Best 3-Day Split Workout Plans, Train Better Not Just More

If you are serious about building muscle, you have to start scheduling your workouts. The 3-day split is a simple and effective training system.

Some self-proclaimed experts will try to convince you that the only way to make consistent gains is to slave away at the gym every day of the week. It seems logical; the more work you put in, the more benefit you should see, right? #thegrindneverstops, bro!

While that's a nice sentiment, it doesn't really hold up. While working out every day of the week can have its benefits and can even work very well for some people, it's not the only way. In fact, many people have found great success with training just 3 days a week.

If you want to maximize your time and efficiency, a 3-day workout program can be a great choice. Let's take a look at a few of the best options.

The Best 3-Day Split


This is a general warmup that can (and should) be used before every workout listed. I recommend going through a warmup even on days that you don't train to help you loosen up and work on mobility. The first part of a warmup should generally be a quick cardio portion to help you warm your body and get some blood flowing. Burpees are a great option. You can also spend 1-2 minutes on the Assault bike or walking on a manual treadmill at an incline. This should be followed by some dynamic mobility movements. Here's the full list:

  • Light / Medium Intensity Cardio: 2-5 Minutes
  • Downward Dog Hold: 1 Minute
  • Cobra Hold: 1 Minute
  • Upward Dog Hold: 1 Minute
  • Kneeling Lunge with Thoracic Twist: 30 Seconds Each Side

You can go through this whole warmup once or twice for full-body mobility.

Do I Need to Deload?

A "deload" refers to taking one or two weeks to allow your body to recover after a full training cycle. Many professional athletes do this to help them fully recover. The best practice here is to listen to your body. If you are sleeping well and your nutrition is optimized but you still feel sluggish, it's probably time to take a break from heavy training and allow your body to recover. However, you can still work out on a deload-week. Focus on light, restorative cardio, bodyweight movements, and light resistance exercises. This is a great time to re-focus on using perfect form. If you don't want to or don't feel like de-loading, there is no need.

Program 1: Push, Pull, Legs

This workout is a great option for beginners. It allows you to hit your entire body in a single week, with little chance of overdoing it. The major downside to this workout is that it's very low in total volume, so intermediate or advanced trainees might not see great results. However, it's perfect for a new weightlifting initiate. As with any exercise program, the main thing is to progress over time. Steadily increasing the weight for an exercise will yield consistent progress over time. Also, you can focus on increasing the number of reps you perform with a given weight. One of the best ways to make gains is to increase your work density. Work density refers to the amount of work done in a given amount of time. If your first push day takes an hour and twenty minutes, and your next attempt takes only an hour, you've made progress!

Day 1: Push

  • Push Press: 4x6-8
  • Incline Bench Press: 4x6-8
  • Dumbbell Overhead Press: 3x12-15
  • Close Grip Bench Press: 3x12-15

Day 2: Pull

  • Trap Bar Deadlift: 2x5-8
  • Weighted or Bodyweight Pull-ups: 4x6-8
  • Chest-Supported Rows: 3x12-15
  • Bicep Curl: 3x12-15

Day 3: Legs

  • Barbell Back Squat: 4x6-8
  • Romanian Deadlifts: 3x10-12
  • Walking Lunges: 3x12-15
  • Hanging Leg Raises: 3x12-15


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

You can also swap out any one workout for another; just make sure that you perform each workout once a week.

Program 2: Upper-Lower

This is a great option for intermediate to advanced trainees. This workout allows you to train your entire upper or lower body once or twice a week. It allows for much more volume and frequency than a Push-Pull-Legs split. This workout will require you to train either your upper body or lower body twice a week. For those of us who hate leg day, it can be a bit of a bummer to train legs twice a week with only one upper body workout. Some people (like myself) find that my legs are just genetically bigger than my upper body. If you want to train the upper body twice a week with only one leg day, I won't tell. I promise.

Upper Days

  • Weighted Dips/Incline Bench Press: 4x6-8
  • Weighted Pull-Ups/Barbell Rows: 4x6-8
  • Dumbbell Overhead Press/Push Press: 3x6-8 / 3x3-5
  • Barbell Curls: 4x12-15
  • Tricep Extensions: 4x12-15

Lower Days

  • Trap Bar Deadlifts: 3x3-5
  • Barbell Back Squat: 4x5-8
  • Walking Lunges/Weighted Squat Jumps: 3x10-12


  • Monday: Upper
  • Tuesday: Active Recovery
  • Wednesday: Lower
  • Thursday: Active Recovery
  • Friday: Upper
  • Saturday: Active Recovery
  • Sunday: Rest


  • Monday: Lower
  • Tuesday: Active Recovery
  • Wednesday: Upper
  • Thursday: Active Recovery
  • Friday: Lower
  • Saturday: Active Recovery
  • Sunday: Rest

Alternate this schedule every week and switch exercises every session.

