3-day workout plans for mass gains

by Jason Stallworth

December 31, 2019

Question: Can you gain muscle mass working out just 3 times a week? I’m a full-time student and I work full-time.

Answer: Yes, you can but you need to be committed to a strategic plan of action to get results.

It’s a fact that many of us have packed schedules. There’s work, school, family, and some of you are even working 2 jobs.

You love the gym and want to be there more, but in the current season of your life, your time is limited.

That’s okay because I’m going to give you 3 different 3-day workout plans for mass gains that you can start this week.

3-Day Workout Rules

bench press 315 chest exercises

Before we dive into your 3-day workouts for mass let’s go over a few notes so that you can prepare.

This is important because since you’re only training 3 days a week there will be certain things you’ll want to watch closely on your non-training days.

Don’t overeat on your non-training days. You know that eating enough calories is crucial for mass gains. But if you’re not doing any activities at all on your non-training days, eating too much lead to fat gains, not mass gains.

No more than 2 rest days in a row. You don’t want too many days going by with no activity.
*You’ll see some training split examples listed after the workout plans below.

Train hard and intense every workout. With only 3 workout days a week, the last thing you want is to waste one of those workouts by half-assing it.

Make sure you’re focused and energized before every workout. Since you’re only training 3 days, these workouts will be a little longer (give yourself about an hour and 15 minutes each workout). So make sure you’re amped up. You can take a pre-workout like 4 Gauge.

Alright, it’s time for your new 3-day mass building plans…

1 – Push Pull Legs 3-Day Workout Plan

rear delt raises bent over raises

The ‘push-pull-legs’ workout concept has been around forever. And it can be a super-effective way to build muscle mass.

This is also probably the most feasible workout routine for training 3 days a week. It allows you to truly hit every muscle equally.

Day 1 (Push)

ExerciseSets x Reps
Incline Bench Press4 x 6-8
Dumbbell Press4 x 8
Cable Flyes3 x 10
Seated Dumbbell Press3 x 10
Lateral Raises3 x 10
Cable Pressdowns3 x 10
Dumbbell Kickbacks3 x 12

Day 2 (Pull)

ExerciseSets x Reps
Bent-over Rows4 x 6-8
Dumbbell Rows4 x 8
Seated Rows3 x 10
Lat Pulldowns3 x 10
Bent-over Raises3 x 10
Barbell Curls3 x 10
Dumbbell Hammer Curls3 x 12

Day 3 (Legs)

ExerciseSets x Reps
Leg Extensions (warm-up)3 x 12
Squats4 x 8
Leg Press4 x 15
Lying Leg Curls4 x 10
Single-Leg Extensions4 x 12
Standing Calf Raises7 x 15

*If you want to learn more about the Push-Pull-Legs concept, I have a full program you can try in this post: Push Pull Legs Workout: 6-Day Routine for Mass Gains

2 – Full Body Split 3-Day Workout Plan

Stiff Leg Deadlifts back and hamstrings workout

Another great 3-day a week routine is full-body workouts. Now, this is completely different from the typical bodybuilding training splits. But there are some advantages to this schedule.

You’ll focus more on compound exercises which will allow you to incorporate more muscles in fewer exercises. On that note, you won’t see many isolation exercises.

These exercises are proven mass-builders. You’ll get a lot stronger on this routine as well.

*Where you an asterisk (*) below means superset with the following exercise.

Day 1 Full Body

ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press4 x 8
Barbell Rows4 x 8
Lateral Raises3 x 10
*Barbell Curls3 x 10
Rope Pressdowns3 x 10
*Leg Extensions4 x 15
Stiff-leg Deadlifts4 x 10

Day 2 Full Body

ExerciseSets x Reps
Squats4 x 8
Leg Curls4 x 10
Overhead Barbell Press3 x 10
*Lat Pulldowns3 x 10
Incline Dumbbell Press3 x 10
*Reverse Grip Barbell Rows3 x 10
Close-grip Bench Press3 x 10

Day 3 Full Body

ExerciseSets x Reps
Arnold Dumbbell Press4 x 8
Dumbbell Rows4 x 8
Leg Press4 x 15
*Dumbbell Flyes4 x 10
Cable Pullovers4 x 12
*Pull-ups3 x 10
Dips3 x 10

*If you want to learn more about the full body workouts and different routines, read my post: Are Full Body Workouts Good for Building Muscle?

