I've been reflecting recently on my past seven years in the fitness game, and I…
What Is A Bro Split?
The Bro Split is a highly popular way of training, that splits the body into five different groups (usually). Often this kind of bodybuilding split will look like the following:
- Monday – International Chest Day
- Tuesday – Back
- Wednesday – Legs
- Thursday – Off
- Friday – Shoulders
- Saturday – Arms
- Sunday – Off
Regardless of whether or not the person chooses to participate in ‘International Chest Day’, the Bro Split tends to be spread across five training sessions per week, with two days off.
It became popular decades ago, through some of the ‘Golden Era Bodybuilders’ like Arnold and Frank.
But modern day science has a couple of things to say about it…
The Science On Bro Splits
Brad Schoenfeld has conducted a very useful meta-analysis of all the studies on training frequency and muscle growth – he’s done all the work for us.
Training frequency does not significantly affect muscle growth, when total training volume is equated.
Meaning; as long as you perform enough total volume (# of sets x weight x reps), then it doesn’t matter if you train once per week or three times per week. The muscle growth will be the same.
Total work performed (per week) is all that truly matters when it comes to muscle growth.
But there’s a problem with this (as with most studies).
In the real world, this doesn’t work out to be that applicable. If you’re a very well-trained lifter like myself, and have been lifting for 10 years, needing 20 sets of chest per week to grow…Is this realistically going to be performed in one session without serious problems?
Without EVER getting injured? Or fatigued? Or losing rep quality after 1.5 hours of benching?
It’s not realistic.
In the real world, there’s a very high chance that you’re better off splitting this volume up into multiple sessions per week, if you want to stay injury-free long-term.
Having said that, if you’re an exception to this and you know for sure that you can do 12 sets of bench in one session, or 8 sets of squats/leg press without any issues, then feel free to do whatever you like.
Bro Split Vs Full Body Workouts
Some guys like bro splits because it ‘feels good’ to exclusively focus on one muscle for the whole workout, which may actually yield better results for them in reality, IF it leads to a better mind/muscle connection.
Again, scientists don’t like the term ‘mind/muscle connection’ because they can’t measure or quantify it. But it doesn’t mean it’s not a major force behind your muscle gains. I mean, try doing a drunken weight lifting session, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Muscle connection helps you to ‘LooksMax‘, and the old-school bodybuilders knew this.
But if you can maintain a strong mind/muscle connection while doing full body workouts, you may well be better off over the long-haul.
For the experienced lifter (and certainly for Men Over 40), the Bro Split does put a cap on how much volume you can realistically perform per week. If you exceed this cap, you’re more likely to get injured. There’s only so many sets of incline bench you can do until your elbows and shoulders get beat up.
If you’re over 40 and you’re looking to gain some muscle without getting injured, make sure you’re on the email list. I give away free tips constantly to my audience:
But if you split these sets across three sessions of squat, bench, some deadlifts and pull ups? You’re far less likely to suffer the same issues. You have less inflammation to recover from when you split it into ‘manageable chunks’. All you need to do is maintain your mind/muscle connection by doing several high rep warm up sets to pump blood into the target muscles.
Here’s what it would look like…
The Bro Split Routine
|Bro Split||Full Body Split|
|Monday||21 sets of mostly benching||7 sets of bench/back, 5 sets of legs, 8 sets of arms/shoulders|
|Tuesday||21 sets of rows/pull ups|
|Wednesday||15 sets of squats/deads||7 sets of bench/back, 5 sets of legs, 8 sets of arms/shoulders|
|Friday||24 sets of overhead press/side raises||7 sets of bench/back, 5 sets of legs, 8 sets of arms/shoulders|
|Saturday||24 sets of biceps/triceps|
See how this would be far more manageable, AND it wouldn’t force you to do less compound movements and more isolation movements? I.e it wouldn’t force to you bench less and do more incline fly’s because of shoulder pain, for example.
It would also allow you to get very competent at certain exercises very quickly. You may find it easier to make faster gains as a beginner with a higher training frequency. Building an Adonis Belt for example, may be easier due to the repetition of movement that beginners need.
But the two drawbacks to the full body routine, are:
- Loss of mind/muscle connection
- Too much time spend in the gym per session
The latter can be solved by super setting exercises, which is even more doable if you have your own home gym/dumbbell set. Chest and back movements can be supersetted, just like arms and shoulders can all be supersetted.
This will save you HUGE amounts of time week in, week out. Just be prepared for the intensity.
Having said that, if you’re a brand new beginner you don’t need to worry about this, in fact, your training should look a lot more like this:
|Bro Split||Full Body Split|
|Monday||10 sets of mostly benching||3-4 sets of bench/back, 2-3 sets of legs, 3-4 sets of arms/shoulders|
|Tuesday||10 sets of rows/pull ups|
|Wednesday||8 sets of squats/deads||3-4 sets of bench/back, 2-3 sets of legs, 3-4 sets of arms/shoulders|
|Friday||10 sets of overhead press/side raises||3-4 sets of bench/back, 2-3 sets of legs, 3-4 sets of arms/shoulders|
|Saturday||10 sets of biceps/triceps|
THAT full body workout could be done in under 1 hour. And there’s no way you’ll be getting injured doing that, assuming your technique is on point. Whereas 10 sets of incline bench might still be asking for trouble if you’re trying to do it all in one session, like you would with the Bro Split.
A good example of a full body workout that accomplishes all this, is the James Bond program. Definitely check it out if you’re over 40.
But at the end of the day, it’s really up to you which training methodology you choose.
Training Frequency & Injuries
You’d be training each muscle once per week on the bro split, and three times per week on the full body split. BOTH work for muscle gain, as long as the training volume is equated.
In reality, BOTH will work if you’re a beginner and you’re not doing that much total volume because you simply don’t need it.
But as you become more advanced and/or you start aging, you’ll want something that lowers your risk of injury from all that volume.
This is where full body workouts come in.
While the full body workouts are definitely going to be better for your knees, elbows, shoulders and lower back, they might get time consuming for the advanced lifter.
It all depends on your situation.
If you take REAL time to get changed, showered, and to drive to the gym, then this may not be the case. Being in the gym less times per week may be better for you. Supersetting is also another technique to look at on the full body workouts to save serious time.
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