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The ultimate Bro Split Workout to help you maximize muscle gains with targeted training
A “bro split” is a popular term in the fitness and bodybuilding community for describing a specific type of workout routine.
What is a bro split?
A “bro split” is a popular term in the fitness and bodybuilding community for describing a specific type of workout regimen.
The bro split workout is a routine followed by athletes with aesthetics and hypertrophy or muscle growth goals rather than overall strength or athletic performance.
It involves training each muscle group separately on different days of the week.
Bro split is often associated with a 5-day workout routine. It involves dedicating each training day to a specific muscle group or groups, such as the chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs.
The 5-day bro split allows athletes to focus their training on individual muscle groups while providing sufficient rest and recovery time between sessions.
A typical bro split workout or weekly training schedule might look like this:
Day 1: Chest
Day 2: Back
Day 3: Shoulders
Day 4: Arms (biceps and triceps)
Day 5: Legs
As seen above, you dedicate a day to target and work a specific muscle or group.
Bro splits are often criticized because they typically involve training each muscle group only once a week.
Some athletes consider the frequency relatively low for optimal muscle growth and strength development compared to other training approaches like full-body workouts or upper/lower splits.
However, some athletes still prefer bro splits for various reasons, such as personal preference or specific training goals.
Bro split benefits
Bro split workouts have limitations, but many athletes may benefit from following the routine.
Focus on specific muscles.
Bro split workouts allow an athlete to concentrate on working individual muscles or groups during each session.
That can benefit athletes who want to prioritize specific areas for aesthetic purposes or want to address specific muscle imbalances.
Higher training volume per muscle group
Bro split workouts often involve performing multiple exercises and sets for a particular muscle or muscle group.
The higher volume can potentially help stimulate muscle growth and hypertrophy.
Adequate recovery time
The program allows you to target and train each muscle once a week.
That gives the muscles more time to recover and repair.
The extended recovery period can benefit athletes who require more time to recover from intense workouts.
Flexibility and customization
You can tailor bro splits to suit your preferences and goals.
You can choose specific exercises and intensity levels. You can also incorporate variations within each training day to meet your needs and preferences.
Some athletes may find satisfaction and motivation in dedicating separate days to different muscle groups.
The feeling of focusing intensely on one area can provide a sense of accomplishment and make the training process more enjoyable.
Bro split workout limitations.
Like many workouts, bro splits have limitations.
Below are some of the drawbacks associated with this type of workout regimen.
Limited frequency per muscle group
This low training frequency may not provide optimal stimulation for muscle growth and strength development compared to routines that target muscles more frequently.
Insufficient overall training volume
Bro splits often involve higher volumes for individual muscle groups during each session. However, the total weekly volume for each muscle may still be relatively low.
Studies have shown that higher weekly training volume, distributed over multiple sessions, can lead to higher muscle growth and strength gains (1).
Lack of exercise variety
Bro splits can mean a limited exercise selection for each muscle within a given session.
That can result in a repetitive workout routine that may not stimulate higher muscle development or address imbalances.
Imbalanced muscle development
Bro splits may lead to imbalances in muscle development by focusing on specific muscles on separate days.
Neglected or undertrained muscle groups may not progress at the same rate as the emphasized muscle groups, potentially leading to aesthetic imbalances and increased risk of injury.
Longer training sessions
Each session in a bro split workout may require lots of time. That is because it involves working multiple exercises for specific muscles.
Athletes with time constraints may find that challenging. Others may also prefer shorter, more frequent workouts.
Bro splits may increase the risk of overtraining due to the higher training volume per session and limited recovery time for each muscle group.
That can happen if an athlete does not make rest and recovery strategies an integral part of the program.
Suboptimal for strength and athletic performance
Bro splits focus on hypertrophy and aesthetics but they may not be the most effective approach for athletes who want to improve strength, power, or athletic performance that require more comprehensive training programs.
Factors to consider when designing a bro split workout
Below are some key factors to consider when designing a bro split workout.
Muscle Group Split
Determine how you will divide your muscle groups across your training days.
Common bro split variations include training one or two muscle groups per session, such as chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs.
Consider your priorities, individual needs, and any muscle imbalances you want to address.
Decide on the frequency at which you will train each muscle group.
Bro splits usually involve training each muscle group once a week.
However, you can modify the frequency based on your goals and recovery capacity.
