The Best 3-Day Workout Splits

Are you looking for a 3-day workout split that fits perfectly into your weekly schedule and allows you to effectively build muscle mass, gain strength, or lose fat?

Awesome, because that’s exactly what you’re about to get.

In this guide, I’m going to show you the best 3-day workout splits for different goals, experience levels, schedules, workout frequencies, personal preferences, and more.

This includes:

  1. The 3-Day Full Body Split
  2. The 3-Day Upper/Lower Split
  3. The 3-Day Upper/Lower/Full Body Split
  4. The 3-Day Upper Body Focused Split
  5. The 3-Day Lower Body Focused Split
  6. The 3-Day Torso/Limbs Split
  7. The 3-Day Push/Pull Split
  8. The 3-Day Push/Pull/Legs Split
  9. The 3-Day Push/Pull+Legs Split

Let’s get started…

What Is A 3-Day Workout Split?

A 3-day workout split is any schedule for your weight training workouts that involves training on 3 days each week and having the other 4 days off.

What Are The Benefits?

  • It’s convenient.
    It’s much more convenient to fit 3 workouts into your weekly schedule than it is to fit 4, 5, or 6. This is why so many of the people who attempt to use those kinds of 4-6 day splits fail to stay consistent with it. It ends up being more training days per week than they truly had the time in their schedule for, and that eventually leads to missing workouts, which is the ultimate progress killer.
  • It’s recovery-friendly.
    Assuming the overall split you’re using is scheduled properly (more about that in a minute), working out 3 times per week is unlikely to be a problem for most people from a recovery standpoint. This matters, because training too much and/or too often and exceeding your body’s capacity to recover is another huge progress killer.
  • There are many good scheduling options to choose from.
    Most people think there are just one or two effective 3-day workout splits to choose from, which can make it seem like options are limited. But that’s not that case at all. As you’ll see below, there are quite a few different splits that use a 3-day schedule AND do it well. Another benefit here is that you’ll be able to find an option that fits into your specific schedule and the exact days you’re able to train on (e.g. weekdays, weekends, etc.).
  • 3-day splits can allow for an optimal training frequency.
    Research (sources here and here) and real-world experience has shown us that, for most people with most goals, training each body part closer to twice per week or three times per week works better than training each body part just once per week. That means everything gets trained once every 2nd to 5th day instead of every 7th. And the good news is, many 3-day workout splits will easily allow for this optimal frequency to be met.

Now let’s look at the best options and figure out which one is right for you…

1. The 3-Day Full Body Split

  1. Monday: Full Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Full Body
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Full Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

The 3-day full body split is one of the most popular and proven workout splits of all time.

The version shown above is the most common way to schedule it, where the workouts are performed in an every-other-day format with two days off at the end.

Of course, the exact days of the week you choose doesn’t matter as long as that same structure is kept intact. So if you prefer to have the weekends off, this is perfect. But if you prefer to train on other days or have other days off, you can easily adjust to make that happen.

As for the workouts themselves, there are many ways they can be designed. For example:

  • You can have 1 fully body workout and repeat it on all 3 days.
  • You can have 3 different workouts.
  • You can have 2 different workouts and alternate between them (for example, A/B/A one week, and B/A/B the next).
  • You can have heavy, medium, and light days.
  • And so on.

Training Frequency

The 3-day full body split will allow you to train each body part up to 3 times per week (once every 2nd or 3rd day). As mentioned earlier, this is the workout frequency that’s going to be most effective for most people.

It’s Best For…

This split can work well for virtually every goal and every experience level. It’s as proven as it gets. However, if we’re talking about who this split is most ideal for, I would narrow it down to:

  • Beginners with any goal.
    Whether you want to build muscle mass, gain strength, lose fat, or anything similar, this will be an ideal option for most beginners. In fact, you’ll find that most of the best beginner programs out there (including my own Beginner Workout Routine) use a full body split.
  • Intermediate and advanced trainees with the primary goal of increasing strength.
    Plenty of good strength programs have been built around this split over the years, and with good reason. The higher frequency is well suited for strength oriented goals.
  • Anyone with a goal or preference that warrants a higher training frequency.
    If you need/want to train each body part, exercise, or movement pattern 3 times per week for whatever reason, this is what I (and most people) consider to be the best split for that purpose.