3 – 5×5 Hypertrophy 3-Day Workout Plan

Biceps EZ Bar Curls finish

One of the most renown strength gaining workouts programs is the 5 x 5 routine. It caters to getting stronger on compound lifts.

But you can also use the 5 x 5 method for hypertrophy, and that’s what you’ll do below.

If you’re familiar with 5 x 5 you will notice that this routine is much different. Again, our goal here is attaining that massive bodybuilder look (hypertrophy) over strength gains, though you should also get stronger. And you’ll get a natural boost in testosterone.

One major difference you’ll notice is you’re often going back and forth between different muscles. For example, in the first workout, you’ll do your 5 sets of squats then go to your main shoulder exercise. And you’ll continue to alternate muscles from there.

This is so that you have enough power and energy at the beginning for the 5 x 5 lifts. If you did all legs then started with shoulders, you wouldn’t be as strong on that first 5 x 5 shoulder exercise. This also adds a little needed spice to your workouts by changing it up from the norm.

Day 1 Legs and Shoulders

ExerciseSets x Reps
Squats5 x 5
Standing Overhead Press5 x 5
Leg Extensions3 x 10
Arnold Press3 x 10
Seated Leg Curls3 x 10
Lateral Raises3 x 10
Seated Calf Raises5 x 15

Day 2 Back and Chest

ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell Rows5 x 5
Bench Press5 x 5
Seated Rows3 x 10
Incline Dumbbell Press3 x 10
Lat Pulldowns3 x 10
Dumbbell Flyes3 x 10

Day 3 Legs and Arms

ExerciseSets x Reps
Deadlifts5 x 5
EZ Bar Curls3 x 10
Leg Press (close-stance)3 x 10
Reverse Overhead Rope Extensions3 x 10
Single-Leg Extensions3 x 10
Standing Calf Raises5 x 15

*If you want to learn more about 5×5 training with both basic and advanced 5×5 workouts, read my post: Advanced 5 x 5 Workouts for Muscle and Strength Gains

Training Splits

You may be wondering what’s the best way to fit these 3-days a week mass-building routines into your schedule.

The key is you don’t want to train more than 2 days in a row with these types of workouts. But you also don’t want to go more than 2 rows of rest between workouts.

This actually makes training splits easy to create. And I give you 2 examples below. One is a Mon-Wed-Fri split. Another caters to those who prefer to train on weekends.

Training Split 1

Sunday: Rest
Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Workout 2
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Workout 3
Saturday: Rest

Training Split 2

Sunday: Workout 1
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Workout 2
Saturday: Workout 3

How Many Times a Week Should Your Workout to Gain Muscle?

This is an extremely subjective question. You have many different philosophies here.

One camp says you need more rest between workouts. Another says there’s no so much thing as overtraining, just undereating (and not getting enough rest).

I personally prefer to train more often. However, the real answer comes down to the current season of your life. And that’s what you will have to base your workout schedule on.

Look, I’ve been there before…working multiple jobs and taking classes all while supporting a household. That’s tough. But almost anyone can prioritize an hour or so 3 days a week.

So I encourage you to make that happen, no matter what. It’s best to get in there and bust your rear 3 times a week than to sit around and pout about how you don’t have time to go to the gym, and not go at all.

I truly hope these 3-day workout plans for mass helps you. You can choose one plan and stay with it for several weeks then start another. Or you may decide to mix them up more frequently, and that’s okay too. As long you’re consistent in hitting the gym and committed to training hard, that’s what counts.

And when your time frees up and you’re ready to commit to training 4-5 days a week, start my Hardcore Muscle Building Program.

Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,



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