There are a lot of people who believe that the more time they spend at the gym, the better. This is simply not true at all. Rest is one of the most crucial aspects of fitness. This is why three-day workout split strategies are so useful. When you combine both the intensity of your workouts and your body’s recovery, you can get great hypertrophy and strength outcomes while spending less time in the gym. A 3-day split workout routine for mass is most suitable for beginners. If you’re new to lifting, and trying to find your way around the gym you’ll find this schedule convenient. Like most lean body workout plans, there’s plenty you need to know to see results.
What Is The 3-Day Split Workout?
A 3-day split workout is one where you follow a routine based on three different days. You work out three times weekly, and target different muscle groups each workout session. The purpose of this is to allow your muscles enough time for recovery so they can build strength and hypertrophy while you’re focusing on other body parts in another session (4).
There are many variations of the three-day split workout routine. It’s best to cycle your workouts for better results. There are four popular types of 3-day splits:
- Push-pull leg 3-day split
- Classic bodybuilder 3-day split
- Upper lower 3-day split
- Full body 3-day split
The push/pull/leg split workout is one of the most popular three-day splits. It allows you to focus on working out your upper body, lower body, and larger muscle groups within these sessions (11).
This is a great workout routine for beginners since it’s easy to follow with little equipment necessary (barbells and dumbbells are good enough). It also helps give you better results with strength training than traditional workouts do.
How To Do The Push/Pull 3-Day Split Workout Routine
The push/pull workout should be done as follows:
- Day one focuses on chest, triceps, and deltoids push exercises. This day includes bench presses, shoulder presses, rows, dips etc.
- Day two targets back, biceps, and forearms pull exercises. These include pull ups (underhand grip), chin ups (overhand grip), curls, deadlifts etc.
- Day three targets quads, hamstrings, calves-leg exercises. This includes squats, leg press, hack squat machine exercise.
The Classic Bodybuilder 3-Day Split Routine
This one places your three largest muscle groups on their own days, with the smaller muscle groups supplementing them. Your large muscle groups are chest, back, and shoulders. Smaller muscle groups are triceps, biceps, and legs (9).
How To Do The Classic Bodybuilder 3-Day Split
- Day one focuses on the chest and triceps. Exercises for this day include bench press, triceps extensions, dips etc..
- Day two focuses on the back and biceps. Back exercises for this day include pull ups/chin ups, bent over rows, deadlifts. Bicep exercises for this day include front and back arm curls, dumbbell pullovers etc.
- Day three focuses on shoulders and legs. The shoulder exercises are lateral raises and front raises. Leg workouts are wide stance squats, leg press machine exercise, calf raises etc.
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Upper/Lower 3-Day Split Routine
This is ideal when you want to target both your upper and lower body, but on separate days (4). It’s also a great workout routine for beginners, since it’s quite simple and easy to follow. Upper body days include your chest, back, shoulders, biceps, and Triceps; Lower body days include your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.
How To Do The Upper/Lower 3-Day Split Routine
- Day one focuses on upper body workouts. Exercises for this day include bench press, shoulder press, rows, and chin ups.
- Day two targets lower body workouts. Lower body exercises are deadlifts, squats, leg extensions etc..
- Day three works out your upper body again. Exercises for this day are shoulder press, pull ups, arm curls etc
The next week, you’ll alternate the routine, and have two lower body days and one upper body day. So you will have one week with two upper body days and one weeks with two lower body days.
Full Body Workout 3-Day Split Routine
The 3-day full body split workout routine for mass involves exercising all muscles on each day. Each workout session will involve different exercises but it’s important to focus on compound exercises that target all muscles, rather than isolating exercises that target individual muscle groups. Some examples of compound exercises for a 3-day full body workout include deadlift, squats and bench press.
Which Is The Best 3-Day Workout Split?
The answer to this question depends on several factors, including your:
- Weightlifting experience
- Muscle building goals
- Reset and recovery needs
That said, of the four types of 3-day splits, the push/pull/leg split stands out for being the most efficient. This is due to the fact that all of the associated muscle groups are exercised simultaneously in each session, resulting in minimal overlap between exercises (11). This allows your muscle groups to recover much faster than most other splits. However, if you are a beginner who has never worked out before, your full body split might be best for you.
What Are The Benefits Of The 3-Day Split Workout Routine?
