3 Day Split Barbell Workout Plan for Beginners (with Printable PDF)

3 Day Split Barbell Workout Plan for Beginners-min

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the different ways to keep fit and get strong, or you’re not seeing the results you’d hope for by doing bodyweight movements, this barbell workout plan is for you…

Because when it comes to strength training (and all the benefits this brings), it’s hard to look past the most iconic piece of gym equipment… the barbell.

Barbell workouts open up a world of incredibly effective compound lifts that are second to none when it comes to building muscle and improving strength.

Who is this workout plan best suited for?

We’ve carefully pieced together all the best barbell exercises for each muscle group and combined them into this program to deliver transformational results, whatever your current fitness level. It’s beginner friendly, but can also be scaled up for advanced athletes too, simply by increasing the weight used during each exercise.

Only requiring 3 days of active training a week, this program is all about training “smart” and discovering the benefits of using barbell compound lifts to get in the best shape of your life.

So, dust off your gym kit and get ready to board the gain train. 💪

Equipment Needed

Barbell and Plates

Unsurprisingly, you will need a barbell and some weighted plates for this workout.

You’ll likely be able to lift different amounts of weights for different exercises, which means having a selection of weighted plates will allow you to adjust the barbell’s weight effectively.

This will also mean you can include progressive overload training into the workout plan, by increasing the weight each week to keep your muscles challenged. As we’ll discuss later, this ability to keep pushing your muscles each week is a vital aspect of getting the most from this type of training.


You’ll also need a bench for exercises like the bench press. Ideally, a bench that can go on an incline will also mean you can do certain incline exercises. If you don’t have access to a bench, you can do a floor press instead of a bench press as a relevant substitute.

Squat Rack

To perform squats safely, we’d recommend using a squat rack too. This makes it easy to get into the starting position and finish the movement without dropped the weights.

Full Body Barbell Workout Plan

Primary GoalStrength, Hypertrophy, Build Muscle
Muscles TargetedFull Body
Training LevelBeginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Program DurationOptional
Average Workout Duration40 Minutes
Training Days Per Week3 Days
Required EquipmentBarbell, Bench
Printable VersionView Here

Adapting the plan for your goals

The structure of this barbell workout plan can be used for all sorts of goals… such as strength, hypertrophy (building muscle), or even conditioning/weight loss. The difference between all these outcomes will be somewhat dependent on the weight used, number of reps/sets and tempo.

Workout Schedule

This workout plan follows a “3 day split” structure. This simply means you’re training 3 times a week and each day primarily targets certain muscle groups (as opposed to each day being a full body routine, for example).

Most strength-based workout plans will follow a 3, 4 or 5 day split. 3 days gives your body plenty of time to recover during the week, and also gives you the opportunity to perhaps include some other forms of activity during the week too (whether that’s yoga, sport, or a hike).

The 3 days are split into a “push”, “pull” and “legs/core” structure (also referred to as PPL). This means one day we’ll focus on “pushing” movements, one day “pulling” movements and the final day, exercises focused on the legs (and core).

This is a common and popular structure for a 3 day split, as it gives each muscle group time to rest and recover, especially when you’re doing big compound lifts, such as deadlifts, squats and bench press.

Progressive Overload Training

The effectiveness of this sort of strength workout plan ultimately comes down to progressive overload training – i.e., you want to progressively make your workouts more challenging each week (either by increase the weight, or the number of reps). This also means it’s a workout plan that can scale from beginners to advanced athletes, as you just need to keep increasing the weight/volume to keep making it harder.

Coach’s Tip – If you want to focus on absolute strength, opt for heavier weights with low repetitions, e.g. train for your 1 rep max. If you want to focus on muscular development and hypertrophy, opt for weight that allows you to do between 8-10 reps. The recommended reps in this workout plan are aimed more towards hypertrophy, but just lower this if you’re focusing more on powerlifting and absolute strength.

Day 1 – Push (Chest, Shoulders and Triceps)

Day 2 – Pull (Back and Biceps)

Day 3 – Legs & Core

Barbell Workout FAQs

When Will I Notice Changes?

This really depends on your level of experience, genes, workout intensity, diet and lots of other factors… but generally, between 6-12 weeks you should start to see changes in your body, such as lower body fat percentage and increase in muscle mass.

How Long Should I Do This Barbell Workout For?

It’s really up to you. This is an effective way to build muscle and strength, so if you want to see transformational results, you may want to stick with it for 12 weeks. If you find it’s simply not your preferred style of workout, you may be better off following a different type of fitness plan.

If you stick with it for the long-term, after 12 weeks, you may want to take a break (maybe for a couple of weeks) and challenge your muscles in a different way, before starting another 12 week cycle.

Hypertrophy Vs Strength Vs Conditioning

Lifting weights often gets categorized as one “style” of fitness… but the subtle differences in the weight used, number of reps and sets, can have a big impact on the overall effectiveness of your workouts and ultimately what they are best suited for.

Lighter weights with more reps is better for conditioning and heavy weights with fewer reps is better for strength (and hypertrophy being somewhere in the middle).

Technique Is Critical

Weightlifting brings so many benefits, but technique is critical. Having a rounded back, for example, is going to put unwanted pressure on your spine during lifts.

If you’re struggling to maintain good technique, it’s likely you’ve selected weights that are too heavy, so try opting for lighter weights and really focusing on your form.

How Much Weight Should I Increase By?

Increasing the weight you are using during each exercise is a great way to see results fast. Even just a small increase each week is enough to keep challenging your muscles. The amount you can increase the weight by will also depend on the exercise itself. You may find you are able to increase your deadlift much faster than say, your overhead shoulder press, for example.

How Much Does a Barbell Weigh?

A standard barbell usually weights 20kg (44lbs). This is useful to know when calculating the total weight you’re lifting.

If you’re a beginner, we’d recommend just using a barbell with no weights for all the exercises during your first workout to gauge your current fitness level.

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