I received a call two weeks ago from a friend of mine, and he had some good news for me. About five months ago, he and I were discussing a three-day split that would accommodate his needs and time schedule. He’s an ex-football player, and competes in the 242 lbs class. Like many of you, he’s tried the standard four-day split, but because of work commitments (60+ hours a week) and a long drive time to the gym, he has trouble getting to the gym all the time.

Since starting the split, he has competed one time and with great success. He set PRs on each lift, and his total increased by almost 100 lbs. I should point out that he is not an elite lifter, but is about 120 lbs away. He also trains with three other guys who are following the same kind of split. All of them are making gains, although he’s the only one who has competed since starting the cycle.

The training cycle operates over a two week period, and the split is as follows:

Week I

·        Monday: repetition effort bench press

·        Wednesday: dynamic effort squat/deadlift

·        Friday: max effort bench press

Week II

·        Monday: max effort squat/deadlift

·        Wednesday: dynamic effort bench press

·        Friday: repetition effort squat/deadlift

Besides the time commitment, he chose this split because he thought if worked well for him. Mondays and Fridays were the easiest days for him to make it to the gym. We scheduled this with the training days that he felt he needed most—the repetition effort and max effort days. Having these two days and the bookends of the work week allowed for more recovery.

Monday and Friday were (for him) the easiest days to train mentally. Monday was a good day because he had two days of rest and a weekend carb up (this is short for eating a lot and doing nothing.) Friday was easy because it was the end of the work week. Wednesdays were sometimes alternated with a repetition effort day. This was done when he felt he needed a little rest on his joints.

By not doing max effort work twice a week, he felt this helped his recovery and motivation. He also found that he could do more work on these days, and he set records almost every week. For him, the dynamic work was easier on his body and mind. We had talked quite a bit about keeping the dynamic work strictly dynamic. All sets were done between 50–60 percent on this day.

He did use bands on his squat, similar to a traditional speed day, and this was done on max effort squat/deadlift day. He would work up to 2–3 sets of two reps and often hit a one rep max. His best squat (before his last meet) was a little over 700 lbs, and he never went above a strong band. He didn’t always use bands, though. Again, this was max effort day, and his goal was to simply move some heavy weight. He had records for his box squat with a strong band, average band, straight weight, and chains. He does have a safety squat bar and used it when he felt he needed a change or on dynamic day. All of his shirt work and suit work was done on max effort day as well.

Here’s a sample two-week cycle:

Week I

Monday (RE bench press)

·        dumbbell bench press

·        4-board press

·        bent over row

·        face pulls

·        triceps pushdowns

Wednesday (DE squat/deadlift)

·        box squat (parallel)

·        Romanian deadlift

·        band good morning

·        sit-ups

Friday (ME bench press)

·        floor press

·        pull-ups

·        weighted push-ups

·        face pulls

Week II

Monday (ME squat/deadlift)

·        box squat

·        rack pull (below knee)

·        hanging leg raises

Wednesday (DE bench press)

·        dynamic bench press

·        side raises

·        dumbbell bent over rows

·        rear laterals

Friday (RE squat/deadlift)

·        leg presses

·        good mornings

·        side bends

·        ab roller

Notes: The hardest thing for him was controlling his volume. He thought that he could go all out on every day, but this eventually caught up with him. He also had a hard time dealing with the fact that he was only lifting heavy on his bench press, squat, and deadlift once every two weeks. This was more of a mental block for him than anything else.

He took off the week prior to the meet. The week before this (two weeks from the meet), he made a slight change and did his max effort squat and bench press training in the same week.

He is looking to tweak a few things the next cycle around, but this layout is what he used in the beginning. If you can only train three times a week, this template may be something to look at. I would advise you to add in what has worked for you and adjust accordingly.