A fit body with lean muscles – at a certain point in life, almost everyone has hoped to accomplish such a thing. Still, with modern life taking a huge chunk out of our free time, many people can’t find the time to devote a big part of their life to achieving that goal.

Luckily, with so much information at our disposal, instead of training harder, we can train smarter! Many people, including fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders, will tell you that you need to make the gym your second home, but that is not entirely true.

You can still get fit and build muscle by working out just 3 times per week – if you train smart, that is. Read on to find out how.

Split Your Workouts

Working out at home or going to the gym 3 times per week means you can focus on all of your body parts equally, while still providing your muscles with enough rest to grow. If possible, try to do the workouts every other day so you can get a nice rest in between and have enough energy to lift more weights, which will ultimately lead to stronger and bigger muscles.

Now, let’s go through an example of how to split your workouts:

  • Monday – Chest and back exercises
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Arms and abdomen exercises
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Legs and shoulders exercises
  • Saturday – Rest
  • Sunday – Rest

You can shuffle these splits however you like, but once you’re set, keep it consistent. Consistency is the key to building muscle – stick with the split you choose for at least 6 months, and then assess the results. By keeping the exercises consistent, you will successfully make the mind-to-muscle connection and do all of the exercises in the right form.

During the rest days, try to squeeze in at least one steady cardio session (running or cycling) and one high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This way, you’ll be able to burn off any extra calories and make your muscles leaner.

Use Compound Exercises in Your Program

Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups instead of just one, allowing you to improve your fitness and build your muscles at the same time.

Common compound exercises include:

  • Squats
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Deadlift

Compound exercises have numerous benefits, such as:

  1. More muscle gainStudies have shown that by training multiple muscle groups, you will cause a bigger overload on your muscles which will lead to bigger muscle gains. 
  2. Burn more fat – Besides the muscle gain, doing compound exercises burns much more calories than isolated exercises, meaning you will achieve your results faster.
  3. Increase in testosterone – In addition to improving your overall fitness and muscle strength, compound exercises cause one more crucial thing for muscle gain – releasing testosterone and growth hormones. Both of these hormones play a key part in the optimal functioning of our body and the growth of the muscle tissues.
  4. Less time spent training – if your whole point is to spend as little time as possible working out, compound exercises will do the trick. An hour doing compound exercises is much more efficient for building muscle than doing just isolated exercises.  

You can also mix compound and isolated exercises if you have a target muscle you wish to strengthen the most.

Make the Most Out Of Every Training

The main point of discussion at every gym is the optimal number of reps and sets for muscle gain. The main thing to keep in mind here is to prioritize quality over quantity. What does that mean? It means that you should always do the exercises with proper form and enough repetitions instead of just going for bigger weights.

As a rule of thumb, aim for 120 effective reps weekly per muscle group.  It’s best to divide these reps into sets of 6-12 reps, the optimal number of reps for hypertrophy (muscle gain). 

Anything less and you will not achieve optimal results. Anything more, you may risk burnout and prolong the recovery time.

Note that this number is for effective reps, meaning you need to use at least 80% of your intensity. To calculate the intensity, you need to know your one-rep maximum (1RM). 1RM is the maximum amount of weight that you can lift in one repetition. 

For example, if you can lift 300 pounds max, and you work out with 240 pounds, your training intensity is 80%.

Now that you know how to split your workout and reps, it’s time to learn more about Tempo and Time Under Tension (TUT).

Tempo is the speed of which you complete a repetition. The longer it takes you to complete a repetition, the more time your muscles spend under tension.

So, if your goal is to build muscle, make sure you don’t fly through the exercises. Instead, take your time and focus on your form.


If you learn how to train smart and observe how your body reacts to different types of training, 3 workouts per week are just enough to build muscle. The most important thing is to listen to your body and stick to the things we’ve outlined above. Once you do that, make sure to keep your workouts consistent and you’ll start seeing results pretty soon.