Bro Split - The Ultimate Guide to 5 Day Bro Split Routine
Recapture your motivation with the bro split which is one of the best ways to build muscle and strength:

What Is a Bro Split?

Bro split is one of the most widely used bodybuilding routines in gyms all over the world. It is a type of split training that works major body parts over the course of a week. Each day is devoted to a specific muscle group that you want to build.

In other words, it is nothing but a strategic approach to organising your training. One example of a bro split routine is:

  • Monday – Chest day
  • Tuesday – Back day
  • Wednesday – Shoulders and Traps day
  • Thursday – Legs and Abs day
  • Friday – Biceps, Triceps, and Forearms day
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Rest day

Saturday and Sunday are typically reserved for rest. However, you can switch one day to do core workouts or cardio for active recovery, and then you repeat the same schedule during the week.

You can easily change exercises, switch the days, and get enough time to rest and stay motivated, without losing your muscle gains.

Can Bro Splits Effectively Build Muscle?

The bro split routine has received a lot of backlash because of its low frequency. The philosophy behind the critique is that muscle protein synthesis levels off in 36 hours of exercise (1). So, when someone does not target their muscles 2-3 times in a week he or she misses out on muscle growth.

Another study (2), published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, that tested this philosophy behind training frequency, concluded that high-frequency resistance training does not deliver extra hypertrophy perks and strength than a lower frequency, provided that the intensity and volume are equated. So, trainers can expect a rise in endurance and strength with three 13-min weekly sessions (3) than an 8-week period.

So, as long as you do sufficient exercise every week, your muscles will grow. This theory is also backed up by research (4) done by Gomes et al. in 2019, so you don’t need to keep your muscle protein synthesis high.

Therefore, rest assured, the bro split does an amazing job at building muscle and needless to say it is very effective.

Pros and Cons of Bro Split Routine

Pros of Bro Split

  • It’s incredibly easy and simple to follow, and you train every day with a fresher and better-recovered state.
  • It’s more fun to work a specific muscle group, instead of dividing your focus between a few.
  • If you're already muscular, your muscles will need 4 to 6 days to recover. Hence, targetting every muscle group once a week is better.
  • Depending on the frequency, your session can be shorter. So, you can divide the same volume across more sessions per week instead of squeezing in a lot of volume.

Cons of Bro Split

  • To follow bro split properly, you need to reserve 4-5 days every week. This isn’t possible for some people, and you may have to go for a split that suits you better for a low training frequency such as full-body and PPL (Push Pull Legs).
  • If your goals are acquiring skills and strength, a bro split might not be the way to organize your training. Research (5) says that working a specific muscle group or pattern of movement, more often, is better for strength gains.
  • Performance deteriorates more significantly as the workout routine advances. So, when you reach the stage of doing 10-16 sets for a muscle group, it won’t be as capable of working productively and will be much weaker. This can have long-term effects on muscle growth.

5 Day Bro Split Routine

Now, that we have a clear understanding of what is a bro split, when to do a bro split, its pros and cons, and whether it is better than other workout routines, let’s take a look at a classic bro split routine:

Monday: Chest Day

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Flat barbell bench press

4

6-8

Incline dumbbell press

4

8-12

Plyometric push-ups

4

10-20

Low cable chest fly

3-4

15-25

Tuesday: Back Day

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rack pull deadlifts

4

5-8

Pull-ups or chin-ups

4

5-10

Single-arm dumbbell row

4

8-12

Seated cable rows

3-4

12-15

For More Back Exercises: The 7 Best Back Exercises to Strengthen Back Muscles

Wednesday: Shoulders and Traps Day

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Overhead barbell push-press

4

6-12

Seated single-arm dumbbell overhead press

4

8-12

Standing barbell shrugs

3-4

6-12

Lateral cable shoulder raises

3-4

12-20

Cable face pulls

3-4

15-25

Thursday: Legs and Abs Day

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Barbell high-bar back squats

4

6-10

Glute-ham raises

4

8-12

Hack squats

3

8-15

Lying hamstring curls

3

12-15

Seated leg extensions

2-3

12-20

Machine calf raises

2-4

10-20

Hanging knee raises

2-4

10-20

Friday: Biceps, Triceps, and Forearms Day

Exercise

Sets

Reps

EZ-bar bicep curls

3

6-10

Close-grip bench press

3

6-10

Dumbbell hammer curl

3

8-12

Rope cable tricep extension

3

10-15

Preacher curl

3

12-20

Overhead tricep extensions

3

12-20

Plate pinches (per hand)

