A 3-day full body workout is the most effective way to target all muscle groups without spending all week at the gym. You probably have a busy schedule that does not allow you to devote several hours, 6 days a week exercising. If you are wondering how to create an effective workout that is also time-efficient, this article is for you. Splitting your workout routine to target different muscle groups is what most bodybuilders and athletes prefer. A 5 day split that targets one muscle group per day, for 5 days, is common but not ideal. For you, the average Joe or Jane who works long hours and juggles many commitments, it is not practical. So, here is what you need to know to build the perfect 3-day full body workout routine.
What Is A 3-Day Full Body Workout?
It is a workout regimen that targets all muscle groups in only 3 days. Because the workout is split into 3, it targets a different muscle group each day. It also leaves days for rest in between the sessions so that your muscles recover. Resting further maximizes the strength gains made during your up days.
Building muscle takes consistency and hard work. To see progress, you must focus on improving your workouts. That is why you cannot do the same exercises, for the same number of sets, with the same amount of weights every day. You have to constantly switch it up and push yourself to trigger hypertrophy (3).
The 3 day full body workout incorporates the important tenets of muscle building. It gets progressively challenging such that you are always increasing the effort you put in. It also varies the target muscle group so that the previously exercised areas recover and replenish muscle. But, figuring out a routine that works for you is not always easy.
The 3 day splits tend to work out the larger muscle groups more than the small ones.
The Number Of Sets Per Muscle Group But You Should Adhere To These General Guidelines:
- Larger muscle groups like chest, back, shoulders, quads – 9 to 15 sets.
- Smaller muscle groups like triceps, biceps, calves, abs, hamstrings – 6 to 9 sets.
- Smallest muscle groups like rear delts, traps, and forearms – 1 to 4 sets.
Note that the number of sets per muscle group should be shifted up or down depending on your body goals. You should also consider how much you are willing to endure. It is advisable to work out with progressive intensity. However, you should not push yourself to the point of injuring muscle.
Length Of Each Session In A 3-Day Split Workout
The length of each workout session depends on your schedule and your strength. Because you are only going to the gym thrice a week, you can spare a decent amount for a thorough workout. The full body workout, without counting warm up and cool down should last an hour to an hour and a half.
As you work out consistently, some exercises become easier to do. Your body becomes more efficient at doing certain sets. This is not to mean that you should shorten how much time you spend at the gym. Rather, you should switch up the intensity of your workout.
You should always leave the gym having put a fair amount of stress on your muscles. Remember that hypertrophy is tearing down and building muscle. So, if you do not leave your workout feeling that you have pushed your muscles, you may not be doing the workout right.
What To Do If You Miss A Day In A 3-Day Split Workout?
The 3 day full body workout is ideally a Monday/Wednesday/Friday affair. It means that you go to the gyms on three days, breaking on Tuesday and Thursday. Weekends are also a time for rest.
However, life is not always predictable. Something might come up, forcing you to miss a gym day. When it happens, simply make up for the lost day the next day and continue the pattern. Here is an example of how to continue the pattern if you missed a day.
- Monday: Workout
- Tuesday: Rest day
- Wednesday: Missed workout
- Thursday: Workout
- Friday: Rest day
- Saturday: Workout
- Sunday: Rest day
If working out on the weekend is not an option, you can do it on consecutive days. Rest days are important, but there are some benefits to working out on consecutive days (2). For example:
- Monday: Workout
- Tuesday: Rest day
- Wednesday: Missed workout
- Thursday: Workout
- Friday: Workout
- Saturday: Rest day
- Sunday: Rest day
Know that the days of the week you choose to train are not set in stone. You can do Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. The essence of a 3-day workout split is to skip a day in between workouts; whichever way you achieve this is up to you.
Warm-Up Before A Full-Body Workout
Before you learn how to structure a 3-day full body workout, you must not overlook the importance of warm-up. The number of sets listed in the workout routines does not include warm-up sets. Warm-up is important to prepare your joints, muscles, and nervous system that controls your muscle groups.
It is always a good idea to do progressively heavier warm-up sets to prepare for the heavy work ahead. Usually, 1-3 warm-up sets are sufficient. However, the exact number of sets you do vary depending on how you feel and the amount of weight you are lifting.
