Rest-Pause 3-Day Workout Split by Jim Brewster

Man doing Rows

Do you work long hours? Maybe you go to school full-time? Whether you work, go to school, or both, does it seem like time just isn’t there to train?  I’ve got the answer! The Rest-Pause 3-Day Workout Split is the ideal routine for anyone that leads a busy life. This flexible routine leaves you with 4 days for rest and recovery. That means it’s adjustable – you can move your routine around as needed. Here’s everything you need to know to get the most out of this workout split!

What Is A 3-Day Workout Split?

A 3-day workout split is a training program that logically divides your body into 3 parts. For example, you work pushing muscles on one day, then pulling muscles on another. Finally, legs get their own day. Depending on how much time you have, you can do a 3-day workout split once a week, or twice a week. 


For example, you could work your pulling muscles (back, biceps) on Monday. Wednesday could be pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps). Finally, you could work your legs on Friday. This approach provides optimal recovery. This is because this routine gives you 4 days of recovery. That’s perfect for lifters with limited time. This flexibility also lets you move around a scheduled workout day when life gets in the way. 


If you want more frequency, you perform the 3-day workout split over 6 days, with 1 rest day. This amount of frequency is better for natural lifters that want the most protein synthesis stimulation. Of course, it’s also ideal for those lifters that have a lot of free time.


The drawback of doing the 3-day twice in one week is limited recovery. One possible solution is to spread out the workouts over 8-9 days. This increases recovery time and gives you a little more frequency. Not so long ago, the frequency wasn’t as important as it is today. 


Current thinking suggests that the more you train, the more you grow. That’s only true if you’re allowing time to recover. It seems like recovery has a diminished role among today’s lifters. Yet it is critical, especially for natural lifters. The truth is, you won’t grow if you haven’t recovered. Another truth is that you can only train as often as your lifestyle allows.

What Is A Rest-Pause 3-Day Workout Split?

The routine I present in this article is a little different. It’s your typical 3-day split but it’s adding the classic rest-pause technique. There are many variations, but we will use perhaps the most common. Here’s how it works. Once you’ve warmed up, you’ll do your first working set to a point of failure. Stop the set, count to 10, then knock out as many reps as possible. It should only be 3-4 reps. Stop the set again, coin to 10, then knock as many reps as you can. It should only be 1-2 reps. You are taking each set to failure. Once you’ve done your second rest-pause set, your set is over. Rest for 15-30 seconds. You will only do two working sets per exercise. You’re only doing 1- 2 exercises per body part. 


Rest-Pause3-Day Split Training Principles

  • Limit Rest Time Between Sets – Rest between sets should typically be 15 to 30 seconds regardless of the exercise used.
  • Shorter, More Intense Workouts – Because of the restricted rest between sets, you will spend less time in the gym.
  • Less Exercises Per Bodypart – You won’t need 4 to 5 (or more) exercises per body part. Because of the higher intensity, use no more than 2-3 exercises for a given muscle group.
  • Weight Progression – When you can do 2 more reps than indicated, it’s time to add weight. However, this shouldn’t just drag on. Typically, every 2 weeks, add weight. If you’re finding you can’t keep your reps up, you need more quality calories. You will find strength will come easier if you eat enough complex carbs and protein. Never go into a workout not having eaten.
  • Train Past Failure – Train to failure, then use rest pause to go past failure. 
  • Use The Same Weight – Use the same working weight for each set of a given exercise.


What Are The Benefits Of Doing A Rest-Pause 3-Day Split Workout?

Here are the main benefits of using a 3-day workout split routine:

Workout Flexibility

The first benefit is the most obvious. You’re only working out 3 days a week. This allows tremendous flexibility for busy lifestyles. No matter how busy you are, you can find time to train. You can change your workout days as needed by your schedule. 


Yurt, you can do the 3-day workout split twice in one week. You can use it this way if you have more available workout time. However, this on;y gives you 1 full day off. That’s because you’re obligating yourself to a full 6 days week training schedule. 


As noted, if you feel you want to train this way but want just a little more recovery, you could spread the routine out. You could cover the 3-day split twice over 8 or 9 days instead of 7. Still, doing that cuts down on the flexibility of the routine. 


As we have seen, training just 3 days a week promotes complete recovery. This is a great option for older bodybuilders and lifters. It’s also good if you have a physically demanding job. Age and a busy job hamper your recovery ability. That’s the beauty of the 3-day workout split. It combines flexibility with good recovery potential. 

You Can Use More Training Volume

Depending on the routine you choose, you can do more volume per muscle group. Say you chose the push/pull/legs routine. If you’ve been using a full body, this switch opens up more exercises. For example, what if you’ve only been doing bench presses? Now you can add a couple more exercises for complete chest development. But, be aware that rest-pause is very taxing. You want to work hard enough to stimulate growth. The last thing you need is a routine that’s grown so much you feel you have to hold back on your intensity. 