3

30-60 sec holds

The Bro Split & Other Routines

Let's take a look at how well bro split competes with other famous workout routines:

Bro Split vs PPL (Push Pull Legs)

Opposite to the bro split, PPL concentrates on the actual movement of the lift you perform and not as much on the particular muscles. For instance, during a chest press, you push the weight away from you while working your triceps, deltoids, and chest. These are the push muscles, and they get activated in exercises, including pushing something away from the body. And the same goes for pull muscles like the biceps and the back when you pull something closer to your body, such as pull-ups.

When it comes to deciding which one is good for you, it depends on your fitness goals and your body type. Bro split is perfect for you if you like the concept behind it and want something to motivate you to go to the gym and get moving 5 days a week. However, if you are concerned with gaining muscle and not about the process to get to that goal, then PPL is for you.

Bro Split vs Full Body

A full-body split trains every single muscle group of your body in each workout. Your schedule may involve full body split workout 3 days a week, with the weekends being off.

But are full-body splits better than the bro split? There isn’t any research classifying it as superior. So, as long as, you control the intensity, and volume, of your workouts the frequency doesn’t matter. Plus, full-body workouts actually feel overwhelming to some people.

Bro Split vs Upper Lower

Many people like the upper/lower split because it trains each muscle group twice and 4 days a week. But there are some problems with it:

  1. Programming: Designing an effective upper/lower routine is exhausting because you need to be very careful when choosing exercises. Some exercises can fatigue your other muscle groups which might suffer when you do a session on them.
  1. Volume Allocation: Having 2 upper, and 2 lower workouts, is good, but most people find it challenging. The reason being that their lower body session is shorter, and low in volume as compared to their upper body workouts which are challenging and incredibly long. This is because there are more muscle groups in the upper body than the lower half.
  1. Priority on an Upper Lower Split: You are required, to do trade-offs for upper body each week because you have to prioritize a specific muscle group and work the rest in an exhausted condition. So, you get 2 upper body sessions, and you have to choose between beginning with the back, shoulders, or chest.

However, with a bro split, you get one day for each muscle group. This way, you can focus on one group without doing a trade-off.

The Final Takeaway

Building muscle is a time taking process, and it demands perseverance. If you are a newbie, the bro split can help you reach your goals quicker than other types of weightlifting exercises.

Moreover, if you do not have a lot of gym equipment or free weights, you can do bodyweight workouts and use resistance bands to create your own, bro split routine at home. And do not worry, you can still be a “bro”, even if you do not do the bro splits!

Also Read: Strength Training Program for Men and Women

References

(1) MacDougall, J. Duncan, Martin J. Gibala, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, Jay R. MacDonald, Stephen A. Interisano, and Kevin E. Yarasheski. "The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise." Canadian Journal of applied physiology 20, no. 4 (1995): 480-486.

(2) Colquhoun, Ryan J., Christopher M. Gai, Danielle Aguilar, Daniel Bove, Jeffrey Dolan, Andres Vargas, Kaylee Couvillion, Nathaniel DM Jenkins, and Bill I. Campbell. "Training volume, not frequency, indicative of maximal strength adaptations to resistance training." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 32, no. 5 (2018): 1207-1213.

(3) Schoenfeld, Brad J., Bret Contreras, James Krieger, Jozo Grgic, Kenneth Delcastillo, Ramon Belliard, and Andrew Alto. "Resistance training volume enhances muscle hypertrophy but not strength in trained men." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 51, no. 1 (2019): 94.

(4) Gomes, Gederson K., Cristiane M. Franco, Paulo Ricardo P. Nunes, and Fábio L. Orsatti. "High-frequency resistance training is not more effective than low-frequency resistance training in increasing muscle mass and strength in well-trained men." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 33 (2019): S130-S139.

(5) Ochi, Eisuke, Masataka Maruo, Yosuke Tsuchiya, Naokata Ishii, Koji Miura, and Kazushige Sasaki. "Higher training frequency is important for gaining muscular strength under volume-matched training." Frontiers in physiology 9 (2018): 744.

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