What could be a 3-day split workout? If you have heard about this exercise routine and are not sure what it is, how it works, or what it involves then you are in the right place. In this article we shall be shedding light on the 3-day split workout, how it can work for weight loss and muscle gain, as well as showing you how best to schedule your exercises on this regimen.
What Is A 3-Day Split Workout?
A 3 day split workout is an exercise routine that requires you to divide your workout routine into 3 days. The main purpose of the 3 day split workout is to give you ample time to concentrate on different muscle groups on each day thus helping you isolate and work them to the fullest.
What Is The Difference Between A Full Body Workout And A 3-Day Split Workout?
A full body workout means you are exercising your entire body with all muscles being stimulated in one workout. Examples of full body workouts include HIIT, high-intensity resistance training (HIRT), bodyweight workouts such as squats or push-ups or conventional weightlifting exercises like deadlifts, bench-presses and more.
On the other hand, a 3-day split routine or training split, involves separating muscle groups into three and then working each group on a different day of the week. Instead of working out all your muscles everyday of the week you separate your exercises that you work your lower body, shoulders and arm, and finally chest and back on 3 different days of the week.
General Guidelines For A 3-Day Split Workout For Beginners
If you are wondering how to do a 3-day split workout, here are some rules that you should follow to make sure that your routine works for you:
1. Make Sure You Do Your Cardio
Just because the 3-day split workout routine is often used for muscle growth and strength does not mean that you do not need it. Cardio is essential in any workout routine because (2):
- It burns fat. If you are using the 3-day split workout for weight loss, then cardio should be incorporated in your routine. Remember that while both types of exercises burn calories, cardio burns more calories – in the moment than weight lifting and a combination of both works best for weight loss.
- It boosts your metabolism which translates in burning more calories and weight loss.
- So, it enhances your sleep quality.
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- It increases your lung capacity and increases blood flow throughout the body.
- Can help improve your sex life.
- Increases bone density which in-turn prevents or helps manage rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
- Is good for mental health – Cardio has been linked to lowered stress, anxiety, panic attacks, improved memory, better moods and more.
- Reduces your risk of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Make sure to do at least 15 minutes of cardio as a warmup before getting into your 3 day workout for strength.
2. Divide Up Your Workouts
There are many ways that you could choose to divide up your exercises, however the best 3-day workout split for beginners is usually as follows:
- Day one – Chest, shoulder and triceps
- 2-nd Day – Legs and lower body
- 3-rd Day – Back and biceps
Abdominal workouts can be done on any day, especially on day three but remember, if you are bracing your abdominal muscles as you exercise, then you are most likely working your core everyday. This action of bracing helps activate and workout your core will lead to more defined abs.
This is according to a 2014 study that compared the effects of hollowing exercises with bracing exercises in middle-aged women. After six weeks of the middle-aged women doing these workouts, researchers found that bracing workouts were more efficient in activating the abdominal muscles that make up the abs – namely the transverse abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques, and rectus abdominis (1).
3. Incorporate The Pull-Push Split
Pulling exercises usually target the muscles that involve the back, hamstrings, some types of shoulder exercises, biceps, and abs. On the other hand, pushing workouts target the quads, calves, chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Your routine should last you anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour. Some say that you should ensure that you do 3 sets of each workout with a set having eight to 12 reps. Each muscle group should be exercised using four to six exercises per and be sure to rest for 30 seconds to a minute in-between each set.
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What Are The Advantages Of A 3-Day Split Workout Routine?
If you are not sure if the 3-day split workout is best for you, here are some pros of this routine that could help change your mind:
1. It Is A Time Saver
Unless you are a bodybuilder, gym trainer, or an athlete of some sort, many of us do not have the luxury of spending a couple of days, or several hours in a gym. Choosing to do a 3-day split workout routine can help you maximize time spent in the gym. 45 minutes or an hour of split training helps you fully exercise your body in a week.
