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Utilizing 3 Day Split Workouts as a Personal Trainer

If your clients are coming to you with the request for help in muscle gain or becoming leaner, then 3 day split workouts might just be the perfect way to start. For the average, sedentary person, going absolutely ham right off the bat with exercising can have adverse effects on the body.

Now, we absolutely do not need any unhappy or injured clients. To avoid this, the use of a 3 day split workouts for the first few weeks of a client’s fitness journey might just make you as a trainer look realllllly good.

So what exactly is a 3 day split? Well, it’s as simple as giving attention to different muscle groups 3 days out of the week. This gives 6 days of rest to each muscle group targeted and drastically reduces the risk of injury. Though there is debate on how effective it is for muscle growth, your clients probably won’t have very much exercise experience nor the time to put into really getting those gains.

3 Day Split Workout Muscle Groups

Muscle Groups in the 3 Day Split Workout
Use general focus exercises to start your client out on the 3 day split.

Plenty of options exist when it comes to approaching and implementing the 3 day split workout. The needs and goals your client has outlined for you will help you define the best routine for them. Not to mention, you can change it at any time if your client is not responding well to the routine.

The best part about the 3 day split is that it is something you can build on as your client progresses. It’s a simple outline for how you can approach beginning a training plan and how to move forward from it.

The 3 day split is best implemented for clients who have expressed limitation in their time to segment for a workout routine. This means that you can help clients target specific muscle groups and get ample rest in between workouts.

Not to mention that the performance in the next workout relies heavily on the recovery of the previous workout. Therefore, if the client can focus on exercising one muscle group at a time, then they will be less likely to get injured in the following workout and more likely to have a much more effective workout each time.

Different muscle groups to target

For beginners, simple, generally targeted exercises are best. This means employing exercises that work a group of muscles in one go. For example, on chest days, you can assign a workout with pushups, bench presses, medicine ball throws, and dumbbell presses.

For beginners, their weeks would look like this:

  • Monday: Chest and Arms
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Back
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

As the client progresses, more advanced variations of those exercises can be employed. If the client has the goal of developing muscle definition, then you can begin assigning them more difficult, muscle-specific workouts.

Client Workout Progression
Understanding how to implement more advanced exercises and focus on specific muscles through client progression is an important part of the 3 day split development over time.

An intermediate routine could be modified to using the more advanced techniques in push and pull separated days with legs as the third.

  • Monday: Push
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Pull
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

For the more advanced clients, perhaps bodybuilding clients a 3 day split would look more like the following:

  • Monday: (Chest) Triceps, Front/Side Deltoids, Traps, and Chest
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: (Back) Laterals, Rear Deltoids and Traps, Biceps, and Forearms
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: (Legs) Lower back, Hip Hinge, Calves, Hamstrings, and Quads,
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Tracking Progress from a 3 Day Split Workout

The 3 day split allows you to easily manage and track your client’s progress on a tight schedule. Applying this method allows for them to give you feedback on what is working in individualized workouts and what isn’t.

You can easily track muscle growth and muscle reactions to the workouts you are assigning. Often, when approaching the body in full, it is difficult to determine where the DOMS is kicking in and where it isn’t if your whole body feels worn out. Now DOMS does not necessarily mean anything good or bad, but it does let the person know where their muscles need a bit of stretching and warming to release that lactic acid.

When you can identify particular parts of the body that are weaker than others, then you can better understand how to progress. The 3 day split allows for your clients to have time to feel out their weaknesses.

An app like FitSW with progress tracking features can help you easily build out the workouts you want your clients to complete throughout the week. The best part though is that it allows you to track their progress and compliance for those workouts.

FitSW for Client Tracking in 3 Day Splits
Custom metrics allow you to keep tabs on all the important progress your client will encounter.

By creating and using custom metrics in FitSW, tracking progress on your clients 3 day split workouts becomes ridiculously easy. With graphs and tables automatically generated for workout results and other metrics, you will never have to play a guessing game of how you should switch up your client’s routine.

Nor will you have to spend the crazy amount of time playing with the numbers and different tools to create progress charts for your clients.

Pairing the 3 day split with proper eating

To get the most out of the 3 day split, you must employ the proper diet to pair with the client’s goals. No matter what goals they have in mind, diet is always half of the battle. Though this workout split is ideal for muscle growth in beginners, muscles cannot grow and repair without the proper nutritional aid.

Refer to our articles on proper nutritional coaching if you are not certified and how to get certified if you are interested.

Amount of rest?

3 day splits benefit the muscles tremendously in the amount of rest that is given to each group. Theoretically, the split allows for 6 days of rest between the times the muscles are worked.

Beginners, who have not exercised consistently before training with you, will need this rest period as their bodies become accustomed to the change in pace. You cannot expect someone to run 4 miles without taking a break to catch their breath if they haven’t run in a year.

The optimal time for rest between workouts is anywhere from 24 to 36 hours. This is the period of time where your clients will be feeling the burn of the DOMS effect or delayed onset of muscle soreness. Muscle soreness comes from the tearing and growing of cells after a workout has been completed.

While the part of the body that exercised one day of the 3 recovers, the following day’s workouts will be easier to manage and tackle because those muscles have had ample rest and time to recover.

Where’s Cardio? Wait… Waldo… No, I actually do mean cardio.

3 day splits allow for ample time to fit in that cardio that everyone loves to hate. This makes 3 day splits great for burning the fat right off your clients. The cardio you assign in between should not focus too heavily on any of the muscle groups that are most recently targeted in the 3 days.

3 Day Split Workouts  - Cardio
The 3 day split allows for cardio to be fit in to client’s routines with ample flexibility so they can get those gains within their realm of comfort.

This could compromise the healing and repair process for muscle growth. Your clients could even benefit from doing a short cardio session each time they exercise and then have a day or two dedicated to cardio on the 3 day split rest days.

Regardless, we all know the importance of employing cardio in any fitness routine. The 3 day split workout allows for a bit more freedom in that respect. So have a conversation with the client to see what works best for them!

Let’s break down the simple 3 day split with cardio:

  • Monday: Chest and Arms w/ 30 min of cardio
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Back w/ 30 min of cardio
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: an hour of cardio
  • Sunday: Rest

For the first couple of weeks with clients start them off at about half the time of intense cardio. Not everyone has the lung and heart capacity to jump right into the fiery burn of any cardio session. Much less, after completing a whole other workout.


Your clients come to you because they want to be more physically fit in some way. Any good trainer understands the importance of leaping into exercising nicely and easily. 3 day split workouts allow for just that.

It makes it easy for you as the trainer to make necessary assessments and changes to the workout plan and allow the client to get neck-deep in exercise at a steady, restful pace.

Try it out and let us know how it works for you and your clients!

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