Additional Info And Workouts

2. The 3-Day Upper/Lower Split

Week 1

  1. Monday: Upper Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Lower Body
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Upper Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Lower Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Upper Body
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Lower Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

The 3-day upper/lower split is another one of the most popular and proven workout splits of all time, and one of my personal favorites.

You alternate between training the upper body (chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps) and the lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves… and usually abs as well) every other workout so that you’re doing Upper/Lower/Upper one week, and then Lower/Upper/Lower the next.

You then continue alternating like this from week to week.

In terms of scheduling, the version shown above is the most common way to do it, where the workouts are performed in an every-other-day format with two days off at the end.

Of course, the actual days you choose doesn’t matter as long as that same structure is kept intact.

Training Frequency

The 3-day upper/lower split will allow you to train each body part about twice per week (once every 4th or 5th day). This is right within the optimal frequency range most people should be aiming for.

It’s Best For…

This is another workout split that can work really well for virtually every goal and experience level. However, when it comes to who this split is most ideal for, I would narrow it down to:

  • Intermediate and advanced trainees who want to build muscle.
    If you are past the beginner stage and your primary goal is building muscle mass, the 3-day upper/lower split is one of the best options for you, and one of my favorites.
  • Intermediate and advanced trainees who want to gain strength.
    The 4-day upper/lower split is extremely popular with strength oriented programs. But if you’re only able to train 3 days per week, this 3-day version is the next best thing.
  • Intermediate and advanced trainees who want to lose fat without losing muscle.
    This is the split I recommend the most to people past the beginner stage that want to lose fat without losing muscle. Reason being, when you’re in a caloric deficit, there is likely to be some drop-off in performance and recovery compared to when you’re at maintenance or in a surplus, which can lead to strength and muscle loss if your workout program isn’t adjusted to compensate. I’ve found this split to be ideal for that purpose, which is why I use it for a program of mine I call The Fat Loss + Muscle Maintenance Solution.
  • Many people over 40 years old.
    I’m actually a big fan of 3-day splits in general for people in their 40s or older. Don’t get me wrong, 4-day programs (and sometimes even 5-day programs) can still potentially work quite well for a lot of people in this category. But for many people over 40, I’ve found 3 weight training workouts per week to be best. In particular, I’ve found this version of the upper/lower split to be the sweet spot in terms of frequency, recovery, joint health, and scheduling.

Additional Info And Workouts

  • The Upper/Lower Split – This is my guide to the upper/lower split which includes free sample workouts you can use.
  • The Muscle Building Workout Routine – This is one of my most popular workout routines, and it happens to be a 3-day (and 4-day) upper/lower program. It’s free.
  • 3DM – This is another popular upper/lower program of mine, and the main difference between this and The Muscle Building Workout Routine is that 3DM was designed specifically to be a 3-day program, whereas The Muscle Building Workout Routine is more of a 4-day program with a 3-day option. It’s available as part of Superior Muscle Growth.
  • The Fat Loss + Muscle Maintenance Solution – As I mentioned before, this is the workout I recommend the most to intermediate and advanced trainees looking to avoid losing muscle and strength while they lose fat and get lean. It’s available as part of both Superior Fat Loss and Superior Muscle Growth.

3. The 3-Day Upper/Lower/Full Body Split

Version #1

  1. Monday: Upper Body
  2. Tuesday: Lower Body
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Full Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Version #2

  1. Monday: Upper Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Lower Body
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Full Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

(Note that the above examples show two different versions for how this can be done rather than two weeks of the same version.)

The upper/lower/full body split is a combination of the previous two splits we’ve covered (upper/lower and full body), where you have an upper body workout, a lower body workout, and then a full body workout.

In version #1, the upper and lower workouts are done on consecutive days, whereas version #2 has a day off in between. They both have two days off at the end.

In terms of scheduling, the versions shown above are the most common way to do it, although the actual days you choose doesn’t matter as long as that same structure is kept intact.

