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3-Day Powerlifting Workout: Day By Day Guide

Apr 15, 2019

3 Day Powerlifting Workout--man's muscular calves

If you have a packed schedule (and who doesn’t?) and want to max out your time at the gym, then the 3-day powerlifting workout might be for you.

With this program, you won’t have to spend two hours a day, every day, in the gym.

No more just focusing on your calves today, then spending an hour on the elliptical tomorrow.

Because at some point in your life, your job, your friends, or that someone special, will make you want to skip that seven-day-a-week gym habit you’ve been forcing yourself to follow.

So then the choice is to either stay jacked or let it all go.

But one way to get the best of both worlds is to do the 3-day powerlifting workout.


Why do the 3-Day Powerlifting Workout?

Working out three days a week is very popular with many weightlifters.

Jean Claude Van Damme workout planWith a 3-day full body powerlifting workout routine, you work each muscle group three times a week.

Although many routines have workout days of Monday, Wednesday and Friday, really any other three nonconsecutive days can be used.

You can just as easily train on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays if it works better for you.

You will only be lifting three days a week and each workout should take you about 60-70 minutes.

With a 3-day powerlifting workout, you will be on the way to a better, stronger body.

Compared to other workout options this approach offers many more muscle building opportunities over the course of a year.

More muscle building opportunities equate to more progress!


How Much Rest is Needed for the 3 Day Powerlifting Workout?

You must program at least one full rest day between training days.

You will need to rest at least 90 seconds between exercises such as bicep curls and Romanian deadlifts.

For heavier sets of bench press and squats allow yourself up to 3-4 minutes of rest time.

Don’t rest so long that your body starts to cool down.

Use warm-up sets as needed.

On working sets add weight to each successive set.


Don’t Overtrain

The downside of not resting enough between workouts is overtraining syndrome.

Overtraining can cause physical and emotional problems.

If you feel extreme fatigue or weakness during a workout, and you’re not experiencing strength gains every two or three weeks, you may be overtraining.


Powerlifting vs. Bodybuilding

3 Day Powerlifting Workout--bodybuilder posing with gold metal

Training is very, very different for a powerlifter as opposed to a bodybuilder because the goals and targets are different.

For a bodybuilder, the emphasis is on aesthetics.

You want your body looking as awesome as possible.

Because of that, it doesn’t matter how much weight a bodybuilder lifts, as long as he looks amazing when he gets out on that stage.

On the other hand, powerlifters don’t really care what they look like.

They are not working this hard to pose on a stage, they’re at the gym to lift as much weight as they can.

Related: Preparing for a Bodybuilding Show: A Comprehensive Breakdown


Weight Lifting Exercises for the 3-Day Full Body Workout

3 Day Powerlifting Workout--woman doing a chin up

In general, the 10 exercises listed here are the best exercises for each of the major muscle groups.

These exercises focus on the 10 major muscle groups, the: quadriceps, chest, hamstrings, back depth, shoulders, back width, triceps, biceps, calves, and forearms.

If you work on making progress on these 10 exercises, you will build muscle fast.

  1. Barbell Squats
  2. Flat Barbell Bench Press
  3. Barbell Romanian Deadlift
  4. Pendlay Rows with Barbell
  5. Overhead Press
  6. Chin Ups
  7. Parallel Dips
  8. Barbell Curls
  9. Standing Calf Raises
  10. Pinwheel Curls

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Make Each Workout Count

To make progress with any workout routine, you need to work on increasing the amount of weight you lift.

In Week 1 start with light weights and higher reps.

Then you can graTracking Your Progressive Overload -- Dark Iron Fitness weightlifting glovesdually increase the amount of weight you are lifting with each workout.

Over time, you will then decrease the number of reps while increasing the amount of weight lifted.

The Dark Iron Fitness Weightlifting Gloves have cushioned palm padding and enhanced durable grip so your hands are protected and never hurt from lifting

Related: Benefits of Heavy Squats and The Other Effects They Have


Sample 3-Day Workout for Powerlifters

When powerlifting, you train with three exercises in mind: Bench press, squats, and deadlifts.

This particular routine here is meant to work on each of these lifts.

If you can, structure your training as follows:

Mon – Bench day
Wed – Deadlift day
Fri – Squat day

Day 1 (Monday) Bench Day

3 Day Powerlifting Workout--man bench pressing

On your bench press day, in addition to performing bench presses and variations of this exercise, you will also do exercises that strengthen stability muscles, and muscles that assist with the lift in general.

Remember that when you perform bench presses, you are recruiting your triceps and deltoids to assist you with the lift.

This is why strengthening these muscles will help you to bench even more.

Therefore chest, triceps, and deltoid exercises are included in this workout.

Flat bench barbell bench press – 4 sets of 4 reps
Incline dumbbell bench press – 5 sets of 10 reps
Standing military press – 4 sets of 4 reps
Triceps extensions – 4 sets of 15 reps
Seated Arnold presses – 5 sets of 10 reps

Related: Overhead Press Benefits: Reasons for Raising the Bar


Day 2 (Wednesday) Deadlift Day:

You not only 3 Day Powerlifting Workout--man demonstrating the right way to squatneed a strong back to do deadlifts but also great grip strength and bicep strength as well.

