3 Day Upper Lower Workout Routine

So you’re about to change routines and you are coming off of a 5×5 or 3×5 type of strength workout… what next?

I wrote this 3 day upper lower workout routine in response to a reader request and I think this is a good fit for someone who is coming off of a lower rep scheme/strength only type of workout.

This routine focuses on a mid 8-10 rep range and is designed to help bring up lagging areas that can’t hold up to the pressure of the heavy sets. This is why a lot of people plateau and they don’t stop and address their weaknesses.

This routine is meant to be run for at least 12 weeks.

Goal Of This Routine

The goal of this 3 day upper lower workout routine is to build up weaknesses by using a moderate rep range of 8-10 on exercises. The exercises chosen will help increase strength, build up weaker muscles, and help you dial in on your form.

This routine is also great for anyone trying to build some quality muscle. I’ve had a lot of success building muscle and strength in the 8-10 rep range because it forces you to use heavier weights than you are used to when doing a pump type of workout.. but also get the pumps of the higher rep range.

That’s right… it’s all a mental challenge here.

Diet and Nutrition Tips

I would recommend going on a slow bulk for this routine to get the most out of it. It is easier to cut some fat afterwards than trying to make strength gains on a calorie deficit.

If you keep your weight consistent and need some tips to add calories into your diet, here are some of the best and healthiest ways to do so:

  • Butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Whole milk
  • Heavy cream
  • Cheese on everything
  • Protein shakes
  • Peanut butter
  • Olive oil
  • Extra dressing

These all add flavor and healthy fats to your diet. Personally, I prefer adding calories through this means instead of going to McDonalds and smashing a few McDoubles.

You will feel better, have more energy, and your stomach will thank you.

Note: A little bit goes a long way, so be sure to know how many calories you are adding.

Recommended Supplementation

I always recommend food over supplementation because you will feel better overall eating a wide variety of whole foods than you will simply living off of supplements.

With that being said, this routine is designed to help your body recover from heavy sessions and any strains or pains you may have picked up along the way.

Recovery supplements I recommend:

MTS Nutrition Machine Fuel – The innovative MTS Nutrition is forging the way with great tasting (from personal experience) amazing products that are seriously making huge waves in the supplement industry. Machine Fuel is a great tasting intra-workout BCAA that you should check out. BCAAs are muscle sparing and are great when you are an endurance athlete.

Fish Oil – This is a tried and true supplement that will help with joint health, anti-inflammatory, and just an overall great supplement. This small investment can make a huge difference in how you feel on a daily basis. I highly recommend checking out the other benefits to fish oil.

Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine – One of THE most tested supplements, creatine helps with recovery and athletic performance. Many pre-workouts have creatine in them, but I recommend having another 5g daily. It is one of the cheapest supplements and the most effective.

Bio-Gro – While I haven’t used Bio Gro, I have many friends and acquaintances who do use it and tell me how much they like it. I will work on getting some and giving you an honest opinion at some point. Do some homework and try it out if it sounds good.

ZMA – I currently have ZMA on the way and I am excited. ZMA helps with getting a deeper sleep (think recovery) and is one of the ingredients in my beloved Bullet Proof from Muscle Pharm that was discontinued.

MTS Machine Whey Protein: 5lbs – Last but not least, protein. This stuff is golden.

Cardio and Conditioning

This routine will be paired with some HIIT/power type cardio which will be a great addition to your power work you’ll be doing.

Conditioning is important to overall health and will affect your strength and power production… don’t skip out.

Sample Cardio Schedule:

On Workout Days:

  • Pre-workout: 10 minute low intensity warmup
  • Post-workout: 15-20 minute HIIT training using any equipment

On Off-Days:

I recommend 2 days outside of the gym to do HIIT training. You do not have to go to the gym for this, in fact I recommend not going.

I recommend 15-20 minutes of HIIT training on off days.

You can use any type of exercise but here are a few that you may want to try out:

  • Sprints
  • Hill Sprints
  • Vertical Jumps
  • Box Jumps
  • Run/Walk
  • Jump Squats (basically vertical jump but hitting a squat depth before you jump)

Sample Workout Schedule

Pick any three days per week to train, but I recommend having 1 day in between training days and then 2 days in between each week like this:

  • Monday – Upper Routine
  • Tuesday – Off
  • Wednesday – Lower Routine
  • Thursday – Off
  • Friday – Accessory Routine
  • Saturday – Off
  • Sunday – Off

Starting Weight

This section is only applicable to the big compound lifts; the accessory movements will be your usual weights.

Depending what your rep scheme is, this will be a little different but I will break it down for you.. this isn’t meant to be scientific.

If you’ve been training in the 5-3 rep range:

  • Start with ~75% of your working sets… round-up to the nearest usable weight (IE 196 = 200lbs)

If you’ve been training in the 8+ rep range:

  • Go ahead and drop ~85% weight. This sounds like a huge reduction but you ramp up quickly.


  • The weight you use should be challenging but you should not go until failure.
  • Use this time to dial in form and treat every rep as if it is a PR. THIS is how you create good habits.

Workout Progression

The progression scheme with this routine is simple: add weight or reps each week.

There will be a point in the 12 weeks where you struggle to add weight. When you do, cut back the weights 50% the next week and deload. You’ll come back much stronger than you were and you will be able to progress further.


