dynamic warmup is a sequence of movements designed to activate your nervous system. It will also raise your body temperature and increase your range of motion.

Finally, it helps prepare your joints and your muscles for your training session.

Here’s an example:

This is a general dynamic warmup routine. Anyone working out should do this warm up routine.

Jump Rope x 20

Jumping Jacks x 20

Bodyweight Squats x 15

Bent Torso Twists x 10

Shoulder Circles x 10

What About Cardio?

Cardio is dependent on your goals. If fat loss is a priority, do cardio early in the day. Drink a small protein shake beforehand.

Otherwise, you should do your cardio on an empty stomach. You can also do cardio after your workout. In both cases, your body is in a state of glycogen depletion. This means you’ll be more likely to burn fat for energy.

Equipment

You can use any equipment you like for your 3 day workout split. Here are some examples of the most common home gym equipment:

  • Bodyweight Exercises – You can use all bodyweight exercises with this split. The split options include a full body routine. This type of routine works well with a bodyweight program. 
  • Resistance Bands – There are quite a few good resistance band home gyms available. The best ones include a bar and a portable platform. The resistance bands hook into it. With this feature, you can duplicate a free weight workout. Also, you can combine the bands with other exercise equipment. 
  • Dumbbells Or Kettlebells – Add an adjustable bench and you can do any exercise you want. 
  • Total Gym – Depending on the model, you can do quite a few exercises on a Total Gym. It easily fits with a 3 day workout split. 
  • Bowflex – Like Total Gym, depending on the model, you can do 60-80 exercises on a Bowflex. This works well with the 3 day split. 
  • Single Stack Home Gym – This has a limited number of exercises, but it works well with the simpler routine examples listed here. The major downside is that you will have to replace squats. 
  • Smith Cage – This allows more than enough exercises for the routine presented here.
  • Power Rack And Free Weights – This is a bodybuilding or powerlifting home gym. What other equipment pieces do you have? If you have at least a lat machine and a bench, you can do any 3 day workout split you want. 

What Are The Benefits Of Doing A 3 Day Split Workout?

Here are the main benefits of a 3 day workout split:

Flexibility

You’re only working out 3 days a week. This allows tremendous flexibility for busy lifestyles. No matter how busy you are, you can find time to train. You can change your workout days as needed by your schedule. 

What happens if you choose to do the 3 day workout split twice in one week? You can use it this way if you have more available workout time. After all, you’re obligating yourself to a 6 days a week training schedule. 

As noted, you could spread it out and cover the 3 day split twice in 8 or 9 days. Still, doing that cuts down on the flexibility of the routine. 

Recovery

Training 3 days a week promotes complete recovery. This is a great option for older exercisers. It’s also good if your job keeps you physically active. In both cases, it will hamper your recovery ability. That’s the beauty of the 3 day workout split. It combines flexibility with good recovery potential. 

You Can Use More Volume

Depending on the routine you choose, you can do more volume per muscle group. Say you chose the push/pull/legs routine. If you’ve been using a full body, this switch opens up more exercises. For example, what if you’ve only been doing bench presses? Now you can add a couple more exercises for complete chest development.

Is A 3 Day Split For Me?

Anyone can use a 3 day split. Beginners should start with a simple full body routine. Once you’ve been exercising for a few months, you can move up to a push/pull/legs split. With a 3 day split like that, you can add more work per body part. 

There are only a few individuals that may benefit from another type of split. Examples include elite athletes and pro athletes that need more gym time. Depending on the sport, you may be doing 2-3 workouts a day, 4-5 days a week. 

How Long Should I Follow A 3 Day Split To See Results?

Results depend on several factors. How hard are you training? You have to work hard if your goal is to lose fat or build muscle. 

Are you progressively adding weight? If you want to build muscle, add weight to the bar consistently.

How’s your diet? You need to make sure you’re eating a high protein diet, clean foods, and low sugar. You should also limit sodium. Carb intake will depend on your goals.

All things being equal, you can expect to see noticeable results within 8-12 weeks.

Should I Be Taking Supplements For My 3 Day Split Workout?

By all means! There are cornerstone supplements you should be using. This is true regardless of the type of workouts you’re doing.

Right off the bat, use a good protein powder. It also makes sense to add a good multivitamin. 

If you’re serious about gaining size and strength, add creatine and a pre-workout. You can add other products too, such as BCAAs/EAAs.

If you’re trying to lose body fat, add a thermogenic fat burner. You can choose capsules or powder. Remember that fat loss is more than supplements. Eat clean, eat low-carb, and do plenty of cardio.

Based on the above, your size and strength cornerstone program looks like this:

  • Protein Powder
  • Multivitamin
  • Pre-workout
  • Creatine
  • BCAAs/EAAs

If fat loss is your goal, your program looks like this:

  • Add a thermogenic fat burner to the above cornerstone program.

If you’re an endurance athlete, your program looks like this:

  • Add a carbohydrate powder to the above cornerstone program 

Tips & Common Mistakes

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Number Of Exercises – Make sure you’re not overdoing the number of exercises per body part. A good rule of thumb is 3-4 exercises for larger muscles like the chest or back. For smaller muscles like deltoids or triceps, 2-3 exercises are good.
  • Sets – After warmups, 3 working sets per exercise is a good idea.  
  • Workout Length – Your routine should take no more than an hour to complete.

Common Mistakes

Here are some common mistakes you should avoid:

  • Poor Form – Always make sure your form is correct. The last thing you want is to do an exercise the wrong way. Why? Injuries! Not to mention, incorrect form means you’re not working the target muscles enough. This is especially true if you let momentum do most of the work. Also, do not lift the weight and then let it drop. You should be working the negative part of the rep the hardest.
  • Not Warming Up Enough – Make sure you take the time to warm up. This helps prevent injuries. It also gets your muscles primed and ready for your working sets. 
  • Doing Too Many Exercises – Here’s a secret. It’s not how many exercises you do, or how long you workout out. It’s how hard you work. Keep your exercises limited to 3-4 per muscle group. 
  • Doing Too Many Sets – Doing 2-3 working sets per exercise is plenty. Don’t think in terms of a lot of sets. Is your goal muscle mass? Working over a high number of sets means you aren’t working hard. Too many sets lead to overtraining. You won’t achieve your goals if you’re overtrained. 
  • Not Allowing Enough Recovery Time – The beauty of a 3 day workout split is that it allows complete recovery. Don’t rush to do a 3 day workout split twice in one week. While frequency is good for natural lifters, it’s not good for recovery. As noted, natural lifters would do well to train the split twice over 8-9 days. 

Conclusion

Are you currently following a program that calls for 4-5 workouts a week? Are you new to working out?

Maybe you’re not sure what type of split you should use. You’ve seen how easy it is to use a 3 day workout split. It’s easy to switch over to the variation that works best for your goals.

No matter what your home gym looks like, you’ll make great progress with this routine. Let’s get training!  

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