There are a bunch of ways to achieve your fitness goals, whether it’s putting on muscle, losing some belly fat, or just being able to pick up heavy stuff.

But which method is best for you, specifically?

And how can you best fit a workout routine into your overall lifestyle?

One of the major choices we face in training is how many workouts to split our routine into. 

While the most popular methods shift and change over time, one of the current favorites in the fitness community is the 3 day workout split.

This article will explain what a 3 day workout split is (and isn’t). We’ll discuss the benefits, drawbacks, and other considerations.

We’ll also provide you with heaps of example routines with schedules and exercises included.

If none of these suit your particular situation, we even have a template for how to create your own unique 3 day split workout. 

Let’s get to it!

What is a 3 Day Split Workout?

3 Day Workout Split
3 Day Workout Split

A 3-day split workout is a resistance training program that divides the major muscle groups of the body into three separate workout sessions.

The most common true 3 day split programs include the push/pull/legs (PPL) split, and the 3-day bodybuilding split.

These splits typically group muscles that work synergistically, like the chest, shoulders and triceps, or the back and biceps.

While not technically accurate, any program that involves training three days per week is also commonly referred to as a 3 day split workout.

For example, an upper body/lower body split is a 2 day split program, dividing the whole body musculature into two sections.

However, this program is sometimes referenced as a 3 day split when performed three days per week (see examples below).

Likewise, a full-body training program, when carried out three days a week, is also sometimes known as a 3 day split.

The following section will break down all of these options when viewed as 3 day split workouts, with schedules and exercise examples included.

The Best 3 Day Workout Split Routines

Related: 4 Day Workout Split

Push/Pull/Legs

3 Day Workout Split – Push/Pull/Legs Explainer

Probably the most popular current 3 day workout split, push/pull/legs – or PPL – breaks sessions into synergistic muscle groups.

This routine has one session dedicated to upper body pushing movements predominantly involving shoulder flexion and elbow extension.

The second workout focuses on upper body pulling actions, with shoulder extension and elbow flexion.

The third portion of the split consists of lower body movements, featuring hip, knee, and ankle flexion and extension.

Weekly Schedule 1:

  • Monday: Push
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Pull
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

For those who have the time and want to increase training volume, PPL can also be done twice per week, like this:

Weekly Schedule 2:

  • Monday: Push
  • Tuesday: Pull
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Push
  • Friday: Pull
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: Rest

This is still a 3 day workout split, just performed at a higher frequency. We’ll talk more about why training frequency is important in later sections.

Body Part Split:

  • Push: Bench press, OH press, dips
  • Pull: Chin-ups, barbell row, deadlift
  • Legs: Squats, split squats, nordic curl

3 Day Bodybuilding Split

Related: Arnold Split

3 Day Bodybuilding Split
3 Day Bodybuilding Split

This is a more flexible style of the 3 day workout split that you can mix and match based on your goals and preferences.

While many people group muscles together in a similar way to PPL, the following example shows one alternative way to shake things up.

The main point is to cover all major muscle groups at least once between the three workouts.

Weekly Schedule:

  • Monday: Chest/quads/abs
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Back/hamstrings/calves
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Shoulders/arms/abs
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Body Part Split: 

  • Chest/quads/abs: Incline press, cable fly, hack squat, leg extension, hanging leg raise
  • Back/hamstrings/calves: Barbell row, lat pulldown, straight-legged deadlift, calf raise
  • Shoulders/arms/abs: Military press, lateral raise, EZ bar curl, OH extension, Bosu crunch

3 Day Workout Split Full Body

As mentioned, a full-body workout is not technically a split routine at all. That being said, you can ‘split’ certain parameters of your workout up into three sessions, so we’ll give it a pass.

In fact, the best way to distinguish between a full-body ‘split’ and a regular full-body routine is that the former would be three different full-body workouts. The latter would be the same full-body workout performed three times per week.

Confused yet?

Luckily, in later sections, we have multiple examples of 3 day workout splits that utilize full-body training sessions.

