The Top 3 Muscle Building Routines To Follow For Maximum Muscle Gains!

Are you having difficulty finding a training routine that works for you? Read this guide to full body workouts and splits to see if a 3, 4 or even a 5-day split might be the muscle building routine that you need!

There is often a lot of confusion about just what routine to follow when trying to build muscle. There are several options that people can choose from and just about all of them will work.

The real question is which one will work best for you and your starting point. Let's cover the most common routines out there today and describe the category requirements so that you can make an informed decision on which program will suit you best.

3 Day Full Body Routine

This routine is a 3-day-a-week workout routine. Each workout day is followed by 1 rest day and the third workout is followed by 1 or 2 rest days (as most people will take the weekend off entirely).

This routine is typically used by beginners and involves full body workouts.



It is great for beginners because of many reasons:

  • It allows you to get familiar with the exercises by repeating them many times throughout the week.

  • Since most beginners do not possess the same strength levels as more advanced lifters, it is good to trigger the muscle more often because the amount of weight lifted is significantly lighter and you will not need as much time to recover and repair before their next workout.

  • As a beginner, your body will actually experience greater gains training less rather than training more. Take advantage of this time in your training as you will experience the 'beginner gains' that you may never experience again. You need to allow your body to adapt to exercises and recover in order to grow. 3 days is a good start for beginners and it will allow you to eventually progress to more volume and more frequency if desired.

Sample 3-Day Full Body Routine

Day 1
1

Barbell Squat

4 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Squat Barbell Squat

2

Barbell Bench Press

4 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Bench Press Barbell Bench Press

3

Pull-Up

4 sets of 8 reps
Pull-Up Pull-Up

4

Barbell Military Press

4 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Military Press Barbell Military Press

5

Barbell Curl

4 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

6

Ab Roller

4 sets of 8 reps
Ab Roller Ab Roller
Day 2: Off
Day 3
1

Barbell Deadlift

5 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift

2

Barbell Bent-Over Row

5 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Bent-Over Row Barbell Bent-Over Row

3
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press Dumbbell Incline Bench Press

4

Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

5 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

5

Dumbbell Triceps Extension

5 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Triceps Extension Dumbbell Triceps Extension

6

Dumbbell Hammer Curl

5 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Hammer Curl Dumbbell Hammer Curl
Day 4: Off
Day 5
1

Dumbbell Lunge

3 sets of 12 reps
Dumbbell Lunge Dumbbell Lunge

2

Dips

3 sets of 12 reps
Dips Dips

3

Chin-Up

3 sets of 12 reps
Chin-Up Chin-Up

4

Kettlebell Push Press

3 sets of 12 reps
Push Press Push Press

5

Seated Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 reps
Seated Calf Raise Seated Calf Raise

6

Plate Twist

3 sets of 12 reps
Plate Twist Plate Twist
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off

4 Day Split

This is the next step from the 3-day full-body workouts.

This routine is typically performed by intermediate trainers.

There are many variations that are floating around but the most common template to follow is performing upper body then lower body on the following day, then a rest day, then repeat (upper body/lower body).

As in the 3-day workout program, you have the choice to take two days off for the weekend or to continue after only 1 day of rest. The disadvantage of only taking one day off instead of the two day weekend is that it throws you off schedule for your next week (if that is important to you).



The reason why this routine is categorized as intermediate is because now that you have been training longer and you have become stronger in your lifts, you will need more rest to allow proper recuperation between body parts you've trained in your workouts. You will back off the frequency you train each muscle but you will increase your training by one day.

Once you have completed about 3-6 months of a 3-day routine, you can move up to this split to start seeing more muscle gains.

Sample 4-Day Split Routine

Day 1: Upper Body
1

Barbell Bench Press

4 sets of 6-8 reps
Barbell Bench Press Barbell Bench Press

2

Barbell Bent-Over Row

4 sets of 6-8 reps
Barbell Bent-Over Row Barbell Bent-Over Row

3

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Dumbbell Shoulder Press Dumbbell Shoulder Press

5

Dumbbell Curl

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Dumbbell Curl Dumbbell Curl

6

Rope Triceps Push-Down

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Rope Triceps Push-Down Rope Triceps Push-Down
Day 2: Lower Body
1

Barbell Front Squat

4 sets of 6-8 reps
Barbell Front Squat Barbell Front Squat

2

Barbell Deadlift

4 sets of 6-8 reps
Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift

3

Dumbbell Lunge

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Dumbbell Lunge Dumbbell Lunge

4

Seated Leg Curl

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl

5

Standing Calf Raises

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Standing Calf Raises Standing Calf Raises
Day 3: Cardio/Off
Day 4: Upper Body
1

Barbell Incline Bench Press

4 sets of 6-8 reps
Barbell Incline Bench Press Barbell Incline Bench Press

2

Lat Pull-Down

4 sets of 6-8 reps
Lat Pull-Down Lat Pull-Down

3

Barbell Military Press

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Barbell Military Press Barbell Military Press

4

Front Dumbbell Raise

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Front Dumbbell Raise Front Dumbbell Raise

5

Bench Dips

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Bench Dips Bench Dips
Day 5: Lower Body
1

Barbell Squat

4 sets of 6-8 reps
Barbell Squat Barbell Squat

2

Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift

4 sets of 6-8 reps
Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift

3

Single-Leg Leg Press

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Single-Leg Leg Press Single-Leg Leg Press

4

Seated Leg Curl

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl

5

Seated Calf Raise

3 sets of 10-12 reps
Seated Calf Raise Seated Calf Raise
Day 6: Cardio/Off
Day 7: Cardio/Off

5-Day Split

The 5-day split is the most advanced routine that I would recommend for anyone.