Training Frequency

Version #1 of this split will allow you to train each body part twice per week (once every 3rd or 4th day). Version #2 allows you to train each body part about twice per week (once every 2nd to 5th day).

Both are still right within the optimal frequency range most people should be aiming for.

It’s Best For…

This split would be suitable for pretty much anything the full body or upper/lower splits are suitable for, as it’s quite similar.

However, when it comes to who this split is most ideal for, I would narrow it down to:

  • Beginners transitioning away from full body.
    If you’ve been using a basic full body beginner program for a while and are ready to move on to something a little more advanced but without going straight to an upper/lower program, upper/lower/full is a great hybrid option between the two.
  • Intermediate and advanced trainees who want a higher frequency.
    If you’re past the beginner stage and looking for slightly more frequency than the 3-day upper/lower split but without going with a pure full body program, this is an excellent option.
  • Intermediate and advanced trainees who want to gain strength.
    Just like how full body and upper/lower are two of the best options for strength goals, upper/lower/full is another great option for this purpose thanks to its structure and slightly higher frequency.

4. The 3-Day Upper Body Focused Split

Week 1

  1. Monday: Upper Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Lower Body
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Upper Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Upper Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Lower Body
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Upper Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Here’s one that’s very similar to the 3-day upper/lower split, except you have 2 upper body workouts and 1 lower body workout every week rather than alternating.

Meaning, this is upper/lower/upper every single week rather than lower/upper/lower on the alternate weeks.

Once again, in terms of scheduling, the version shown above is the most common way to do it, where the workouts are performed in an every-other-day format with two days off at the end. The actual days you choose doesn’t matter as long as that same structure is kept intact.

Training Frequency

This split will allow you to train the upper body (chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps) twice per week (once every 3rd or 4th day), which is right within the optimal frequency range for most people.

The lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves) is trained just once per week (every 7th day), which is sufficient for maintenance purposes.

It’s Best For…

This is a workout split that’s most ideal for:

  • Anyone who wants more upper body focus.
    If you want to put more emphasis on your upper body than your lower body for whatever reason, this split is an excellent option.
  • Anyone who is happy with their lower body.
    If you are happy with the amount of muscle and strength your lower body has and want to simply maintain that progress rather than improve any further, this is a perfect way to do that. This “once per week” frequency for the lower body will be fine for maintenance goals like this while still allowing the rest of your body to get the “twice per week” frequency that’s more ideal for making additional progress.
  • Anyone doing a lot of lower body intensive training outside of weight training.
    If you’re doing a lot of cardio, training for a marathon, playing a sport that involves a lot of running, or taking part in some kind of activity in addition to weight training that is highly demanding on your lower body, then training your legs with a lower frequency to help optimize recovery may be beneficial.

Additional Info And Workouts

5. The 3-Day Lower Body Focused Split

Week 1

  1. Monday: Lower Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Upper Body
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Lower Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Lower Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Upper Body
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Lower Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

This is the exact same thing as the upper body focused split we just talked about, except it’s now lower body focused.

That means you have 2 lower body workouts and 1 upper body workout every week, so it’s always lower/upper/lower.

Once again, the version shown above is the most common way to schedule it, where the workouts are performed in an every-other-day format with two days off at the end. The actual days you choose doesn’t matter as long as that same structure is kept intact.

Training Frequency

This split will allow you to train the lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves) twice per week (once every 3rd or 4th day), which is right within the optimal frequency range for most people.

The upper body (chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps) is trained just once per week (every 7th day), which is sufficient for maintenance.

It’s Best For…

This is a workout split that’s most ideal for:

  • Anyone who wants more lower body focus.
    If you want to put more emphasis on your lower body than your upper body for whatever reason, this split is an excellent option.
  • Anyone who is happy with their upper body.
    If you are happy with the amount of muscle and strength your upper body has and want to simply maintain that progress rather than improve any further, this is a perfect way to do that. This “once per week” frequency for the upper body will be fine for maintenance goals like this while still allowing the legs to get the “twice per week” frequency that’s more ideal for making additional progress.

