3-Day Workout Split: The Ultimate Guide In 2024

Some people think that working out every day is necessary to lose weight or gain strength, but that is not entirely true. Our bodies need rest days to decrease the chances of overtraining[1] which can take weeks or months to recover from. The 3-day workout split has just three days of intense training per week designed for beginner, intermediate, and advanced trainees.  

With a well-curated resistance training program, you can achieve muscle hypertrophy and lose fat without spending all your free time in the gym. We have a few examples of 3-day workout splits that target all major muscle groups and you can begin today.

Three-Day Workout Split

The key to consistency is to have a plan that you can stick to. Here is a plan sample you should try in 2024.

Push/Pull/Legs (PPL) Split

PPL is a classic way of splitting up your body into different muscle groups. Upper body muscles are split into two main movements (push and pull). Then, the lower body muscles are all targeted in the same workout.

Day One: Push

The three-day Push Split is an effective training routine on pushing exercises for the upper body. This split targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, promoting growth, strength, and definition.

Grouping these movements, allows for optimal recovery while still providing a challenging workout. Additionally, it enhances upper body symmetry and balance, making it a well-rounded approach to building a strong, aesthetically pleasing physique.

Exercise – Compound LiftsSets x Reps
Barbell bench press3 x 8 to 12
Incline dumbbell press3 x 8 to 12
Dumbbell overhead press3 x 8 to 12
Exercise – Isolation ExercisesSets x Reps
Machine chest fly3 x 10 to 12
Cable lateral raise3 x 12 to 15
Dumbbell front raise3 x 12 to 15
Cable triceps extension3 x 10 to 12
Dumbbell overhead triceps extension3 x 10 to 12

Day Two: Pull

A 3-day pull split is a highly effective workout routine targeting the muscles in pulling movements. This split targets the back, biceps, and rear shoulders. It promotes balanced muscle development, improved posture, and enhanced upper body strength. 

It allows for adequate recovery between sessions and can be tailored to individual goals. This makes it a versatile choice for building a well-rounded physique and optimizing overall upper-body performance.

Exercise – Compound LiftsSets x Reps
Lat pulldown3 to 4 x 8 to 12
Horizontal cable row3 to 4 x 8 to 12
Pull ups (can be assisted)3 to 4 x 8 to 12
Exercise – Isolation ExercisesSets x Reps
Straight arm lat pulldown3 x 10 to 15
Dumbbell bicep curls3 to 4 x 8 to 12
Bent over dumbbell fly3 to 4 x 10 to 15
Hammer curls3 to 4 x 10 to 12
Dumbbell shrugs3 to 4 x 12 to 15

Day Three: Legs

The 3-day legs split is a strategic training approach that concentrates exclusively on lower body workouts for three days a week. This routine offers several benefits, including increased leg strength, enhanced muscle definition, and improved overall lower body function. With ample recovery time between workouts, the risk of overtraining and injury is decreased. 

The legs split also helps to balance your physique; this provides a strong foundation for functional movements and boosts metabolism by targeting some of the body’s largest muscle groups.

Exercise – Compound LiftsSets x Reps
Barbell squats3 to 4 x 8 to 10
Barbell deadlifts3 to 4 x 6 to 8
Dumbbell split squats3 to 4 x 10 to 12
Exercise – Isolation ExercisesSets x Reps
Leg extension machine3 to 4 x 10 to 12
Hamstring curl machine3 to 4 x 10 to 12
Calf raises3 to 4 x 12 to 15
Hip thrust machine 3 to 4 x 8 to 12

Upper/Lower Split

The upper-lower split is planned out in two-week periods. Week one will have two upper-body workout days and one lower-body workout day. Then week two will have two lower body days and one upper body day. 

Ideally, you’ll have two routines for each upper and lower, and you cycle through all of them evenly. Then by the end of four weeks, you will have done each specific workout three times total.

Upper One

On this day, you target your chest, shoulders, and triceps. By doing the exercises below you stimulate growth and strength in your upper body. This day promotes balanced upper body development, enhances functional strength, and helps improve posture.

Exercise – Compound LiftsSets x Reps
Barbell flat press3 to 4 x 8 to 12
Horizontal cable row3 x 10 to 12
Decline barbell press3 to 4 x 8 to 12
Lat pulldown3 x 10 to 12
Exercise – Isolation ExercisesSets x Reps
Dumbbell bicep curls3 x 10 to 12
Cable tricep extensions3 x 10 to 12
Dumbbell lateral raise3 x 12 to 15

Lower One

Lower body workouts concentrate on your legs and glutes. Squats and deadlifts are essential exercises for building lower body strength and stability. 