Sure, there are routines that could make you train 7 days a week or even twice per day for a total of 14 workouts per week. But eventually the line has to be drawn and I draw it at 5 days per week for 99% of natural trainers.

After training for many years and developing your maximal strength and growth, you may need to start training using a 5-day split routine focusing on only 1-2 muscle groups per workout.



When you train for more than 2 years or so, the strength gains experienced in the beginning (due to an adaptation in your central nervous system) due not occur at the same rate. You will reach a point where it will be very tough to add more weight to your lifts or even grow additional muscle.

It's not to say that you can't, it just becomes a lot harder.

At this point, it is better to increase the volume trained on the muscle on the day you work it and allow a longer cycle for it to repair fully and to stimulate growth.

Sample 5-Day Split Routine

Day 1: Chest
1

Barbell Bench Press

3 sets of 12 reps
Barbell Bench Press Barbell Bench Press

2

Incline Dumbbell Press

3 sets of 12 reps
Incline Dumbbell Press Incline Dumbbell Press

3

Decline Dumbbell Press

3 sets of 12 reps
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

4

Dumbbell Flyes

3 sets of 12 reps
Dumbbell Flyes Dumbbell Flyes

5

Cable Crossover

3 sets of 12 reps
Cable Crossover Cable Crossover

6

Barbell Pullover

3 sets of 12 reps
Barbell Pullover Barbell Pullover

7

Weighted Crunch

3 sets of 12 reps
Weighted Crunch Weighted Crunch

8

Flat-Bench Lying Leg Raise

3 sets of 12 reps
Flat-Bench Lying Leg Raise Flat-Bench Lying Leg Raise

9

Russian Twist

3 sets of 12 reps
Russian Twist Russian Twist
Day 2: Back
1

Barbell Deadlift

3 sets of 12 reps
Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift

2

Weighted Pull-Up

3 sets of 12 reps
Weighted Pull-Up Weighted Pull-Up

3
Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Barbell Row Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Barbell Row

4

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

3 sets of 12 reps
One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row

5

Lat Pull-Down

3 sets of 12 reps
Lat Pull-Down Lat Pull-Down

6

Dumbbell Shrug

3 sets of 12 reps
Dumbbell Shrug Dumbbell Shrug
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Shoulders
1

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

3 sets of 12 reps
Dumbbell Shoulder Press Dumbbell Shoulder Press

2

Arnold Dumbbell Press

3 sets of 12 reps
Arnold Dumbbell Press Arnold Dumbbell Press

3

Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

3 sets of 12 reps
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

4

Front Dumbbell Raise

3 sets of 12 reps
Front Dumbbell Raise Front Dumbbell Raise

5

Upright Barbell Row

3 sets of 12 reps
Upright Barbell Row Upright Barbell Row

6

Weighted Crunch

3 sets of 12 reps
Weighted Crunch Weighted Crunch

7

Flat-Bench Lying Leg Raise

3 sets of 12 reps
Flat-Bench Lying Leg Raise Flat-Bench Lying Leg Raise

8

Russian Twist

3 sets of 12 reps
Russian Twist Russian Twist
Day 5: Legs
1

Barbell Squat

3 sets of 12 reps
Barbell Squat Barbell Squat

2

Leg Press

3 sets of 12 reps
Leg Press Leg Press

3

Barbell Lunge

3 sets of 12 reps
Barbell Lunge Barbell Lunge

4

Leg Extension

3 sets of 12 reps
Leg Extension Leg Extension

5

Seated Leg Curl

3 sets of 12 reps
Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl

6

Donkey Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 reps
Donkey Calf Raise Donkey Calf Raise
Day 6: Arms
1
Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

2
Triceps Pushdown - V-Bar Attachment Triceps Pushdown - V-Bar Attachment

3

Lying Triceps Press

3 sets of 12 reps
Lying Triceps Press Lying Triceps Press

4
V-Bar Pulldown V-Bar Pulldown

5

Barbell Curl

3 sets of 12 reps
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

6
Dumbbell Alternating Biceps Curl Dumbbell Alternating Biceps Curl

7

Preacher Curl

3 sets of 12 reps
Preacher Curl Preacher Curl

8

Reverse Barbell Curl

3 sets of 12 reps
Reverse Barbell Curl Reverse Barbell Curl

9

Weighted Crunch

3 sets of 12 reps
Weighted Crunch Weighted Crunch

10

Flat-Bench Lying Leg Raise

3 sets of 12 reps
Flat-Bench Lying Leg Raise Flat-Bench Lying Leg Raise

11

Russian Twist

3 sets of 12 reps
Russian Twist Russian Twist
Day 7: Off

Starting Point Guidelines

If you do not know where your starting point is, please refer to the guidelines below:

  • Beginner: 6 months or less of weight training.
  • Intermediate: 6-18 months of weight training.
  • Advanced: 24 months or more of weight training consistently.

If you have trained on and off over many years but never consistently followed any program, then I would consider yourself to be intermediate, but you may even want to start as a beginner to condition your body for the higher volume training to come later on. It's your choice.

Decide what your training level is and then choose a routine that best suits your individual requirements. Be patient and focus on one thing at a time and you should start to progress through each routine and see some very impressive gains.

A Final Note on Nutrition

Now that you have your workout plan dialed, it’s time to think about your nutrition plan. While a full muscle-building nutrition diet is beyond the scope of this article, one easy goal to target is eating at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily. For example: If you weigh 180 pounds, try to eat 180 grams of protein every day spread into several meals of at least 30 grams.

Protein is responsible for tissue growth and repair, so it’s the mightiest macronutrient when it comes to muscle. Without enough protein in your diet, you simply won’t recover or grow very well! Consider adding a protein supplement to your nutrition plan so you can have a shake after your workouts and any other time of day you may need some convenient protein assistance, whether added to a meal or as a standalone snack.