Full Body Weight Training Workout Split Over 3 Sessions

3 sessions weight trainingWeight training should be very demanding on the muscles and therefore you need to give yourself time to recover well between working different muscles. This is why we split weight training workouts. The basic split is a push / pull split which is designed to allow you to do 2 weight training sessions per week.

An alternative split is the 3 session split that works different muscles in each session – this is what we shall look at today.

The more intense that your training is, the more you need to rest your muscles, both in between exercises and in terms of days between workouts.

With the follow workout you should not do any single session more than once per week, ideally workout 3 times a week, say Monday, Wednesday and Friday and have the weekend off.

These workouts are quite high volume too. You will need to rest for 60 seconds between each set and a couple of minutes between each exercise.


For each exercise you will be performing 3 sets of 8-12 or 12-15 reps. Ideally the final reps in each set should be almost impossible to complete without breaking good form. If you finish too easy add more weight next week, if too hard then use slightly lighter weights.

In each of these sessions the abdominals are worked each session, the back is split into upper and lower back exercises.

You should warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of cardio before the weight training, preferably on an elliptical or rower to work upper and lower body. This workout assumes that you have access to resistance machines and cable machines in a gym. Remember that weight training is one of the best ways to burn fat and lose weight.

Session 1: Chest, Upper Back and Abs

Chest Exercises

  • Barbell bench press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Incline dumbbell press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Cable cross-over: 2 sets of 8-12 reps

Upper Back Exercises

  • One-arm dumbbell rows: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Lateral pull downs to front: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Seated cable rows: 2 sets of 8-12 reps

Stomach Exercises

These exercises are best performed as a super set, so you do the 2nd exercises immediately after the first then take a rest before repeating the first again.

  • Reverse crunch: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Crunch: 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Session 2: Arms, Shoulders and Abs

Shoulder exercises

  • Dumbbell press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Dumbbell lateral raise: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Bent-over lateral raise: 2 sets of 8-12 reps

Bicep Exercises

  • Barbell curls: 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Concentration curls: 2 sets of 8-12 reps

Tricep Exercises

Stomach Exercises

  • Oblique crunch: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • The plank: 3 sets held for 1-2 minutes

Session 3: Legs, Abs and Lower Back

Leg Exercises

  • Squats: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Leg extensions: 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Seated leg curls: 2 sets of 8-12 reps

Calf Exercises

  • Seated calf raise: 1 set of 12-15 reps
  • Standing calf raise: 2 sets of 12-15 reps

Stomach Exercises

  • Side bridges: hold the position for 5 seconds on one side then change sides. Keep repeating until you have done 5 sets in total
  • Bicycle crunches: 3 sets of 15-20

Training Tips

Always ensure that you are well hydrated and nourished before training. If you attempt to workout on an empty stomach you will soon tire and will not be able to work hard enough to get maximum gains. Have a protein rich meal after your workout. Always warm up thoroughly before the exercise and do some stretches afterwards too.

Perform this workout each week until you feel ready to progress to new exercises. It is helpful to keep a training diary. By keeping a diary you can make a note of how much weight you are lifting and use this information to plan your next session. As there are several exercises and many sets in each session it will become difficult to remember how much you lifted previously.

Make notes against the exercises to if you fail on the 2rd set before completing all the reps you know to adjust the weight downwards for the next workout. If you almost complete the 3rd or final set then keep the weights the same as you may gain enough strength by the next session to complete all sets. If you completes all sets too easily then you will have to increase the weight.

If you start on a low weight and complete the first set too easily you should increase the weight. Remember that your energy levels and the recovery status of you muscles will determine how much you can lift, so you may be able to lift much more from one session to the next even when your muscles have not grown a lot in that time.

This is more than a free sample weight workout program, you can use this and adapt it and keep growing for months or even years if you follow this routine. Keep progressing, always strive to lift more weight, but stay within the recommended rep ranges for each exercise.

More like this in the Strength Training section

  21 comments for “Full Body Weight Training Workout Split Over 3 Sessions

  1. Juan
    May 26, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Hello,

    When you perform the Bench press or DB press, it says 3 sets of 8-12, how is it supposed to be?

    3 sets with the same weight and when reaching 12/12/12 with that weight, then +5% and repeating the process?
    It would be something like this:
    12/12/12 -> +5% weight, then:
    10/8/7 reps, 11/9/7, 11/10/8 (for example),… until 12/12/12, then +5% again.

    Or 1-2 sets of warmup (50% and 70% desired weight for example) and then a final set till failure? When reaching 12 in the final set in strict form, then +5% and repeat.

    And another thing:

    When you can’t +5% weight, for example, the dumbell press, how would you do it if your gym only had: 10,12,14,16,18,20,22,24,26 kilograms…(1 kg = 2,2 lbs)
    I am at the moment on 16 kg (35,2 lbs) and it is very hard to move to 18 (39,6 lbs), its a 12,5% more weight when moving to next dumbells.

    Maybe doing the 50% + 70% + 8-12 reps method but changing it to 8-15 reps? When doing 15 reps and adding 12,5% more weight, it would go back to 7-8 reps easier than if changing when 12 reps.

    Thanks in advance

  2. MotleyHealth
    May 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Hi Juan, yes, increase the weight as you get stronger, i.e. when you are completing the 3 sets with 12 reps at the current weight. This is intended as 3 work sets (with a warm-up beforehand).

    If you cannot add 5% then try performing more reps and varying the curls with hammer curls and concentration curls also. Some weight training systems do use the same weight for many weeks and just increase the reps each week. If you cannot lift more weight just do extra reps to work the muscles harder.

  3. kenny mcgaugh
    October 20, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Your workout is okay but you have no shoulder shrugs and i really like four days and taking three off it really works for me.I work out really hard and doing two sets just wont feel good to me ireally need to hit it hard i do okay to be 51 like i said this is what i do i love it so give me something one body part a day i will take care of my legs i workout 45mins to an hour.

  4. benni
    March 5, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    i want to gain weight is this routine effective for me too?

  5. MotleyHealth
    March 5, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Yes, assuming by “gain weight” you mean gain muscle mass.

  6. benni
    March 5, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    yes i mean gain muscle mass and I want to know i use to do workout 6 days in a week. Here is my routine Monday – Lats, Tuesday-shoulders, Wednesday- Chest,Thursday- Bicep,Friday-Triceps and on Saturday-squats is this good routine or should i change my routine.Can you guide me how should i do routine.I want to gain muscle mass. How many days i should do exercises and how many days i should take rest in a week. Please help me i don’t have any gym trainer.

  7. MotleyHealth
    March 5, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Hi Benni, why not try the routine in the article above? Looks like you need to do more, your Friday bicep session must be a killer!

  8. Benni
    March 6, 2012 at 5:45 am

    Ok I will try the routine in the article.One thing i want to know about this routine should i increase number of exercises after some time or how many exercises should I do per muscle group?

  9. MotleyHealth
    March 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Use a weight that allows you to perform the number of reps and sets as stated. As you progress (get stronger) increase the weight you are lifting.

  10. David
    June 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Can i break down the above routine to two times per week?

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