Workout 3: Intermediate, 3-day full body

July 17th, 2008  |  Published in Workout ideas  |  15 Comments

routine 1

The premise behind this routine is that there is a heavy, medium, and light day, determined by intensity (what amount of your maximal weight you are using). The heavier the day, the lower the rep range and the heavier the weight.

On all 3 days, the squat is performed. Then, each day has a different pushing and pulling exercise. While this workout is challenging and appropriate for both intermediate and advanced lifters, you MUST take the time to learn the exercises properly. Working with low-rep sets presents the potential for injury if you are not careful about form.

If you’re feeling a little burnt out from squatting, you have a few options. One: don’t squat on the light day. Two: try squatting on the light day with 5 sets of 3 using 65-70% of the weight you used for the heavy day. If you do this, keep rest intervals short, between 30-60 seconds. Three: Use unweighted squats.

Caveats aside, this is one of my all-time favourite routines. The key here is to stick within the rep range. Don’t do more reps even if you can do so easily. Rest about 60-90 seconds between sets (you might want a little longer between squat sets).

Notation: Exercise sets x reps
For example: bench press 3 x 8 is 3 sets of 8 reps per set

day 1 – light

  1. squat 3 sets x 15 reps
  2. power shrug (pull) 3 x 5 using light weight
  3. shoulder press (push) 3 x 15
  4. calf raise 2 x 15
  5. ab crunches or Swiss ball crunches 2 x 15

day 2 – heavy

  1. squat 3 x 5
  2. bench press (push) 3 x 5
  3. Pullups (assisted if necessary) or lat pulldowns (pull) 3 x 5

day 3 – medium

  1. squat 3 x 8
  2. one-arm dumbbell row OR seated cable row (pull) 3 x 8
  3. incline bench press (push) 3 x 8
  4. back hyperextensions 2 x 8-10

routine 2

This routine requires some knowledge of basic Olympic assistance lifts. I’ve modified it a bit for beginners so that you’re not required to do the full lifts, but if you know how, go ahead.

Olympic assistance lifts are relatively easy to learn compared to the full lifts, which require a bit of coaching to master. Before you attempt these you should have learned the basics of squatting and deadlifting, which help you learn the correct spine and hip position for the Olympic assistance lifts (i.e. neutral or slightly arched spine, sitting back, etc.). Good sites with pictures and descriptions:

Biofitness, WSU Strength and Conditioning (look under “How do I perform a…” and follow the links), the Cable-Bar Guy, and Chris Thibaudeau’s articles on the “Power Clean and Assistance Lifts”, and “The Competition Lifts and Main Assistance Exercises”.

Ideally this would be done over something like a Monday-Wednesday-Friday, so that you have two days of rest before the heavy day on day 1, and a day of rest in between day 1, 2, and 3. Where 5 sets are indicated, the first 2 sets are warmup sets.

You’ll also see that I’ve put down things like “snatch pull OR clean pull”. This means to alternate them from week to week. This gives you a little variety and also gives you a chance to practice the movements.

day 1 – heavy

  1. squat 5 x 3
  2. snatch pull or clean pull to shrug on toes 3 x 5
  3. push press 3 x 5
  4. calf raises 2 x 12-15
  5. back hyperextensions OR good mornings
    2 x 8-10

day 2 – medium

  1. power clean or hang clean 5 x 5
  2. pullups (lat pulldowns if you can’t do pullups yet) OR Smith machine pullups (scroll down for variation #2) 3 x 8-10 (for pullups just do 3 sets of as many as you can do)
  3. standing shoulder press 3 x 8-10
  4. ab work of choice 3 x 10-12

day 3 – light

  1. hang power snatch (scroll down for instructions on WSU site) 3 x 5
  2. front squat 3 x 8-10
  3. dumbbell row
    3 x 8-10
  4. close-grip bench press or triceps pushups 2 x 6-8
  5. ab or lower back work of choice 2 x 10-12


  1. HalcyonNwar says:

    February 18th, 2009at 8:02 am(#)

    I’ve been doing the first workout for five weeks now and am feeling great. I’ve had muscle gain, and fat loss, with photos to prove! Thanks so much for posting these. I’m about 6 weeks into Routine 1, with two days of High Intensity Intervals per week. Following most lifts with like 20 minutes of low heart rate cardio (I was a cardio queen before and I’m having a hard time not doing some at every workout). Do you suggest switching the routine after a couple more weeks? Or just continuing to go up with the weights?
    Thanks Again! I love the site.