These exercises not only increase muscle mass in your legs, but they also help boost overall metabolism. This allows you to burn more calories due to the larger muscle groups engaged.

Exercise – Compound LiftsSets x Reps
Barbell squats3 to 4 x 8 to 12
Step-ups with dumbbells or body weight3 to 4 x 10 to 12
Dumbbell stiff leg deadlifts3 to 4 x 8 to 12
Exercise – Isolation ExercisesSets x Reps
Leg extension machine3 to 4 x 10 to 12
Glute bridges3 to 4 x 12 to 15
Calf raises3 to 4 x 12 to 15

Upper Two

The day is dedicated to your back and biceps. Pull-ups, rows, and bicep curls are key exercises in this routine. This day ensures a well-rounded upper body development by strengthening your back, enhancing grip strength, and sculpting your biceps.

Exercise – Compound LiftsSets x Reps
Barbell overhead press3 x 8 to 12
Barbell bent over row3 x 8 to 12
Incline dumbbell press 3 x 8 to 12
Single arm dumbbell row3 x 10 to 12
Exercise – Isolation ExercisesSets x Reps
Hammer curls3 x 10 to 12
Overhead tricep extensions3 x 10 to 12
Dumbbell front raise3 x 10 to 12

Lower Two

Lower body day two continues to work on your legs, concentrating on different muscle groups. Exercises like leg presses and calf raises provide variety and help prevent overuse injuries. This day further develops leg strength, promotes muscle balance, and supports functional movements like walking, running, and climbing stairs.

Exercise – Compound LiftsSets x Reps
Barbell deadlift3 x 6 to 8
Leg press machine3 x 8 to 10
Dumbbell split squats3 x 10 to 12
Exercise – Isolation ExercisesSets x Reps
Hamstring curl machine3 x 10 to 12
Good mornings3 x 8 to 10
Calf raises3 x 12 to 15

Full-Body Split

In a three-day workout split full body, you are targeting multiple muscle groups each time you go to the gym. Therefore, you have to concentrate on compound movements to get the most bang for your buck. Even though you are hitting multiple specific muscle groups each session, they should not be trained to fatigue.

Day One:

This combination targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Barbell squats engage your lower body, building strong legs, while barbell flat bench presses strengthen the chest and triceps. 

Lat pulldowns and cable horizontal rows work on the back, enhancing upper body strength and posture. The inclusion of dumbbell single-leg romanian deadlifts and push-ups adds balance and core engagement to the workout, promoting functional strength.

Exercise Sets x Reps
Barbell squats3 to 4 x 8 to 10
Barbell flat bench press3 to 4 x 8 to 10
Lat pulldown 3 to 4 x 8 to 10
Dumbbell single-leg Romanian deadlift3 x 10 to 12
Push-ups3 x 12 to 15
Cable horizontal row3 x 8 to 10

Day Two

Day 2 is for the lower body and upper body. Walking lunges challenge the legs, particularly the quads, and glutes, while incline dumbbell bench presses target the upper chest and shoulders. 

Pull-ups and barbell deadlifts contribute to a powerful back and overall upper body strength. The decline barbell bench press further engages the chest, and the barbell bent over rows enhances back development. This balanced approach promotes growth and improved strength in both upper and lower body muscle groups.

Exercise Sets x Reps
Walking lunges3 to 4 x 12 to 15
Incline dumbbell bench press3 to 4 x 8 to 12
Pull-ups (Can be assisted)3 to 4 x 6 to 8
Barbell deadlift3 to 4 x 6 to 8
Decline barbell bench press3 to 4 x 8 to 10
Barbell bent over row3 to 4 x 8 to 10

Day Three

This well-rounded day ensures comprehensive muscle engagement and a full-body workout. The leg press machine primarily works the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, allowing for intense lower body development. While step-ups with dumbbells enhance lower body functionality and coordination.

In contrast, dumbbell overhead presses target the shoulders and triceps, and dumbbell single-arm rows promote upper back strength and balance. The dumbbell flat bench presses engage the chest and triceps, and the upper back is strengthened with dumbbell shrugs.

Exercise Sets x Reps
Leg press machine3 to 4 x 8 to 10
Dumbbell overhead press3 to 4 x 8 to 10
Dumbbell single-arm row3 to 4 x 8 to 10
Step-ups with dumbbells3 to 4 x 10 to 12
Dumbbell flat bench press3 to 4 x 8 to 10
Dumbbell shrugs3 to 4 x 10 to 12


Since none of these split workouts specifically include core, here is a list of core exercises for you to work into any day you choose. 

Your core is a muscle group that is often overlooked or under-trained. It is important to incorporate and doesn’t have to take very long. Try to do 5-10 minutes of core in at least two workout sessions per week. 

