Like a Men’s health editor, I often feel like I eat, sleep and fitness breathe.
That level of involvement in gym culture can be super rewarding. I can help people learn more about their body and the best ways to use it, spending most of my working hours sharing the best exercise advice with the MH public. But the focus can also have drawbacks. There are times when I feel burned out and uninspired by the time it comes for me to pack up my editor brain and hit the gym myself, so the last thing I want to do after a full day of deadlift form is laying out a round breakout of heavy pulling. I’m usually able to counteract this fitness brain drain by designing my own workout plans that are flexible based on how I’m feeling, but earlier this year I hit a rut.
The problem wasn’t that I struggled to get to the gym. I trained five to six days a week, making my active time a priority, along with (and sometimes for) my work and personal commitments. But I still didn’t feel inspired by all those hours I spent lifting and running, and my performance started to suffer. I’m a NASM certified trainer, but I knew I’d be better off if someone else was in charge. I needed my own coach to get out of my training malaise.
i turned to MH Member of the Advisory Board and trainer of celebrity Don Saladino (his clients include Ryan Reynolds, Sebastian Stan and David Harbour) to reinvigorate my workouts. The goal wasn’t for me to spend any more time in the gym, or to find more goals for training — I wanted to focus primarily on following a program. I also wanted every program I followed to be one that anyone can buy online, since so many people who exercise at home have used these types of plans for their own fitness routines. Nor was I looking for a particular body composition or weight loss goal. I started the program at a healthy weight (197 pounds), and I felt great about the way I look. This wasn’t about numbers, on a scale or on the barbell. My biggest goal was to find a plan that helped me enjoy my workouts in the first place.
I chose Saladino’s 3-day Split Gym program, which, as the title implies, is structured to require three dedicated training days per week, with equipment that most people can access with a basic gym membership (think: lat pulldown machines, squat racks, etc.). According to the description on Saladino’s website, the plan is designed to “create lean muscle, shred body fat and build athleticism, all while working on mobility and flexibility.” The six-week plan also includes a nutrition and supplement guide, but I didn’t use those resources; I was only concerned with the exercise component of the pursuit.
3-Day Split Program Quick Facts
●6 weeks program; 3 full body workouts a week
●Gives Listed: Build Muscle, Improve Mobility, Flexibility & Athletics
●Features: Program PDF, Virtual Practice Library
●Virtual (Email) Program Support
I chose the plan specifically to focus my workout energies after feeling burned out. Instead of just putting in a decent amount of effort for workouts almost every day, I’d go as hard as I can on the three structured days of the week, then use the days off to run, do heavy bag work, or just keep calm. for active recovery without feeling like I missed out on a gain. Given my goals, this was the perfect plan for me.
The Structure of the 3-Day Split Gym Program
The first step in getting started with the program was to familiarize myself with all the exercises that are part of the weekly three-day breakdown, which I was able to access via a downloadable PDF file. Saladino includes a handy downloadable practice library with video demonstrations and explanations of each move, which was useful for understanding exactly how he designed the routines. Like many programs, each of the training days was structured identically from week to week (with some variation in the number of sets and reps on certain weeks). The idea here is to move from each week to the next and work your way up to heavier weights as the routine becomes more familiar. This won’t go on forever as it’s only a six-week plan, but this type of structure provides a solid framework to build on.
I split my workout days between my backyard gym, where I have most of the equipment needed for the program (or at least worthy approaches via resistance bands), and the corporate gym that I use at the Men’s health office. I had no problems completing the workouts from an equipment perspective; all exercises required basic equipment that you could find (or easily mimic, in the case of a machine chest press) in your average big-box club.
Each workout started with a jump, throw, carry warm-up circuit, a staple of Saladino’s workout plans. This immediately got me moving and I was able to start each session better; I had gotten into a bad habit of going straight to the biggest lifts of my workouts without much (if any) preparation. Then a large compound lift. One day it hit the legs, the next box and the final was aimed at the rear chain. Each of the exercises Saladino chose was different from the default pick for these big muscle moves (using barbell front squats instead of back squats, for example), injecting much-needed variety into my routine. From there a four round superset, which was generally a push-pull pair. Each day concluded a four-move circuit, with biceps and triceps exercises baked into each set.
Saladino also included an option for 20 to 30 minutes of cardio at 120 to 140 BPM (see more details on what that means exactly here), but since I was running and doing other activities on my days off, I ended every workout with the circuit.
The Review of the 3-Day Split Gym Program
The consistent structure helped me stay on track and move efficiently through each workout, especially after a few weeks and getting used to the format. I liked tracking my progress from week to week; I added weight when the reps challenged the week before were easy, and by the end of the program I wasn’t hitting any PRs—that wasn’t the goal, after all—but I was moving confidently with heavier loads than I was at the start.
I was also much more focused. Saladino prescribed a certain amount of rest between each set; I kept a close eye on my watch and did my best every day to stick to the format. This kept me from dawdling or improvising, and I was able to complete nearly every workout in the six weeks between 55 and 60 minutes.
I also felt like I was being pushed in a good way – when I was training alone, I often skipped my rest. Training sessions flew past the hour mark, making it difficult to fit in everything I wanted to do physically within the constraints of my busy schedule. By keeping an eye on my rest, I kept my training tight and found that I often breathed heavily but not overextended.
The program also allowed for flexibility, as I had to travel twice within six weeks without missing a session. I was able to wrap up my workouts for a weekend trip before the first trip, then save a training day for an impromptu drop-in at one gym I wanted to check out for the other. Staying on track was easy.
Overall, I felt like the 3-day Split program gave me everything I wanted – consistency, structure and focus – and given the ridiculous arm pump I felt every day at the end of each workout, a little extra muscle too . Physically I felt great after finishing the six weeks. Most importantly, I kicked that training fatigue I was battling when I started.
There are training programs that can help you achieve more specific goals, such as maximizing your deadlift or reaching a certain number on the scale, but for my goal of refocusing my training and making it fun again, this one was one bull’s eye for me . I’m ready to move forward with more involved plans – and with the foundation I’ve laid with this split, I’m confident I’ll be able to crush any next target I choose.
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