3 day split workout for bodybuilding

The 3 day split bodybuilding workout training program is a development of the 2 day split workout used by bodybuilders and strength athletes. For many bodybuilders the 3 day split workout allows them to focus and concentrate further still on exercising each muscle group with as much intensity as possible, with the aim of promoting greater gains in strength and muscle mass gains.

Where the full body workout encourages bodybuilders to exercise the whole body in a single workout and the 2 day split suggests splitting workouts into either upper and lower body workouts or push and pull workouts, the 3 day split suggests bodybuilders should only work two muscle groups per workout, one large muscle group (e.g. back) and a smaller muscle group (e.g. biceps).

3 days split workout: The benefits

In no way should beginners to bodybuilding or strength training use the 3 day split workout. Bodybuilding beginners will need to target each muscle group two to three times a week to stimulate muscle growth.

However, many experienced bodybuilders revert to the 3 day split workout to further stimulate muscle growth by bombarding their muscles only once per week. The theory is that if the workout volume increases (the amount of exercises performed by a single muscle group), the time required to recovery and grow also increases.

By bombarding muscle groups with multiple exercises a bodybuilder can push their muscles further and lift more weight, both factors in increasing strength and the development of muscle mass.

3 day split workout: Choosing the exercises

Where as the full body workout, and to some degree the 2 day split workout, promotes using only heavy compound movements - those exercises that use as many muscles as possible during the lift - the 3 day split workout aims to increase the intensity of each session by focusing as much workload as possible on a single muscle group.

For example, during a back workout the 3 day split will encourage bodybuilders to focus on the latissimus dorsi and mid back by performing a variety of pull ups, pulls downs and rowing movements rather than performing the dealift, which also uses the legs to move the bar.

Also, on the 3 day split workout, bodybuilders can choose more advanced exercises like chest flyes and concentration curls which shape the muscle rather than generate more muscle mass. On the 3 day split muscle size and muscle mass development is still important but in many ways so is the shaping and tone of the muscle.

The 3 day split workout also allows bodybuilders to focus on developing muscles weaknesses. In a typical full body workout a bodybuilder would find it hard to choose a number of additional exercises to train a weak muscle group, like say the calves or forearms. But by employing the 3 day split workout bodybuilders have both the time and energy to concentrate on any muscles they feel respond slower to weight training than other muscles.

When designing your 3 day split workout aim to choose 3-4 exercises per large muscle group and 2-3 exercises per smaller muscle group.

3 day split workout: The workout

The are many options when choosing a 3 day split workout training plan. The basic rule suggests that bodybuilders should train the largest muscles groups in seperate workouts. That usually means splitting the chest, back and legs into different workouts and then coupling the large muscle groups with the smaller muscle groups left. So, taking this into consideration your three workouts could look something like this:

  • Workout 1: Chest + biceps
  • Workout 2: Back + triceps
  • Workout 3: Legs + shoulders

However, the 3 workouts could equally look like this:

  • Workout 1: Chest + shoulders + triceps
  • Workout 2: Back + biceps
  • Workout 3: Legs + abs


  • Workout 1: Legs + shoulders
  • Workout 2: Back + biceps
  • Workout 3: Chest + triceps

And of course their are other options open to bodybuilders looking to employ the 3 day split workout.

3 day split workout: Organising your training week

I explained earlier that most bodybuilders use the 3 day split workout to exercise each muscle group once per week. Doing so would create a training week in the following way:

  • Monday: Chest + biceps
  • Wednesday: Back + triceps
  • Friday: Legs + shoulders

However, some bodybuilders will increase the intensity of their training week by employing the 3 day split in a 6 day training week. This means a bodybuilder will repeat the 3 day split twice in a single week. This would look something like this:

  • Monday: Chest + biceps
  • Tuesday: Back + triceps
  • Wednesday: Legs + shoulders
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Chest + biceps
  • Saturday: Back + triceps
  • Sunday: Legs + shoulders

Be warned though, weight training and bodybuilding six times in a single week will place huge amounts of stress on the body, some much so that training in this manner any longer than 4 - 6 weeks may lead to overtraining and result in diminished returns or even injury.

3 day split workout: Workout intensity

Performing the 3 day split workout twice in a single week isn't the only once way to increase the intensity of a workout to shock stubborn body parts to experience into muscle growth. Other high intensity techniques include:

How to performance
Cheating reps
Perform all reps with perfect technique but as your strength diminishes use momentum to move the weight for a number of additional reps
Perform your set as normal but once you have reached muscle failure, stop for 15 seconds before lifting the same weight again and work to muscle failure once again.
Drop set
Choose a weight that is slightly heavier than your normal weight. Perform a set to muscle failure and then immediately strip the bar or dumbbells of some weight before carrying on without any rest.
Pair two exercises for the same muscle group together. Perform the first exercise as normal and then follow this by performing the next exercise without any rest.
Choose two exercises for the same muscle group - one compound exercise and one isolation exercise. perform the isolation exercise followed by the compound movement without rest.

It must be stressed that these techniques should only be used sparingly. Bodybuilders should aim to include one of these techniques in every other workout at most otherwise they risk overtraining, a situation which will reduce and even stop further developments in muscle mass development.

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