The workout below works the back and the biceps.

These exercises are combined with power shrugs to enhance your grip strength.

Deadlifts – 4 sets of 4 reps
Power shrugs – 2 sets of 20 reps
Bent over barbell rows – 5 sets of 10 reps
Wide grip pull ups – 5 sets to failure
Dumbbell hammer curls – 3 sets of 12 reps

Seated alternate arm dumbbell curls – 3 sets of 12 reps per arm

Related: 17 Exercises to Improve Deadlift Strength Immediately


Day 3 (Friday) Squat:

3 Day Powerlifting Workout--man squatting under barWhen you squat you use all the major muscle groups in your legs to maintain your form and for maximum power.

The various leg exercises here target a slightly different muscle group in the leg.

Barbell squats – 1 set of 20 reps (lower weight)
Barbell squats – 4 sets of 4 reps (higher weight)
Leg press machine – 4 sets of 20 reps
Stiff-legged deadlifts – 3 sets of 6 reps
Seated leg curls – 5 sets of 10 reps
Lying hamstring curls – 5 sets of 10 reps


Intensity Matters in the 3-Day Powerlifting Workout

Keep in mind that to stay fit—and get even bigger—when working out only three days a week, you need something more intense.

Check out this plan designed by certified strength and conditioning specialist, Chris Smith.

Rather than dividing workouts by muscle groups, Smith combines them into three killer full-body sessions.


Forget the Traditional Split

Smith believes the most effective training split isn’t a “split” at all.

This three-day program targets your entire body during every workout.

Smith says this no-split technique works because: “High-frequency training exposes muscle fibers to a stimulus more often, which can lead to more muscle growth.”

So rather than hitting your legs just once a week, those quads you targeted with front squats during the first workout will be working again when you do back squats a couple of days later.

And they’ll be ready, Smith explains, “You’re breaking down the muscle without annihilating it, so it’s ready to work again in a day or so.”


Change Up the Volume

This type of strategy enables you to do multiple full-body workouts each week.

Day 1 is a moderate volume and intensity session that will create a baseline for the workouts to come.Dark Iron Fitness weightlifting belt

On Day 2, you’ll kick up the intensity to build strength and prime your body for the third workout.

Day 3 is a high-volume workout that will bring on serious hypertrophy.

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Because this workout is so intense, do this on your last training day of the week, so that your tired muscles will have the maximum time to recover and build.

You might be tempted to squeeze in another strength training session because you have two consecutive free days.

Don’t do that, do something else with your weekend!


Compound Exercises Still Rule

For each session, do alternating sets of multi-joint, compound movements.

Compound exercises engage a lot of muscle fibers at once, giving you more bodybuilding bang for your buck.

They take a hell of a lot of energy, so perform these compound exercises in alternating sets.

To perform an alternating set, do one set of the first exercise in a group and then rest for the suggested amount of time.

After you’re rested, crank out a set of the next exercise.

Repeat this pattern until you’ve done all the recommended sets, then begin the next group of moves.

Switching exercises for each set will enable you to train using heavy weights, set after set because you have more time to recover.


Watch Your Weight

collection of weights

Add enough weight so that you can still do the recommended reps while maintaining good control and form.

If you feel like you can still crank out a few more reps on your last set, add a little bit more weight next week.


Conditioning Workouts

Muscled man running outdoors

The conditioning workouts in this program are quick, so they can be done right after the strength session.

Running is a great option here since it works the glutes, quads, and calves.

Running outdoors challenges your muscles and joint stability.

If you’d rather not run then hop on a bike.

Just like the training session, the first day’s conditioning workout is moderate.

You can jog for 15 minutes, and do some 30-second sprints to increase your endurance and burn fat.

For Day 2, you’ll push yourself harder, dividing a two-mile distance equally between quarter-mile runs and quarter-mile slow jogs.

And on Day 3, you’ll finish your strength workout by running two miles with quarter-mile recovery jogs between each mile.


The Importance of Your Diet While on the 3-Day Powerlifting Workout

Man cooking and prepping his meals

Some people will use their training as an excuse to eat as much as they want of whichever foods they like.

Yes, while powerlifting and training like a powerlifter, you will need to eat far more calories than the average person, that doesn’t mean you are allowed to stuff yourself with junk food.

You eat for performance, and you will notice the quality of your performance in the gym affected by the quality of the food going into your body.

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, get your electrolytes, and ensure you get plenty of high-quality protein.

Skip the processed junk and go for fresh and healthy produce.

Make sure you watch your sugar intake and focus on mainly complex carbs instead of simple ones.

The occasional cheat meal now and then is fine, just make sure that 90% of your diet is super clean and super healthy.


Final Thoughts on the 3-Day Powerlifting Workout

Gaining size isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Your body is built to survive, not to look like a weightlifting competitor, so putting on–and holding on–to muscle mass is complicated and can vary from person to person.

But one thing everyone can do to maximize his or her ability to add new muscle is to select the right exercises and the right workout program.

Plus one other factor—you have to stick with it–and that’s why a 3 Day powerlifting workout is the program of choice for many people.


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