You can pick from any of the following:

Exercise Sets x Reps
Planks3 x 30 to 60 seconds
Side planks3 x 20 to 40 seconds (Each side)
Russian twists3 x 12 to 20 twists (Each side)
Dead bugs3 x 10 to 15 (Each side)
Cable crunches3 x 12 to 15
Mountain climbers3 x 20 to 30 seconds (Fast-paced)
Weighted sit-ups (Moderate weight)3 x 10 to 15
Hanging leg raises3 x 10 to 15

These workout programs should take about one hour per session totaling only 3-4 hours per week! Whether your goals are weight loss or muscle growth, you should start to see changes in your body in about 6 weeks[2] if you’re consistent.

How To Structure Your Workout

To promote muscle gain, it’s important to do compound or multi-joint movements first, then end with isolation or single-joint movements. Aim to do three to four sets of 6-12 repetitions for compound movements. And do three to four sets of 8-15 reps for isolation movements.

Be sure to pick a weight that is light enough to complete the lower end of the rep range. But make sure it is heavy enough that it feels difficult to reach the high end of the rep range.

What Is The Three-Day Workout Split? 

What Is The Three Day Workout Split
The three-day workout split involves three days of weight training per week. Photo: Drazen Zigic/Freepik

The 3-day workout split involves three days of weight training per week with at least one day of rest between each training day. This type of routine is best for people who don’t have the time to go to the gym four or five times per week; however, they still want to see growth. Days for resting are built in to allow adequate recovery so you’re refreshed by the next time you hit that muscle group.

There are a few ways to implement a 3-day workout routine. The most common ones are the push-pull-legs split, the upper and lower body split, and the full body split. 

Generally, people will train on every other day of the week such as Monday/Wednesday/Friday with weekends off. Or they may choose Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday with Sunday and Monday off. You have the freedom to choose what works best for you.

For example, if you choose a push-pull-legs split, your week might look like this:

  • Sunday: Rest.
  • Monday: Push.
  • Tuesday: Rest.
  • Wednesday: Pull.
  • Thursday: Rest.
  • Friday: Legs.
  • Saturday: Rest.

How Effective Is A 3-Day Workout Split?

For most people, performing a comprehensive total-body exercise program is their starting point. When starting, the attention should be on using a consistent approach whilst learning the right exercise form.

As you progress from a beginner to an intermediate lifter, develop a solid foundation by performing the basics well. Be sure to train regularly, rest as needed, and eat the right foods.

Total body workouts are great to help you get used to lifting weights. However, doing the same general workouts for too long can cause you to hit a plateau[2] 

Once a solid foundation is built, switch to specific training goals. This is where a 3-day workout split comes in. 

Split training allows you to perform a specialized program that concentrates on particular muscle groups. Your training is organized in a certain way to work towards a particular exercise goal. 

The effectiveness of different 3-day split routines will depend on several factors. The main ones include your exercise goals and daily lifestyle.

The benefits of workout splits can be summarized as follows. The main ones will be discussed further below.

  • They allow you to target a particular training goal. 
  • They allow you to change your training according to time and available equipment.
  • They allow for ample recovery between sessions.

Your workout split should be dictated by whatever your end goal is. Someone training for hypertrophy will have a different program than someone training for strength.

With this, the effectiveness of your 3-day workout split will largely depend on the split you choose to use. 

Performing a 3-day workout split is an effective option for those who need to spend fewer days in the gym.

Recent research suggests that total training volume[3] is more important than training frequency for growth. As long as total volume is equated, performing your training over a smaller three-day period may be just as efficient. 

In addition to this, other recent research compared whole vs. split training[4] approaches. The results suggested that a split training approach may be better for growth in resistance-trained men. 

Are 3-Day Splits Better For Bulking, Cutting, Or Maintaining?

Building on the points above, the effectiveness of different 3-day splits comes down to your workout goals. Choose your workout split according to the considerations discussed below.

In the human body, muscle growth and muscle loss are determined by two main factors. There are dietary protein intake and exercise. 


When bulking, you need to consume more calories than you use. This is known as being in a calorie surplus. 

Protein abundance[5] and an acute exercise bout both stimulate muscle protein synthesis. This leads to the accumulation of new muscle tissue. The percentage of muscle and fat gain will be determined mainly by the size of the calorie surplus. 

When bulking, your three-day workout split should be based mainly on preference. With adequate dietary intake, an acute exercise stimulus can be provided by different exercise frequencies. 

Preference should be given to the workout split that fits around your daily lifestyle and exercise goals. For purely muscle building, this would be different. 


When cutting, you need to consume less calories than you use. This is known as being in a calorie deficit. In the case of inadequate dietary intake, limit the amount of muscle protein breakdown. 

