StrengthLog’s Minimalistic Routine, 3 Days/Week

This training program is available for free in our app StrengthLog! Download it for iOS or Android.


If you only have time for three short workouts per week – how do you make the most of them?

If you are new to strength training I recommend you to try the Barbell Training Program for the Beginner, or perhaps something like Starting Strength.

However, if you’ve trained through those programs (or similar) and you either want to try a different way of training or make your workouts slightly shorter, then StrengthLog’s Minimalistic Routine might just fit perfectly.

StrengthLog’s Minimalistic Routine

Here’s the simple (but effective) idea:

  • You train three times per week.
  • You focus on compound exercises that train several muscle groups at the same time.
  • You work hard when you’re in the gym, and then you have the rest of the week off.

What the Workouts Look Like

Each workout consists of two exercises that you will put all your effort into.

  1. Warm up for five minutes on a treadmill or similar if you want. Then start warming up for the first exercise by gradually increasing the weight. Start with a few sets with an empty bar, and then stepwise increase the weight, up to about 80% of today’s working weight.
  2. Do your heaviest set. Try to beat last week’s performance.
  3. Lower the weight and do four lighter sets.
  4. Rest and move on to the next exercise.

For each of the lifts, you should establish a rep range which you should stick to. Which range you pick is your call, but I personally like the range of 3–5 reps.

You start off the program with a weight that you think you can quite easily manage the lower limit in your rep range with, and you increase the weight by 2.5 kg/5 lbs when you reach the upper limit. Always with good technique.

For example:

You choose the rep range of 3–5 reps for the deadlift. You’re confident that you will manage to get 150 kg x 3 reps in your first workout.

You succeed, and you keep training for two weeks until you do 150 kg x 5 reps for a rep-PR.

In the next workout, you increase the weight to 152.5 kg and once again start working towards 5 reps.

You can set your rep range any way you like it, but I recommend one of the following:

  • 3–5 reps
  • 6–12 reps

I personally prefer the lower range. It will do a little more for your max strength development, and besides: you will be doing sets of 10 afterward which are beneficial for muscle growth.

Weekly Routine

Workout 1

1. Deadlift: 3–5 reps

Lower the weight and do 4 sets x 10 reps

2. Overhead Press: 3–5 reps

Lower the weight and do 4 sets x 10 reps

Workout 2

1. Bench Press: 3–5 reps

Lower the weight and do 4 sets x 10 reps

2. Barbell Row: 3–5 reps

Lower the weight and do 4 sets x 10 reps

Workout 3

1. Squat: 3–5 reps

Lower the weight and do 4 sets x 10 reps

2. Weighted Pull-Up: 3–5 reps

Remove the weight and do 4 sets x 10 reps, or as many as you can

Train on whichever days you feel like, but make sure to get at least one day of rest in between each workout.

For example:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday

or

  • Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

Additional Pointers to Keep in Mind

  1. The first and heaviest set should be a maximum effort. It should be done until failure, meaning that you should not be able to complete another rep. In the lighter sets, you might stop a few reps short of failure. However, don’t take unnecessary risks, and always stick to good technique. If your technique is deteriorating in the last few reps, stop the set there. That’s called technical failure.
  2. You don’t have to do the last four sets at the same weight. Sure, do it if you want to, but you can also decrease the weight stepwise for each set. For example, if your first set is 150 kg x 5 reps, then you can do 120 kg x 10, 110 kg x 10, 100 kg x 10, and 90 kg x 10 for your last four sets. Or lighter still. The important thing is to do one heavy set where you try to beat your previous performance, and then get 4 sets x 10 reps in.
  3. Beat your past performance. Your main goal for each workout should be to beat your past performance. Got 150 kg x 4 reps last workout? Give it your all to do 150 kg x 5 reps today. When you reach the upper limit of your rep range, increase the weight by 2.5 kg/5 lbs, or whatever increase that doesn’t put you below the lower limit in your rep range.
  4. Rest 2–3 minutes between sets. Maybe even more just before your heaviest set.
  5. If you can’t do at least 3 reps of pull-ups, substitute the exercise with lat pulldowns until you can.

What about the Abs? Or Arms?

The exercises outlined above will train most of your body’s major muscle groups, but you are free to add finishing touches if you want to. Add in an ab exercise or an arm exercise in the end of each workout, for instance. Check out our training guides for abs, biceps, and triceps for inspiration.

However, make sure that the extra fluff you add don’t distract you from what is most important: getting stronger in the compound lifts.

Would You Like to Increase the Training Volume?

This is a minimalistic program, designed to give you a lot of bang for your training buck. After you’ve been training for some time (a couple of years, perhaps), you will likely need to increase your training volume if you wish to increase your strength and muscle mass further.

One way to increase your volume is to switch to our upper/lower body program, where you will be training four times per week: two upper body and two lower body workouts.

Or, if you want to delve deeper into the sport of powerlifting, our program Powerlifting Polka might be just what you need. No more quick workouts there, I guarantee you.

However, the minimalistic routine outlined above is still an extremely productive way to spend your time in the gym. It could fit great for the time-pressed intermediate lifter, or as a way to get back into training after a lay-off.

If you’ve been training with higher volumes but have been stuck at a plateu for some time, this program might help you blaze a new trail and hit some rep PR’s by the virtue of tapering and peaking. Then you can return to your previous high training volume routine, but with some of your mental limitations moved. Also, it might show you if you perhaps have been training with unnecessary high volume.

I hope you’ll enjoy the program, and good luck with your training!

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