Weekly Schedule:

  • Monday: Full-body workout 1
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Full-body workout 2
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Full-body workout 3
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

‘Focus’ Split: 

Strength (high load), power (explosive tempo), endurance (high repetitions)

Upper Lower Split Workout

Finally, we have the upper and lower body split. As previously mentioned, this is really a 2 day split. However, you can perform a program like this three days per week, with a unique two-week schedule:

Weekly Schedule:

  • Monday: Upper body
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Lower body
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Upper body
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: Lower body
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Upper body
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Lower body
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

As you can see, this results in the upper and lower body each getting worked three times every two weeks.

Another option to make this a true 3 day workout split would be to add one full body day to the upper and lower days. See the following section for an example program.

Body Part Split:

  • Upper body: Curl and press, cable rows, chest fly, hammer curls
  • Lower body: Leg press, reverse lunge, ab/adductor machine

Ultimate 3 Day Split Workout Routines for Specific Goals

Related: How Many Exercises Per Work?

With that general outline of the different styles of 3 day workout splits covered, now we get to the best part.

This section includes seven pre-made 3 day split routines for you to use as-is, or to modify.

In addition, there’s also a template table showing you the types of exercises to split up into a 3 day routine.

3 Day Workout Split for Muscle Growth (Hypertrophy)

3 Day Split Workout Routines
3 Day Split Workout Routines

This 3 day split sticks to the muscle groups that work best together, but with more isolation work to avoid leaving anyone muscle group behind.

A hypertrophy-focused split will produce an optimal blend of muscle tension and metabolic stress that will ensure maximal stimulation of the muscle fibers.

Workout 1 – Chest/ Shoulders/TricepsWorkout 2 – Back/BicepsWorkout 3 – Legs
Db incline press 4×10Barbell bent row 4×8Hack squat machine 4×8
Cable crossover 3×12Lat pulldown 3×10Leg extensions 3×12
Db shoulder press 3×10Underhand grip pulldown 3×10Seated leg curl 3×12
Db lateral raise 3×12Reverse fly machine 3×12Ab/adductor machine 3×10
OH cable tricep extension 3×12Db incline curl 3×12Seated calf raise 3×10

Guidelines:

  • Volume: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Rest breaks: 60 seconds
  • Rest days: 0-2 between sessions
  • Nutrition: Calorie surplus
  • Supplements (optional): Protein powder, creatine, pre-workout
  • Progression: Volume (increase sets)
  • Measurement: Circumferences (chest, shoulders, upper arm, thigh, calf)

Related: Dumbbell Back Exercise

3 Day Workout Split for Maximal Strength

3 Day Workout Split for Maximal Strength
3 Day Workout Split for Maximal Strength

Don’t be deceived by the minimal number of exercises in this 3-day split. 

This intense routine is designed to stimulate the neural, hormonal, and muscular adaptations necessary to increase your maximal strength.

Make sure to perform an adequate warm-up for this kind of training, including multiple warm-up sets at the submaximal weight.

Workout 1 – LegsWorkout 2 – PushWorkout 3 – Pull
Barbell squat 5×5Bench press 5×5Deadlift 5×5
Bulgarian split squat 5×8Overhead press 5×8Weighted pull-up 5×5
Barbell hip thrust 5×10Weighted dips 5×5T-bar row 5×10

Guidelines:

  • Volume: 5 sets of 5-10 reps
  • Rest breaks: 3-5 minutes
  • Rest days: 1-2 between sessions
  • Nutrition: Calorie surplus
  • Supplements (optional): Protein powder, creatine, pre-workout
  • Progression: Intensity (increase weight)
  • Measurement: One-repetition maximum (1RM) (Bench press, barbell squat, deadlift)

3 Day Workout Split for Weight Loss

This workout split is tailor-made for those with the main goal of losing fat. While diet will play a key role here, we can still preserve muscle mass (and even increase it) with a routine like this.

Resistance training doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio for weight loss. However, it has been shown to decrease intra-abdominal fat, as well as increase your metabolic rate through added lean mass.

