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The Beauty of the 3 Exercise Workout

The Fit Rebel All Calisthenics Posts, Methods & Success Mindset, Progressive Calisthenics, Suspension Training 10 Comments

Recently I’ve been getting back into using workouts that are built with 3 exercises.

A 3 exercise workout has many benefits including:

– Simple and strait forward. I am a firm believer that the simpler we make our diet and exercise strategies, the more effectively we can put them into practice. When things get complex, the opportunity to struggle becomes greater.

– A focus on the basics. It’s so easy to get side tracked with 101 different exercises out there. Without a doubt success in any fitness field comes from focusing on and mastering the basics. Focusing on 3 exercises in a workout gives you that focus.

– Mentally easy. Having only 3 exercises might seem easy, and that’s a good thing. Instead of a mountain of work ahead, you start each workout knowing you only need to do 3 exercises. This helps to overcome motivational barriers.

– Flexible time frame. These workouts can be performed in just a few minutes or over the course of several hours. This way, you can structure them to fit around time and energy resources you have day by day.

What about boredom?

It might seem like doing just 3 exercises over 45 minute might seem a bit boring. Even though you are doing 3 moves you can do them in a variety of ways. You can change weight, rep range, speed, tempo, rest periods or limb placement. This is a great opportunity to play around and get some variety with each move you might not get in other wise.

Building the 3 exercise workout

Building the 3 exercise workout is simple. I recommend you select 3 compound movements that work all of the major muscle groups. Typically this involves something pushing (push ups) something pulling (recline rows) and something for the lower body (walking lunges). From there you can do them in a circuit fashion or focus on each move one at a time.

You can plan on using the move until you do a certain amount of volume, but my preference is to use that move, or perform the circuit, for a specific length of time. If you still think only using 3 exercise is going to be easy, try doing a push up, pull up and jump squat circuit for a solid 30 minutes. It’s a killer workout that’s only for the strong.

Not just for strength training

The 3 exercise workout is great for cardio too. By using 3 different methods (run, bag work, stair climbing for example) you help break up the monotony of long never ending cardio workouts. You also get some variety into your workout so you cover more bases than if you just did one exercise.

Give the 3 exercise workout a shot. make it long and go for volume, or make it short for a refreshing pick-me-up.

Share your workouts down below and inspire other’s with your efforts!

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Comments 10

  1. Marin

    I’m a novice teen, but from my (limited) experience so far, just doing mainly bodyweights took care of all these details. Doing more than a few different bodyweight exercises is kinda not possible anyways XD

    I just go down to my basement every day really eager to beat yesterday’s score. I’m improving at a snail’s pace, but for some reason my motivation has only increased :O

    1. Post

      It’s that snails pace that is working well for you. I’m actually learning that trying to improve too fast can drain motivation and lead to plateaus. You’re rock’n it more than you know!

  2. Laurie Mackeson

    Matt and Marin

    @ Marin – I need to remind myself of your ‘snail pace’ analogy when it comes to progress. If anything I need to remind myself that my #1 goal in a workout is to enjoy it rather than improve.

    @ Matt – I will admit the need to focus more on technique because I think you may consider that as good option for me as I have been going on my journey for a little while now.

    Honestly, I think I have ‘suffered’ from a few things in the past month or so. I decided to change my routines up a little as a way of staying active while recovering from my major walk. I have been experimenting with more upper body moves with less hill interval runs and less weighted pack hill walks. To make a long story short, I need to make things more simple and get back into my ‘meat and potatoes’ routines more. I need to re-examine what my goals are and make more simple workouts to achieve these goals- I can’t have it all. I need to chose how much upper body I want to fit into my 2 X 20min (Daily) sessions.

    The timing of this article was perfect for me. I had got a little off track in recent times and I will sit down and examine where I want to go.

    Laurie – Down Unda

    1. Post

      Glad to hear this little post kind of got ya back on track Laurie. It had the exact same effect on me.

      In relation to your “can’t have it all” line I’m reminded of a saying my mother always said:

      “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”

      Something to think about yes?

  3. Laurie Mackeson


    Let me start my saying this response has ‘bubbled’ from within to think about your response.

    “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”
    Sounds like your mother was great at thinking a little outside the box. Next time she gives you an extra large portion size, tell her you can eat it all….’just not at once’. LOL

    “Something to think about yes?”
    Yes it is. The ‘problem’ has come about because of the results with my increase upper body work. To keep those results, I need to be spending some of my ‘session’ time on them and I have been so comfortable with my ‘old’ routines/results that I need to make a decision as to WHAT RESULTS I WANT. If I didn’t enjoy the upper body stuff it would be an easy choice. I look forward to reporting on the changes I have made some time soon.

    Enough sitting for one day. Off to beat a ‘personal best’ interval run. I did them 3 months ago (in winter) and the weather is especially warm today. My aim is to do a ‘comparable’ time given the lack of preparation- lots of cardio but not much running. It aint no Mount Mansfield with a 60lbs rock though. Will report the results soon.

    Down Unda Laurie

    1. Post

      Hope your run was a good one! I just finished one myself and missing a PR by 1 second. Keep an eye our for an interesting Nov. challenge I’ve got coming up. It might be interesting……

  4. Laurie Mackeson

    Before I announce my result, let me describe this 3-exercise ‘run’ workout. Run 1 basketball court width and back, rest, 2 court widths/back, rest, 3,4,5,6 with a rest after each up/back. The first ‘lap’ I have 30sec rest, for the 2nd lap I give myself 20sec rests and the final lap I get 10sec rests. The rest at the end of the last court width is equivalent to the rest after each other length.

    The LAST TIME I did this was 4-5months ago. My times THEN were (with my TODAY times in backets next to them) 4:56 (5:04), 4:10 (4:15) and 3:43 (3:33). Total time = 769sec (772sec). Best of all I did a typical 15min upper body workout after and walked 1.5km home in good spirits- showered and back to my typical weekend routine. BEING FIT….LIVING FREE 🙂

    I call that a tie at worst a clear victory at best. What do you think?

    Laurie – Coming into Summer Down Unda

    1. Post

      Oh I say it’s a victory for sure. I love the idea of running progressive sprints up and down a basketball court. I’ll have to try that for sure!

  5. Laurie Mackeson

    Matt – Had a burning desire to ‘attack’ one of my previous ‘bests’ on my ‘scoreboard’. Results were/are:

    1. Previous Personal Best
    4:45 4:10 3:43

    2. 28th October, 2011
    5:04 4:15 3:33

    3. 1st April, 2012
    4:47 4:07 3:24
    -17 -8 -9 = -34sec

    I can’t believe these results have been achieved in spite of ANY practise of the ‘course/timing in 5 months. In addition my today times were individually ‘bests’ in their own right AND I did a 2.6km (extra 30kg walk) and 3.7km street run last night too!

    Thanks for inspiring me with reports of your most recent Scoreboard ‘Bests’.

    1. Post

      That’s how the Scoreboard works sometimes. You don’t do something for a while, but you’re working on other things and then BAM! You hit personal bests left and right with things you haven’t done in a while. It’s a sure sign you’re doing things very right.

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