The temperature of the gym matters too. In a cold gym, you might do more warm-up sets to warm your body up. If the temperature is normal or hot, you might do fewer sets.
Cardio that targets the specific muscles you plan on exercising later is the best warm-up. You can run on a treadmill, hop on a stationary bike, or jump a rope. Alternatively, you can do mobility exercises. These target arms, shoulders, hips, knees, and wrists.
3-Day Full-Body Workout Routine For Beginners
As a beginner, your priority should be to develop proper form. Doing so prevents injury. Do not feel embarrassed to start with small weights and progress as you feel comfortable. Do not compare yourself to others who have been doing full body workouts for longer. Remember, patience and consistency give better results.
A beginner is anyone who has done less than 6 months of consistent weight training. The 3 day split for beginners encourages muscle and strength gains while improving workout capacity. Below is a sample 3-day full body workout routine for a beginner:
Full Body Workout 1
- Squats – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Bench press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Rows – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Full Body Workout 2
- Deadlifts – 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Pull-ups or Lat pull-downs – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Shoulder press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
This is a basic training routine that revolves around 2 workouts. You can alternate between them on each of the 3 days so that you are doing workout 1 – workout 2 – workout 1 the first week, workout 2 – workout 1 – workout 2 the next week, and so on.
It is important to rest between sets. Take a 2-3 minute break between each set. You would rather give yourself too much rest than not enough so that you have the strength to finish the workout.
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3-Day Full Body Workout Routine Intermediate
Once you have developed good form, you can increase the intensity of your workout. You may add more weights depending on what you are comfortable with. Below is a sample 3-day full body workout for intermediates.
Full Body Workout 1
- Bench press – 3 sets of 5-8 reps
- Lat pulldown – 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- Squats – 3 sets of 5-8 reps
- Leg curl – 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- Dumbbell shoulder press – 2 sets of 5-8 reps
- Incline curl – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
- Triceps press down – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
Full Body Workout 2
- Incline dumbbell press – 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- Seated cable row – 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- Leg press – 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- Romanian deadlift – 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- Lateral raise – 2 sets of 15-20 reps
- Dumbbell hammer curl – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
- Overhead triceps extension – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
Full Body Workout 3
- Cable crossover – 3 sets of 15-20 reps
- Dumbbell row – 3 sets of 5-8 reps
- Leg extension – 3 sets of 15-20 reps
- Leg curl – 3 sets of 15-20 reps
- Bent over lateral raise – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
- Preacher curl – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
- Lying triceps extension – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
3-Day Full-Body Workout Routine For Mass
The workout is split into three types; pull, push, and supersets. The idea behind this workout plan is to target each muscle group twice each week. The 3-day full-body workout ends with a superset designed for strength gains.
Full Body Workout 1 – Push
- Goblet squat – 4 sets of 5 reps
- Floor press – 4 sets of 5 reps
- Leg press – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Landmine press – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Leg extension – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Pallof press – 3 sets of 12 reps
Full Body Workout 2 – Pull
- Pull-ups – 3 sets of 5 reps
- Rack pull – 3 sets of 5 reps
- Hip thrusts – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Lat pulldown – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Lying hamstring curl – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Cable rotations – 3 sets of 12 reps
Full Body Workout 3 – Superset
- Hack squat – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Kettlebell deadlift – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell incline press – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Bent-over row – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Single-arm kneeling dumbbell press – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Single-arm row – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Read More: Muscle Building Diet For Massive Gains
3-Day Full-Body Workout For Weight Loss
A 3 day full body workout for weight loss works together with a healthy diet. You must find out how many calories you need to burn through exercise. To do this, calculate your calorie consumption and BMR. Perform the full body workout listed below on alternate days to burn fat through exercise.