Performing a 3-day workout split in this instance may be the better option due to the bigger rest periods provided. With a 3-day split, you have four weekly days to recover and consume enough daily protein. 

With an aggressive calorie deficit, the amount of training should be limited to allow an adequate dietary intake. Any of the 3-day workout splits can be used. 


When maintaining, there is no specific rationale for a particular training type. The training split used can depend on the points mentioned above.

Benefits Of Three-Day Split Workout

There are a few benefits of doing a three-day workout split. 

Maximize Recovery

Lifting weights allows for muscle growth[6] because the protein synthesis in the body is greater than the breakdown. Though those gains are desired, it is important to utilize days for resting properly. Use these days for rest and make sure you’re eating healthy, hydrating, and getting enough sleep.  

Intense Workouts

Optimizing your recovery days leads to better workouts. There will be no shortage of sweat when you are fitting all of your lifts into three workouts per week, so you’ll leave each workout feeling tired but accomplished.


Benefits Of Three Day Split Workout
There are more ways to categorize your workouts in the three-day split. Photo: freepik/Freepik

The three-day split allows for more variety than the 4 or 5-day splits, as there are more ways to categorize your workouts. While you should stick to a specific split for at least four weeks, changing it up every three to four months can challenge your body in new ways. That way you don’t feel like you’re just going through the motions.  

Time For Other Workouts

Having four days outside of resistance training allows for other types of training. You could spend your off days outside by walking, running, or riding a bicycle. If the weather isn’t cooperating, you may choose to take a yoga or pilates class.

Disadvantages Of Three-Day Split Workout

As with any exercise or workout routine, there are certain drawbacks to bare in mind. Consider the benefits and drawbacks listed before deciding if a 3-day split is right for you. 

Training Volume

When using a 3-day training split, you’ll typically be hitting most muscle groups once per week. Advanced athletes or those concentrating solely on muscular hypertrophy[7] may want to hit certain muscle groups more often. 

Frequency doesn’t seem to matter if volume is equated. However, athletes looking to target certain groups may want to train them more. Volume can be equated when using a 3-day split. A potential downside is that people might not want to spend that long in the gym.


As a beginner lifter, performing a whole-body routine is a good option. This is to develop a good routine while learning the correct exercise form.

A specific three-day split should be used once the basics have been learned. Following this, the attention can be on specific goals. This isn’t necessarily a disadvantage but something to bare in mind when choosing a split.


You may simply like training more often regardless of training volume and frequency. If you’re someone who enjoys being in the gym, a 3-day split probably isn’t the best option. 

With four days for resting, those preferring more sessions may become impatient and not follow the program correctly. 

Who Would Be Interested In Doing A 3-Day Split And How Would It Help?

The different 3-day workout splits have certain benefits and drawbacks. This makes them better suited to certain populations. These are the main ones that may be beneficial.

Athletes With Busy Schedules 

One of the biggest barriers to consistent exercise performance is available time. Athletes and recreational gym goers with busy schedules tend to spend most of their week at work. This doesn’t leave much time for the gym.

A 3-day workout split offers a great option for those with busy schedules. It gives you four days to target other commitments. These can be moved around as needed depending on your schedule for each week. 

Keep in mind that you should still try to get at least 48 hours of rest between each muscle group.

A 3-day split would help athletes with busy schedules by providing a structured training approach. This can be done without taking away from their other life commitments.

General Populations 

Regardless of ability level or workout goals, some people might simply prefer a 3-day split. 

One of the most overlooked factors when considering different workout programs is adherence. If you don’t like the split you’re performing, you’re much less likely to stick to it long-term.

Performing a split you enjoy gives you more motivation to work harder. This may then lead to improved performance. 

A 3-day split would help general populations by providing a workout split that they enjoy. Performing enjoyable exercise increases the likelihood of long-term adherence. This is an important and often overlooked aspect of performance. 

Older Lifters

As an older lifter, more consideration needs to be placed on rest and recovery. Adequate volume management is important to limit the risk of injury whilst still ensuring the beneficial effects of training.

The main priority of an older lifter should be to ensure enough rest. Performing three weekly exercise sessions using a lower training volume and intensity can be a great way to accomplish this. The four rest days should provide enough recovery time without taking away any of the benefits.

A 4-day split and 5-day split would likely be too much for most older lifters, even with a lower training volume. 

A 3-day split will help older lifters by providing a manageable exercise routine whilst still ensuring adequate rest and recovery. The beneficial effects of training can be obtained whilst minimizing the risk of injury. 


As a beginner lifter with little training experience, performing a 3-day split that targets full-body movements can give you a solid training foundation to build on. 

