Machine Only Workout: A 3 Day Workout Split

M&S Team
Written By: M&S Team
May 9th, 2017
Updated: November 14th, 2019
610.2K Reads
Machine Only Workout: A 3 Day Workout Split
So many commercial gyms out there are only investing in machine equipment. If you go to one of these gyms, this might be the perfect workout for you!
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration6 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout30-45 minutes
  • Equipment Required
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

Some of the most popular commercial gyms these days are geared towards the beginner crowd.

For this reason, they’ve adopted an old school mentality that suggests beginners should start on and stick to machine training.

We could debate that for days, but if all you have available to use is machines, you can still have a great workout.

The workout below is one route you could take. It targets all of your major muscle groups in a traditional 3 day push, pull, legs split.

When performing the exercises, you’ll want to utilize a weight that will fall into the 70-85% range of your 1 rep max.

In between each set, utilize a 45-90 second rest period. Rest periods can be highly individualized, so if you need more or less rest, do whatever best suits you.

If you would like to perform core exercises to target your abdominal muscles, I would recommend sticking to bodyweight exercises such as the plank variations, ab wheels, and hanging leg raises. Feel free to perform one of those exercise utilizing a similar rep/set scheme at the end of your workout.

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Day 1 – Chest, Shoulders, Tris
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Hammer Strength Machine Bench Press 4 10
2. Machine Incline Press 3 12-15
3. Pec Deck Fly 3 12-15
4. Machine Shoulder Press 4 10
5. Machine Lateral Raise 3 12-15
6. Tricep Rope Pushdown 3 12-15
Day 2 – Back, Biceps
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Lat Pulldown 4 10
2. Cable Row 4 10
3. Machine Pullover 3 10-12
4. Machine Preacher Curl 3 10-12
5. Cable Hammer Curls 3 10-12
Day 3 – Legs
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Hack Squat 4 10
2. Leg Press 4 10
3. Leg Curl 3 10-12
4. Leg Extension 3 10-12
5. Machine Glute Kickbacks 3 10-12
6. Calf Raises 3 15

To ensure you are progressing, aim to increase the weight you use for each exercise either every week or every other week.

Alternatively, if you get to the point where you’d like to increase your training frequency, you could test out a 4 and eventually a 5 day split.

If you happen to gain access to more equipment, it may be worth testing out a routine that incorporates more of a variety of movements. The major downside to machine only training is that machines involve a fixed ranged of motion. This decreases the need for your stabilizers to do their job.

But, if all your membership gives you access to is machine equipment, it isn’t the end of the world and you should still be able to see some solid muscle development over time.

If you have any questions regarding the workout, feel free to leave us a comment in the comments section below!

Posted on: Tue, 04/25/2023 - 09:07

For the 3-day workout split, do you rest between the workout days? For example, work chest/shoulders/tris on Day 1, rest on Day 2, work back/biceps on Day 3, and rest Day 4?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 05/02/2023 - 13:02

If you're a beginner, then that is recommended. If you're intermediate or advanced, you can train for all three days in a row before taking a day off. Definitely no more than 3 in a row, though.

Steven Lauder
Posted on: Sun, 04/02/2023 - 11:16

I came for the leg workout machine only because im having issues with my right knee and can no longer squat free weights. It says this workout is for beginners, can you post an advance workout as well?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 04/06/2023 - 09:24

I would feel more comfortable knowing what is going on with that knee before sharing more advanced leg options for you, Steven. If you need to, go with single leg movements on machines such as single leg press or single leg extension until you see a doctor to find out what's going on.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 04/23/2023 - 12:31

You can either do this as a circuit or include rest-pause or drop sets to make this one more advanced. In the meantime, I will make a pitch to my editor for an advanced version.

Steven Lauder
Posted on: Thu, 04/06/2023 - 12:11

I have a baker cyst from a meniscus injury from 2016. I wear a sleeve and take nsaids and do hot/cold therapy. I can do any machine workout for quads and i can free weight squat with my heals incline i just cant do flat free weight squats.

Posted on: Thu, 02/09/2023 - 12:41

I am going to start using this workout to supplement my twice weekly Martial Arts workout.
My goal is to increase a little strength and gain some muscle.
Using an old school universal machine as this is the only equipment I have.
Will it serve me well and can I alternate between this and the 4 day machine split every 60 days?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 02/21/2023 - 21:09

It will serve you well, John. Let us know how it goes for you. Thanks for reading M&S!

