CPT Workout Plans

Bro Splits - What Are They & Are They Effective?

Brad Dieter
Brad Dieter

Bro science. This is a term we hear mentioned quite often in the fitness world. It refers to the concept that some ideas are viewed as true in the bodybuilding and weightlifting world, despite there not being good evidence to support it.However, that doesn’t mean all ideas that fall under bro-science are “bad” ideas. Some of them are good ideas that have come from a lot of experimenting and testing and refining ideas over time.

One of those ideas is the concept known as a Bro Split, which is an approach to programming that has become popular among the Bodybuilding community. This is the topic for today. So, buckle up, because we are going to take a deep dive into the Bro Split.

Learning to distinguish what a bro split actually is is key for all personal trainers. Read on!

What are Bro Splits?

The term is used to describe a way of dividing one's training up across a week, specifically as it relates to weightlifting. Generally speaking, Bro Splits divide the training across major muscle groups.

The idea behind this is that you get to target each muscle group once a week and get a lot of volumes in because you then have a full week to recover before you train again. However, you end up using muscle groups more than once a week as we will discuss below.

The most common type of Bro Split is a 5-day split, breaking it across the following 5 workouts:

• Chest Day
• Back Day
• Leg Day
• Shoulder Day
• Arm Day

However, some people do a 3-day bro split either once a week or twice a week depending on the level of their training. A 3-day split might look like the following:

• Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
• Back and Biceps
• Leg Day

Example Bro Split Routine (Monday - Sunday)

There are a lot of different ways to program a Bro Split. The exact exercises, reps, sets, and loading will vary dramatically from person-to-person depending on their goals, training history, limitations, and injury history so there is no singular best way to program for a Bro Split. But here is one example of how you could program a Bro Split for a 5-day split.

5 Day Bro Split

Day 1: Chest Day

Dumbbell Chest Press: 5 sets of 5 reps
Incline DB Flys: 4 sets of 8 reps
Overhead Dumbbell Extensions: 3 sets of 8 reps
Dips: 3 sets of 12 reps
Face Pulls: 3 sets of 12 reps
Narrow Grip DB Chest Press: 3 sets of 15 reps

Day 2: Back Day

Single Arm Dumbbell Rows: 4 sets of 8 reps
Seated Cable Rows: 4 sets of 10 reps
EZ Bar Curls: 3 sets of 12 reps
Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets of 12 reps
Reverse Flys: 3 sets of 12 reps
Farmers Carries: 3 sets of 100 feet

Day 3: Leg Day

Single-Leg DB Deadlift: 2 sets of 10 reps (warm-up weight)
Back Squat: 4 sets of 8 reps
Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets of 8 reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 3 sets of 10 reps
Lying Hamstring Curls: 4 sets of 10 reps
Seated Calf Raises: 3 sets of 15 reps
Lunges: 3 sets of 12 reps

Day 4: Shoulder Day

Seated Military Press: 4 sets of 12 reps
Lateral Raises: 3 sets of 12 reps
Incline DB Bench Press: 3 sets of 12 reps
Band Front Raises: 3 sets of 10 reps
Banded Rear Delt Flys: 3 sets of 10 reps
DB Shoulder Shrugs: 4 sets of 15 reps

Day 5: Arm Day

Chin-Ups: 2 sets of 10 reps
Triceps Push Downs: 3 sets of 12 reps
Dumbbell Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 12 reps
Narrow Grip Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 12 reps
Reverse Grip EZ Bar Curls: 3 sets of 12 reps
Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extensions: 3 sets of 15 reps
Seated DB Biceps Curls: 3 sets of 15 reps

Are Bro Splits Effective? Do They Work?

There has been a lot of discussion about Bro Splits and whether they can be effective. The truth is, Bro Splits can be effective for certain people and in certain circumstances, but it fundamentally comes down to whether you are getting a sufficient stimulus to grow and whether you are recovering properly between training sessions.

When used in the context of progressively overloading the body through increasing total volume and the intensity (e.g., the weight lifted) over time, Bro Splits can provide enough stimulus to promote growth. Additionally, if you program properly, you can also allow adequate time to recover between sessions so you can continue to train effectively.

So, the answer is yes, Bro Splits can be effective. However, there is not anything specifically magical about splitting workouts this way that makes them vastly superior.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Bro Splits?

Just like most other ways of programming, there are pros and cons of following a Bro Split that people should consider when deciding whether to utilize a Bro Split.

The pros are that following a Bro Split can allow you to easily focus on one major muscle group at a time and ensure that you hit each muscle group with adequate volume in each week. Oftentimes people will overlook some muscle groups like shoulders which can require a significant amount of volume to grow.

Another pro is that you get adequate recovery between substantial volume with a muscle group so you can fully recover between training sessions. Sometimes it can take up to a week for DOMS to completely recover, especially from an intense leg day.

There are also a few cons to consider. One of the major cons is that if you are only able to work out 2 or 3 days a week structuring your workouts like this can make it difficult to get your training in as the sessions can get long. You can collapse your days into 3 days which can make training sessions upwards of 2 hours.

Another con is that these workouts can involve a lot of training volume for newer lifters and might be too much to load at a given time, which can be solved by having shorter sessions with less total workload until the lifter can increase their volume.

The Wrap up

The Bro Split was invented in the context of Bro Science but has been tested for decades by bodybuilders and lifters. There are some excellent principles instilled in this approach, such as maximizing volume by muscle group while allowing for recovery, however, there is nothing inherently magical about utilizing this approach.

This split is a good alternative to other splits, such as Upper and Lower Splits or Push and Pulls. Make sure that you are following the concept of progressive overload and programming smartly around any limitations and that you customize your program to your situation.

The Author

Brad Dieter

Brad Dieter

Brad is a trained Exercise Physiologist, Molecular Biologist, and Biostatistician. He received his B.A. from Washington State University and a Masters of Science in Biomechanics at the University of Idaho, and completed his PhD at the University of Idaho. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship in translational science at Providence Medical Research Center, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital where he studied how metabolism and inflammation regulate molecular mechanisms disease and was involved in discovering novel therapeutics for diabetic complications. Currently, Dr. Dieter is the Chief Scientific Advisor at Outplay Inc and Harness Biotechnologies and is active in health technology and biotechnology. In addition, he is passionate about scientific outreach and educating the public through his role on Scientific Advisory Boards and regular writing on health, nutrition, and supplementation.