Consider higher frequencies for prioritized muscle groups or areas that require additional attention.
Choose exercises that target the specific muscle groups you want to focus on in each session.
Include compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously and isolation exercises that target individual muscles.
Opt for exercises that suit your preferences, equipment availability, and any limitations you may have.
Determine the number of sets and repetitions you’ll perform for each exercise.
Adequate training volume is essential for muscle growth and strength gains.
Adjust the volume based on your training experience, recovery capacity, and individual needs.
Gradually increase volume over time to ensure progressive overload.
Intensity and Load
Decide on the intensity of your workouts and the weight you’ll use for each exercise.
You can measure intensity by your exerted effort, the percentage of your one-repetition maximum (1RM), or your perceived exertion.
Choose weights that challenge you within your desired rep range.
Rest and Recovery
Consider the rest periods between sets and between training sessions.
Rest periods can affect training intensity and volume.
Rest periods of 60-90 seconds are used for hypertrophy-focused training, while you may require extended rest periods for heavier strength-focused training.
Ensure sufficient rest and recovery between training sessions to avoid overtraining.
Progressive overload is essential for continued muscle growth and strength gains.
Implement strategies for progressive overload, gradually increasing the demands placed on your muscles over time.
That can include increasing weights, repetitions, sets, or decreasing rest periods.
Consider incorporating periodization into your bro split workout program.
Periodization involves planned variations in training volume, intensity, and focus over specific periods.
That can help prevent plateaus, optimize progress, and minimize the risk of overuse injuries.
Tailor your bro split workout program to your specific goals, preferences, and individual needs.
Consider factors such as your fitness level, training experience, time availability, and any limitations or injuries you may have.
Modify exercises, volumes, or intensities as needed to accommodate your circumstances.
An example 5-day bro split workout program
Below is a comprehensive bro split workout program that covers five days, each dedicated to a specific muscle group
Day 1: Chest
- Barbell Bench Press: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Dumbbell Flyes: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Cable Crossovers: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Push-ups: 3 sets of maximum reps
Day 2: Back
- Deadlifts: 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- Bent-Over Rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- T-bar Rows: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Seated Cable Rows: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Day 3: Shoulders
- Seated Barbell Shoulder Press: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Arnold Press: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Front Raises: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Upright Rows: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Day 4: Arms (biceps and triceps)
- Barbell Bicep Curls: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
- Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Preacher Curls: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Tricep Dips: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
- Tricep Pushdowns: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Skull Crushers: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 5: Legs
- Squats: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
- Leg Press: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Lunges: 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg
- Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Leg Curls: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Calf Raises: 4 sets of 12-15 reps
- Warm up with light cardio and dynamic stretching before each workout.
- Choose challenging but manageable weights that allow you to complete the desired reps with proper form.
- Rest for about 60-90 seconds between sets.
- Progressively increase weights or reps over time to continue challenging your muscles.
- Incorporate appropriate warm-up sets for compound exercises like bench press, deadlifts, and squats.
- Consider incorporating adequate rest days, correct nutrition, and lifestyle changes to support your progress.
Training methods used with a bro split
When following a bro split, there are various training methods that individuals may incorporate into their workouts to optimize their training and achieve their goals.
Below are some training methods used with bro splits. You can incorporate these into their workouts to help optimize your training and achieve their goals.
The method involves gradually increasing the weight or resistance during exercises over time.
Progressively overloading the muscles allows you to stimulate the muscles, helping to promote growth and strength gains.
You can increase the weight, the number of sets or repetitions, or decrease the rest periods between sets to apply progressive overload.
Incorporating compound exercises into your bro split workout can help you to achieve better results.
Compound movements involve multiple muscle groups and joints, allowing you to work the muscles simultaneously.
Supersets involve performing two exercises back-to-back without rest.
You can use supersets to target different muscles or muscle groups in one training session.
Supersets can help save time, increase workout intensity, and enhance muscle pump.
Drop sets involve performing a set of an exercise to failure and then immediately reducing the weight and continuing with another.
The technique can help exhaust the muscles, increase metabolic stress, and promote muscle hypertrophy.
Pyramid sets involve gradually increasing or decreasing the weight with each set of an exercise.
You can start with lighter weights and higher repetitions and gradually increase the weight while reducing the reps, or vice versa.