Posted on: Tue, 01/10/2023 - 10:42

I can only train Thursday through Saturday.
Can I do these workouts back to back and do some cardio on the days before restarting?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 01/22/2023 - 11:08

You can. Just pay attention to your recovery as well. Give yourself at least two complete days off.

Posted on: Mon, 05/16/2022 - 18:45

Does this program help with weight loss as well?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 05/25/2022 - 19:05

It can, Daniel, so long as you're following a nutrition plan that is also designed for weight loss.

Pedro Gonzales
Posted on: Thu, 01/20/2022 - 00:51

Hi Josh, Thank you for helping the countless folk that follow your kind advice. I am 56 and visit the gym for 1.5hrs each weekday (5 days per week). I have been using the same 9 machines for a couple of years now. 2 cardio (15min airwalk to start & 15min 4mph treadmill to finish) 7 resistance machines 6 sets of 15reps. Should I not use the same resistance machines each day? Thanks a bunch Pedro

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 01/21/2022 - 18:00

Hi, Pedro. Changing the machines you use can help you train the muscles in different ways, which can yield better progress. The body will adapt to what you're doing over time, so changing the plan every few months would be beneficial.

Posted on: Sat, 11/27/2021 - 19:14

I will be doing a 1 hour Martial Arts practice on Tuesday a 45 minute stretching routine on Thursday, and a brief 15 minute jog on Saturday.
Will those additional workouts detract from gains or cause over training/recovery issues?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/29/2021 - 19:18

Hi, Josh. As long as you sleep well and eat properly, your recovery shouldn't be affected negatively. Just don't go all-out on every set.

Posted on: Sun, 07/11/2021 - 15:50

Thanks for your help and input.
First, will I see decent muscle gains and physique improvement from this machine schedule?
Should I do my 30 minute daily self defense training before or after this routine?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/12/2021 - 09:50

Hey Jerry - gaining muscle is very dependent on your diet. If you're eating enough calories and consistent with your workouts, you should see muscle growth. You can do your self-defense training before or after. Usually, I suggest doing cardio after strength training.

Posted on: Sun, 06/13/2021 - 16:04

Its never a good idea to do back before legs, especially if doing any sort of squat. Chest/Legs/Back or Legs/Back/Chest, Back/Chest/Legs, would be a better order. I suppose it doesn't matter much if you are taking a day off between these, but at some point, you need to turn this into 6 days if you want to get serious.

Posted on: Thu, 09/17/2020 - 20:28

I had Achilles surgery about 7 months ago for ruptured Achilles. How do I build that calf muscle back up now. It is hard to do

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 09/25/2020 - 15:56

Hey Franklin - hope your recovery is going well! Check out this article for some exercises to help build calf mass:

Posted on: Tue, 06/09/2020 - 17:49

What about lower back muscles and traps? What exercise in the back, biceps-day hits those muscles?

Posted on: Sun, 06/13/2021 - 16:06

any type of squat is more than enough for lower back.

Posted on: Sun, 03/01/2020 - 15:20

What about for AB’s? How much how often?

Posted on: Fri, 02/07/2020 - 13:30

If I can work out 4 to 5 days how often should I train my legs as I did legs today on my workout, and the six weeks start up does that matter if its 4 to 5 days or is that just for the 3 day split

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 02/07/2020 - 14:11

Hi Ashley,

You can perform the routine in rotation on the days you have available to work out if you wish. This will allow you to perform each workout more frequently.

Posted on: Fri, 01/17/2020 - 10:18

Hello, I have just recently recovered from open heart surgery, triple bypass, and have completed my cardiac rehabilitation. I have been searching for a good weight machine workout to help me build back up and help me burn more fat in between my cardio days. Free weights are probably a thing of the past maybe for now but we will see. Going to give this 3 day split ago. Thanks for the article.


Posted on: Mon, 10/07/2019 - 07:40

Im a senior, and I would like to convert this into a two day a week intense workout. I know that as a senior I need at least two days recovery. between workouts...suggestions...Thanks

Marty Reilly
Posted on: Sun, 08/25/2019 - 10:34

Hi, just looking at your 3 day workout split.
This looks ideal for me as I've just recovered from a back injury.... done all the physio etc and looking forward to getting back. Reason for machine lifting, was to isolate the areas I'm working on to save any further injury to my back, however, I'm also looking to shift a bid of weight asap. Would it be beneficial to do 5 mornings of cardio and the Mon, Tue, Wed evenings of this plan?