2. Works Amazing For Muscle Growth
If you are debating between doing full body exercises or a 3-day workout split for lean muscle then the 3-day split option might be the better option for you. Because you are spending a lot of time working one set of muscles, you are able to work them intensely and to fatigue, this helps stimulate muscle breakdown. Once you rest, the muscles in question get to repair and grow resulting in gains.
3. It Allows You To Lift Heavier Weights
Because you only concentrate on a few body parts/one muscle group at a time, you have more strength and endurance which is beneficial of lifting heavier weights and for longer periods.
4. It May Help You Over A Plateau
Often when working out and losing weight, people hit a plateau when their diets or workout routine no longer show results. If you are seeing that your full body workouts are no longer giving you the desired results, then changing your routine into a 3-day split workout could help you get over this hurdle.
The Best 3-Day Workout Split For Beginners – Lose Weight And Gain Lean Muscle
If you are not sure how to build a 3-day split workout, here is a simple routine that you can use. Remember to warm up before and stretch at the end of every workout. Warm ups rev up your cardiovascular system by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles, which helps reduce muscle soreness and lessen your risk of injury. Cooling down by stretching allows for a gradual recovery of pre-exercise heart rate and blood pressure.
Day 1 – Chest, Shoulders, And Triceps
- Begin lying down with your chest and stomach flat on the floor and with your legs straightened out behind you. Your palms should be on the floor, at chest level with the arms bent out at a 45-degree angle.
- On an exhale, push from your hands and heels, bringing your torso, chest, and thighs off the ground.
- Pause for a second in the plank position – body straight from neck to heel and keep your core engaged.
- Inhale as you slowly lower back to your starting position.
- Do this eight to 12 times for one rep.
Do 3 reps of push-ups resting for 30 seconds to 1 minutes in between each rep.
If standard push-ups are too hard for you as a beginner, try knee push-ups instead.
- Begin by getting on all fours and keep your gaze on the floor.
- Place your hands on the ground on either side of your shoulders and spread your knees, keeping them at a comfortable distance apart.
- On an inhale, engage your core and slowly lower your elbows bringing your chest toward the ground.
- Pause for a second in the lowered position before exhaling as you push up from the ground to your starting position.
- Do this for 3 sets – 8 to 12 times for one rep. Remember to take a 30 second to 60 second break in between each rep.
Dumbbell Chest Press
- Begin by lying flat on your back, or on a bench, with your feet flat on the ground.
- With a dumbbell in each hand, extend your arms directly over your shoulders, palms facing toward your feet.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly bend your elbows, lowering the weights out to the side, parallel with your shoulders, until your elbows form 90-degree angles.
- Slowly drive the dumbbells back up to the starting position, squeezing your shoulder blades the entire time. This is one rep.
- Do 3 sets of eight to 12 reps each and 1 minute breaks in-between the sets.
Dumbbell Chest Fly
- Lie flat on your back on a flat incline bench. Place your feet firmly on the floor on either side of the bench and your head firmly pressed on the bench.
- Hold the dumbbells directly above your chest, palms facing each other. Do not lock your elbows, they can bend a little.
- On an inhale, slowly lower dumbbells in an arc motion until they’re in line on either side of your chest. Don’t drop your arms lower than your shoulders.
- Exhale and slowly press the dumbbells up in the same arc motion.
- Repeat this 8 to 12 times for one set. Do a total of 3 sets
Dumbbell Lateral Raises
- Begin by holding a dumbbell in each arm with the palms facing your legs. Ensure that you are standing with your legs slightly more than hip-distance apart, roll your shoulders back, engage your core, and look straight ahead.
- On an inhale, lift the dumbbells up and out to each side, keeping your arms almost completely straight, and stop when your elbows reach shoulder-height. Your body should form a “T” shape.
- Pause at this position for a second or two before exhaling and slowly lowering the dumbbells brings your hands back to your sides.
- Repeat this 8 to 12 times for 1 set and do a total of 3 sets.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Stand upright and keep the back straight.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at the shoulders with an overhand grip. Your thumbs should be on the inside with the knuckles facing up.
- On an and exhale slowly raise the weights above your head and pause one you get to the top.