Training for three days each week offers a simple training approach for beginners. As you develop your experience and ability level, you can then look at increasing your training frequency if needed.  

Which Three-Day Split Is Right For You?

As a beginner athlete, performing any of the workout splits above is likely to give you similar results. At this ability level, concentrate on consistent lifting using whole-body movements. At the intermediate stage of lifting, pay attention to specific exercise goals. 

The four sections below represent the main workout goals that people tend to concentrate on when lifting. We’ve explained each goal in more detail and the split that may be most applicable to achieve this.

For Building Muscle

If your primary goal is to build muscle, pay attention to volume. Each muscle group requires a certain amount of volume to adapt and grow.

Your training sessions should be on performing the big compound movements alongside the isolation exercises. A well-rounded approach that encompasses your whole body should be used.

Each of the 3-day splits can be used for building muscle if programmed correctly. However, the classic bodybuilder 3-day split routine is the most popular option. 

With this split, synergistic body parts are paired together. This allows you to perform a larger amount of volume whilst limiting the amount of fatigue.  

An example routine would look something like this:

  • Day 1: Chest and triceps.
  • Day 2: Back and biceps.
  • Day 3: Legs and shoulders.

In this routine, each of the three large muscle groups have their days. The smaller synergist muscle groups are paired alongside them.

If you have a body part that is lagging, the sessions can be changed accordingly. Smaller isolation exercises can be added as needed to the end of each session. 

The main point when muscle building should be on volume. The bodybuilding 3-day split routine is a great option.

For Strength

If your primary goal is to develop muscle strength, the focal point should be on workout intensity. A certain volume should be hit, but the primary goal should be performing each exercise at the right intensity. 

Compared to building muscle, your primary goal should be developing strength on your main compound lifts. These are the squat, deadlift, and bench press. The overhead press also has a case to be included. 

In this instance, the push/pull/legs split would be a great option. It anchors mainly on your upper body muscle groups with one leg session each week. Each of the workout days would focus on developing one of the big three movements. An example split would look like this:

  • Day 1: Push.
  • Day 2: Pull.
  • Day 3: Legs.

In the push session, your main movement would be the bench press or overhead press. In the pull session, it would be the deadlift. In the legs session, it would be the squat. 

The majority of each session would revolve around developing the main movements, with smaller accessory exercises performed at the end. 

For Building Muscle And Strength

Building muscle and strength at the same time can be done with the right approach. Whilst it won’t be optimal, it can be successfully achieved. 

When the goal is to develop both, your focus should be on increasing the intensity whilst hitting a certain volume at the same time. Note that you won’t be able to perform as much volume with a higher intensity.

An upper/lower body 3-day split would be a great option to combine both elements. A push/pull/legs split would also be suitable if preferred. In an upper/lower split, an example week would look like this:

  • Day 1: Upper 1.
  • Day 2: Lower 1.
  • Day 3: Upper 2.

On week two, the days would be switched around so that you perform two lower workouts and one upper. 

Using an upper/lower split allows you to concentrate on the main strength movements whilst providing enough volume to build muscle.

For Burning Fat

When your goal is to burn fat, concentrate on maintaining a calorie deficit. When deciding how big this should be, consider the long-term sustainability. 

Set an achievable deficit that allows you to maintain your exercise performance and daily activities without becoming too cumbersome.

Work out a suitable time frame to achieve this. Pick a 3-day split that you enjoy performing rather than focusing on a specific one. A full body workout split or body part split can be used as preferred. 

When looking to burn fat, any 3-day split can be used as long as a calorie deficit is maintained. 

How Long Will It Take To See Results?

The time it takes to see results using the 3-day split programs above depends.

As a beginner, physiological adaptations[8] to a suitable training program can be seen over a short period. At this experience level, any new exercise stimulus will cause an adaptive response. 

Expect to start seeing noticeable differences[9] in your endurance and strength levels within two to four weeks. This will also depend on genetics and workout quality. Some beginners may take longer than this.

As an intermediate to advanced athlete, you’ve already built a solid training foundation. At this point, you need to use a periodized training approach. This allows the systematic manipulation of several training variables over a longer period. 

Training blocks are usually split into two-month to three-month periods that work towards a specific exercise goal. Depending on your training load, this is usually followed by a de-load period which allows your body to recover. 

With this, results will typically be seen over a much longer period from several weeks to months. They will become smaller as you get closer to your genetic potential.

If your goal is burning fat, the time it takes to see results will largely be determined by your nutrition. To lose fat, you need to burn more calories than you use. The larger the deficit, the quicker you’ll lose weight. 

