It can be hard to know which workout split is the most ideal, when looking at the overwhelming amount of different training methods available to us.
In this article, I will go over the best 3 day workout split you can do as both a beginner, and advanced athlete. This knowledge applies to anyone, whether they lift weights, or perform full bodyweight workouts.
Over time and with a lot of research, I have tried many different splits, from basic 3 day bodybuilding splits, to 7 day workout splits, some worked well, and some weren’t so effective.
As everybody reacts differently to different training stimulus, there is of course, not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but there are however some splits that stands out in terms of muscle and connective tissue recovery, strength and size gains potential, and more.
This 3 day schedule will give each muscle plenty of time for recovery, and allow you to come back stronger into each workout. You can also adapt it to do more volume if you already have some experience and want to train each muscle group more often for a given reason.
Best 3 day workout split – How it works
The classic split you probably already know about, and one that I started with myself is usually built as follows:
- Monday = chest and triceps
- Wednesday = back and biceps
- Friday = legs and shoulders
Another very common routine is the 5 day split which looks as follows:
- Monday = Chest
- Tuesday = Back
- Wednesday = Arms
- Thursday = Legs
- Friday = Shoulders
Both these methods are effective in their own way, mainly in the way that they offer you plenty of time to recover after a session. However, because of the way they are structured you are actually losing out on mass and strength gains that you could be making by the use of a PUSH/PULL/LEGS split.
Muscle protein synthesis is elevated up to 48 hours after resistance training. This means after 48 hours there is almost no more growth. So with a muscle group routine, you’d go with 5 days without growth, while being on a PPL would mean maybe 1 or 2 days without growth. Overall you will get in more volume, too.
So on a PPL split; you can optimize your muscle and strength growth, while still getting more volume, and plenty of recovery. Here’s what it would look like on paper:
- Monday = Push
- Tuesday = Pull
- Wednesday = Legs
- Thursday = Rest
- Friday = Repeat!
With this split you will be working each muscle evenly every 4 days. This means that you don’t have to do as many sets on a given day, like when you are only working a single muscle group on a regular 5 days split.
In fact, you only need one to two exercises per muscle group on each push, pull, and leg day. Here’s what that might look like:
- Push = Overhead press/handstand push ups; Bench press; Dips; triceps extensions
- Pull = Pull ups; Rows; Bicep curls; Rear deltoid flies
- Legs = Squat; Lunges; Hamstring curls; Calve raises
Keep in mind that the routine above is just an example; you can add or remove any pushing or pulling exercise depending on your preferences. But by now you should have an all around understanding of how it works.
As usual I would recommend that you always structure your workouts by doing all your main compound lifts/ movements first, and finishing with isolation movements.
To get a bit further into how you should program your workouts, a standard linear progression type programming is efficient for a beginner. This means adding a certain amount of extra weight every session. As a newbie, you will make a lot of progress with this method as your body doesn’t need as much stimulus to grow and more time to adapt to more complicated methods.
If you have already been training for a while or have hit a plateau for a while daily Undulating Periodization might be more effective for you.
The idea is to use several different rep ranges over the course of a week. An example would be for benching 3 times in a week, you could do 5×10@55%/6×5@75%/8×3@85%.
Another fun and efficient way of making great constant progress on your main compound movements is reverse pyramid style training. For this, use a weight challenging enough to complete 4 to 6 reps, then de-load to a lighter weight to perform 8 reps, then a final time again to perform 8 to 12 reps. From week to week, you can add 0.5 to 1.5 lbs (micro-loading), and over time, the pounds will add up and you will quickly find yourself lifting a lot more weight. I personally like using this method on the bench press.
With bodyweight training, it is hard to make a percentage estimation because you are working in progressions and not weight increments. However, you can use tools like a weight vest, or a solid dip belt, to add difficulty to your movements and easily track how much weight you are using form week to week.
As always, be sure to warm up thoroughly by starting with something to raise your body temperature such as skipping, burpees or a light jog, followed by some dynamic stretching and mobility drills. I like to follow that with some bodyline drills like planks, hollow body planks and more.
The best results for strength and hypertrophy are obtained within the 1 to 12 rep range. The optimal weight you want to train with should be to be 75% to 85% of your 1 rep max. You can use this calculator to give you an idea of your 1 rep max.
I don’t recommend going to failure on more than 1 set per exercise. If you are using the right amount of weight according to your 1RM, you should still have a rep or two in reserve at the end of your set. If you are going to perform a set to muscle failure, it is best to do it on the very last set.
Extra Training notes
Remember that working out with the right programming and exercises will not get you the best possible results if you don’t pair it with the right diet and offer your body what it needs to recover and come back stronger and refreshed, workout after workout.
Best 3 day workout split – Conclusion
We have looked at the best 3 day workout splits to follow, how to structure them, and what you could do on the separate give training days (body-part split, push/pull split…). After that, we went over programming, periodization, how to effectively warm up, and what repetition ranges you should be aiming for according to your goals.
What split do you currently follow? Which split do you intend to follow next? If you have any questions, or feedback, please leave a comment below so we can get a discussion going!