Two Popular 3-Day Workout Splits

Here are the two most common 3-day workout splits. 

The Push/Pull/Legs Split

This popular 3-day workout split is also known as the push/pull/legs split. It’s a classic routine that’s common among bodybuilders and other lifters. This is because it works so well with busy lifestyles. 

Example Push/Pull/Legs Routine

Day 1: Push

Bench Press

Warm up over 3 sets:

  • Bar x 15 reps
  • 20% RM x 10 reps
  • 40% RM x 8 reps


2 working sets x 8 reps. You should fail on the 8th rep, then rest-pause


Incline Press

2 sets x 8 reps. You should fail on the 8th rep.


Overhead Press

3 sets x 8 reps, then rest-pause


Close Grip Bench Press

3 sets x 8 reps to failure



2 sets x 15 reps


Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Pull 

Deadlifts – Same as bench press


Bent Rows

2 sets x 8 reps to failure


Pull Ups

1 set x as many as possible


Alternate Exercise: 

Lat Pulldowns – Do this if pull-ups are too difficult

2 sets x 8 reps to failure


EZ Curls

2 sets x 8 reps to failure


Hammer Curls

1 set x 8 reps to failure


Wrist Curl

2 sets x 8-10 reps


Hanging Leg Raise

1 set x 10 reps



2 sets x 15 reps


Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Legs

Squats – Same as bench presses


Lying Leg Curls

2 sets x 8 reps to failure


Standing Calf Raises 

2 sets x 10-12 reps to failure, then rest-pause


Seated Calf Raises 

2 set x 10-12 reps to failure



2 sets x 15 reps

Day 6 & 7: Off

Performance Notes

You can change the order around any way you like. For example, you can do legs on day 1, push on day 3, and pull on day 5. This makes sense because the legs will be heavily involved in deadlifts. 


You can change the workout days to whatever works for your schedule. Allow at least one rest day in between your workout days. This routine assumes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as workout days. 


Concentrate on using the correct exercise form. Be sure to lift the weight under control, from start to finish. Don’t let momentum do the work for you. Emphasize the negative part of the rep. Here’s how you should perform your reps. Take 2-3 seconds to lift the weight. Take 4-6 seconds to return to the start position. 


Rest 15-30 seconds between sets. 


Follow the suggested progression protocol. Ultimately, this routine is hitting several techniques at once. First, you’re using the most effective rep performance techniques. Next, you’re training to failure, then you’re pushing past failure with rest-pause.


The Full Body Routine

Here is another popular 3-day approach. This time it is the classic full-body routine. This is a great choice for beginners. Yet it has become more popular in recent years for any level bodybuilder/lifter. You will find that several pro bodybuilders and athletes use this variation.

Example Full Body 

Here’s an example of a full-body routine. The common approach is to do a full body routine on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You could also do this routine on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Like a regular 3 day workout, you can adjust the days you do this routine. Recovery is still the key. You need to make sure you have at least one day off between workouts. If you are still sore from a workout, take another day off. 


Squats/Deadlifts – Rotate these exercises. One day do squats, the next do deadlifts. 


Warm up over 3 sets:

  • Bar x 15 reps
  • 20% RM x 10 reps
  • 40% RM x 8 reps


3 Working sets x 8 reps


Barbell Row

3 sets x 8 reps. Go to failure, then do rest-pause.


Bench Press

3 sets x 8 reps. Go to failure, then do rest-pause.


Overhead Press

2 sets x 8 reps. Go to failure, then do rest-pause.


EZ Curls

2 sets x 8 reps to failure


EZ Bar Triceps Extensions

2 sets x 8 reps to failure. If you really want to blitz your arms, do rest pause after going to failure. Do this for both EZ curls and EZ extensions.


Ab Wheel

2 sets x 8-12 rollouts

Performance Notes

This is a simple routine that’s great for beginners, or anyone limited on time. 


As noted, use the information presented above regarding form and rep tempo. Use a 30-second rest period between sets. Add weight as discussed. 

Don’t Forget About Warming Up!

Of course, you’re warming up on the first exercise of every workout. This is a compound exercise, so you will warm up all involved muscles. Still, you can do additional warm-up work if you want to. Dynamic warmups are a good way to go. A dynamic warmup is a series of movements that activate the central nervous system. This type of warm-up will also raise your body temperature. Finally, it helps increase your range of motion and helps prepare joints and muscles for your training session.


Here’s an example:

This is a general dynamic warmup routine. Anyone working out should do this warm-up routine.