The 3-day split has several benefits:
Greater recovery means that you’ll be more able to put forth maximum effort on each workout (1). If you are only lifting 3 days per week, you will give each session your best and this often results in more intense training. Plus, you’re less likely to get so burned out from feeling that you’re just going through the motions of each workout – this is quite common among people doing 4,5, or 6 day split workouts.
With such a low frequency of training three days per week (every other day), this is an easily manageable schedule that will not feel too intense for beginners. You can easily perform this routine even with a busy work schedule or limited time availability because you only need an hour or two out of 3 days each week (2).
Since this program works all muscle groups, there won’t be boredom and your workouts will never get mundane. This is an advantage that will help you keep at the gym, even if your enthusiasm wanes sometimes. As well, it leaves some free days in between sessions which means you can focus on other activities like cardio exercises, pilates etc.
Leaves Time For Other Activities
Some people enjoy lifting and consider it a hobby. Others are in it for the muscle gains, and need time to do other fitness related activities that they love. If you’re a part of the latter group you’ll find that a 3-day split works best. It won’t leave you so wiped out that you can barely take part in your hobbies.
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What Are The Disadvantages Of The 3-Day Split Workout?
There are some downsides to lifting only 3 days each week:
The 3-day split allows you to train each muscle group only once per week. However, scientific evidence says training each muscle group twice weekly leads to more muscle gains. Several studies looked at resistance training frequency and the results on hypertrophic outcomes. They concluded that training each muscle group twice weekly promoted superior hypertrophic results when compared to training each muscle group once a week (5).
Training each muscle group twice a week means your muscles have more chances to be stimulated to grow. You’ll also be able to do a variety of workouts to keep things interesting. Because the 3-day workout split is too low of a frequency, it may not give you the desired results as fast as other workout splits.
Poor Weight Management
Lifting only 3 days a week without adding cardio might not create a high enough calorie deficit for you to meet your weight loss goals. One way to solve this is by creating an additional deficit through diet to supplement your strength training program.
How To Maximize Results From The 3-Day Sleep Workout
Recovery is an essential part of any strength training workout (10). What you do outside the gym is just as important as what you do in the gym. Therefore, to maximize the results of your workouts, focus on the following: sleep, nutrition, and hydration.
What you eat after a workout is just as important as what you eat on days you don’t work out. You should implement the following healthy eating habits:
- Get enough carbs, protein, and fat in your diet for muscle growth
- Consume 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day to maintain and build new muscle tissue (3)
- Make sure you are getting enough calories from healthy nutrient dense foods
- Eat carbohydrates like oatmeal before going to bed to provide energy throughout the night for recovery
Getting enough sleep is critical for muscle recovery and growth. It’s recommended that you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night (7). Being well rested will not only increase the results you see from your workouts, but it’ll also give you more energy throughout the day so that you can push yourself harder in the gym.
To get good sleep, try the following practices (7):
- Keep your room cool and dark.
- Make sure you’re getting enough exercise to make yourself tired at night, but not so much that you can’t fall asleep. Exercising daily is recommended, but don’t work out for more than an hour too close to bedtime because doing so will raise your body temperature.
- Avoid caffeine after 3 pm. Try herbal tea or warm milk instead.
- Avoid blue light before bed.
Make it a priority to drink plenty of water every day. Aim for half your body weight in ounces (if you weigh 200 pounds aim for 100 ounces of water) (8). This may seem like a lot if you aren’t used to drinking that much each day, but as you get into the habit you’ll find it easy to do.
The Bottom Line
The 3 day split workout routine for mass targets different muscle groups in each session. This can be quite effective, especially for beginners, since it allows for plenty of recovery time for the various muscle groups. However, it must be used along with proper nutrition, sleep and hydration for maximum benefits.
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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 Comparison Between Total Body and Split Routine Resistance Training Programs in Trained Men (2021, lww.com)
- American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise (2011, pubmed.gov)
- Dietary protein intake and human health (2016, nih.gov)
- Early-Phase Adaptations to Split-Body, Linear Periodization Resistance Training Program in College-Aged and Middle-Aged Men (2009, lww.com)
- Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults (2012, nih.gov)
- Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and meta-Analysis (2016, nih.gov)
- How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? (2021, sleepfoundation.org)
- How to calculate how much water you should drink (2019, umsystem.edu)
- Large and Small Muscle in Resistance Training: Is It Time for a Better Definition? (2017, lww.com)
- Recovery in Training: The Essential Ingredient (n.d., unm.edu)
- The Push/Pull/Legs Routine for Muscle Gains (n.d., aston.ac.uk)