How To Create Your Own 3-Day Split

If you want to create your own 3-day split, follow the general guidance below. This can be done with the help of a professional or on your own.

Consider Your Workout Environment

Before you begin to think about the exercises in your 3-day split program, consider the environment around you.

If you’re working out at home, think about the equipment you have in your home gym space. Do you have room for more equipment if needed? What equipment can you use or adapt to suit a particular purpose?

If you’re working out in a commercial area, check what equipment the gym has. Consider the available equipment and how easy it will be to use when you usually train.

If you don’t have access to a barbell, a smith machine or pair of dumbbells can be used. Dumbbells and kettlebells can be used interchangeably.

Consider Your Exercise Goals

Once you’re familiar with your workout environment, it’s time to pick an appropriate 3-day split. 

The suitability of each workout split should depend on your exercise goals and lifestyle. A well-organized program should consider your workout goals as well as your preferences. 

If your goal is to build muscle and strength, a classic bodybuilding split would make a good choice. The push/pull/legs split would be a good program if you are used to high-volume workouts and prefer grouping workouts this way.

The whole-body split would be good for a beginner who still needs to develop a solid lifting foundation. It would also be a good choice if you want to burn fat. 

If your sole focus is muscular hypertrophy as an advanced athlete, this could be performed twice a week. As this would leave you only one rest day, the volume would need to be managed appropriately. Whilst this isn’t technically a 3-day split, it groups the workouts in the same way.

Pick And Order Your Exercises 

With three workout days per week, exercise choice is important. Making the right choices allows you to get the most out of your time in the gym. The exercises below are the big compound movements that provide a full-body workout and help to develop functional movement patterns. 

Whatever 3-day split you choose, these are the main lifts that should be included:

  • Squats.
  • Deadlifts.
  • Bench Presses.
  • Overhead Presses.
  • Rows.

The specific movements you perform will depend on your exercise environment and the equipment available. These five movements should form the backbone of your 3-day split. 

In terms of exercise order, your exercises should be organized as follows:

  1. Main compound exercises.
  2. Smaller compound exercises.
  3. Isolation accessory exercises. 

The main compound exercises should always come at the start of the session. This is because they require the most strength and energy to perform them correctly. They should also be your main targets in terms of performance.

The smaller compound exercises should come next after your main compound lifts. These include:

  • Hip thrusts. 
  • Lunges.
  • Leg presses.
  • Row variations.
  • Machine exercises.
  • Pull-ups.
  • Dips.
  • Squat variations.

The end of your workout should consist of isolation exercises that pinpoint smaller muscle groups. These include:

  • Chest fly variations.
  • Leg extensions.
  • Leg curls.
  • Curl variations.
  • Pushdown variations.
  • Extension variations. 

The number of exercises included from each category will largely depend on your chosen split. If you’re performing the push/pull/legs split, the focus will be on two muscle groups per session. 

If you’re performing an upper/lower body split, you’ll be working multiple muscle groups. This means that each session will contain fewer isolation exercises.

Decide Your Workout Variables 

Now that you’ve got your split and exercises sorted, it’s time to decide your workout variables. Your sets, repetitions, and rest periods should be determined by your workout goals and exercise type.

The suggested repetition ranges and sets for different goals are as follows:

  • Muscular hypertrophy: Perform three to four sets of eight to ten repetitions.
  • Muscular strength: Perform five sets of five repetitions.
  • Muscular endurance: Perform three to four sets of ten to twelve repetitions.

When using a 3-day split, your workout volume should be longer than it would be for splits that use a higher frequency. Your program length will depend on several factors. Your program should typically last for two to four months before you perform a de-load and reassess.

Training Tips For Three Days Split Workout

Using a 3-day workout plan gives you a structured training regime. As you progress through your lifting career, this allows you to concentrate on a specific training goal.   

In sports, you won’t find a professional athlete who doesn’t follow a structured training and dietary regime. The same principle should be applied in the gym. 

Alongside the points above, follow these training tips when using different 3-day workout splits. They are presented in no particular order and should be followed as closely as possible. 

Plan Your Split

Whatever three-day split you decide to use, it needs to be well-planned to see the beneficial effects.

The worst thing you can do is go to the gym without a plan. Make a plan and stick to it. 

Start by considering the factors below before deciding which split is best for you:

  • Your training goals. 
  • Your needs.
  • Your available time and equipment.
  • Your ability level. 

Once you know these, you’ll be able to decide which split is the best option. The information above can also be used as guidance. 

Choose your split according to your training goals and available time. Once you have this, consider your gym environment and exercise equipment available. 

Pick your compound and isolation exercises based on the answers above. Rest as required according to your split, planning rest days as needed. 