You’ll also notice that these workouts finish with a bang. They include a Tabata-style interval to rev up the heart rate and keep the calorie burn going.

Workout 1Workout 2Workout 3
Squat 3×20Split squat jumps 3×10Alternating side lunge 3×10
Push up 3xMAXDb push press 3×15Db clean and press 3×10
Suspension row 3xMAXOne arm row 3×12Db bent over row 3×10
Sit ups 3xMAXPlank 3xMAXBicycle crunch 3xMAX
Rowing machine TABATATreadmill TABATAStationary bike TABATA

Guidelines:

  • Volume: 3 sets of 10-maximum reps
    • Tabata: 8 rounds of 20 seconds maximal work, 10 seconds rest
  • Rest breaks: 30-60 seconds
  • Rest days: 1-2 between sessions
  • Nutrition: Calorie deficit
  • Supplements (optional): N/A
  • Progression: Volume (increase reps / sets)
  • Measurement: Body weight (lbs/kg), body fat percentage (BF%), circumference (waist, hip)

3 Day Workout Split for Beginners

This routine is perfect for gym newbies, who don’t want to necessarily do the same workout every time they come to the gym.

With a relatively low amount of exercises and volume, this program will still produce great results as you ease your way into resistance training.

Notice that one day is focused on bodyweight movements. This is because it makes it accessible from anywhere, and mastering the body weight is important for beginners.

Workout 1Workout 2Workout 3
Chest press machine 3×10Push up 3xMAX -2Shoulder press machine 3×10
Supported row 3×10Inverted row 3xMAX -2Lat pulldown 3×10
Leg press machine 3×10Bodyweight squat 3xMAXBackwards lunge 3×10

Guidelines:

  • Volume: 3 sets of 10-maximum reps -2 (stop two reps before failure)
  • Rest breaks: 60-90 seconds
  • Rest days: 1-2 between sessions
  • Nutrition: Calorie maintenance/deficit/surplus depending on weight goal
  • Supplements (optional): N/A
  • Progression: Volume (add exercises)
  • Measurement: Depends on goal (body weight, BF%, 10RM strength on push/pull/leg exercise)

3 Day Workout Split Bodyweight Exercises Only

3 Day Workout Split Bodyweight Exercises
3 Day Workout Split Bodyweight Exercises

Speaking of mastering the body weight, this 3-day workout split is entirely made up of bodyweight movements.

Aside from being able to be performed almost anywhere, this type of workout split has many unique benefits.

For instance, bodyweight training improves relative strength, core stability, and joint stabilization.

These exercises are also mostly closed-chain movements, making them more functional and able to be directly applied to everyday activities.

Workout 1 – PushWorkout 2 – PullWorkout 3 – Legs
Push up 3xMAX -1Pull up 3xMAXBodyweight squat 3xMAX
Pike push up 3xMAX -1Inverted row 3xMAX -2Reverse lunge 3xMAX -2
Tricep dips 3xMAXBodyweight curls 3xMAX -2Side lunge 3xMAX -2
Plank 3xMAXSupermans 3xMAX -2Single leg calf raise 3xMAX

Guidelines:

  • Volume: 3 sets of maximum -2 – maximum reps
  • Rest breaks: 90 seconds – 3 minutes
  • Rest days: 0-2 between sessions
  • Nutrition: Calorie maintenance / deficit / surplus depending on weight goal
  • Supplements (optional): Protein powder, creatine
  • Progression: Volume (increase reps / sets)
  • Measurement: Maximal number of reps (push-ups, pull-ups, squats)

Related: Dumbbell Tricep Exercises

3 Day Workout Split Upper/Lower/Full Body

Here we have the example of how to make an upper body/lower body split into a true 3-day workout split.

The third, full-body workout lets us add in some extra volume to muscles that might miss out with only two workouts to divide them up into.

We’ve also included some more dedicated abdominal work into this routine, as well as other forgotten muscle groups like the calves and thigh adductors.