- Slowly and in a controlled motion, lower your arms returning the dumbbells to the shoulders.
- Repeat for eight to 12 reps for each of the 3 sets.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and tip forward from the hips, back flat and abs in until your torso is parallel to the floor. If this position feels uncomfortable or painful for your back or hamstrings, lift to a more comfortable but still bent position.
- Begin with elbows bent and pulled up to the rib cage. Tighten the triceps and straighten the elbow, bringing weights up behind you.
- Pause for a second then lower your hand. This is one rep.
- Do 8 to 12 reps for a set and repeat the set 2 more times.
- Begin by sitting on the edge of a chair and gripping the edge next to your hips. Your fingers should be pointed at your feet, your legs extended, and your feet spread about hip-width apart with the heels touching the ground.
- Keep your chin up and gaze straight ahead
- Press into your palms to lift your body, sliding forward just far enough that your butt hangs off the edge of the chair.
- Lower yourself until your elbows are bent between 45 and 90 degrees.
- Slowly push yourself back up to the start position and repeat.
- Do this 8 to 12 times for 1 set. Do 3 sets
Day Two – Lower Body Workouts
- Stand with your feet roughly hip-distance apart. Keep your torso upright and tall, core engaged, your shoulders back and chin lifted, and look straight ahead.
- Take a wide step forward with your right foot and plant it roughly two feet ahead, allowing your left heel to lift naturally as you step forward. You may want to put your hands on your hips, and elbows bent at 90-degree angle as you take each step.
- Keeping your core engaged and upright, breathe in and bend both knees lowering your back knee toward the floor. Stop just before it touches down.
- Breath out as you press firmly through your right heel and extend the right knee to rise to stand as you lift your left foot from the ground, swinging it forward to plant it about two feet ahead of your right foot. Avoid leaning your torso forward from your hips as you take this step.
- Continue stepping forward with each lunge, alternating sides as you do. Set a timer for yourself and try doing this for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Finish your set by bringing your back foot to meet your front foot on the final lunge.
- Start on your hands and knees on an exercise mat.
- Place your shoulders above your hands and your hips above your knees. Tighten your core and look down.
- Lift your left leg away from your body at a 45-degree angle. Keep the lifted knee at a 90-degree angle.
- Slowly lower your leg to the starting position to complete 1 rep.
- Do this 8 to 12 times to complete a set on the left leg before switching to the right leg.
- Repeat this until you have completed 3 sets on each leg.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, resting your arms straight down at your sides.
- Bracing your core and keeping your chest high, begin to push your hips back, bending your knees as if you are going to sit down.
- Ensure that your knees do not cave in and when your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause for 2 – 3 seconds.
- Push up evenly through your whole foot back to the starting position.
- Do this 8 to 12 times to complete a set. Repeat the process two more times and remember to rest for 30 seconds to a minute between each set.
Lateral Band Walk
- Take your resistance band and place it above each ankle, and wrap it around both legs.
- Position your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly and move into a half-squat position to activate your butt and thigh muscles.
- Maintaining the half-squat position, shift your weight over to one leg and take a sideways step with the other leg. Move this leg in and out, sideways, for eight to 12 repetitions.
- Ensure to maintain a low, forward-facing posture, your back straight, and your core is engaged.
- Do 3 sets of this.
Day Three – Back, Biceps, and Core
Shoulder Tap Planks
- Begin in the standard position – with arms shoulder-width apart and outstretched beneath you, core engaged, and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
- Keeping your hips square and in position, working hard not to let them sway side to side, lift your right hand to tap your left shoulder. Bring it down and then lift your left hand to tap your right shoulder.
- Make sure that you are well balanced so you do not fall over while lifting one hand.
Since planks do not have sets, set a 20 to 30 second timer for this one.
- Lie on your back and place your feet on a wall. Your knees and hips should bend at a 90- degree angle. Tighten your abdominal muscles as described above.
- Place your hands behind your head and raise your head and shoulders off the floor, moving towards your knees. Do not use your hand to help lift your head.
