Is a Three Day Workout Routine Enough?

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Nov 28,2023|11 min| 1959

Is three days too little to build muscle and strength?

When it comes to making muscle and strength gains, many times people say that you need to go to the gym every day to make gains, lifting more and more each time. Whether you are a bodybuilder or strength athlete such as a powerlifter or Olympic weightlifter, this is simply not true. More exercise does not necessarily mean you will be making more gains. Many times we have busy schedules outside of the gym and try to get in when possible, and for some people that is only three days a week. But, is a three day workout split enough to make and progress?


Let’s break down how many days a week you need to lift, as well as what a three day workout routine would look like.

How Often Should You Lift?

There are many different circumstances surrounding this question that will determine your answer, such as how long you have been lifting, if you are natural or on PEDs, your diet, and what you do in the gym. 

For example, if you have been lifting for multiple years, then perhaps your body can take a bit more stimulus, and you can spend more time in the gym than someone who has just started working out. Not to mention, if you are on anabolic steroids, your body can recover quicker than someone who relies solely on their diet and supplementation to recover- unfortunately creatine does not compare to higher levels of testosterone when it comes to recovery. That being said, an unnatural lifter can take a bit more of a continued beating when it comes to lifting. 

Finally, diet is something that many people fall short on, not meeting the proper amount of macros to truly recover and grow. Your body needs the right amount of nutrients to recover and progress, regardless of how many days you lift.

Is Three Days in the Gym Enough to Make Progress?

The short answer is yes, but there is a lot more to it than that. Let’s take a look at the different factors that would make a three day workout routine good or bad for your progress.

Skill Level

One of the biggest factors that would make a three day workout split good or bad for you is your skill level. If you are a beginner, then a three day workout split is a great idea to get started and familiarize yourself with what works for you in terms of exercises, diet, and so on. You could do things like three full body days, or a day for squatting, day for benching, day for deadlifting, then have some accessories associated with those days. This would essentially be a push/pull/legs (PPL) split. 

On the flip side, if you are an experienced lifter, then a three day split may not be the most optimal for you. Instead, you could do a four or five day split which would provide a little more stimulus to the muscles as your body can take that. A good 4 day workout split could be something that divides the body into upper and lower, like a good PHUL program. A good five day program would be something like a push/pull/legs/upper/lower

Intensity

One major factor of how many days you should lift is intensity, meaning if you are absolutely brutalizing the muscles during your workout, you need to take more time to recover. That being said, if you do three full body workouts a week, and you are leaving the gym with nothing left in the tank, then those four days off should be left to recover. 

On the other hand, if you have lackluster workouts where you are leaving with plenty of fuel to keep going, then you should be stimulating the muscle a bit more than three days a week.

Goals

If your goal is to be a competitive bodybuilder, then a three day workout split might not be the best option. Bodybuilders require a bit more stimulus as the goal is strictly hypertrophy. Take a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s routine to get a better idea of what a bodybuilding program would look like.

However, beginner powerlifters could benefit from something like this, as they can do their big lifts on each of the three days and get used to the training.

Why Only Train Three Days?

One of the biggest reasons to only train three days a week is scheduling. If you have a busy schedule, then three days is more than okay, as it is better than not going at all. The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to maximize your time in the gym on each of those three days, then have a good grasp on your diet and recovery protocols outside of the gym to make sure you are making progress.

The Best Three Day Workout Splits

Now, we wouldn’t just leave you high and dry without a good workout program to use. If you are going to train three days a week, we have a program for you.

5/3/1 for Beginners

The 531 Beginners program is a variation of Jim Wendler’s famous 5/3/1 workout philosophy, but specifically tailored for those that are relatively new to barbell strength training, and it is also available right on the Boostcamp App. The goal of the program is to help you rapidly increase your compound lifts such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press strength. 

The science behind the 5/3/1 philosophy is based on the evidence that compound lifts can help you build strength rapidly, especially for beginners that are just getting started in the workout journey. As a newcomer to weight training, focusing your work on these 4 compound lifts will help you gain strength efficiently in all the major muscle groups.  

5/3/1 Boring But Big

The 5/3/1 Boring But Big (BBB) program was developed by Coach Jim Wendler and is another variation of his famous 5/3/1 workout philosophy, and again can be found right on the Boostcamp App. It is one of the most popular variations of the workout philosophy, and it is a long-followed and efficient routine for building strength at a higher level. If you follow the principles of 5/3/1 correctly and consistently, you can expect the 5/3/1 BBB program, created by Coach Jim Wendler, to help you rapidly increase the your squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press strength, which can also lead to increased muscle mass.

Wrap Up

Overall, working out three days a week can definitely be beneficial for your progress. While it may not be the best routine for those who are seasoned veterans in the gym, it certainly is better than skipping out entirely. That being said, if you are looking for a program that allows you for some good quality workouts on a three day schedule, check out Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 programs. 

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