Bro Split Breakdown: A Routine for Results or Ridicule?

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by  Ryan Crawley | Last Updated:  Oct 18, 2020
Bro Split Breakdown: A Routine for Results or Ridicule?

I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to seriously lifting weights. 

I can still remember signing up for a gym membership in my early twenties and heading into the weight room with one goal in mind.

I wanted to get stronger and add some serious muscle mass.

Once I looked around, I did what most guys do when they have no idea what they are doing. I didn’t ask any questions and I just managed on my own. 

gym GIF

Of course, I did curls and flat bench every single workout. But other than that, I basically did mostly machines. 

That all changed one day when an older guy in his fifties asked me to train with him because the guy he usually worked out with hadn’t shown up. It was an education! 

This was the moment when the bro split entered my life and transformed my body. 

Looking back, I wonder. Would I have been better off instilling full-body workout routines early and often?

What is a Bro Split?

Bro Split Infographic

Bro split strength training is the act of training only certain muscle groups every workout. When working out four or five times a week, you’ll eventually train every major muscle group at least once.

Here’s  an example of a bro split training schedule: 

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Biceps and Triceps
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Back and Shoulders
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Of course, with some exercise movements, you’ll be revisiting certain muscle groups a couple of times during the week with a bro split schedule, but you aren’t entirely focusing on them. 

For instance, triceps are going to be trained frequently as they are used during benching and shoulder presses as well as hitting them on biceps and triceps day. But for the most part, each muscle group is going to be trained hard only on certain days. 

Are Bro Splits Effective For Building Muscle?

Muscular Model Doing a Barbell Curl

Here’s the thing about bro splits: They are effective and you’ll definitely be able to put on muscle and gain strength as long as you stay consistent and push yourself. 

This means that you need to put down the phone while training. You need to skip the five minutes between sets as you joke around with a buddy or two. Too many guys complain they aren’t making gains, but if you watched them working out, you’d know why. 

Bro Split vs Full-body Workouts

You might be thinking all that is fine, but are bro splits more effective at building muscle than four full-body workouts each week? Rather than isolate the muscle groups, do all of them a few times a week but just with less sets and reps. 

Here’s the truth: It all depends on your preference. There are those who swear by the bro splits and there are others who you’d never convince to give up compound exercises and full-body workouts. I’ve heard arguments over this issue for years, and they’ll keep on happening for many more to come.

But check this out. 

This is an interesting study that I think you’ll enjoy for this debate. While citing research studies in the weight room is not a sight you usually see, at least you’ll be prepared the next time this discussion presents itself. 

The study from 2016 titled “Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High-Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training” assessed 19 men and women with previous strength training experience as they were placed into two separate groups. One group completed the bro split training for eight weeks and the other group did eight weeks with three full-body workouts a week. 

I highly recommend you read the study itself, but here’s the bottom line: The gains made in each group were basically the exact same.

Yep, the bro split group performed essentially the same as the full-body workout group. 

Pros and Cons of Using a Bro Split

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There are pros and cons to everything in life. For example, you may marry the most beautiful woman in the world (pro). However, the amount of time she spends to make herself this beautiful could be out of control (con).

There are a couple of pros to the bro split that need to be weighed against the cons.

Pros

  • Can perform enough exercises and sets to totally exhaust the muscle which you wouldn’t be able to do with a limited full-body workout. 

  •  Usually a shorter workout of an hour or so. 

Cons

  • Only hit each muscle group once a week.

  • Doesn’t take full advantage of protein synthesis. Your muscle grows a full 36 hours after being trained and then it stops. With bro split workouts, they supposedly aren’t growing as much as they could as they are only trained once a week. 

My Favorite Bro Split Routine

I’m a guy that looks at the gym as my home away from home. I enjoy being in any weight room. 

So my favorite bro split routine may not be conducive to your schedule as it requires me to be there six days a week.

I try to take advantage of protein synthesis by training each muscle group twice a week in my bro split while shortening my workouts to half an hour each. This is my current bro split schedule. 

Depending upon how I feel, I may do three sets for ten reps or six sets for eight reps as I pyramid up in weights. It’s all about the feel. However, this is pretty close though to what I did during my last week of training. 

In addition, I include a leg exercise a couple of times a week at the end of training sessions instead of doing a complete leg day on its own. 

Monday: Chest

ExerciseSetsReps
Barbell Bench Press5Pyramid (10, 10, 8, 6, 4)
High Cable Flys310 each set
Dumbbell Pullover310 each set
Incline Barbell Bench Press5Pyramid (10, 10, 8, 6, 4)

Tuesday: Biceps and Triceps

Exercise SetsReps
Dumbbell Hammer Curls38 to 12
Dips3 to 415 reps per set
Cable Curls610 reps per set as weight is added
Skull Crushers310 reps per set
Preacher Curl Machine3As many as I can each set

Wednesday: Back and Shoulders (Legs)

ExerciseSetsReps
Deadlifts510, 10, 8, 6, 2
Pull-ups38 per set
Standing Barbell Military Press410 per set
Rows510 to 15 per set
Lateral Raise310 per set

Thursday: Chest

ExerciseSetsReps
Dumbbell Bench Press510, 10, 8, 6, 3
Dumbbell Flys310 per set
Decline Push-ups310 to 15 per set
Pec Deck Machine410 per set

Friday: Biceps and Triceps (Legs)

ExerciseSetsReps
Seated Dumbbell Curls410 per set
Cable Tricep Pushdowns410 to 15 per set
Barbell Curls410 per set
Squats510, 8, 6, 4, 4

Saturday: Back and Shoulders

ExerciseSetsReps
Lat Pulldown310 reps per set
Shrugs310 to 15 per set
Dumbbell Overhead Press510 per set
Rear Delt Machine310 reps per set

It’s About Preference

In closing, once again, whatever gets you to the gym and has you enjoying the workout is the routine you should choose. 

Whether it’s a bro split or full-body workout, studies have shown the gains are very similar. What matters is that you’re consistently training and being healthy.

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FAQs

Is the bro split bad?

Definitely not. If you walk into any weight room on a Monday, you’ll most likely see a majority of guys doing chest. It seems there’s an unwritten rule, at least in the gyms I go to, that chest day is Monday. With a bro split chest day, you’re able to do many more chest exercises than you would in a full-body workout.

Do bro splits work for naturals?

Bro splits work for everyone, whether you’re natural or not. On the other hand, so do full-body workouts. If you’re in doubt, train 12 weeks doing bro split workouts and then do 12 weeks doing full-body. Compare the gains made.

Why do pro bodybuilders do bro splits?

Have you ever seen how heavy most pro bodybuilders go in the weight room? It can take five or six days for their muscles to bounce back before they can train them again. Plus, they have to consider aesthetics. If their shoulders need to improve to match their chest, they can spend extra time on them and really hit them hard in a bro split workout.