3 Day Upper Lower Workout Routine

Upper Routine
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 4 8
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 3 10
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press 3 8
Dumbbell Shrugs 4 10
Lat Pull Downs 4 10
1 Arm Dumbbell Row 4 10
Seated Close Grip Row 3 AMAP


Lower Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 8
Leg Press 4 10
Goblet Squats 3 8
Stiff Leg Deadlifts 4 10
Leg Curls 3 AMAP
Leg Extensions 3 AMAP
Seated Calf Raises 3 AMAP


Accessory Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Close Grip Bench Press 4 10
Cross Body Hammer Curls 4 10
Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension 3 8
Barbell Curls / EZ Bar Curls 3 8
Straight Arm Lat Pull Downs 4 10
Weighted Crunches 4 AMAP
Planks 4 ALAP

Workout Tips

Okay so I lied, there are some exercises you go to failure with.. this will induce the growth. Unless it says ALAP/AMAP, do not try to go to failure.

  • ALAP – As Long As Possible
  • AMAP – As Many As Possible
  • Be sure to use this time to focus on form and concentrate on staying in the groove

Leave any comments or questions below!

22 thoughts on “3 Day Upper Lower Workout Routine”

  1. Hey guys, I’ve used a variety of your programs including the deload. Most recently I was following your power and muscle program. I’ve taken the last 2 weeks off due to some deaths in the family, but I’m now well rested and ready to get back into it. I was considering this program or the 4 day early intermediate , as I like to keep it under an hour as time is precious and i like to do some cardio, sprints and core. I am training for strength, strength endurance, and speed. As I’m almost 40 i find I’m losing some steps to the younger crowd and my profession can be quite dangerous as the previous 2 weeks have reminded me, and can have a tendency to involve a lot of running and even some physical fight immediately following a 2-5 block run, maybe 3-4 flights after that. I wanna get stronger faster and meaner! Any ideas to shake it up would be great.

    • Chris,

      I’m not sure where my comment went, I replied to you shortly after you posted but I just came to look at comments and saw it was gone. I really am sorry about that.

      I would recommend doing the 3 day routine and then for a 4th day do some conditioning work. So 3 days training and then choose another separate day to do some conditioning and then rehab (stretching, mobility work). I think this would benefit you the most with the type of work you are involved in. The higher reps with the 3 day routine will help build muscle strength and endurance and increase your anaerobic capacity.

      If your occupation is what I think it is, I would be interested in personally helping you out with training if you were interested. Email me cutty@cuttystrength.com if you’d like to do so.


  2. Thia workout is good for really skinny guys trying to get big Right?If not recommend me the best type of workout for a skinny guy like me and last question accessory day help to build muscle or not.

  3. Thanks man hope to thank you again by adding 10 pound in 3 months being on a calorie surplus and using this program just last question can i add dumbbell flies in this workout?

    • Flies are great, you can add them. I would advise a lower weight, higher volume set/rep for them. Other than that I think you’re fine. Get those nutritious foods in and you’ll love the gains you make.

  4. Hey, great program here! I’ve been on it for about 7 weeks now with good results. I’m reaching the point though where I can’t increase the weight by 5 lbs (set of 2.5 lb plates) each week for the big lifts (bench and squat). Would it be better to continue increasing the weight weekly by 2.5 lbs (set of 1.25 lb plates) or deload at this point?

    • Either completely take off for a week or do no more than 50% weight of your big lifts. Ideally taking off from the gym, doing a little walking or non-taxing cardio, and maybe some sports to keep the body moving would be great.

      You should be able to get more out of the program – I generally recommend taking a deload every 4-5 weeks whether you feel like you need to or not. It helps in overall progress.

    • Bulking is in the kitchen, doing this routine with a healthy diet and some conditioning work will yield great results.

  5. I just finished up 6 months of the “5 Day Gym Workout Routine for Men” where I made some pretty awesome gains(thanks for that), but I think my body is starting to get a little beat up with the heavier weights so I decided to switch to the 3 Day Upper Lower Workout this week. I was curious what you would recommend for the minimum and maximum number of reps to shoot for on the AMAP workouts? I’m not exactly sure when I should increase (or decrease) the weight. Also, I have been battling some tennis and golfer’s elbow in both my elbows lately. It isn’t serious pain, but it is annoying. Should the lighter weight and longer rest in between workouts help out with that? Thanks for all you do. Love this site!

    • Congrats on the progress Chris. I would recommend dropping the weights that you usually use down to about 80% and then start this program. For the AMAP, you can treat them as drop sets. So working weight for first set amap and then drop and do amap. I would try to find a weight you can do 12 and then push yourself to as many past that as possible.

      Find what works best for you and run with it. For the elbows I would recommend doing some more warmup/cooldown work and hitting up your doctor to see where the root cause is. I don’t have suggestions on what to change. What exercises does this stem from? If it’s bicep and tricep work, I would recommend trying to loosen up your chest and work on posture. If your shoulders are rounded over then it could be a likely cause that you’re just using a faulty recruitment pattern and wearing things out that shouldn’t be.

      Good luck and keep in touch!

  6. Hey, just started this program! It looks nice. I did 5×5 Stronglifts as a beginner but I’m not quite happy with the results. I got bigger legs but my upper body hasn’t changed much except my back which looks better. I also got bored always doing 5 sets of compounds… Can I do sumo deadlifts instead of Stiff Leg Deadlifts with your program? Or will that be too much with Squats in the same session? I’m tall and have tight hamstrings and SFDL doesn’t seem very safe…

    And what about the recovery time? 1 to 2 mins for most exercices and 3 minutes for the big lifts (squat, bench, deadlift) ? Thanks

    • You could do Sumos, Good Mornings, Romanian deadlifts. Any compound lift that targets posterior chain will be fine 🙂

      Rest time is about that, if your conditioning is better, you may be able to go faster… but I generally have a 3-5 min wait time when I do super heavy sets.

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