Full Body Workout 1
- Dumbbell power clean – 3 sets of 5 reps
- Barbell deadlift – 5 sets of 5 reps
- Pull up – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Dumbbell RDL to shrug – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Kneeling push up – 3 sets of 20 reps
- Hanging leg raise – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Rows – 2 sets for 1000M
Full Body Workout 2
- Running Sprint – 5 sets of top speed for 8-10 seconds
- Barbell squat – 8 sets of 3 reps
- Barbell hip thrust – 4 sets of 12 reps
- Dumbbell bench press – 4 sets of 10 reps
- Barbell bench press – 4 sets of 8 reps
- Kneeling push up – 4 sets of 8 reps
- AB wheel rollout – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Farmer’s walk – 2 sets of the farthest possible distance
Full Body Workout 3
- Bench Jump – 5 sets of 5 reps
- Overhead dumbbell press – 4 sets of 8 reps
- Face pull – 4 sets of 12 reps
- Dumbbell shrug – 4 sets of 20 reps
- Dumbbell lunge – 4 sets of 8 reps on each side
- Seated leg curl – 4 sets of 20 reps
- Cable woodchip – 3 sets of 8 reps on each side
- Kneeling push up – 100 reps
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The Benefits Of A 3-Day Workout Split
A 3 day full-body workout for men and women has many benefits. In comparison to the 2, 4, and 5-day workout splits, this style of training has the following advantages.
- Simplicity – exercising on alternate days is a regimen that is straightforward and easy to stick to.
- Convenience – because most people are busy and need several days away from the gym, the 3 days split fits into their schedules.
- High training frequency – being able to train each muscle group 2-4 times a week is the recommended frequency for hypertrophy and strength gains (1) (3).
- Reduced risk of repetitive stress injuries – varying exercises allows your joints to rest and prevents injury.
- Reduced risk of overtraining – with breaks between sets and rest days, the 3-day split reduces the risk of fatigue and poor form.
How Should Eating Habits Be On A 3-Day Full-Body Workout Routine?
To see results from a full body workout, you must follow a healthy diet. Depending on your body goals, you should create a calorie deficit or surplus.
People looking to lose weight require a calorie deficit i.e. to burn more calories than they consume. There are many diet options you can look into. Whether you choose to do Keto, Paleo, or any other diet, make sure that you are getting all nutrients.
Eating balanced meals and controlling your portions will help you achieve the deficit. You might also want to look into calorie counting to achieve your body goals faster.
On the other hand, people working to build muscle require a calorie surplus. They must nourish their bodies adequately to repair torn muscles and encourage hypertrophy (3). If you are having trouble eating enough to attain a caloric surplus, you might want to drink your calories. This means taking protein shakes or mass gainers.
As a beginner, do not rush to supplementing your diet with shakes and gainers straight away. Start by working on your meals to ensure they are nutritious and portions are sufficient. If after a while you are still having a hard time consuming a surplus, look into supplementation.
What About Cardio?
When focusing on the 3-day full body workout, it is easy to forget about cardio. The full body workout does not always incorporate this type of exercise. You can perform light cardio on your rest days. Be careful not to strain your body – only do what you can handle. A light walk or jog is recommended. It is important to listen to your body and give it enough time to recover. Remember that muscle tearing and recovery is the basis of hypertrophy.
How Effective Is A 3 Day Full Body Workout For Weight Loss?
There is an assumption among most people that you shed more pounds when you spend more days in the gym. That said, you may discover that many people are camping in the gym and breaking their backs but still cannot keep the weight off long-term. This is because of the following:
The Weight Loss Principle
Yes, targeting multiple muscle groups using a full body workout will help you burn fat evenly throughout the body. But it would help if you remembered that weight loss is all about burning more calories than you consume.
That means that all your efforts can go down the drain if you consume more calories than you burn in the gym or home. The secret is to maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss. It is easier when you work with a dietitian to craft a diet plan restricting you to a calorie deficit.
The other common impression among those who are trying to lose weight is that there will be no gains without pain. You may find people exercising day and night, without rest days, even when their bodies are yearning for a break.
Now, this leads to overtraining, which increases your risk of injury. This is why the 3-day full body workout plan is practical: it gives you enough rest days for muscle growth and recovery. This is not to say that the 4, 5, or 6-day full-body workouts are ineffective. They are, but the 3-day full-body plan is deemed the best.
What Science Says About The Association Of The 3-Day Full Body Workout And Weight Loss
For the longest time, high volumes of exercise have been linked to weight loss. In fact, several studies utilizing supervised exercise have discovered that engaging in more than 250 minutes of exercise per week leads to clinically significant weight loss (4).