Jump Rope x 20


Jumping Jacks x 20


Bodyweight Squats x 15


Bent Torso Twists x 10


Shoulder Circles x 10

What About Cardio?

Adding cardio is dependent on your goals. If fat loss is a priority, do your cardio early in the day, at a time separate from your workout. This supports recovery after your training session. It also allows you to do your cardio in a state of glycogen depletion. That means your body will be more likely to burn fat for energy. Drink a small protein shake beforehand. That will ensure muscle preservation. Otherwise, you should do your cardio on an empty stomach. 

How Long Should I Follow A 3-Day Split To See Results?

All things being equal, you can expect to see noticeable results within 8-12 weeks. Still, your results will depend on several factors. First, how hard are you training? You have to work hard if your goal is to lose fat or build muscle. 


Next, are you progressively adding weight? If you want to build muscle, add weight to the bar consistently as discussed.


Finally, how’s your eating plan? You need to make sure you’re eating a high protein diet, clean foods, and low sugar. You should also limit sodium. Carb intake will depend on your goals, yet it’s important to eat plenty of carbs in the hours around your workout. Remember, you want your body to use stored glycogen for energy when you lift weights. 


What Supplements Should I Take?

As I have said in most of my articles, there are cornerstone supplements you should be using. This is true regardless of the type of workouts you’re doing.


Right off the bat, use a good pre-workout.


Don’t forget your protein powder.


It also makes sense to add a good multivitamin. 


If you’re serious about gaining size and strength, add creatine. You can add other products too, such as BCAAs/EAAs and natural muscle builders. Are you hardcore? Then go with prohormones. 


If you’re trying to lose body fat, add a thermogenic fat burner. You can choose capsules or powder. Remember that fat loss is more than supplements. Eat clean, eat low-carb, and do plenty of cardio.


Based on the above, your size and strength cornerstone program looks like this:

  • Protein Powder
  • Multivitamin
  • Pre-workout
  • Creatine
  • BCAAs/EAAs
  • Natural Muscle Builder – Prohormones

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If fat loss is your goal, your program looks like this:


  • Add a thermogenic fat burner to the above cornerstone program. If you are not trying to gain muscle, drop creatine and any natural muscle builders or prohormones. 

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If you’re an endurance athlete, your program looks like this:

  • Add a carbohydrate powder to the above cornerstone program for endurance. 

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Workout Tips & Common Mistakes

Here are some tips to keep in mind:


  • Total Number Of Exercises – Do not overdo the number of exercises per body part. A good rule of thumb is 3-4 exercises for larger muscles like the chest or back. For smaller muscles like deltoids or triceps, 2-3 exercises are good. If you’re taking your sets to failure and adding rest-pause, and still want to add sets, you are not working hard enough. This program calls for intensity. When you complete a workout as written, the last thing you should want to do is add more exercises. If that’s the case, next time, add 30% more weight to the bar and take it to failure. If you’re not sure you’ve hit failure, keep going for the rep. Then rack the bar, count to 10, and hit it again. Rack it, count, and hit it one final time. 


  • Working Sets – After warmups, 2 working sets per exercise is a good idea.  


  • Workout Length – Your routine should take no more than an hour to complete.

Common Mistakes When Following A Rest-Pause Routine

Here are some common mistakes you should try to avoid:


  • Using Poor Exercise Form – Always make sure your form is correct. The last thing you want is to do an exercise the wrong way. Why? Injuries! Not to mention, incorrect form means you’re not working the target muscles enough. This is especially true if you let momentum do most of the work. Also, do not lift the weight and then let it drop. You should be working the negative part of the rep the hardest.


  • Not Enough Warm-Ups – Take the time to properly warm up. This helps prevent injuries. It also gets your muscles primed and ready for your working sets. 


  • Doing Too Many Exercises – Here’s a secret. It’s not how many exercises you do, or how long you workout out. It’s how hard you work. Keep your exercises limited to 1-2 per muscle group. You’re using compound exercises in this routine. That means one exercise will hit all the appropriate muscle groups.


  • Doing Too Many Sets – Since you’re training to failure and beyond with rest-pause, doing 2 working sets per exercise is plenty. Don’t think in terms of a lot of sets. Is your goal muscle mass? Working over a high number of sets means you aren’t working hard. Too many sets lead to overtraining. You won’t achieve your goals if you’re overtrained. 


  • Not Allowing Enough Recovery Time – As I have said, the beauty of a 3-day workout split is that it allows complete recovery. 

Rest-Pause 3-Day Split Conclusion

Are you currently using a routine that calls for 4-5 workouts a week? You’ve seen how easy it is to use a 3-day workout split. It’s easy to switch over to the variation that works best for your goals. No matter what your schedule looks like, you’ll make great progress with this routine. Why wait? Change your routine today!  


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