Bro split workout routines are often knocked by some in the science-based fitness community, mainly on the basis of research showing that a higher training frequency works better for muscle growth.
In truth, body part splits can be a highly effective way to build muscle, particularly once you’ve moved past the beginner stages of training.
Today, I want to look at the benefits and drawbacks of the bro split, so you can decide if they’re a good fit for you and your goals.
What is a Bro Split?
The bro split, also known as a body part split, typically refers to a training program that involves hitting each muscle group directly once a week.
Although you might train between 4 and 6 times a week, each workout focuses on just one or two body parts. As a result, the number of sets you do for each muscle in any given workout is relatively high.
With a full-body workout, for example, you might do 3-5 sets for each muscle in a single workout.
An upper-lower split, where you train your upper body and lower body on separate days, might involve a slightly higher volume of training, somewhere in the region of 6-8 sets for each muscle group.
But with a bro split routine, you’ll be doing a lot more volume, often upwards of 10 sets per muscle group. to compensate for the fact each muscle is being trained less often.
Sample Bro Split Workout Routine
While there are plenty of different ways to set up a bro split workout routine, here’s one example of how it might look:
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Back
- Wednesday: Off
- Thursday: Legs
- Friday: Shoulders
- Saturday: Arms
- Sunday: Off
- Flat Bench Press 3 sets x 5-8 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Flyes 2 sets x 12-15 reps
- Low-to-High Cable Crossover 2 sets x 15-20 reps
- Pull-Ups 3 sets x 5-8 reps
- Single-Arm Dumbbell Row 3 sets of 5-8 reps
- Wide Grip Front Lat Pulldown 2 sets x 12-15 reps
- Kneeling Cable Pullover 2 sets x 12-15 reps
- Barbell Squat 3 sets x 5-8 reps
- Leg Press 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Leg Extension 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Romanian Deadlift 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Seated Leg Curl 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Standing Calf Raise 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Overhead Press 2 sets x 5-8 reps
- Lateral Raise 2 sets x 15-20 reps
- Rear Delt Row 2 sets x 10-15 reps
- Face Pulls 2 sets x 15-20 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Shrugs 3 sets x 15-20 reps [90 seconds]
- Incline Dumbbell Curl 2 sets x 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Preacher Curl 2 sets x 12-15 reps
- Hammer Curl 2 sets x 12-15 reps [90 seconds]
- Triceps Pressdown 2 sets x 10-15 reps
- Overhead Triceps Extension 2 sets x 10-15
- Cable Triceps Kickback 2 sets x 15-20 reps
One of the defining characteristics of a typical bro split is that each muscle is trained once a week.
However, while each muscle group is trained directly once a week, some muscles can, depending on how your program is structured, end up being trained twice or even three times a week.
On chest days, for example, any sort of pressing movement, be it the bench press or overhead press, will also hit the triceps and shoulders.
It’s the same story on back day, where the biceps and delts are also going to see some action. That’s because rows, pull-ups and pulldowns work the rear deltoids and biceps as well as the back.
In other words, if you’re working your shoulders and arms on different days to your chest and back, the deltoids, biceps and triceps will end up being trained more often than once a week.
The Bro Split: What’s Right and What’s Wrong?
There are many different ways to set up a training program. Each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. Here are some of the pros and cons of the bro split:
FREE: The Muscle Building Cheat Sheet. This is a quick guide to building muscle, which you can read online or keep as a PDF, that shows you exactly how to put on muscle. To get a FREE copy of the cheat sheet emailed to you, please click or tap here.
A More Enjoyable Way to Train
For some, a bro split is simply a more enjoyable way to train. They thrive on the variety of training different muscles, and doing different exercises, from one day to the next.
Many people like the idea of having a chest day or a back day, where they dedicate an entire workout to just one or two muscles, mainly because it means walking out of the gym with those muscles feeling pumped up and ready to explode.
Getting a pump is no guarantee that muscle is going to be gained any faster, but it still feels good.
Adding a large amount of muscle mass to your frame muscle requires sustained and consistent effort over a number of years. And a big part of staying consistent is actually wanting to go to the gym.
If following a bro split makes it far more likely that you’ll do the work necessary to make your muscles grow, that’s a major benefit. A training program that’s optimal for muscle growth isn’t optimal if you don’t do it.
Shorter, More Frequent Workouts
Dividing your training across 4-6 days, rather than 2-3, can mean shorter workouts, which are often easier to fit into your day, particularly if you have a home gym set up in your garage, basement or spare room.
