A Simple 3-Day Full-Body Workout Routine for Growth

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If you want a simple but highly effective 3-day full-body workout routine designed for muscle hypertrophy, one that doesn’t involve doing weird exercises you’ve never heard of, counting rep tempos, or spending hours in the gym, this page will show you how it’s done.

Before you continue, I do want to point out a few things.

First, building muscle is hard work. It takes ferocious consistency, discipline and sustained effort over a period of several years.

While you can make significant changes to your physique in a matter of months, it will take a lot longer before you get anywhere near the upper limit of muscle mass you’re capable of adding to your frame.

Even if you’re following the greatest muscle-building workout routine ever devised in all of human history, adding muscle to your frame takes persistence, hard work and patience.

Second, I can’t make any promises about how long it’s going to take to build muscle, because I don’t know you. I don’t know how long you’ve been training, what your genetics are like, or how close you are to your maximum muscular potential.

All of these things can have a big impact on the speed at which muscle is built.

Third, this is a 3-day workout plan designed to stimulate muscle growth. It’s not meant to help you prepare for a Spartan race, give you the conditioning of a UFC fighter, or turn you into a serious contender for the title of World’s Strongest Man.

Don’t try to improve multiple physical qualities at the same time. To make progress as fast as your genetics will allow, you’ll need to focus on one major fitness goal to the exclusion of everything else.

Finally, if you want to drop some fat, there’s no reason why you can’t combine this total body workout with a diet geared towards fat loss (which I cover in more detail inside my Gutless nutrition manual).

It is possible, for some people at least, to gain muscle in calorie deficit. However, you won’t gain muscle as fast as you would have done had your diet put you in a calorie surplus, with everything set up for the sole purpose of building muscle.

The 3-Day Full-Body Workout Routine
With all that out of the way, here’s what the 3 day workout plan looks like. It involves hitting the major muscle groups three days per week. I’ll talk more about why it’s set up the way it is in just a moment.

For a few of the movements, I’ve also included video demonstrations, so you can exactly how they’re done.

Full Body Workout A
Bench Press 3 sets x 5-8 reps
Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown 3 sets x 10-15 reps
Squat 3 sets x 5-8 reps
Leg Curl 3 sets x 10-15 reps
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 2 sets x 5-8 reps
Incline Curl 2 sets x 10-15 reps
Triceps Pressdown 2 sets x 10-15 reps

Exercise 1: Bench Press
Sets 3 Reps 5-8 Rest 2 minutes

The first upper body exercise is the bench press, which is a highly effective way to build size and strength in your chest, shoulders and arms. If all you have is a flat bench and a couple of dumbbells, the dumbbell bench press works fine as an alternative.

Exercise 2: Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown
Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 2 minutes

Next up is the reverse grip lat pulldown, which targets your back and biceps. Most people aren’t strong enough to do many chin-ups or pull-ups with their own body weight, which is why I normally recommend lat pulldowns instead. But if you prefer chin-ups, and you’re able to do 3 sets of 5-10 reps using good form, then do chin-ups instead.

Exercise 3: Squat
Sets 3 Reps 5-8 Rest 2-4 minutes

Next up is the barbell squat, which hits the quadriceps, glutes and lower back. In terms of squat depth, there’s no need to go all the way down. Somewhere around parallel, even slightly above, is still deep enough to make your quads grow.

If you can’t do squats for whatever reason, you can take your pick from one of the squat alternatives listed here.

Exercise 4: Seated Leg Curl
Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 2 minutes

While the squat is a great lower body exercise, it doesn’t hit the hamstrings very hard, which is where the leg curl comes in. Although the seated leg curl has been shown to work better than the lying leg curl for building hamstring size, both are still very effective, so just use whatever machine is available.

Exercise 5: Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Sets 2 Reps 5-8 Rest 2 minutes

The dumbbell shoulder press targets the triceps and shoulders, with most of the work being done by the anterior, or front deltoid. If you prefer using a barbell to dumbbells, the overhead barbell press will do the job just as well.

Exercise 6: Incline Dumbbell Curl
Sets 2 Reps 10-15 Rest 90 seconds

Next, we have some isolation work for your biceps. Doing curls on an incline bench, with your elbows behind your back, helps to target the long head of the biceps.

Exercise 7: Triceps Pressdown
Sets 2 Reps 10-15 Rest 90 seconds

You can do pressdowns with a rope, V bar or straight bar. Although your triceps have done some work earlier in the workout, a couple of sets of direct work will give them a nice boost in growth.

Full Body Workout B
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 sets x 10-15 reps
Seated Cable Row 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Leg Press 3 sets x 10-15 reps
Romanian Deadlift 3 sets x 10-15 reps
Lateral Raise 2 sets x 15-20 reps
Dumbbell Hammer Curl 2 sets x 10-15 reps
Overhead Triceps Extension 2 sets x 10-15 reps

Exercise 1: Incline Dumbbell Press
Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 2 minutes

The first upper body exercise is the incline dumbbell press, with the bench set at an angle of around 30 degrees. Changing the angle of the bench doesn’t change the muscles being worked — you’re still training the same muscles as the bench press — but the upper region of the chest is working harder compared to the same exercise done on a flat bench.