- Hold this position for three deep breaths then drop down and repeat.
- Do this 8 to 12 times for one set. Rest and then do it again for two more sets.
3 Day Split Workout: Back Exercises
- Start by sitting on a workout bench. The bench should be in between your thighs and your feet should be on the ground on either side and spread slightly wider than the bench.
- Once you are comfortable, lie back so you end up laying on the bench with your back, neck, and head fully supported.
- Place one dumbbell in each hand and then extend your arms over your chest with the palms facing each other. Do not lock the elbows.
- Keeping your core engaged, inhale and slowly extend the weights back and over and behind your head. Do not drop the weights that they end up hanging below your head.
- Pause here for a second or two before exhaling and bringing your hands back to the starting position.
- Do this 8 to 12 times for 3 sets.
Back Extensions (on the floor)
- Lie on a mat on your stomach and straighten your legs behind you. Place your elbows on the ground and slide your shoulders down.
- Lift your upper back, pressing your hips into the mat. Keep your head and neck neutral. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Lower to starting position. Complete 3 sets.
- Start by standing directly below a pull-up bar on a box or floor – all depends on how high up the bar is. Hold the bar with your palms facing away from your body and with your hands slightly further than shoulder-with apart.
- Lift your feet up from the floor or box so that you’re hanging from the bar, and engage your core by pulling your belly button in toward your spine. Pull your shoulders back and down – they shouldn’t be around your ears.
- Engaging the muscles in your arms and back, bend your elbows and raise your upper body up toward the bar until your chin is over the bar. As you move, avoid swinging your legs around or shrugging your shoulders up. You want to make sure your shoulder blades remain back and down throughout the exercise.
- If you cannot get your chin above the bar, that’s fine. You can slowly work up to that over time.
- At the top of the movement, inhale. Then extend your elbows and lower your body back down to the starting position.
- Do this 8 to 12 times for 1 set.
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- Stand with one dumbbell in each hand and your legs slightly more than shoulder width apart.
- Keep the core engaged and back strong as you bend at the elbow joint and lift the weights towards the shoulders.
- Make sure that your elbows don’t drift forward or out to the sides. Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
- This is one rep. Repeat this motion 8 to 12 times for 1 set. Rest and then do 2 more sets.
- Place one dumbbell in each hand. Rotate the hands so that the palms face the thighs.
- Keeping the elbows in a fixed position, bend at the elbow so the lower arms lift up and toward the shoulders. Keep the shoulders relaxed as you work. Keep your grip firms and wrists in line with the forearm.
- At the top of the movement, thumbs will be close to the shoulders, palms facing in toward the midline of the body.
- Lower the weights to the starting position.
- Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps each.
How often do you workout a 3-day split?
As the name suggests a 3-day workout split is done for three days a week. You could choose to do these days back to back or skip a day in between each split, the choice is yours.
Can I gain more muscle while doing the 3-day split workout for strength?
Yes, you can. A 3-day split workout is perfect for anyone who is bulking to increase muscle size and strength, especially when combined with a proper diet. The higher sets and reps included in such a routine work best for increased size and strength. However, if you are looking to get ripped or muscle definition this routine might not be the best as it does not work well for toning or increasing endurance.
How to build a full body workout 3-day split?
If you would prefer to workout out your whole body using the 3 day split workout, ensure to incorporate full body exercises on your chosen 3 days. I.e., instead of focusing on either lower body or upper body workouts, make sure that every muscle group is worked out on all 3 days.
The Bottom Line
The 3-day split workout is a good idea for anyone who feels like they do not have enough time to properly workout all the muscle groups or anyone who wishes to bulk up and grow more muscle. If you choose to follow the 3-day split workout, ensure to stick to your chosen routine as skipping a day could mean failing to workout a muscle group altogether for a whole week. Remember to first consult a doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
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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. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Comparison of the Effects of Hollowing and Bracing Exercises on Cross-sectional Areas of Abdominal Muscles in Middle-aged Women (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The (Many) Benefits of a Cardio Workout (2020, health.clevelandclinic.org)