Workout 1 – UpperWorkout 2 – LowerWorkout 3 – Full Body
Chest press 4×10Leg press 4×10Db incline press 3×15
Cable row 3×10Romanian deadlift 3×10One arm rows 3×12
Db shoulder press 3×10Leg extension 3×10Walking lunges 3×15
Lat pulldown 3×10Ab/adductor machine 3×10Db curl + press 3×10
Cable core rotations 3×10Seated calf raise 3×10V-ups 3xMAX

Guidelines:

  • Volume: 3-4 sets of 10-maximum reps
  • Rest breaks: 30-90 seconds
  • Rest days: 0-2 between sessions
  • Nutrition: Calorie maintenance / deficit / surplus depending on weight goal
  • Supplements (optional): Protein powder, creatine, pre-workout
  • Progression: Volume (increase sets), intensity (increase weight)
  • Measurement: Depends on goal (body weight, BF%, 10RM strength on push/pull/leg exercise)

3 Day Workout Split for Full Body

Finally, we have a full-body workout plan that is modified into a 3-day split. Each session makes the most of bang for your buck exercises that work multiple muscles at once.

You’ll notice there are some bodyweight movements here with additional weight added. Of course, this is something you can work up to if you’re not there yet.

Workout 1Workout 2Workout 3
Barbell bench press 3×8Barbell incline press 3×10Weighted dips 3xMAX
Leg press 3×10Lunges 3×10Barbell squat 3×8
One arm row 3×10Pull ups 3xMAXT bar row 3×10
Barbell curl 3×10Cable tricep pushdown 3×10Calf raise machine 3×10
Plank 3xMAXBicycle crunch 3×10Side plank 3×30 seconds

Guidelines:

  • Volume: 3 sets of 8-maximum reps
  • Rest breaks: 30-90 seconds
  • Rest days: 1-2 between sessions
  • Nutrition: Calorie maintenance / deficit / surplus depending on weight goal
  • Supplements (optional): Protein powder, creatine, pre-workout
  • Progression: Volume (increase reps / sets), intensity (increase weight)
  • Measurement: Depends on goal (body weight, BF%, 10RM strength on push/pull/leg exercise)

Bonus: 3 Day Workout Split Template – Create Your Own Workout!

The best thing about this template is that you can choose exercises that suit your preferences, available equipment, and goals.

You can choose options for each section that use machines, free weights, resistance bands, bodyweight, or a mix of everything.

Workout 1Workout 2Workout 3
Horizontal pushHorizontal pullBilateral leg push
Vertical pushVertical pullUnilateral leg push
Shoulder flexionShoulder extensionHip extension
Shoulder abductionShoulder horizontal abductionKnee extension
Elbow extensionElbow flexionKnee flexion
Trunk flexionTrunk extensionAnkle plantar flexion

Movement examples:

  • Horizontal push: Chest press, bench press, push up, incline press
  • Vertical push: Overhead press, push press, push jerk
  • Shoulder flexion: Dips, front delt raise
  • Shoulder abduction: Lateral raise, Arnold press
  • Elbow extension: Tricep kickback, cable pushdown, french press, OH extension
  • Trunk flexion: Hollow body, crunch, sit-ups
  • Horizontal pull: Bent row, cable row, supported row, one-arm row, inverted row
  • Vertical pull: Pull-ups, chin-ups, lat pulldown
  • Shoulder extension: Lat pullover, straight arm pushdown
  • Shoulder horizontal abduction: Reverse fly, wide grip cable row
  • Elbow flexion: EZ bar curl, hammer curl, incline curl, preacher curl
  • Trunk extension: Supermans, back extension, wheel pose
  • Bilateral leg push: Squat, leg press, hack squat, trap bar deadlift, front squat
  • Unilateral leg push: Lunge, single-leg press, Bulgarian split squat
  • Hip extension: Glute bridge, deadlift, Romanian deadlift, hip extension machine
  • Knee extension: Leg extension machine, sissy squat
  • Knee flexion: Seated hamstring curl, nordic curl
  • Ankle plantar flexion: Standing calf raise, seated calf raise