Start With Compound Movements

When planning each session, exercise order matters. Each workout should include a mixture of compound and isolation exercises according to the split chosen. 

Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that require several muscle groups to work together. Isolation exercises are single-joint movements that focus primarily on one muscle group.

Each of your workouts should prioritize performance in the compound movements. These require the most energy and are more effective than the isolation movements.

Both movement types have their place in a workout session when programmed correctly. The majority of your session should be on developing the compound movements. Following this, use the isolation movements to finish a session. 

If you start with isolation exercises, you’ll likely fatigue certain muscle groups which will affect performance in the compound movements. 

Prioritize the big three lifts in your program — Bench, squat, and deadlift. A case can also be made for the overhead press as a fourth major exercise to concentrate on.

Once you program these correctly at the start of the session, focus can be placed on other exercises. 

Start Slow And Progressively Overload

When looking to achieve any of the workout goals listed above, it’s important not to run before you can walk. 

Start slow, developing the fundamental movement patterns and getting used to the workout split. Spend the first few workouts thinking about the correct technique cues and ensuring the weights you’re using are appropriate. 

If you jump into a program too fast, the likelihood of you getting injured increases. 

If you want to see continued results without any plateaus in performance, you must use progressive overload. 

This is where you manipulate your training variables to ensure you are stressing your muscles enough. This allows them to adapt to the new stimulus and grow. 

Progressive overload can be achieved in several ways:

  • Increasing the workout volume.
  • Increasing the workout intensity. 
  • Increasing the exercise difficulty.

For the 3-day split programs, increase the variables above. Use the help of a professional if needed. 

Warm-Up Properly

Warming up[10] before each session ensures your joints are lubricated and your muscles are warm enough to function correctly. 

Perform a short warm-up consisting of some cardio to raise your heart rate. Follow this with some dynamic stretches that are specific to your exercise session. If you’re doing a leg workout, perform dynamic leg stretches. 

Before each exercise, make sure to perform a couple of warm-up sets. This should be done using just the barbell for barbell exercises. For other exercises, use a small amount of the weight you would use on your working sets. 

By doing this, you’re able to get used to the movement pattern and concentrate on the technique cues you need to use for the working sets. 

Track Your Progress Weekly

When you walk into most gyms, you’ll see that many athletes are using a dairy or notepad between sets. This is so that they can document each session, recording the sets, repetitions, and weight lifted. 

When doing this, they can monitor weekly progress. Each session can be compared to the previous week to monitor the training variables. This includes the weight lifted and work performed.

Tracking your progress allows you to monitor each training variable and change them as needed according to your performance.

If you find that the amount of required work is becoming too easy, you may need to increase the workout difficulty. If you find that your form is deviating before you finish the required work, you may need to decrease the difficulty.

The variables you manipulate based on feedback depend on the progressive overload approach you are using. Tracking your weekly progress allows you to stick to a periodized training plan and improve performance. 

Consistency Is Key

If you want to achieve long-term success, consistency is key. Perform the programmed workouts each week. Make sure to stick to the chosen exercises, sets, and repetitions as closely as possible.

Whilst you may prefer a different workout order or particular exercise, they have been organized this way for a reason. 

If you do miss a session due to other commitments, illness, or injury, try not to panic. Aim to make the session up within the same week, switching the rest days around as needed.

If you can’t do this, move on to the next week. Missing one session isn’t the end of the world. Overall consistency is the most important factor. 

To achieve good consistency, you need to perform a 3-day split that you enjoy. You also need it to suit your lifestyle and training goals. This should form part of the decision-making process. 

Rest And Recovery

Following a workout, your body looks to adapt to the new exercise. It does this by breaking down your muscle and building it back again with added tissue. This allows you to better deal with the new exercise stimulus. 

While you need an adequate workout stimulus for growth, your muscles don’t magically grow in the gym. This happens when your body is resting between workouts. 

Following a session, your muscles typically need around 48 hours[11] to recover. Unfortunately, ensuring adequate rest and recovery is something that a lot of athletes, especially bodybuilders struggle to do. Sometimes less is more, with a progressive approach needed to ensure long-term success. 

With a 3-day split, you’ll have three to four days each week to recover. The workouts should be organized so that each muscle gets adequate time. 

Nutrition, Sleep, And Hydration Matters

Building on the points above, your rest and recovery should involve good nutrition, adequate sleep, and enough hydration. 

Ensure you get plenty of sleep between exercise workouts. Aim for at least seven to nine hours[12] each night to ensure adequate mental and physical recovery.[13] 

Before going to bed, make sure to minimize blue light exposure and avoid caffeine intake. Adopt a structured bedtime routine if possible.

To accomplish any of the workout goals listed above, your body needs two things. An adequate exercise stimulus and the right nutrition. 