Working every single muscle group in each training session means that your workout can end up lasting anywhere between 1-2 hours, which doesn’t suit everyone.
If you prefer shorter, high frequency training sessions, and you can make it to the gym on a regular basis 4-6 days a week, the bro split can work well.
Beginners are often told to avoid body part splits routines and stick with full-body workouts that involve training every single muscle group with a higher frequency.
While this isn’t bad advice, beginners will tend to grow no matter what they do, and can still make gains on a split routine that involves hitting each muscle group less frequently than three times a week.
If you prefer doing shorter workouts 4-5 days per week, some kind of split routine, be it an upper/lower split, or even a push/pull/legs split, will do the job.
Bro Splits Do Build Muscle
Body part splits tend to be very popular with bodybuilders, who typically need a high volume of training to ensure that every muscle is developed to its full potential.
Many bodybuilders will often hit the gym six days a week, sometimes twice a day, simply because that’s the only way to fit in all the training they need to stimulate hypertrophy.
Even if you don’t identify as a bodybuilder, you may still have the same goals as a bodybuilder.
By that, I mean you’re not too bothered about the amount of weight you can lift in this or that exercise, you just want to build muscle. Strength gains are an added perk rather than the end goal.
In which case, taking a bodybuilding-type approach to your training can work very well.
In recent years, a number of studies have been published to show that hitting a muscle group just once a week is still a highly effective way to build muscle.
The headline finding of both reviews was that resistance training frequency does “not significantly or meaningfully impact muscle hypertrophy when volume and intensity are equated. For a given training volume, individuals can choose a weekly frequency per muscle group based on personal preference.”
NOTE: By training intensity, they’re talking about the amount of weight you lift in each set, rather than intensity of effort.
The Bro Split: Cons
From a muscle building point of view, most research shows no benefit to training a muscle less often than twice a week. Chances are the gains will come more slowly compared to more frequent training.
While lifting weights 4, 5 or 6 days a week is going to be a benefit for some, not everyone is willing or able to train that often.
If you’re only able to make it to the gym two or three times a week, for example, you’ll be better off with a full-body workout, or an upper/lower/full body hybrid.
In this case, you’ll build strength more quickly with a training program that allows for more frequent practice of whatever lift it is you’re trying to improve.
If you’re someone who needs a relatively high volume of training to make your muscles grow, trying to cram all those sets into a single workout is counterproductive, for a couple of important reasons.
Let’s say, for example, that you decide to hit each of your major muscles with a total of 16 sets per week.
Do all those sets in a single training session, and your performance is going to suffer. As fatigue accumulates, some of the sets that come later in a workout won’t involve as many stimulating reps.
Over time, this is likely to mean that muscle ends up being built more slowly.
What’s more, there’s only so much stimulation your muscles can respond to in any given workout. While six sets may work better than three sets for stimulating hypertrophy, it doesn’t necessarily follow that 12 sets will outperform six by the same margin.
Beyond a certain point, you end up creating large amounts of fatigue and damage (all of which takes time to recover from) without stimulating additional growth. Delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS for short, can end up lasting several days.
More frequent workouts allow you to provide just the right amount of stimulation required for growth, but not so much that it interferes with your ability to recover for the next workout.
Rather than doing 16 sets per muscle in a single workout, then waiting a week to do the same thing again, you’re better off splitting that workout in two.
This gives you two opportunities to stimulate growth over the course of a week, rather than just one.
Not everyone enjoys leg days either.
Hitting the quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes in a single workout can be brutal, which means those workouts are often cut short, or even skipped completely.
If this sounds like you, a push/pull split may be a better option. This involves working the quads, chest, shoulders and triceps on one day, and the hamstrings, back and biceps on another.
In summary, bro splits can certainly work in the sense that they make your muscles grow. However, most research shows that training a muscle once a week is no better than training it 2 or 3 times over the same period.
You can make gains by hitting each muscle group once, twice, three, four even five times a week, just as long as your training program is set up properly, and you’re willing to work hard, eat right and stay consistent.
If you're overwhelmed and confused by all the conflicting advice out there, then check out The Muscle Building Cheat Sheet.
It's a quick guide to building muscle, which you can read online or keep as a PDF, that shows you exactly how to put on muscle. To get a copy of the cheat sheet sent to you, please enter your email address in the box below, and hit the “send it now” button.