Guidelines:

  • Volume: 3-5 sets of 5-maximum reps
  • Rest breaks: 30 seconds – 5 minutes
  • Rest days: 0-2 between sessions
  • Nutrition: Calorie maintenance / deficit / surplus depending on weight goal
  • Supplements (optional): Protein powder, creatine, pre-workout
  • Progression: Volume (increase reps / sets), intensity (increase weight)
  • Measurement: Depends on goal (body weight, BF%, 1-10RM strength on push/pull/leg exercise)

Benefits of Doing a 3 Day Split Workout

Three-day splits are a great option for lifters of all skill levels. They allow active recovery while still getting to the gym regularly.

These routines allow you to break up your training week into several engaging sessions. You can adjust the exercises and workout variables to suit many different goals.

A 3-day workout split is also great for those who may be time-poor, but still want to take care of their health. 

Three sessions is a reasonable ask for most people and is sufficient to achieve a strong, lean physique.

Related: Back And Bicep Workout

Drawbacks of a 3 Day Split

Where the 3-day split workout may not be optimal is for professional athletes or bodybuilders. They need highly specialized programs and more focused sessions.

For the amount of volume a bodybuilder needs to put into each muscle group, only having three sessions to divide the entire body into may not be enough. 

Another case where a 3-day split may not be the best choice is for those who want to keep their training as simple as possible. 

For the average gym-goer, a simple full-body routine with the same exercises each session may be preferable.

What Supplements Are Recommended for a 3 Day Split Workout?

Supplements

Depending on where you are in your fitness journey, you may be considering adding some additional supplements to your nutrition and workout regime. 

Before forking out for a supplement stack, however, there are a few things to ask yourself.

First, if you are newer to weight training, the adaptations to the right balance of exercise, nutrition, and recovery will be sufficient to reach your goals.

In addition, you need to be aware that the supplement market is largely unregulated. Therefore, there is always a certain amount of risk involved with what you are putting into your body.

It should also go without saying that recommendations for dietary supplements are meant for the general, healthy population. Anyone with any kind of medical condition or health concern should seek advice before consuming any supplement.

With those precautions in mind, there are several very well-studied fitness supplements that have been shown to enhance the benefits of a program like the 3-day split workout.

Pre-Workout

Pre-workout is a supplement used to increase performance in the gym. It’s sometimes used for other purposes such as studying or working.

Pre-workouts can contain a mix of ingredients, including caffeine, amino acids, creatine, taurine, and many more.

The caffeine in pre-workout supplements improves workout performance by increasing power, delaying fatigue, and decreasing perception of pain and exertion.

Pre-workouts can also contain substances that create a muscle pump by increasing blood flow to the working muscles.

Some pre-workout supplements focus on the stimulant effect, others on the muscle pump effect, and still others may include a combination of both.

I would suggest consulting with a professional before taking a pre-workout supplement, and be especially careful if you are sensitive to caffeine.

Some pre-workout stimulants can have unwanted side effects such as itching, shaking, excessive sweating, dehydration, or increased heart rate.

If you feel like you want a boost but aren’t sure whether you want to take a pre-workout, don’t overlook a simpler alternative like a cup of coffee.

Creatine 

Creatine is a substance created in our bodies, with more coming from animal foods in our diets.

It facilitates the recycling of ATP in our muscle tissue (among other things) which is used for energy during a workout.

Creatine supplements, predominantly in the form of creatine monohydrate, are one of the most extensively studied ergogenic aids in sports.

Creatine supplementation is well-documented as producing effects such as increased body mass, strength, muscular power, and endurance.

Dosing recommendations for creatine routinely involve a ‘loading’ phase of 5-7 days, followed by regular consumption to maintain a creatine excess in the muscles.

Creatine loading may not be for everyone, however, as it can lead to certain, ahem, discomforts when going to the bathroom.

While increasing creatine stores with a supplement is a safe and well-studied practice, we still recommend using it only after a prolonged period of consistency with your training and nutrition plan.