Focus should be on the consumption of whole food sources that give a balanced intake of essential vitamins and minerals. Ensure you consume an adequate daily protein intake of approximately 1.4-2.0g/kg body mass.[14] Athletes who are competing[15] or are in a calorie deficit may need to consume higher amounts of 2.3-3.1g/kg body mass. 

The proportion of carbohydrates and fats can be based on your workout goals and your training periods. These can be calculated according to your workout needs with the help of a professional.

Ensure you drink enough water to replenish any lost fluids during exercise. For exercise period over two hours in hot and/ or humid conditions, electrolyte supplementation may be warranted.  

What Supplements Should I Take For My Three-Day Split Workout? 

When choosing supplements, these are the questions you should ask yourself before deciding:

  • What are my exercise goals?
  • Which supplements can I use to help achieve them?
  • Which of these supplements have enough scientific research to warrant their usage? 

In terms of evidence-based supplements, these are the four that you should target.

Protein Powder 

When resistance training, protein is needed to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.[16] Protein powders provide a convenient source of protein to hit the daily intake targets discussed above.

The focal point should be on the consumption of whole foods. Certain situations may warrant the consumption of protein powders. These include:

  • During daily life when the consumption of whole foods isn’t practical.
  • As a convenient protein source when you don’t have enough time.
  • When performing multiple workouts within a day. 


In skeletal muscle, creatine plays a primary role in strength and energy production during high-intensity exercise. Due to this, it’s an ideal supplement for resistance training.  

Research examining the use of creatine has shown improvements in power output,[17] muscle size,[18] and cognition with supplementation. 

Whilst creatine is naturally produced in the body, this isn’t enough to fully saturate your phosphocreatine stores. Creatine is also found in foods such as meat, seafood, and eggs. Again, getting enough creatine from food alone wouldn’t provide enough to fully saturate your phosphocreatine stores. 

The effects of creatine are accumulative. Studies examining different dosing protocols have suggested a daily maintenance dose of 5 grams is sufficient. 


Caffeine is one of the most widely researched ergogenic aids in the world with proven benefits to performance. It works by increasing the activity of your brain and nervous system.

Doses of 3-6mg/kg bodyweight have consistently been shown to improve aspects[19] of physical and mental performance. These include muscular strength, muscular endurance, and aspects of cognition such as alertness and vigilance. 

When deciding on the specific dosage, care should be taken to assess individual tolerance. Some individuals may be more sensitive to caffeine, meaning a smaller dosage may be required. 


Beta-alanine is another supplement with a large body of evidence showing beneficial performance effects. It’s the rate-limiting step for the production of histidine in the body. 

Histidine acts as a muscle buffer, meaning it helps to buffer lactate and reduce fatigue during exercise. Supplementing with beta-alanine has been shown to improve exercise performance.

The effects of beta-alanine are accumulative which means any dosage is sufficient providing daily intake targets are met. Research looking at beta-alanine has typically used a dosing protocol of 4 to 6 grams daily.[20] This can be broken into smaller doses if needed.


Organizing your training should be done using a systematic approach. Different 3-day workout splits can be used to target different workout goals. The main ones above include the Push/Pull/Legs split, Upper/Lower split, and Full-body split.

Three-day workout splits are a great training method if you have a busy lifestyle and can only go to the gym on limited days. They are also good for those who prefer higher-volume workouts or simply enjoy structuring their training this way.

When deciding which 3-day split to use, use the guidance above to determine the most appropriate one for your goals. Consider the benefits and drawbacks of each split alongside your lifestyle and workout preferences.

To create your own 3-day split, start by considering your workout goals and exercise environment. Organize the exercises appropriately and determine the different workout variables. Consider the training tips above when using a 3-day split. Focus on using a consistent approach whilst applying the principles of progressive overload. 

Track your progress and ensure adequate rest and recovery. Don’t forget about your hydration, sleep, and nutrition. The main supplements to consider are protein powder, creatine, caffeine, and beta-alanine. Use the dosage guidelines above when looking to add them to your supplement stack.

There are many ways to achieve your goals with just a few days spent in the gym. Give these split variations a try to see which one works best for you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay that I target the same muscle group multiple workouts in a row with a full-body split?

Yes, with this split you only do two or so exercises per specific muscle group, so they aren’t stimulated enough to get excessively fatigued.

How can I support the work I do in the gym while I’m outside of the gym?

Making sure you maintain a proper diet, drink water, and get enough sleep are the best ways to support any workout program

What if I get bored with this weight-training routine?

That’s okay! Even advanced lifters get bored of their routines. Try to give it three to four months, then if it doesn’t suit you, go try something else.


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