If you’ve been in the gym a while, you’ve likely come across the term “bro split” and wondered what exactly it means. A bro split routine is a 5-day training program that trains each major muscle group on its own training day once per week.
Bro split workout routines have fans and critics. Some claim they are outdated and ineffective for those looking for strength and muscle gains. Others promote them as a great approach to building muscle and strength.
Here, we’ll explain exactly what a bro split routine entails, how to use this training style yourself, unpack the pros and cons of a bro split, and bust some popular myths about bro splits.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is a Bro Split Workout Routine?
- 2 Bro Split Routine Example Program
- 3 Bro Split Benefits
- 4 Bro split Drawbacks
What is a Bro Split Workout Routine?
A bro split routine is a workout split that dedicates one complete training session to each of the following muscle groups.
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Back
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Arms
- Friday: Shoulders
A bro split routine involves five training days per week and two rest days before restarting the cycle. In addition to the muscle group workouts listed, you can also add sets for your calves and abs twice a week at your discretion.
The traditional bro split routine has five consecutive training days followed by two rest days. You can restructure the routine to separate your rest days and make the training split work for your schedule.
This training split was named “bro split” because it was common to see stereotypical “gym bros” following this workout routine, spending an entire day on bench presses and chest flys or dedicating a gym session to bicep curls and arm exercises.
Another major influence on the bro split was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who popularized the Arnold Split.
Here’s Jeff Nippard with a great overview of the pros and cons of the bro split.
Bro Split Routine Example Program
There are a few variations of the bro split workout routine available online, but the one outlined below is the classic.
For some exercises, the rep scheme follows a descending pyramid, where the weight increases as the number of reps decreases. Other exercises prescribe a fixed number of reps for each set, and some accessory lifts include drop sets to increase intensity and volume.
Some bodyweight exercises follow an AMRAP style set structure, taking each set to technical failure to get in as much volume as possible for a particular muscle group.
Bro Split Program Spreadsheet
You can download a free customizable version of this program spreadsheet here if you want to try out the bro split.
Bro Split Workout Routine Example
Day 1: Chest and Calves
- Exercise 1: Barbell Incline Bench Press – four sets of 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
- Exercise 2: Dumbbell Bench Press – four sets of 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
- Exercise 3: Incline Dumbbell Flyes – four sets of 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
- Exercise 4: Dips – Chest Version – three sets of as many reps as possible (AMRAP)
- Exercise 5: Standing Calf Raises – five sets of 20, 15, 12, 10, 8 reps
- Exercise 6: Seated Calf Raises – five sets of 25, 20, 20, 15, 12, 10 reps
Day 2: Back
- Exercise 1: Deadlift – three sets of 10, 8, 6 reps
- Exercise 2: Bent Over Barbell Row – four sets of 12, 10, 8, 8 reps
- Exercise 3: Wide Grip Chin Up – four sets of 10 reps
- Exercise 4: Seated Cable Rows – four sets of 12, 10, 8, 8 reps (drop set to failure each set)
Day 3: Legs
- Exercise 1: Squats – five sets of 15, 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
- Exercise 2: Front Squats – four sets of 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
- Exercise 3: Leg Press – three sets of 10, 8, 8
- Exercise 4: Quad Extensions – four sets of 12, 10, 8, 8 reps
- Exercise 5: Lying Leg Curls – four sets of 12, 10, 8, 8 reps
Day 4: Arms and Calves
- Exercise 1: Barbell Curl – four sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
- Exercise 2: Alternating Dumbbell Curl – 8-10 reps
- Exercise 3: Preacher Curl – three sets of 10 reps
- Exercise 4: Concentration Curl – three sets of 15 reps
- Exercise 5: Dumbbell One-Arm Triceps Extension – three sets of 12-15 reps
- Exercise 6: Tricep Rope Extension – four sets of 12, 10, 8, 8 reps
- Exercise 7: Skull Crushers – four sets of 10-12 reps
- Exercise 8: Standing Calf Raises – five sets of 20, 15, 12, 10, 8 reps
- Exercise 9: Seated Calf Raises – five sets of 25, 20, 15, 12, 10 reps
Day 5: Shoulders
- Exercise 1: Shoulder Press – four sets of 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
- Exercise 2: Side Lateral Raise – four sets of 10 reps
- Exercise 3: Bent Over Rear Delt Raise – three sets of 10 reps
- Exercise 4: Front Dumbbell Raise – three sets of 10 reps
- Exercise 5: Upright Barbell Row – two sets of 10 reps
- Exercise 6: Rear Delt Pec Deck Flyes – four sets of 12-15 reps
- Exercise 7: Barbell Shrug – four sets of 20, 15, 12, 10 reps
- Exercise 8: Dumbbell Shrug – three sets of 12, 10, 8 reps
Day 6: Rest or Optional Training
Take a rest day, or train any lagging body parts if you want to and feel sufficiently recovered.