Posted on: Sat, 08/24/2019 - 11:50

What are the rest periods?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 09/03/2019 - 16:22

Hi Jay,

Rest as needed, there is no magical rest duration. 60-90 Secs should be plenty, but you can do shorter or longer depending on your individual capabilities.

Posted on: Tue, 07/02/2019 - 19:07

If I have a hectic schedule and only have Friday/Sunday available, and wanted to split day 3 (legs) and put some leg workouts in both day 1 and 2, what's the best way to do this? Like, which leg exercises should go in which days?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 07/03/2019 - 10:32

Hi Eddie,

Add leg press and leg curl on day 1. Add hack squat and leg extension to day 2.

George Themelis
Posted on: Mon, 06/17/2019 - 09:03

Just found this post; a friend recommend PUSH/PULL/LEGS. Just wondering, been going to the gym for a few months now and have only noticed a slight change; been running the gauntlet of all the machines. With a PPL routine, should I circle back to lower weights?

Posted on: Tue, 06/11/2019 - 13:57

old post, but am doing this workout. is there another workout that is a level up from this? kind of like, you graduate from this to another workout? or would that just be going to free weights? i'm looking for machine workouts...mostly because of resources

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 06/12/2019 - 15:01

Hi Abie,

A 4 day workout that will be a good progression from this one will be uploaded next month.

Posted on: Thu, 03/07/2019 - 15:25

My main goal is muscle growth. I travel for work, so want a machine only routine and am looking forward to trying this program, but I'm confused regarding the schedule. Why is this only 3 days per week? Could cardio be interjected into off days?

I'm hoping this isn't a stupid question, but how would a typical week look? (I don't want days off from Gym if I can help as it's a how I release stress, plus it ensures I maintain a schedule)

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 03/08/2019 - 09:42

Hi Steve,

You can perform this workout in a 3 days on 1 day off fashion and perform cardio on off days if you like.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Thu, 02/21/2019 - 10:48

I do 1hr worth of cardio 3 days a week. Should I cut back on the cardio when I start lifting? If so, would 30 minutes be ok?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 02/22/2019 - 12:26

Hi Dorothy,

Yes, you can cut back on cardio depending on your goals. 30 minutes should be ok - again, depending on your goals.

Posted on: Tue, 02/19/2019 - 06:54

Can i do it 4 days ? Mo. Day 1
Tues. rest
Wed. Day 2
Thur. rest
Fr. Day 3
Sa. rest
Sun. Day1
And Tues. Day 2 .... Is this good ?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 02/19/2019 - 10:17

Hi Abdu,

Sure, you can do that.

Posted on: Sun, 03/17/2019 - 18:35

And what are u meaning by the reps 10-12 ? Example: first set 10 reps and then 11 reps and then 12 ? Right ?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 03/18/2019 - 09:25

Hi Abdu,

You could do it that way. Simply means performing sets in the 10-12 rep range.

Posted on: Thu, 09/13/2018 - 19:05

Hi, I'm looking to try a machine only plan for a change from the usual compound included workouts. Can you do straight arm pulldown as a replacement for the machine pullover ?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 09/14/2018 - 09:12

Hi Simon,

Sure, you can make that substitution.

Posted on: Mon, 09/03/2018 - 14:56

Can't a 2-3 day full body workout using machines going from one station to the other using heavy weights produce good results?
And you would be done in 20-30 minutes.
Thanks for feedback.

Posted on: Sun, 08/26/2018 - 17:11

Dumb do I know when I’ve hit the upper limit of how much weight I’m increasing to each week? I don’t want to get to a position where I’m accidentally overdoing it. Thanks!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 08/27/2018 - 08:49

Hi Jeff,

I'd stick to 5lbs increases when possible. Track your workouts - if you fail at a weight one week, don't move up the following week. Only move up when you're able to get the reps for each set with a weight.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Tue, 08/14/2018 - 07:45

Is this strictly for muscle building? or will same workout help weight loss? I'm overweight and looking for workout combined with cardio. Also trying for first time