Program 3: Full-Body

An old classic (and by far my favorite) this workout routine covers the whole body each session. It's a great way to train for any skill level, provided you choose the right exercises and program volume accordingly. The great thing about this workout routine is the variety it allows. You can train your whole body every session and switch the focus of the workout as needed. This routine has varied rep schemes and exercises to help keep you interested and to give your body variety. One of the best ways to stick to an exercise program is to make sure that it stays fun consistently.

Workout A

  • Trap Bar Deadlift: 3x3-5
  • Push Press: 3x3-5
  • Weighted Chin-up: 3x6-8
  • Weighed Dip: 3x6-8
  • Tricep Extension: 50 total reps
  • Curl: 50 total reps

Workout B

  • Walking Lunge
  • Dumbell Overhead Press: 4x6-8
  • Chest-Supported Row: 4x6-8
  • Barbell Incline Bench Press: 4x6-8
  • Conditioning, 3 rounds:
  • Farmer's Carry: 50 yards at a moderate weight
  • Burpee: 20

Workout C

  • Front Squat: 3x12-15
  • Kroc Rows: 3x15-20
  • Weighted Pushup: 3x15-20
  • Shoulder Circuit:
  • Dumbbell Press: 3x15-20
  • Lateral Raises: 3x15-20
  • Rear Delt Raises: 3x15-20


  • Monday: A
  • Tuesday: Active Recovery
  • Wednesday: B
  • Thursday: Active Recovery
  • Friday: C
  • Saturday: Active Recovery
  • Sunday: Rest

Muscle Groups

Full-body workouts target...your entire body. While that should be obvious, you can still alter your workouts to emphasize different muscle groups that may be lagging. For instance, if your chest is lagging behind your other body parts, you can include more chest exercises in your full-body routine. If your legs are still trashed from Monday's session, you can skip leg work and opt for light cardio or extra upper-back work. There's a ton of flexibility with full-body workouts.

What are the Benefits?

When you train your whole body, you are allowing it to work systemically. That means that you are allowing your body to work as a cohesive system rather than as a sum of parts or muscle groups. The body tends to respond well to this style of training; full-body training can elicit a more beneficial hormonal response that creates a better environment for muscle growth and fat loss.

What About Professional Athletes?

Most bodybuilders use muscle-group splits. This is because they can spend a lot of time and volume on certain muscle groups on a given day; their livelihood is built around their physique. However, many sports athletes and even actors use 3-day workouts quite successfully.

Cutting or Bulking?

3-Day split workouts will allow you to cut or bulk. The primary emphasis of cutting or bulking is on the food you eat, not on the way that you train. With that being said, full-body workouts do tend to burn more calories than body part splits, which can aid in fat loss and body composition.

How do 3-day splits stack up to other options?

The best workout routine is the one that you will do consistently. If you are only able to train 3 days a week, you can still get incredible results. Working out 3 days a week for a year consistently is better than working out 5 days a week for a month and then burning out and giving up.

A 3-day split (especially the full-body variety) is a great option for anyone. However, some other time-saving options include 4-day splits or even 5-day routines that focus on limited exercise selection. I currently workout 5-6 days a week because it works well for me. However, there have been times when I have trained only 3 days a week and have seen great progress. You can even train 2 days a week with full-body training and see great strength gains.

The best part about limiting your workouts to 3 days a week is that it allows you to stay focused. When I train 3 days a week, I always look forward to my workouts. They seem like a fun break in the middle of the week that allows me to de-stress and re-focus. Besides, having fewer workouts per week allows me to focus on progressing in the major exercises that are going to give me the most bang for my buck. After all, progress is what matters. Progressive overload can be achieved in a variety of different ways, including more time under tension, more reps, higher-quality reps, work density, or higher weight. Consistently doing more over time will yield results no matter how you structure your workouts.


Make sure that you add variety and try different things throughout your fitness journey. After all, fitness isn't a one-stop-shop; it's not something you can focus on for a few months and then never think about again. It's a lifelong journey of taking care of yourself and making sure that you are in the best possible condition to live a good life. Don't be afraid to try things and fail; that's ultimately how you learn. Whichever program you choose, focus on making consistent progress, learning along the way, and listening to your body.

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