Day 7: Rest Day
Rest and recharge to restart on day 1.
Bro Split Benefits
- Simple and straightforward
- Plenty of rest for each muscle group
- Supports mind-to-muscle connection
Simple and straightforward
The bro split’s simplicity makes it a popular option for beginners since little complex planning is required. You only need to focus on one muscle group per session, don’t need to remember complex workout splits, or worry about constantly changing exercises or rep and set schemes.
Plenty of rest for each muscle group
More advanced lifters may benefit from more rest days in between training the same muscle group. Bro splits guarantee at least three to four rest days before retraining a specific muscle group, allowing you to fully regenerate and work your muscles with maximum energy and intensity.
Supports mind-to-muscle connection
Training just one muscle group per day in the gym allows you to focus all your attention on that muscle group and train with more intention. You can give each session your all without worrying about impeding your recovery for upcoming sessions and may get more in tune with how good quality reps feel.
Bro split Drawbacks
- Too much volume in one session
- Lacks variety of rep and set structure
- Lacks flexibility
Too much volume in one session
If you’re a beginner new to the bro split, you may struggle with the training volume prescribed for each muscle group in a bro workout split. Because a bro split routine only trains your main muscle groups once a week, some exercises have pretty difficult amounts of sets and reps.
For example, leg days include five sets of increasingly heavy back squats, immediately followed by four sets of front squats, three sets of leg presses, four sets of quad extensions, and four sets of lying leg curls. For newbies and even some intermediate lifters, this sequence could be a recipe for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), poor muscle recovery, or even tendon and ligament damage.
Lacks variety of rep and set structure
This program appeals to some beginners because of the straightforward structure of the workouts; however, doing the same exercises with the same number of sets and reps can quickly get boring. The method also fails to challenge your body in new ways or guarantee progressive overload, leading to strength or hypertrophy plateaus.
As bro splits only have one session for most major muscle groups, you can’t afford to miss a workout when using the bro split. If you do, your whole program will be thrown off, and your progress may become stalled by going an entire week without any resistance training stimulus to whichever muscle group was skipped.
For gym goers just starting out in their fitness journey, a bro split is a common approach to training. It appears logical to focus on one body part at a time and give it complete focus and high training volume.
But resistance training research and science have come a long way, and the most recent high-quality data indicates that training muscle groups more frequently is more optimal for muscle growth.
That said, if you love training each muscle group once a week and remain consistent, you will still see progress over time. The best workout for you may not be the one that is most optimal in theory. It is the one you enjoy doing and will actually be able to stick to.
Bro split workout routines are not optimal for maximal strength gains. One rigorous meta-analysis concluded that higher training frequency leads to more substantial strength gains even when training volume is equal.
You will still get stronger over time if you train each muscle group once a week using a bro split, but it may not be as efficient or effective as training your muscle groups more often.
When focusing on muscle growth, the push-pull legs (PPL) may be better than the bro split. Push/pull/legs have advantages over a bro split, like increasing training volume for your major muscle groups and more frequency to boost muscle growth.
However, if you enjoy a bro split and find it more sustainable and realistic, you will still be able to build muscle if you stay consistent.
A full-body split is better for lifters chasing body recomposition or wanting to build strength while losing fat. Training multiple muscle groups together in a single session will burn more calories and help you get shredded while you build strength and gain muscle. Bro splits are less effective for burning calories, as only one major muscle group is trained per day.