Exercise 2: Seated Cable Row
Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 2 minutes

Next is the seated cable row. Use a regular V handle, keep the elbows close to the body, and pull your hands towards the lower part of the stomach, near the belly button. Doing it this way helps to emphasize the lats. If you don’t have access to a cable machine, the single-arm row, barbell row or one of these seated cable row alternatives will serve as an effective substitute.

Exercise 3: Leg Press
Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 2-3 minutes

Like the squat, the leg press targets the thighs and hips, but with less involvement from the core muscles, the spinal erectors in particular. If you’re training at home without a leg press machine, go with one of these leg press alternatives.

Exercise 4: Romanian Deadlift
Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 2-3 minutes

Normally, you do Romanian deadlifts with a barbell, but you can also use dumbbells. Both variations work the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. More advice on how to do the Romanian deadlift is here.

Exercise 5: Lateral Raise
Sets 2 Reps 15-20 Rest 90 seconds

Next is the lateral raise, which targets the lateral deltoid. Use a relatively light dumbbell, light enough that you can pause briefly at the top of the exercise.

Exercise 6: Dumbbell Hammer Curl
Sets 2 Reps 10-15 Rest 90 seconds

The dumbbell hammer curl is done with your thumbs up and palms facing each other like you’re holding a hammer. Doing the exercise this way, rather than with your palms facing up, still hits the biceps, but brings the brachialis, another muscle in your upper arm, into play.

Exercise 7: Single Arm Overhead Triceps Extension
Sets 2 Reps 10-15 Rest 90 seconds

Finally, it’s the overhead triceps extension. While there are lots of different ways to do this exercise, this video shows you how I like to do them.

Full Body Workout C
Cable Crossover 3 sets x 15-20 reps
Wide Grip Front Lat Pulldown 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Leg Extension 3 sets x 15-20 reps
Seated Leg Curl 3 sets x 10-15 reps
Cable Face Pulls 2 sets x 10-15 reps
Preacher Curl 2 sets x 10-15 reps
Lying EZ Bar Extension 2 sets x 10-15 reps

Exercise 1: Cable Crossover
Sets 3 Reps 15-20 Rest 90 seconds

One of the functions of the pecs is to draw the arms across the body in a hugging-type movement, which is exactly what you get with the cable crossover. If you don’t have access to a cable machine, you can use a pec deck machine or do dumbbell flyes.

Exercise 2: Wide Grip Front Lat Pulldown
Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 2 minutes

The wide grip front lat pulldown hits the back and biceps. If you prefer pull-ups (which are done with your palms facing forwards, unlike chin-ups where your palms face you) and you’re able to do 3 sets of 5-10 pull-ups using good form, do pull-ups instead.

Exercise 3: Leg Extension
Sets 3 Reps 15-20 Rest 2 minutes

The leg extension is a very effective way to isolate your quads, rectus femoris (the muscle that runs down the middle of your thigh) in particular, and works well as a supplement to the squat and leg press.

Exercise 4: Seated Leg Curl
Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 2 minutes

Exercise number four is the seated leg curl, which is a knee flexion exercise for the hamstrings. If you don’t have access to a leg curl machine, one of these leg curl alternatives will do a similar job.

Exercise 5: Cable Face Pulls
Sets 2 Reps 10-15 Rest 90 seconds

The face pull targets both the side and rear delts, along with various muscles in the upper back. While there are plenty of different ways to do cable face pulls, depending on the muscles you’re trying to work, this is the way I prefer to do them.

Exercise 6: Dumbbell Preacher Curl
Sets 2 Reps 10-15 Rest 90 seconds

Unlike the incline curl, which emphasises the long head of the biceps, the preacher curl works better for recruiting the short head of the muscle. If you don’t have a preacher curl bench, concentration curls do a similar job.

Exercise 7: Lying EZ Bar Extension
Sets 2 Reps 10-15 Rest 90 seconds

Finally, it’s the lying EZ bar extension, which is a little easier on the elbows compared to a straight bar. In the start position, your arms should be at a slight angle. This way, when you lower the bar, it comes down behind your head rather than to the forehead. The video below shows you how it’s done.

The number of sets listed are the actual work sets only, and don’t include warm-up sets.

It’s always a good idea, especially if you’re using heavy weights, to do several progressively heavier warm-up sets. This will prepare the joints, the muscles and the nervous system that controls those muscles for the heavy work to come.

In most cases, somewhere between 1-3 warm-up sets will do the job. However, the exact number of warm-up sets you do will vary depending on the temperature of the gym you’re training in, how your joints feel, the amount of weight you’re lifting, the exercise itself, and where that exercise is placed in the workout.

There have been times when I’ve been training in a cold gym, it’s early in the morning and my joints are feeling a bit stiff, where I’ve ended up doing 7-8 warm-up sets before getting into the heavy stuff.

On the flip side, with some of the exercises that come later in the workout, the muscles being worked are already warm, so you won’t need many, if any, warm-up sets.

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