Additional Info And Workouts

6. The 3-Day Torso/Limbs Split

Week 1

  1. Monday: Chest, Back, Shoulders
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Legs, Arms
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Chest, Back, Shoulders
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Legs, Arms
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Chest, Back, Shoulders
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Legs, Arms
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

This is another split that’s very similar to upper/lower, with the main difference being that the arms get trained on the lower body day.

This is done by dividing the body up in terms of “torso” and “limbs.”

  • The torso workout includes the chest, back, and shoulders.
  • The limbs workout includes the legs and arms.

Abs are technically part of the torso, but they’d fit fine in either.

You’d then alternate between them on each workout day so that you’re doing Torso/Limbs/Torso one week, and then Limbs/Torso/Limbs the next. And then continue alternating like this from week to week.

In terms of scheduling, the version shown above is the most common way to do it, where the workouts are performed in an every-other-day format with two days off at the end. The actual days you choose doesn’t matter as long as that same structure is kept intact.

Training Frequency

This split will allow you to train the majority of your body about twice per week (once every 4th or 5th day), while the arms (biceps and triceps) end up having a higher training frequency of three times per week (once every 2nd or 3rd day).

This higher frequency for arms happens because the biceps are involved during most back exercises (like rows, pull-ups, lat pull-downs, etc.), and the triceps are involved during all chest and shoulder pressing exercises. This means the arms are trained directly or indirectly in all 3 workouts.

It’s Best For…

This is a workout split that’s most ideal for:

  • Intermediate and advanced trainees who want to train their arms with a higher frequency.
    If you’re looking to train your biceps and triceps more often than twice per week, this is an excellent split for making it happen.
  • Intermediate and advanced trainees that want to train their arms when they are fresher.
    Most people train their arms after they’ve already been fatigued to some extent by the indirect volume they get when training other parts of the upper body. For example, training biceps after back, and triceps after chest or shoulders. This is totally fine, of course. But when you split up the body this way and train arms with the lower body instead, the fatigue from that indirect volume is no longer present.
  • Intermediate and advanced trainees who want to prioritize their arms.
    For the reasons explained in the previous two bullet points, this split is a great option for someone looking to prioritize their arm training for some period of time.

Additional Info And Workouts

7. The 3-Day Push/Pull Split

Week 1

  1. Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps + Quads, Calves
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Back, Biceps + Hamstrings, Abs
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps + Quads, Calves
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Back, Biceps + Hamstrings, Abs
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps + Quads, Calves
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Back, Biceps + Hamstrings, Abs
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

This is a split that divides the body up in terms of “pushing” and “pulling.”

  • The Push workout involves training all of the upper body and lower body muscle groups that are involved in “pushing” exercises. For the upper body, this means chest, shoulders, and triceps. For the lower body, quads and calves.
  • The Pull workout involves training all of the upper body and lower body muscle groups that are involved in “pulling” exercises. For the upper body, this means back and biceps. For the lower body, hamstrings. I also include abs in this workout, even though abs aren’t exactly a “push” or “pull” body part. I find it just fits better on this day.

You’d then alternate between push and pull workouts so that you’re doing Push/Pull/Push one week, and then Pull/Push/Pull the next. You then continue alternating like this from week to week.

In terms of scheduling, the version shown above is the most common way to do it, where the workouts are performed in an every-other-day format with two days off at the end. The actual days you choose doesn’t matter as long as that same structure is kept intact.

Training Frequency

The split will allow you to train each body part about twice per week (once every 4th or 5th day).

It’s Best For…

This is a 3-day split that’s most ideal for:

  • Intermediate and advanced trainees who want to build muscle.
    If you are past the beginner stage, your primary goal is building muscle mass, and you don’t have any issues with the potential lower body overlap between workouts (i.e. the hamstrings are involved secondarily during many quad exercises), then the 3-day push/pull split is a solid option.

Additional Info And Workouts

8. The 3-Day Push/Pull/Legs Split

  1. Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Back, Biceps
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Along with full body and upper/lower, the push/pull/legs split is one of the most popular and proven workout splits of all time.