  2. Mistress Krista says:

    February 18th, 2009at 9:13 am(#)

    6 weeks isn’t that long. If something is working well and there is adequate variation within the program (in other words, you’re not doing the same movements or level of intensity every single time) there is no reason to change it, other than psychological variety. I’d say go with 12 weeks and then see how you feel.

  3. HalcyonNwar says:

    March 17th, 2009at 6:59 pm(#)

    Hey, I just wanted to add a quick update here because I am super-psyched! I’ve been following this program for like 10 weeks now and trying to eat clean and whatnot. I’ve definitely had some positive changes, but none that made me as excited as this:

    I jokingly attempted a pullup over the weekend and guess what? I did one! And then three more! My first pullups! Joy!

  4. Mistress Krista says:

    March 17th, 2009at 7:00 pm(#)

    High fives!

  5. Michele says:

    March 17th, 2009at 8:02 pm(#)

    I just have the smallest question for you, Krista. I’ve asked some of my friends who weight lift, and I’ve looked online, but I can’t quite get a hold on what the difference is between a shrug and a power shrug. Could you help me out?

  6. Mistress Krista says:

    March 18th, 2009at 5:32 am(#)

    Power shrug has a little more hip drive. Start slightly bent at the hips, with the bar lower down the thighs — around mid-thigh is fine. Shrug up and drive the hips forward at the same time. A shrug is just a shrug. You start standing upright, with the bar somewhere around your hip crease or the top of your thighs (depending on how long your arms are) and only the shoulders move upwards.

  7. Jay says:

    March 30th, 2009at 1:32 pm(#)

    Hi Krista,

    Quick question on routine 1 – what are your recommendations on rest days?

  8. Bethany says:

    June 15th, 2009at 6:07 pm(#)

    Basically all the links on the first routine on this page aren’t working. Just to let you know! Thankfully I know most of them… Thanks for this site! It is great and VERY informative, by the way!!

  9. The ShanMonster says:

    April 18th, 2010at 9:08 am(#)

    FYI, the links to the exercises on this page are broken.

  10. Diana says:

    January 9th, 2011at 5:36 pm(#)

    Hi Krista,

    I love your website! I’ve been lifting since college, but have decided to get organized and start following the above workout routine. My main question is: How do I know how much to lift on a heavy, light, and medium day? I assume heavy days entail lifting to the point of exhaustion (cannot complete final rep), but what about the medium and light days?

    Thanks for your help! You rock!

  11. Mistress Krista says:

    January 10th, 2011at 6:50 am(#)

    @Diana: Scale your effort to the day. Heavy day = bust it out. Medium day = work hard, but leave a little in the tank. Light day = put in some effort but make it about a 6 to 7/10.

  12. Preeti says:

    February 24th, 2012at 11:43 am(#)

    Hey Krista,
    For the first workout on the heavy day where you’re required to squat for 5 reps, do you have any dumbbell squat variations you’d recommend for low reps? I find that with goblet squats my upper body limits how much I’m able to lift so I use less weight than I would with a barbell back squat but my gym only has smith machine. I have the same problem with dumbbell squats…it’s as if my upper back gets more of a workout than my legs. Would a bulgarian split squat be a decent substitute?


  13. Mistress Krista says:

    February 24th, 2012at 1:56 pm(#)

    @Preeti: Yes, a BSS would be good; you could also try pistols.

  14. Preeti says:

    March 20th, 2012at 8:45 pm(#)

    The BSS’s are serving me well. I’m loving this routine so far.. while having done this for a few weeks I also did my first set of 3 chinups with it (I was stuck at only being able to do single rep sets).

    Would it be a bad idea to add deadlifts to the heavy day and maybe to the medium/light days in addition to the squats?

  15. Mistress Krista says:

    March 22nd, 2012at 5:25 am(#)

    @Preeti: What’s the purpose of that?

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