Protein Powder

The final common supplement you may consider using during your 3-day split routine is a protein supplement.

While it is possible to get sufficient protein through the diet, there are certain reasons you may have for not wanting to go this route.

Ample data suggests that protein supplementation (in subjects who were already getting enough dietary protein) significantly augments muscle adaptations to resistance training.

There are many complicated mechanisms through which protein and amino acid supplementation achieves this. But the long and short of it is that it results in greater gains in muscle mass and strength.

There are many types of protein supplements on the market. The most common forms are whey protein and casein protein, both coming from dairy products.

The growing market for other forms of protein powder includes dairy-free and vegan options like soy protein or pea protein.

Protein supplements come in all flavors, but quality can vary between brands.

Another factor to be aware of with protein supplements is what other ingredients they come with. One example is mass gainer powders, which typically pack in a bunch of calories coming from carbs and fats.

While useful in some cases (such as hard gainers who find it difficult to put on weight), make sure to read the ingredients and nutritional information before buying any protein supplement so you know what you’re getting.

Like the other substances mentioned here, excessive amounts of protein can also have negative health consequences. So, don’t just assume you need a supplement, as you may be getting sufficient protein from your diet.

Supplements are a useful tool in a 3-day workout split, just be sure to do your research, and consult a professional when appropriate before buying or using any such product.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a 3-day split workout enough?

This depends on your fitness goals. For general health benefits, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) jointly recommend that adults perform muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days per week, covering all major muscle groups.

A 3-day split obviously adheres to this advice. But is it sufficient for specific goals like muscle gain or improvements in strength?

The variable we are talking about here is training frequency, or the number of separate days you train a specific muscle group per week.

A review of studies done with frequencies of 1-3 times per week indicated that training a muscle group twice per week was superior to once per week for muscle hypertrophy.

How does this apply to the workouts above? Options like the upper/lower/full body split, the beginner split, or the weight loss split will hit the major muscle groups at least twice per week.

Others, like the upper lower split done as a 3-day split, will achieve this twice-weekly frequency only every second week, for the upper and lower body muscles, respectively.

The true way to reach a frequency of twice per week with a 3-day workout split is to perform the entire split twice per week. 

This is the method advanced lifters often use a 3-day split routine, and it looks like this:

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Workout 3
  • Thursday: Workout 1
  • Friday: Workout 2
  • Saturday: Workout 3
  • Sunday: Rest

Obviously, this takes your workout sessions from three days to six days per week, so this style is not for everyone.

If you’re a newer lifter, a good approach could be to start with three sessions per week, and gradually increase to four, five, and even six days as you progress. For example:

Beginner:

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Workout 2
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Workout 3
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Intermediate:

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Workout 3
  • Friday: Workout 1
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: Workout 2
  • Tuesday: Workout 3
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Etc.

Advanced:

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Workout 3
  • Friday: Workout 1
  • Saturday: Workout 2
  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: Workout 3
  • Tuesday: Workout 1
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Etc.

Experiment and see what works best for you!

When should I do cardio?

The split workouts in this article focus on resistance training, but we know that regular aerobic exercise is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Again, the ACSM and CDC recommendations for aerobic activity are at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week.

In terms of when to work this in with a 3-day workout split, it depends on your schedule.

The main consideration in relation to your strength training is that the cardio doesn’t interfere with your performance in the weight room.

This means that it’s probably best not to do your cardio before your resistance training since it should be at least moderate intensity.

Other than that, do what suits you! Common choices include doing cardio after weight training, on off days, or a combination of both.

As for what to do for your cardio training, this might come in the form of a sport (e.g. 1-2 training nights and a Saturday game), watching Netflix on a cardio machine at the gym or home, or just taking your dog for a daily walk.

The important thing is that you get your regular cardio in, and don’t use your 3-day split as an excuse to skip it.

When should I train the core?

Abdominal training
Abdominal training

Since the core muscles are included when talking about all major muscle groups in the body, they should also be covered in a 3-day split routine.

