Training On A Time Budget: 3 Days Per Week

The Perfect Training Program: 3 Days Per Week

 

As much as we love hitting the iron, life can often throw a spanner in the works.

Your family, friends, job, social commitments & so on all have to be seen to, meaning that sometimes you can’t get in the gym quite as much as you’d like.

Therefore, while you might want to train every day & follow the perfect training program, or even 5 to 6 days a week, this isn’t always possible.

In this mini-series, I’ll be taking you through the best training splits depending on how many days of the week you have available to lift.

It doesn’t matter too much how many days you can lift, rather, it’s a case of following the right routine & making sure that you’re working your butt off while you’re there.

Optimally, I like my clients to lift 4 to 5 times per week, but that doesn’t mean that less (or more) than this can’t bring about phenomenal results.

In fact, we’re kicking off with a routine for those who can only train three times a week:

 

The Benefits

  • 3 sessions per week definitely beats 2 & you can still build a complete training program with only 3 days.
  • It allows you to dedicate a little more time to each muscle group than the aforementioned scenario, without feeling like you’re spending hour upon hour in the gym.
  • Plus, you still get ample rest time between workouts, and have 4 days completely clear if you get busy with work, or want a family day out.

 

The Downsides

  • Unfortunately, volume over the week is going to be hard to increase & match the kind of gains you’d potentially see training 4 or 5 times over the course of 7 days.
  • Your full body session in this training program is also going to suck!

 

The Premise

We’re hitting muscle groups twice throughout the week, as doing so will invoke a far more optimal muscle protein synthesis response. In layman’s terms? You’ll build & retain more muscle following a training program incorporating frequency-based training protocols

Instead of doing 3 full body sessions though, you’ll have one full body based around targeting lower-rep strength, plus higher-rep sessions split between upper and lower body.

 

The Training Program:

Workout A:

  • Back Squats – 3-6 sets of 2-6 reps with 80-90% 1 rep max.
  • Deadlifts – 3-6 sets of 2-6 reps with 80-90% 1 rep max.
  • Bench Press – 3-6 sets of 2-6 reps with 80-90% 1 rep max.
  • Chin-Ups – 4 sets of 5-8 reps
  • Standing Overhead Press – 4 sets of 5-8 reps

Workout B:

  • Back Squats – 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with 65-75% 1 rep max.
  • Stiff-Legged Deadlifts – 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Leg Extensions superset with lying leg curls – 3 sets of 12-15 reps each, taking each set to technical failure.
  • Leg Press – 4 sets of 20-25 reps, using a 2-second eccentric and pausing for 2 seconds at the bottom of each rep, before exploding up.
  • Standing Calf Raises – 4 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Seated Calf Raises – 2 sets of 12-15 reps with a 3-second squeeze at the top.

Workout C:

  • Bench Press – 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with 65-75% 1 rep max.
  • Dips – 3 sets of 6-8 reps. (Add weight if needed.)
  • Barbell Row – 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Wide Grip Pulldowns – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Lateral Raises superset with Face Pulls – 3 sets of 12-15 reps each.
  • Seated Dumbbell Curls superset with Rope Pushdowns – 3 sets of 8-10 reps each, using a 2-second negative on every rep.
    After your third set, perform a double drop set by lowering the weight 20-30%, going to failure on each, then lowering by a further 20-30% and going again.


Notes:

Allow a good 90 minutes plus for the full body session, and don’t be afraid to take your time with the rest periods to allow you to lift heavier & get through more total volume as a consequence.

You can always start warming up your next exercise while performing the current one, as long as it doesn’t impact your strength or lead to a reduction in volume in time.

Rather than hammering the volume in the strength session, you’re doing a little less on the strength day, but adding more in the hypertrophy days, meaning you should recover quicker & perform better, whilst (again) being able to increase total training volume over time – the ‘secret’ to making gains/ getting stronger/ bigger & maintaining more muscle when dieting.


Progressions:

There are no AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) sets for now, as you’re working both strength & hypertrophy ranges on your squat & bench press in different sessions each week. That said, 4 to 6 weeks in, you may decide to perform an AMRAP set on your strength day, your hypertrophy day, or even both.

As before, your main progression focus should be on increasing strength, but you still want to work on using heavier weights in your hyper workouts too, provided you keep strict form & feel the muscles working.


The Wrap Up

A training program consisting of 3 days per week is ideal for most busy guys or girls.

There’s no doubt you’ll see faster progress in strength & size than you would only lifting twice per week, but you still get plenty of free time by following this sort of split.

I’d say for guys & girls middle aged and above, this is a great set up too, as your recovery time is a little longer, and so with 4 days of complete rest, there’s no reason you should feel beat up or sore going into a workout.

Just remember, no training plan is really the complete solution, and if you aren’t able to consistently overload & lift more and more total weight in time, chances are you’ll continue to spin your wheels.

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