A three-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, six days a week, to exercising. If you are wondering how you can 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 five-day split that targets one muscle group per day for five days is common but not ideal. For you, the average exerciser who works long hours and juggles many commitments, it is not practical. So, here is what you need to know to build the perfect three-day full-body workout routine.
What Is a 3-Day Full Body Workout?
It is a workout regimen that targets all muscle groups in just three days. As the workout routine is split into three days, it targets most muscle groups each training day. It also leaves days for rest in between the sessions so your muscles have time to recover. Resting further maximizes the strength gains made during your workout days.
Building muscle takes consistency and hard work. In order to see progress, you must focus on improving your workouts. This is why you cannot perform the same exercises, for the same number of sets, with the same amount of weights every day. You need to constantly switch it up and push yourself to trigger hypertrophy (4).
The three-day full-body workout incorporates the important tenets of muscle building. It becomes progressively more challenging so 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. However, figuring out a routine that works for you is not always easy.
The three-day splits tend to work out the larger muscle groups more than the small ones. You should adhere to these general guidelines:
- Larger muscle groups such as chest, back, shoulders, quads – 9 to 15 sets.
- Smaller muscle groups such as triceps, biceps, calves, abs, hamstrings – 6 to 9 sets.
- Smallest muscle groups such as rear delts, traps, and forearms – 1 to 4 sets.
It’s important to 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, but you shouldn’t push yourself to the point of injuring muscles.
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Length of Each Session in a 3-Day Split Workout
The length of each workout session is dependent on your schedule and fitness level. As you are only going to the gym three times a week, you should be able to spare a decent amount of time for a thorough workout. The full body workout, without counting warm up and cool down should take 45-90 minutes.
As you work out consistently, some exercises will become easier. Your body becomes more efficient at doing certain sets. However, this doesn’t mean that you should shorten the amount of time you spend at the gym and you should actually 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 involves tearing down and building muscle. So, if you do not leave your workout like you have exerted a decent amount of effort, you may not be getting the maximum benefits from your workout.
What Should You Do If You Miss a Day in a 3-Day Split Workout?
The three-day full-body workout is ideally a Monday/Wednesday/Friday affair. This means that you go to the gym three days and rest on Tuesday and Thursday. Weekends are also a time for rest.
However, life is not always predictable. Something may come up that forces you to miss a gym day. If this 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 (3). For example:
- Monday: Workout
- Tuesday: Rest day
- Wednesday: Missed workout
- Thursday: Workout
- Friday: Workout
- Saturday: Rest day
- Sunday: Rest day
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 three-day workout split is to skip a day in between workouts. How you achieve this is up to you.
Warm Up Before a Full Body Workout
Before you learn how to structure a three-day full body workout, you must not overlook the importance of warming 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 (5).
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 can vary depending on how you feel and the amount of weight you are lifting.
The temperature of the gym also matters. In a cold gym, you may do more warm-up sets to warm your body up. If the temperature is normal or hot, you may do fewer sets.
Cardio that targets the specific muscles you intend to exercise later is a good warm-up. You can run on a treadmill, hop on a stationary bike, or jump with a rope. Alternatively, you can do mobility exercises that target the 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 this will prevent 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 will give you better results.
A beginner is anyone who has done less than six months of consistent weight training. The three-day split for beginners encourages muscle and strength gains while improving workout capacity (1). Below is a sample three-day full body workout routine for beginners:
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
- Leg curl machine – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Bicep curls – 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
- Leg extension machine – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Tricep kickback – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
This is a basic training routine that revolves around two workouts. You can alternate between them on each of the three days so that you are doing workout 1 – workout 2 – workout 1 the first week and workout 2 – workout 1 – workout 2 the next week, and so on.
It is important that you rest between sets and you should take a 60-second to 2-minute break between each set. It’s better to have too much rest than not enough to ensure you have the strength to finish the workout.
Intermediate 3-Day Full Body Workout Routine
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 three-day full body workout for intermediates.
Full Body Workout 1
- Bench press – 3 sets of 5-8 reps
- Lat pulldown – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Squats – 3 sets of 5-8 reps
- Leg curl – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Dumbbell shoulder press – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Incline curl – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Triceps press down – 3 sets of 8-12 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 – 3 sets of 15-20 reps
- Dumbbell hammer curl – 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- Overhead triceps extension – 3 sets of 10-15 reps
Full Body Workout 3
- Cable crossover – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Dumbbell row – 3 sets of 5-8 reps
- Leg extension – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Leg curl – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Bent over lateral raise – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Preacher curl – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Lying triceps extension – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
3-Day Full Body Workout Routine for Mass
This workout is split into three types; pull, push, and total body (2). The idea behind this workout plan is to target each muscle group twice weekly. The three-day full-body workout ends with a superset that is designed for strength gains.
Full Body Workout 1 – Push
- Goblet squat – 4 sets of 5-8 reps
- Floor press – 4 sets of 5-8 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
- Chest fly – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Walking Lunges – 3 sets of 16-20 reps (8-10 per leg)
Full Body Workout 2 – Pull
- Pull-ups – 4 sets of 5-8 reps
- Deadlift – 4 sets of 5-8 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
- Bicep curls – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Single arm rows – 3 sets of 8-12 reps per arm
Full Body Workout 3 – Total Body
- Hack squat – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Single-leg Romanian deadlift – 3 sets of 8-12 reps per leg
- Dumbbell chest 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
- Reverse fly – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Calf raises – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Lateral raises – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
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3-Day Full-Body Workout for Weight Loss
A three-day full-body workout for weight loss works when combined with a healthy diet. You must find out how many calories you need to burn through exercise. To do this, you need to calculate your calorie consumption and BMR. Perform the full-body workout shown below on alternate days to burn fat through exercise.
