Machine Only Workout: A 3 Day Workout Split

M&S Team
Written By: M&S Team
May 9th, 2017
Updated: November 14th, 2019
851.2K 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.

Editor's Note: Make sure you’re doing all the right things you need to be doing to build lean muscle mass. For those looking for a more in-depth resource to teach them how to build muscle, we’ve created a FREE 5 day Muscle Building Email Course.

The course will teach you how your body builds muscle, how to utilize workout plans on our website to maximize muscle growth, how to eat to build muscle, how to supplement to build muscle and how to track your progress.

Sign up below today to learn and ensure you get the most out of this workout program.

Need help building muscle? Take our FREE 5-part email Muscle Building Course!

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!

Ashley Cobden
Posted on: Tue, 06/25/2024 - 03:32

Hi. Would it be ok to combine the push and pull days and make it an upper/lower split or would that be too much? I like doing running and bootcamp also so want to make time for that. Thank you

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 06/26/2024 - 19:39

Hi Ashley, I think as long as you give up a set of each exercise when you combine them, you should be ok. Love that you are trying to find a way to make it work. Thanks for reading M&S!

Ashley Cobden
Posted on: Thu, 06/27/2024 - 01:47

Thanks Roger, this site and your knowledge are brilliant.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 06/27/2024 - 15:36

My pleasure and privilege to help.

Posted on: Tue, 03/05/2024 - 17:08

this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. However, I am at a small gym and I’m realizing I don’t have access to some of the machines you have listed for the workout. Is there somewhere that you have alternate machine suggestions? Or should I look up the muscle being worked and find an appropriate machine that works the same muscle?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 03/13/2024 - 08:40

Hi Kristin, look up the muscle group in our Exercises section and find the appropriate replacements. We should have plenty of options for you to choose from.

Posted on: Wed, 08/09/2023 - 18:13

Hi is there a Machine Only 5 Day Workout Split?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/24/2023 - 21:07

Hi, Dean. The closest we have would be this Planet Fitness workout. There are still some free weight movements in there, but feel free to swap them for machine versions.

Posted on: Wed, 08/09/2023 - 18:01

Hi can I do the Machine Only 3-day workout split twice in one week, please see below of an example I would like to do.

Monday - Chest, Shoulders, Tris
Tuesday - Back, Biceps
Wednesday - Legs
Thursday - Chest, Shoulders, Tris
Friday - Back, Biceps
Saturday - Legs
Sunday - Rest

I would like to do this for about six weeks before taking a full week off, would this help me along with a good deit gain muscle mass?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 08/22/2023 - 21:30

If you're advanced at training and you get in, get out, and really eat for recovery, then this could work for you, Dean. Make sure that Sunday is a complete day off for recovery. Foam rolling, stretching, and extra calories would be good on that day as well.

Posted on: Sun, 07/16/2023 - 22:11

Hello, I am very new to working out but am in need of a workout routine! I recently had a mini gastric bypass done on march 1st and am down 100 lbs. I am realizing I feel weaker with all the weight loss. I work construction but it is not enough to keep me feeling strong. I hurt my right knee when I was younger shattering half my knee cap and can’t do lunges, is this a good workout routine that can help me? It says duration 6 weeks what do I switch to after that? Sorry for the questions I just really want to figure out what to do as I want to live a healthier life.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2023 - 07:12

This is why we're here, Adam. Thanks for the questions. As long as your doctor clears it, you can train on this program. As for the lunges, find any substitute that you can do without knee pain and make the swap. Finally, you can run it for longer than six weeks if you feel good about the program and see results. If not, let us know and we'll try to find another one for you. Thanks for reading M&S!

Posted on: Wed, 07/05/2023 - 09:39

I have advanced diastasis recti from pregnancy (3+ fingers wide) and I'm looking for ways to incorporate exercises into a three day routine like this. I know I need the full body regimen, but can you recommend anything to add to help repair/tighten the gap in my abdominal muscles?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 07/11/2023 - 06:58

Hi, Meghan. There are several Pilates movements you can do, and breathing exercises where you have to control your diaphragm can also help. As for specific exercises, here are a few suggestions. Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps Make sure you talk to your doctor before doing these in your routine because a medical opinion overrides me on this.

Side Planks (2 sets of 30-60 seconds).
Hip Dips from a Side Position
Reverse Plank
Bear Plank (Do NOT do regular planks)
Lying Knee Lifts

I don't think we have videos of these on M&S, but you can find them on YouTube.

Posted on: Thu, 07/13/2023 - 07:41

Thanks so much, I really appreciate your time and advice! I will be careful and work these into my strength training days :) My DR is less severe than originally thought, so I'm cleared to go! Thanks again!!

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