The ‘core’ muscles are the deep muscles of the front, back, top, and bottom of the abdominal cavity. These include the transverse abdominis; the quadratus lumborum, erector spinae group, and multifidus; the pelvic floor, and the diaphragm.

Since these muscles are used to create pressure in the abdominal cavity and protect the spine, they can be engaged in different ways.

For example, in the 3-day workout split for strength, the core muscles are used in each of the compound lifts in the program.

In other splits in this article – like the weight loss 3-day split – direct exercises for the core and abdominal muscles are included to create a good connection with the muscles.

If you decide to use the 3-day workout split template provided, you can include as much direct or indirect core work as you like.

Just remember that while exercises that directly isolate or target the core muscles can be included, these muscles can (and should) be engaged during just about any resistance exercise.

Is overtraining with a 3 day split workout possible?

While anything is possible, the likelihood of suffering from overtraining syndrome is unlikely with a 3-day workout split, even when done twice per week.

This is because a given muscle group will have at least 48 hours to recover between training bouts.

The example workouts in this article could certainly result in some delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) or fatigue which will require adequate recovery. 

However, they are programmed in such a way that the overall volume is well within safe ranges and overtraining symptoms are unlikely.

Overtraining syndrome is a serious condition experienced by athletes, and results in negative impacts on performance, heart rate, metabolic blood markers, and even mood.

These symptoms can persist even with extended rest periods if overtraining is serious.

The best way to avoid overtraining is to listen to your body. You’ll have some days where you’re fired up and feeling amazing, and others where you’re feeling tired or flat.

Adjust your workout accordingly, and don’t be afraid to take an extra rest day if you need it.

If you are feeling unwell, whether you feel like it’s as a result of your training or not, just seek the help of a qualified medical professional.

How long should my workouts be in a 3 day split workout?

Workout length
3 Day Workout Split Training Length

The workouts provided above range from about 30-60 minutes in length. This includes time for a warm-up, the program itself, and some mobility work at the end.

What is not included in this time range is any additional cardio work you intend to do after your resistance training.

While some of the example workouts may look shorter based on the number of exercises, don’t be fooled.

For example, while the 3-day split workout for strength only has three exercises per workout, these involve heavy loads and longer rest breaks. If you do five sets with a three-minute rest break after each, that can add up.

Other training methods can be used depending on your goal to get more bang for your buck timewise. This includes things like supersets or circuits to rest one muscle group while you work another.

While training for different goals can take different amounts of time to create the right stimulus in the body, you also have to account for what fits into your lifestyle.

Don’t try to commit to a program that requires an hour in the gym if you realistically only have 30 minutes. It’s not a good recipe for long-term success.

That being said, a lot of people dilly-dally around in the gym and take an hour to do a workout that could have been completed in half the time.

So for best results, time your rest breaks, save the ‘catching up’ for the coffee date, and get those gains in a time-efficient manner!

What if I miss a workout?

While missing a workout when doing a split program can feel like the end of the world, in the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal.

If you miss a session during your 3-day split, don’t worry. Either continue with that workout on the next day or skip that session and stick to the schedule if you don’t want to be out of whack for the rest of the workout cycle.

You might even find yourself intentionally missing a workout here and there. Maybe you have an important event on that day, or you’re just feeling beat up from work.

Like any habit we try to cultivate in life, the key to success is just to get back on the wagon each time we (inevitably) fall off.

How long should I rest?

As you may have noticed, each 3-day split workout in this guide provides recommendations for rest breaks, both between sets and between workouts.

Inter-set rest period prescriptions vary depending on the desired training outcome. General guidelines include:

  • Localized muscle endurance: 30-60 seconds
  • Muscle Hypertrophy: 1-2 minutes
  • Maximal Strength: 3-5 minutes
  • Muscular Power: 5-8 minutes

These numbers change so drastically because the length of the rest break determines the metabolic, neural, and hormonal demands of subsequent sets.

A simple distinction here is between training for hypertrophy versus training for maximal strength.