If we were to go with this finding, a 3-day full-body workout would be less effective for weight loss than a 6-day plan. However, this theory has been challenged by other studies which maintain that weight loss is affected by other inter-individual differences. For example, biological factors such as the resting metabolic rate and total daily energy expenditure, and behavioral factors like changes in non-exercise physical activity (4).
The studies acknowledge that these differences result in weight loss differences despite individuals engaging in similar amounts of exercise. This means that time spent exercising may be less of a factor in such a situation.
Even so, the literature on the biological and behavioral changes in response to exercise remains inconclusive and conflicting (4). And again, recent evidence shows the timing of exercise plays a crucial role in body weight regulation. However, within the 24-hour day, its contribution to exercise-induced weight loss is unclear (4).
Is A 3-Day Full Body Workout Enough To Build Muscle?
Any individual wanting muscle hypertrophy and increased muscle mass and size knows that weight training is the program to pick. But little attention is given to the required time frame.
Again, the assumption is that lifting weights more often, if not daily, makes your pecks, bum, and six-pack grow faster. But unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, this is one of the mistakes that account for failed results despite months of dedication to doing the right thing.
So, are you doing your overhead press and other exercises correctly, targeting major muscle groups, eating right, hydrating, and everything else to build muscle? But why are there no or derailed results? Let us analyze what science says for a better understanding.
The Science Behind The Association Of A 3-Day Full Body Workout Plan And Muscle Growth
A 2018 study acknowledged that the current recommendations for resistance training frequency are between 2 and 5 days per week (5). This is dependent on an individual’s training status. That is to say that beginners will most likely be required to train twice a week.
Conversely, heavy lifters will most likely work out five days a week. A 3-day full body workout for muscle growth falls between these two ranges, making it ideal, if not the best. This study states that the relationship between resistance training frequency and muscular strength remains controversial.
That is because, for one, there are reported variances existing across different population groups. They may occur due to existent resistance training variables, such as the exercise order, the number of repetitions and sets and training intensity per muscle group (5).
The variances may also be influenced by other training variables and an individual’s ability to adapt to the mechanical stress placed upon their body physically. However, several resistance training programs have shown that a resistance training frequency of 2 to 3 days for untrained individuals produced optimum strength gains (5).
Additionally, other studies suggest a set of 15 repetitions performed at a frequency of 2 to 3 days a week allows sufficient regeneration. Similarly, they provide 80% to 90% strength gains from more frequent resistance training programs (5). So, yes, a 3-day full body workout can efficiently build muscle.
How Fast Can You Transform Your Body Using A 3-Day Full Body Workout Plan?
It is natural to desire to get bulk or ripped or shed tremendous weight overnight. But in reality, muscles do not grow in such a short period. Instead, you must religiously work for them and be committed to your regimen for sustained results.
Similarly, you will not keep weight off over the long haul if you lose it rapidly. Again, this is because such rapid weight loss may be attributed to loss of water weight and not fat. So, in reality, you will sweat for an extended duration before getting any of these results.
But it does not mean that you will not see the results. Eventually, your body will transform as desired if you work out in the correct form, eat right, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The Bottom Line
A 3-day full body workout is an efficient way of achieving strength and muscle gains. It targets all the muscle groups while allowing you to rest. The 3-day split is a flexible routine that fits into a hectic work-life schedule. To get the best results, one should incorporate diet and other healthy habits. Most importantly, one should pay attention to their body’s needs and rest when necessary.
3-Day Full Body Workout Routine: Can BetterMe Help?
A sure way to keep your workouts consistent — finding a time-efficient routine that fits your body type, fitness level, and lifestyle. That’s what BetterMe is designed to do! You can find full-body workouts to fit into a 3-day routine, try yoga, HIIT, boxing cardio, and so much more! It’s no problem if you have no prior fitness experience or limited space for your workout. BetterMe has 1,800 workouts for you to pick from, so set your goals and see what we’ve got to offer!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Effect of Resistance Training Frequency on Gains in Muscular Strength: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2018, pubmed.gov)
- Effects of Consecutive Versus Non-consecutive Days of Resistance Training on Strength, Body Composition, and Red Blood Cells (2018, pubmed.gov)
- Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2016, pubmed.gov)
- The effects of exercise session timing on weight loss and components of energy balance: midwest exercise trial 2 (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Weekly Training Frequency Effects on Strength Gain: A Meta-Analysis (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)