It divides the body up into three workouts:

  1. The push workout involves training all of the upper body muscles that are involved in “pushing” exercises. This includes the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  2. The pull workout involves training all of the upper body muscles that are involved in “pulling” exercises. This primarily includes the back and biceps.
  3. The legs workout involves training all of the lower body muscles involved in “leg” exercises (duh). This includes the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

Abs are often trained along with legs, but they can really be trained on whichever day you prefer. I usually put abs at the end of whichever workout is the shortest.

Unlike many of the splits we’re covering here, there is no alternating between workouts from week to week. It’s always push/pull/legs, in the same order, on the same 3 days every week.

In terms of scheduling, the version shown above is the most common way to do it, where the workouts are performed in an every-other-day format with two days off at the end. The actual days you choose doesn’t matter as long as that same structure is kept intact.

Training Frequency

This split will allow you to train each body part just once per week (once every 7th day), which makes it the only split being covered in this guide that falls below the optimal frequency range most people with most goals should be aiming for.

It’s Best For…

Due to its lower frequency, this is a split that’s going to be best suited for:

  • Anyone training primarily for maintenance.
    If you’re only looking to maintain the muscle and strength you currently have, and you’d prefer to do it with a once-per-week frequency (as opposed to any of the other splits we’ve covered, which can also work for maintenance), the 3-day push/pull/legs split is probably the best option fitting this description.
  • Anyone who needs or prefers a lower training frequency.
    If you find that you do best with lower frequency training (this goes against what I’ve seen with most people in my experience, but there are always exceptions), or it just happens to fit your preferences to train each body part once per week, then I’d consider this to be the best low frequency 3-day split there is.

Additional Info And Workouts

9. The 3-Day Push/Pull+Legs Split

Week 1

  1. Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps + Calves, Abs
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Back, Biceps + Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps + Calves, Abs
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Back, Biceps + Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps + Calves, Abs
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Back, Biceps + Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Here’s a split that’s very similar to push/pull/legs, except that the “pull” workout and most of the “legs” workout are combined into one.

That means you have two workouts:

  1. The push workout, which involves training all of the upper body muscle groups that are involved in “pushing” exercises (chest, shoulders, and triceps). In addition, I like putting calves and abs at the end of this workout to help shorten the pull+legs day.
  2. The pull+legs workout, which involves training all of the upper body muscle groups that are involved in upper body “pulling” exercises (back and biceps), along with the majority of the lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes). The decision of whether to put legs before or after back/biceps within this workout is up to your own goals and preferences.

You’d then alternate between the two so that you’re doing Push/Pull+Legs/Push one week, and then Pull+Legs/Push/Pull+Legs the next, and then continue alternating like this from week to week.

In terms of scheduling, the version shown above is the most common way to do it, where the workouts are performed in an every-other-day format with two days off at the end. The actual days you choose doesn’t matter as long as that same structure is kept intact.

Training Frequency

The 3-day push/pull+legs split will allow you to train each body part about twice per week (once every 4th or 5th day). This is right within the optimal frequency range most people should be aiming for.

It’s Best For…

This is a split that I’d consider most ideal for:

  • Intermediate and advanced trainees who want to build muscle.
    If you are past the beginner stage, your primary goal is building muscle mass, and you don’t have any issues with a combined “pull+legs” day (it can be a beast if it’s not designed properly), this split is a great option.
  • Intermediate and advanced trainees who like the 3-day push/pull/legs split but want more frequency.
    There are plenty of great options for doing push/pull/legs with a better frequency, but they all require training 4 or 5 days per week to make it happen. But what if you’re only able to train 3 days per week? In that case, if you want something similar to push/pull/legs but don’t want the once-per-week frequency that comes with the 3-day version, this push/pull+legs split is a good option to consider.

Additional Info And Workouts

Those Are The Best 3-Day Workout Splits

We just covered the 9 best options for working out 3 times per week.

All you need to do now is choose the one that best suits your needs, goals, and preferences, and then either design the workouts effectively yourself or use a proven program that’s built around your chosen split.

What’s Next?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.