When I first started working out, I was always looking for a 3 days a week workout for lean muscle. After years of searching, I finally was able to put one together for myself.
Luckily for you, this 3 day workout plan is easy to follow and will help you build the muscle you are looking for.
I want to let you all in on a little secret. The concept of lean muscle is something that is often discussed in the fitness industry. Unfortunately, what we perceive as lean muscle is just someone with a low body fat percentage.
With that being said, we need to strive to build a solid muscle foundation first before we can get shredded and show off what we have built. It is going to take time, but if you learn how to make exercise a habit, you will come out on top.
How do we build a solid muscular foundation? We lift weights consistently, and we eat enough calories to build muscle. It is that simple. Learn more about how to calculate your maintenance calories.
Once you know your maintenance calories, you can now know exactly how much you need to eat in order to put on muscle. It’s normally about 500 calories more per day over your maintenance threshold.
The Plan – 3 days a week workout for lean muscle
We are going to go through every exercise you need to do in order to complete this workout plan. As I mentioned previously, all you need to do to build muscle is eat enough food and workout.
It definitely helps if you have a plan. Lucky for us, the workout plan is already decided. In this plan, you will find classic exercises like barbell bench presses, and newer extremely effective exercises like leg extensions.
If you feel like following this workout plan more closely, go ahead and download our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). This workout plan is FREE! You can track your every move with ease and help you build that lean muscle you are looking for.
Before we get into the actual workout plan, I wanted to let you in on a few tips. Be sure to give your full intensity when you are working out. Always engage the muscles that you are working out. For example, if you are doing a barbell bench press, be sure to squeeze your chest muscles together at the top.
The last tip I will leave you with is to be consistent. Don’t let time slip away. If you do this 3 day a week workout for lean muscle consistently, you will not be disappointed with the results.
Day 1 – Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
The vanity muscles! This is one of those days that you will leave the gym feeling like a beast. Don’t let the fact that this day is only 7 exercises fool you. The muscles that are worked out during this exercise are going to be sore.
Barbell Bench Press (5 Reps, 3 Sets)
One of the best chest exercises of all time. If you haven’t done these before, be sure to practice your form with an empty bar. You don’t want to end up in these bench press fail videos. When you start adding more weight, I recommend getting a friend or gym goer to help you as a spotter.
Incline Dumbbell Press (10 Reps, 3 Sets)
While the barbell bench press gets the majority of your chest, the incline dumbbell press focuses on your upper chest. I actually find this exercise more intense than a standard bench press. That is because it is a smaller muscle group. Therefore your muscles are going to work harder.
Take a mental note that you won’t be lifting the same weight here as the barbell bench press. Always go lighter on the incline dumbbell press.
Cable Crossover (16 Reps, 2 Sets)
Cable crossovers are like bicep curls for your chest. If you do these right, you will feel an intense muscle flex right when you bring your hands together at the top of the exercise.
Keep your chest muscles tight, and try to focus on using only your chest muscles. Our natural instinct is to use all of our body and our arms. If you find yourself doing this, you might want to drop down in weight.
Barbell Overhead Press (8 Reps, 3 Sets)
This is another one of those exercises that I recommend starting off with just the bar. Then you can work your way up to adding weights.
Standing Dumbbell Fly (16 Reps, 3 Sets)
Look at the number of reps per set before you decide which weight you are going to use. I personally use 15lb dumbbells, but you may use 2lb or 5lb dumbbells. Don’t be embarrassed by the weight you are using. 16 reps is a LOT!
You should be feeling the burn after 10 reps. If you are not, then that is usually a good indication that you need to step up a little bit in dumbbell weight.
Decline Tricep Skull Crushers (8 Reps, 3 Sets)
Find yourself an adjustable weight bench, and grab some dumbbells. This is one of the best exercises for building lean muscle in your triceps. Try not to use your whole arms and body here. Isolate your triceps and hinge at the elbow.
Don’t use the forward momentum of the weights to swing them forward. To get the best results, your upper arms should be pointing straight to the sky. Then flex your triceps at the top.
Cable Pressdown With Rope (12 Reps, 3 Sets)
This is another great tricep exercise. Although it’s very similar to the decline skull crushers, it works out a different portion of your triceps. I find this exercise easier to engage your triceps. You will have more control. Pause for a second or 2 at the end of the pressdown for maximum results.
Day 2 – Back & Biceps
You are going to find some great exercises in here that will push your muscle building to the next level. Don’t even think about skipping any one of these days. Since we are only working out 3 days per week, every single day is a necessity.
Seated Cable Row (8 Reps, 3 Sets)
The seated cable row is something that I used to be afraid of. I’m not sure why. I would just look at that tower of cables and it would overwhelm me. I am here to tell you not to be worried. It is very straight forward.
Simply connect a parallel grip to the seated cable row section of the tower, select your weight, and go to town. Be sure to isolate your back and be sure not to lean back too far. You don’t want your body to do the work. Just your back muscles.
Wide-Grip Pullup (8 Reps, 3 Sets)
You don’t even need a gym for the wide grip pullup! In fact, I think that if you never had access to a gym, different variations of pullups and pushups would be perfect for building lean muscle.