For muscle growth, moderate rest breaks are better. They don’t allow the muscle to fully recover, creating a greater demand and stimulus to adapt.

For strength, since the goal is to lift the most weight possible, you need longer rest breaks for the muscle to fully recover its energy stores, to avoid becoming weaker over multiple sets.

When it comes to rest days between training the same muscle group, your main aim here should be to take advantage of the repeated bout effect.

This is the body’s reaction to muscle damage (soreness, reduced force production) by creating a protective effect on the muscle against further damage.

Essentially, after giving the muscles a short time to recover, training them again will result in an enhanced stimulus for adaptation.

The exact time frames and balance for how long is best between workouts depends on many variables, including age, sex, training status, and more.

A note here is that some DOMS is not necessarily a sign that you can’t work that muscle again. If the soreness is pretty severe, though, there’s nothing wrong with having an extra rest day to recover.

The workouts in this guide should allow more than enough rest between sessions to allow sufficient recovery and make the most of the repeated bout effect.

Remember, the advantage of a split workout routine is that you’re resting certain muscle groups while training others.

Again, just listen to your body. If you feel good to go, tackle the next session. If you’re so sore you can’t put on your shirt properly – maybe take it easy for another day.

PPL vs. upper/lower split

Since this article is all about 3-day workout splits, we’ll compare push/pull/legs with the upper/lower/full body split.

Personally, I prefer a PPL split to upper and lower body. This is mainly because there are just too many upper body exercises to fit into one (and a half) workouts.

While the legs can be covered with a couple of compound moves, a calf exercise, and some isolation work, the upper body has many muscle groups people love to train.

To adequately cover exercises for the back, chest, shoulders, arms, and abs – not to mention neglected muscle groups like the neck and forearms – in one workout, you’d have to live in the gym for a couple of hours.

Because there are so many exercises to get through, there’s also the issue of being toasted by the time you get to the last few moves. This often means that those muscles either get skipped or trained ineffectively.

You may notice if you take a look at the example 3-day split workout for upper/lower/full body above that isolation exercises are few and far between. 

This is because the way around the problem of excessively long workouts is to focus on multi-joint movements that hit several muscles at once.

While this is a perfectly acceptable workaround, and compound exercises are functional and effective, I still prefer to split the upper body into at least two separate workouts to fit in all those fun exercises.

Push pull legs vs. bro split

Push pull legs vs. bro split
Push pull legs vs. bro split

Now we come to a face-off between two titans in lifting: the bro split vs PPL.

For those who are new to weightlifting, the traditional bodybuilding ‘bro split’ is a 5-day workout split, typically with a weekly schedule as follows:

  • Monday: Chest (lovingly known as ‘international chest day’)
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Shoulders
  • Friday: Arms (and sometimes abs)
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

There are several variations to this formula, but this is what most people think of when they hear bro split.

When considering which split is better for you, there are two main things to take into account – how much time you have to train, and your training experience.

Since you most likely searched for a 3-day workout split because you have three days to work out, the bro split is probably not for you at the moment.

Likewise, if you’ve been training for less than a year or two, devoting entire workouts to one muscle group is unnecessary and probably overkill.

Another detriment of the bro split is that although each muscle group gets its own focused session, the frequency still only reaches once per week. We saw earlier that twice per week is better for muscle growth.

That being said, the bro split has stayed so popular over the decades for good reason. For one thing, it’s a damn fun way to train.

For advanced lifters who’ve been training for years, the bro split is necessary for certain periods because certain muscles need a large amount of targeted volume to continue to grow.

When it comes to a verdict between PPL and the bro split, it’s a much more even result. Both are great in different circumstances. 

I highly recommend trying out both when the time is right.

Now Split!

If you got this far in the article, thanks so much for reading!

What do you think about our 3-day workout splits? We hope one of the options in this guide works for you.

We’d love to hear about your favorite workout split. Please let us know if you found the template to create your own 3-day workout split useful, and post any questions in the comments.

If you know someone who only has a few days per week to train, or who is looking for some inspiration for a new workout plan, feel free to share this article with them.