Full-Body Workout 1
- Dumbbell power clean – 4 sets of 8 reps
- Barbell deadlift – 4 sets of 5 reps
- Pull up – 4 sets of 8 reps
- Dumbbell RDL to shrug – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Seated cable row– 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Hanging leg raise – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Rowing machine – 2 sets for 1,000m
Full-Body Workout 2
- Running Sprint – 4 sets at top speed for 10-15 seconds
- Barbell squat – 4 sets of 5 reps
- Leg extension machine – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Barbell bench press – 4 sets of 8 reps
- Side lunges – 3 sets of 12-16 reps (6-8 per leg)
- Kneeling push-ups – 3 sets of 8-15 reps
- AB wheel rollout – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Farmer’s walk – 2 sets of 30 seconds per side
Full-Body Workout 3
- Bench jump – 4 sets of 5-8 reps
- Overhead dumbbell press – 4 sets of 8-12 reps
- Face pull – 4 sets of 12 reps
- Dumbbell lunge – 3 sets of 8 reps on each side
- Seated leg curl – 3 sets of 12-20 reps
- Cable woodchop – 3 sets of 8 reps on each side
- Tricep dips – 100 reps
The Benefits of a 3-Day Workout Split
A three-day full-body workout for men and women has many benefits. In comparison to the two, four, and five-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 – as most people are busy and need several days away from the gym, the three-day 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 (3) (4).
- 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 three-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 need to also follow a healthy diet. Depending on your body goals, you need to create a calorie deficit or surplus.
People who are looking to lose weight require a calorie deficit i.e. to burn more calories than they consume. There are many diet options and whether you choose keto, paleo, or any other diet, you need to make sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need.
Eating balanced meals and controlling your portions will help you achieve a deficit. You may also want to look into calorie counting to achieve your body goals faster.
At the same time, people who are working to build muscle require a calorie surplus. They must nourish their bodies adequately in order to repair torn muscles and encourage hypertrophy (3). If you are having trouble eating enough to attain a caloric surplus, you may want to drink your calories. This means taking protein shakes or mass gainers.
As a beginner, do not rush into supplementing your diet with shakes and gainers straight away. Start by working on your meals to ensure they are nutritious and the portions are sufficient. If after a while you are still having a hard time consuming a surplus, then you can look into supplementation.
What About Cardio?
When focusing on the three-day full-body workout , it is easy to forget about cardio. A 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 and only do what you can handle. A light walk or jog is recommended. It is important to listen to your body and give it sufficient time to recover. Remember that muscle tearing and recovery is the basis of hypertrophy.
Is Three Days Enough for a Full-Body Workout?
Yes, three days is enough for a full-body workout. In fact, the best three-day full-body workout strikes a perfect balance between time in the gym and rest days. This routine allows each muscle group sufficient time to recover, thereby promoting growth and preventing overuse injuries.
That being said, the effectiveness of a 3-day full-body workout is dependent on your fitness level, goals, and the intensity of your workouts. For beginners, this routine can be highly effective as it allows for gradual progression while avoiding burnout. At the same time, advanced athletes may require more frequent and targeted training to continue making progress.
Can I Do a Full-Body Workout Three Days a Week?
Yes, you most certainly can. The beginner three-day full-body workout schedule is a popular choice for those who are new to fitness. The routine typically encompasses a variety of exercises that target all the major muscle groups, so it’s a comprehensive training program that’s easy to follow.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of your three-day full-body workout, it’s important that you incorporate compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Examples of such exercises include squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.
You must also rest for at least one day between each workout session to allow your muscles enough time to repair and grow. This is where the importance of a proper diet and adequate sleep come into play, as they help with muscle recovery and growth.
Full Body Better Than Split?
This is dependent on your personal goals. A full-body workout, such as the three-day full-body workout routine, targets every muscle group in each session, which makes it an efficient choice for those with limited time. At the same time, a split routine allows more targeted focus on specific muscle groups each day, which may be ideal for those who aim for more specialized development.
Can I Train Full Body Every Day?
While it is possible, it’s not recommended to train full body every day. Instead, you should consider a three-day full-body workout for mass. This schedule allows sufficient time for your muscles to recover and grow, which is essential for both health and progress on your fitness journey (1).
For those who prefer to exercise daily, the three-day full-body workout routine for beginners can be complemented with light cardio or yoga sessions on the off days. If you prefer to work out at home, there are also great routines you can follow, such as the three-day full-body workout at home.
The Bottom Line
A three-day full-body workout is an efficient way to achieve strength and muscle gains. It targets all the muscle groups while allowing you to rest. The three-day split is a flexible routine that can fit into a hectic work-life schedule. To get the best results, you need to incorporate a healthy diet. Most importantly, you need to pay attention to the needs of your body and rest when necessary.
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!
- A busy cardiologist lost 30 pounds with this 3-day strength training routine (2023,insider.com)
- Become the Strongest, Leanest Version of Yourself with These 5 Full-Body Workouts (2023,menshealth.com)
- 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)
- Why Warming Up and Cooling Down is Important (2016,tricitymed.org)