If you want to do these at home, I highly recommend getting a door frame pullup bar from Amazon. They are super convenient, and can be put away easily.
Bentover Reverse Fly (8 Reps, 3 Sets)
The name says it all. Grab yourself a pair of dumbbells and bend over at the waist. Make sure that your back is flat, and parallel with the ground. Engage your core, and then use your back muscles to pull up your arms with the weights.
Be sure to squeeze your back muscles at the top!
Glute Ham Raise (8 Reps, 3 Sets)
This is probably one of the weirdest looking exercises on this list. You have probably seen one of these apparatuses around the gym somewhere. This exercise is going to workout your lower back and your glutes.
Just bend over at the waist with a weight hugged at your chest. I recommend trying this without weights at first. Just learn the motion before you get started.
Cambered Bar Curl (8 Reps, 3 Sets)
I have heard this called many things, and there are multiple variations of this exercise. If you don’t have a cambered bar at your gym, I recommend checking out this curl bar from Amazon.
I am lucky enough to have pre loaded cambered bars at my gym, so it is nice to use those. One tip I have for you is to be very controlled with your movements, and focus solely on your biceps. Don’t swing your body around to use momentum.
Hammer Curl (8 Reps, 3 Sets)
The good old hammer curl. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand up straight with the dumbbells by your side. When we see 8 reps here, that is 8 reps PER SIDE. Meaning during one set, you are technically doing 16 reps total.
Watch the video. See the control that I am using? Be sure to take your time and have that same control. Squeeze at the top for maximum effect.
Day 3 – Legs & Core
Your legs are your biggest muscle group, so it is important not to neglect them! You don’t want to be one of those guys or girls at the gym that has the impressive upper body, but chicken legs below.
Believe me, your legs and core are foundational to building the perfect body. Remember to keep it going, and don’t skip a muscle group. If you absolutely must skip this day, don’t recycle back to day 1, just pick back up on day 3 and reset after.
Squat (5 Reps, 3 Sets)
One of the original leg building exercises, squats are incredible for building lean muscle in your legs. Specifically, squats will focus on your quads, but will also build your glutes and hamstrings.
Definitely start with just the bar until you are comfortable enough to crank up the weights. This exercise is an absolutely necessity for a 3 days a week workout for lean muscle.
Leg Press (8 Reps, 3 Sets)
Leg presses can be done multiple different ways. You have a leg press machine that you physically load weights on. And you have a leg press machine where you simply select the weight that you want to lift.
I cycle between both depending on which machine is taken when I am at the gym. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, you will still build some solid muscle. Leg presses focus on quads and hamstrings.
Leg Extensions (10 Reps, 3 Sets)
Leg extensions focus solely on the quad muscles. It’s like a triceps extension, but for your quads. These are responsible for building what my wife calls my “second knee.” Which is just my quad muscle above my knee. It’s large enough to where it looks like I have another knee.
Be sure to push your butt and your back against the machine and focus only on your quad muscles.
Leg Curl (10 Reps, 3 Sets)
Find a leg curl machine and get to work. You will find 2 different types of leg curls. Ones that you lay face down, and ones where you are seated. I don’t really have a preference, because they both do the same thing.
The key here is to make sure you are using enough weight for your hamstrings to really feel it!
Standing Calf Raise (12 Reps, 3 Sets)
If your gym doesn’t have a standing calf raise machine, you can always use a smith machine or a squat rack with a barbell. The best thing to do is get some weight on your shoulders so that you can push up with your calves.
Luckily for us, it is difficult to cheat on this exercise. The best thing to do is squeeze your calves at the top. You should be feeling this on your first rep. If not, you might want to increase the weight.
Plank (30 Seconds, 3 Sets)
A core exercise staple, the plank can be done many different ways. I prefer the arms straight plank for maximum effort. As a placeholder, I put that you should hold this for 30 seconds. But, it might be more or less for you.
Squeeze your core and abs while you are holding the plank. You should start to shake after a while since your muscles will be wondering why you are holding this position for so long. This is great for building core foundational muscles.
Arms-High Partial Situp (12 Reps, 3 Sets)
This isn’t the only ab workout that I like doing, but it is one of the best. If you really want to build muscle in your abs, this one will not disappoint.
The secret for this exercise is to never disengage your ab muscles. Keep your ab muscles flexed the whole entire time. If you are not burning after 12 reps, you aren’t doing it right.
Main Point: 3 days a week workout for lean muscle
If you are looking to build muscle of any kind, you need a plan. This 3 days a week workout for lean muscle is going to start you off in the right direction.
Remember one thing, you are not going to build muscle in a caloric deficit. It is simply not scientifically possible. I know that there are plenty of gurus out there that will try to lead you in the wrong direction. Don’t listen to them. Listen to actual science.
All you need to do is eat enough calories, workout 3-4 days per week, and do that over a long period of time. I personally put on over 20 pounds of muscle in my first year doing all 3 of these. It seems so simple, but people in your life might try to derail your plans.
We live in a society intent on finding quick fixes for everything. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for getting in epic shape. Not even steroids can be a shortcut to your long term goals. By the way, I highly recommend NOT taking steroids.
If you found this article helpful, please leave us a comment and let us know what type of workout plan you have been doing lately.