The method can help challenge the muscles and stimulate different muscle fibers.
While compound exercises should form the foundation of your workout, incorporating isolation exercises can help target specific muscles, helping you to achieve more detailed muscle development.
Time Under Tension (TUT)
The method involves manipulating the tempo or speed of your repetitions to increase the time your muscles spend under tension.
Slow and controlled repetitions, focusing on the eccentric or lowering and concentric or lifting phases, can enhance muscle activation and promote hypertrophy.
Are bro splits effective for building muscle?
While bro splits can contribute to muscle growth to some extent, they may not be the most effective approach for building muscle compared to other training methods.
The limitations of bro splits, such as low frequency per muscle group and limited overall training volume, can potentially hinder optimal muscle development.
Research suggests that higher training frequencies may be more beneficial for maximizing muscle protein synthesis and promoting muscle growth (2).
Total training volume, that is, the total number of sets, reps, and weight lifted, plays a crucial role in muscle hypertrophy.
Bro splits may not provide sufficient training volume for each muscle group, as they focus on fewer exercises and sets per session.
Higher training volumes, distributed over multiple sessions, may be more effective for muscle growth.
Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS):
Muscle protein synthesis is the process by which muscles repair and grow after exercise. Research suggests that muscle protein synthesis stays elevated for around 48 hours post-exercise.
With bro splits, muscle groups are trained once a week, potentially allowing for long periods with suboptimal stimulation of muscle protein synthesis.
Muscle Protein Breakdown (MPB)
Muscle protein breakdown (MPB) is the process by which muscle tissue is broken down or degraded.
It occurs when the rate of protein breakdown in muscle cells exceeds the rate of protein synthesis. That can result in a net loss of muscle protein and potentially cause muscle wasting or atrophy.
Bro splits may not adequately stimulate protein synthesis while allowing muscle protein breakdown to occur.
The imbalance may limit the potential for muscle growth.
Some athletes may respond better to bro splits due to specific genetic factors or personal preferences, while others may benefit more from higher training frequencies and volumes.
Are bro splits effective for building strength?
Bro splits may not be the most effective approach for building strength compared to other training methods.
While you can build some strength with bro splits, several limitations can hinder optimal strength development.
Research suggests that higher training frequencies may be more effective for maximizing strength gains.
Frequent training exposures provide more opportunities for skill acquisition and neural adaptations, leading to improved strength.
Building strength involves muscle growth, neural adaptations, improved motor patterns, and enhanced coordination.
You may find it challenging to refine movement patterns and optimize neural adaptations, which are crucial for strength development with bro splits.
Progressive overload is a fundamental principle for building strength.
While bro splits can incorporate progressive overload, the limited training frequency per muscle group may slow down the progression of load and intensity. That can hinder strength gains compared to higher frequency training approaches.
Bro splits can limit the frequency of compound movements in each training session, reducing the stimulus for strength development.
Sessions that include full-body workouts or more frequent compound movements may be more effective for building strength.
Bro splits may not provide sufficient training volume for each muscle group, as they typically focus on fewer exercises and sets per session.
Higher training volumes, distributed over multiple sessions, may be more effective for strength gains.
Strength development often benefits from periodization, which involves planned variations in intensity, volume, and training focus over time.
Bro splits may not naturally lend themselves to effective periodization. That can limit the potential for continued strength progress.
Final words from LiveLIfe
The bro split may have some limitations, but it is an effective workout method that can help build a stronger, leaner, well-toned body.
While many identify bro split as a 5-day workout program, the term can broadly refer to any workout regimen that involves training each muscle group separately on different days, regardless of the number of training days.
Thus, some athletes may prefer a 6-day or 7-day bro split, where they dedicate days for specific muscle groups, with variations and customization based on their preferences and goals.
In effect, the specific duration of a bro split workout routine can vary depending on available time and training goals.
The key defining characteristic is the focus on training different muscle groups on separate days rather than targeting all muscle groups in a single workout.
Ultimately, your success with any bro split workout program you choose will depend on what exercises you include in your schedules and ensuring you follow the principles we have outlined.
- Schoenfeld B. J, Ogborn D. & Krieger J W. 2016. Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Springer Link
- MacDougall J D, Gibala M J, et al. 1995. The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise. National Library of Medicine. PMID: 8563679 DOI: 10.1139/h95-038