StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split is a six-week training program for bodybuilders who want to gain muscle and strength, training three times per week. It is primarily for advanced beginners and intermediate bodybuilders, although anyone can follow it, regardless of training goal or experience.
This article outlines the program: the workouts, the exercises, tips regarding progression, and what you can expect when you hit the gym for the first workout.
StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split is one of many premium bodybuilding training programs available in the StrengthLog workout tracker. You can download it for free with one of the buttons below:
Introducing StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split
StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split is designed with the advanced beginner who wants the best 3-day workout split in mind. Intermediate bodybuilders looking for an effective 3-day split workout routine and a lot of bang for their buck will also benefit from it.
However, StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split is not a program for the absolute beginner. If you’re just taking up strength training and bodybuilding, try our Barbell Training Program for the Beginner or StrengthLog’s Upper/Lower Body Split Program. Those are excellent introductions to strength training and bodybuilding and will prepare you for more advanced programs like this one.
Advanced bodybuilders often split their body part training into four, five, or even six dedicated weekly workouts. That type of bodybuilding split is affectionately called a bro split, and it’s excellent for the experienced lifter.
For the beginner, less is often more.
Not only do you achieve maximum muscle growth from 2–3 weekly training sessions and a moderate number of sets, but you also might not have yet developed the ability to recover from a massive training volume. StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split takes all this into consideration and offers an ideal combination of reasonably high volume, intensity, and recovery. It is a good option whether you’re bulking and trying to build muscle or cutting for fat loss.
StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split: The Training Week
StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split is a combination of an upper/lower body split and a full body split. You’ll train three days per week: one upper body workout, one lower body workout, and one full-body session.
- Day 1: Upper Body
- Day 2: Lower Body
- Day 3: Full-Body
The first two training days are hypertrophy-specific, with a mix of compound movements and isolation exercises. You train your upper body muscles on day one, followed by a lower body day.
The third training day is a full body workout focusing on the entire body using heavier weights and primarily compound exercises. These exercises are excellent for bodybuilding purposes and for gaining strength.
The three workouts form a perfect balance between training for muscle hypertrophy and strength gains. While strength isn’t the end-all-be-all for a bodybuilder, in general, a stronger muscle is also a bigger muscle and vice versa.1 2
You can pick your training days and rest days to fit your schedule. Hitting the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is probably the most popular 3-day split routine, but you can mix and match different days of the week however you want. Regardless of how you schedule your workouts, you train your major muscle groups twice weekly.
Here are two suggestions. Feel free to adjust them as you see fit.
- Monday: Upper Body
- Tuesday: Rest
- Wednesday: Lower Body
- Thursday: Rest
- Friday: Full-Body
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday Rest
- Monday: Upper Body
- Tuesday: Rest
- Wednesday: Lower Body
- Thursday: Rest
- Friday: Rest
- Saturday: Full-Body
- Sunday: Rest
The only thing to keep in mind is to schedule at least one rest day between training day two and three. Both involve lower-body training, and you want to give your muscles a chance to recover from your workouts. That’s when they grow bigger and stronger, not during the training session itself.
StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split: The Workouts
Here’s an outline of each workout. You can see details like the number of sets and reps in the StrengthLog app.
Click on the exercise name for instructions.
Workout 1, Upper Body
Splitting your body into an upper body session and a lower body session allows optimal recovery while stimulating muscle protein synthesis all over your body to keep it growing.
The first training day is dedicated to your upper body, mainly focusing on dumbbell work and a balanced approach to training volume.
- Dumbbell Chest Press
- Lat Pulldown
- Incline Dumbbell Press
- Dumbbell Row
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- Dumbbell Curl
- Barbell Lying Triceps Extension
Workout 2, Lower Body
The second training session of the week is dedicated to your quads, hamstrings, and calves—plenty of bodybuilding-style exercises and a good balance between training volume and intensity. We’ve also added abdominal work to this training session. Training your abs doesn’t take much time or energy, and the upper body workout is already sizable enough.
Workout 3, Full-Body
The third and final training session of the week is a full-body workout where you hit all your different muscle groups with compound lifts, heavy weights, and low- to moderate reps. Training your whole body using full-body workouts allows optimal recovery time and is a great way to stimulate muscle hypertrophy without spending too much time in the gym.
- Barbell Row
- Romanian Deadlift
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Barbell Curl
- Standing Calf Raise
- Kneeling Ab Wheel Roll-Out
StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split: Progression Model
When you start weight training, you’ll see progress almost no matter what you do in the gym. You go from nothing to something, which automatically leads to fast gains. You can literally gain strength from workout to workout, and it doesn’t take long for muscle growth to follow suit.
However, as you gain training experience, those gains slow down, and before you know it, they grind to a halt unless you introduce some changes. The two main drivers of muscle growth are training volume and progressive overload. In other words, you must continually train a little more and a little harder than before. StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split has you covered on both fronts.
When it comes to training volume, more is better. Until it isn’t. Adding more work leads to diminishing returns once you reach your optimal training volume. You might even enter the territory of overtraining and struggle to achieve the gains you want.
Current research suggests you need at least ten weekly sets per muscle to optimize muscle growth.3
Advanced lifters likely need a higher training volume, maybe 20 weekly sets per muscle or more. However, beginner bodybuilders will thrive on ten sets per week. That’s not too much and not too little, but just the right amount of stimulation for muscle hypertrophy while allowing for enough time to recover, adapt and get bigger and stronger.
StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split offers enough total volume for the beginner and intermediate bodybuilder to maximize muscle hypertrophy and recovery enough to realize that potential. It gradually increases training volume week by week so as not to overwhelm you. As you get accustomed to the program, you add a set here and there, which forces your muscles to adapt by growing bigger and stronger.
At the same time, you have to balance that progression with your ability to recover. That ability also improves the more experienced you are, but if you add training volume and training intensity too much and too fast, you risk going over the “optimal training volume” hump into the land of diminishing returns.
StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split takes the guesswork out of designing your training plan, which can be challenging without plenty of time and experience.
Lifting heavier is another of the fundamental principles of gaining muscle. As you get stronger, add weight to the bar, use a heavier pair of dumbbells, or lower the pin on the machine weight stack. By forcing your muscles to lift more than they are used to, you also force them to grow.
In practice, it means that once you can lift the target number of reps for any given exercise in the program, you increase the amount of weight next week. You can’t keep increasing the weights you use forever, or you’d be the strongest man or woman in the world in a few years, but as a beginner, you’ll find that your strength gains come quickly. Increase the weight by a small amount, something like 2.5 kg / 5 lb, when you can, and your muscles will respond with growth. Then work your way up to the target number of reps again, and rinse and repeat.
If you can’t increase the load on any given set or exercise, don’t worry. Simply stay with that weight until you can. It’s perfectly normal to stay at the same weight for weeks, even if you’re not an advanced lifter.
Of course, you shouldn’t sacrifice good form to lift heavier. Only increase the weight when you can perform the indicated number of reps with proper form. Cheating has its place as an advanced training technique, but overall, you’ll see better results in the form of lean muscle mass if you maintain proper form most of the time. Train heavy, but don’t sacrifice technique in the process.
Feel free to decide the length of your inter-set rest periods to fit your needs and time frame. Resting two to three minutes is standard practice, but if you want to rest longer, that’s not bad at all. On the contrary, it allows you to use heavier weights and achieve a greater training volume, one of the critical factors regulating muscle growth. Of course, the drawback is that your workouts will take much longer if you rest five minutes between every set.
You’ll likely know when you’ve recovered enough to do yourself justice in the next set. For isolation exercises for a specific muscle group like dumbbell lateral raises, a one-minute rest interval could be enough. However, you might need four minutes to recover from a set of heavy squats.
If time is a factor, you can reduce your rest intervals to a minute. That’s not an optimal approach, and you’ll have to adjust your training loads accordingly, but how long you rest between sets is not the single factor determining your progress and results.
Training to Failure
Training to failure means you can’t complete another repetition without assistance or “cheating” by using momentum. Many bodybuilders consider training to failure necessary for maximum muscle growth.
However, research suggests that you don’t need to train to failure to see gains in strength and muscle mass.4 5 Advanced bodybuilders might benefit from going to failure now and then. As a beginner or intermediate lifter, and when following StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split, we suggest you terminate the majority of your sets a rep or two before failure.
Repeatedly training to failure could impair recovery, increase muscle damage, and even slow down your gains. If you enjoy going all out, no problem. But don’t go overboard and train to failure all the time. Maybe do it in a couple of exercises per week, but no more. And if you do train to failure, stick to isolation exercises where you can simply rack the weight when you can’t do any more reps. Avoid failure in heavy compound exercises like the bench press and the squat, where you can easily injure yourself.
When You Reach the End of StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split
After six weeks, you have completed a round of StrengthLog’s 3-Day Bodybuilding Split, emerging on the other end a little bigger and stronger than before.
As you are relatively new to the bodybuilding game, you can expect to have gained significant amounts of muscle.
If you enjoyed the program and the results, feel free to start over from the beginning. The lower training volume of week one is almost like a deload week, and you’ll feel the difference in your strength levels.
Alternatively, if you’re feeling fresh and strong, you could stay at week six until you feel the need to back off on the intensity and volume.
Follow This Workout Routine in StrengthLog
Want to give StrengthLog’s 3-Day Workout Split a go?
It’s available exclusively in our workout app StrengthLog.
While this program requires a premium subscription, StrengthLog itself is entirely free. You can download it and use it as a workout tracker and general strength training app – and all basic functionality is free forever.
It even has a bunch of free programs and workouts. However, our more advanced programs (such as this one) are for premium users only.
Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.
Download StrengthLog for free with the buttons below:
Good luck with your training, buddy!
For more bodybuilding, check out these great resources:
- J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2013 Aug;53(4):409-14. Relationship between lifting performance and skeletal muscle mass in elite powerlifters.
- European Journal of Applied Physiology Volume 86, Pages 327–336 (2002). The role of FFM accumulation and skeletal muscle architecture in powerlifting performance.
- International Journal of Strength and Conditioning, Vol 1 No 1 (2021). Resistance Training Recommendations to Maximize Muscle Hypertrophy in an Athletic Population: Position Stand of the IUSCA.
- Journal of Sport and Health Science, Volume 11, Issue 2, March 2022, Pages 202-211. Effects of resistance training performed to repetition failure or non-failure on muscular strength and hypertrophy: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
- J Sports Sci. 2022 Jun 5;1-23. Towards an improved understanding of proximity-to-failure in resistance training and its influence on skeletal muscle hypertrophy, neuromuscular fatigue, muscle damage, and perceived discomfort: A scoping review.