What Is a Bro Split? 4 or 5 Day Examples

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
January 21, 2023

Among the dozens of potential bodybuilding programs out there, few are as controversial as those of the “bro” split type - a method of training split where the workouts are divided by major muscle groups over the course of a single week.

To put it in a nutshell, a bro split is simply a way of organizing the workouts of a training program in such a way that every muscle group is intensely focused on. So much so, that they are given an entire workout to themselves, effectively reducing the training frequency per muscle to only once a week.

There are quite a number of bro split programs, all with varying methods of splitting up the muscles of the body and strategically placing rest days between. 

Whether it be a traditional 5 day split, a more intense 6 day split or an efficient 4 day split, understanding the reasoning behind each aspect of your workout plan is vital to maximizing its effectiveness.

The “Bro” Training Split - an Overview

Bro splits have a rather simple explanation to the manner in which they are programmed; full focus on every individual part of the body, with enough recovery to train at maximum intensity without fear of overtraining.

This can be rather effective for individuals who have issues with recovery, for those that like spending nearly every day of the week at the gym, or for individuals seeking targeted and very high volume per workout.

example bro split

Though many bro splits will feature their own take on splitting up the muscles of the body, a good example of a 5-day bro split plan is as follows (starting on Monday and ending on Friday - with weekends to rest).

  1. Chest
  2. Back
  3. Shoulder
  4. Arms
  5. Legs

While there is some overlap (mainly the arms and shoulders) between muscles recruited by each workout, it is a general rule among bro split programs that each large muscle group is isolated from the other between workouts, leading to a rather unique way of structuring weekly training sessions.

The Issue with Bro Split Programs

Unfortunately, as more clinical sports studies are made, this approach to training seems less efficient in comparison to more recently formed training programs. This is due to one simple aspect; training frequency.

The majority of modern workout programs will feature at the least a 2x per week training frequency per muscle group, meaning that the 1x per week frequency of bro split programs may be ineffective for muscular development.

This issue of frequency is still debated within fitness circles, and quite a number of bro split offshoot programs have developed their own ways of upping the training frequency therein.

Intended Demographic

The original bro split was primarily developed for amateur bodybuilders and individuals new to resistance training in general, though it has seen some use in competitive athletic training due to its compatibility with non-gym related exercise.

Common Exercises Used

Due to the manner in which bro splits divide each workout, quite a number of different exercises are utilized, with the majority being isolation exercises so as to avoid recruiting muscle groups not meant to be trained during the current session.

The most common are single-joint isolation movements performed with machines or dumbbells, such as the bicep curl or tricep pushdown exercises.

Advantages of Bro Split Training Programs

Despite the bad reputation of the bro split, there are indeed a few advantages that it has over other training programs - the majority of which are due to its unique method of dividing workout sessions.

Simplicity

Above all other benefits of the bro split is its simplicity. 

The conventional bro split does not involve high-complexity compound movements or more advanced training programming methods like periodization and deload weeks, meaning that it is arguably the best choice for individuals that simply train for fun (or who have no desire to subscribe to more complicated programs).

This simplicity is also a product of the unique split methodology involved in the bro split, where there is no overarching need to consider accumulated fatigue from one muscle group being trained over the course of multiple consecutive sessions. 

Long Recovery Time

A major problem with many modern training programs lies in recovery periods - inefficient or highly advanced training programs will often feature too little time for the soft tissues of the body to properly heal between training sessions.

In time, this can lead to injury and other physiological conditions unless countered with a sufficient length of time in which the exerciser is not participating in training.

Fortunately for bro split programs, up to an entire week can pass between training sessions involving the same muscle group - of which is far more than enough time for the body to recover from the normal strain of resistance training.

Focus on Upper-Body

Whether or not a greater focus on the muscles of the upper body is an advantage is subjective, but nonetheless the majority of bro split training programs will involve far more workouts dedicated to muscles placed therein, rather than those of the legs.

In fact, most conventional bro splits will only give the muscles of the legs a single workout out of a 5 or 6 day training split, meaning that the upper body is trained far more frequently in comparison.

Sufficient Volume Per Workout

Another benefit that may be derived from bro splits is the fact that sufficient volume is provided to each muscle group per workout - ensuring that some level of development takes place, even with the relatively low frequency of the program.

Relatively Short Workouts

Because of the fact that only one major muscle group is worked per training session, bro split programs can feature some of the shortest workouts possible, often featuring only 3-4 exercises in total.

For individuals often strapped for time, a bro split program may be one of the best options - so long as total volume is properly balanced with resistance, it is possible to complete a bro split workout within 30 minutes.

Disadvantages of Bro Split Training Programs

The main reason for the controversial nature of bro splits lies in its disadvantages, most of which are otherwise not present in more recently developed training programs.

Many Workout Sessions Per Week

Because of the sheer number of muscle groups located around the body, it is no surprise that many of the uncondensed bro split training programs are numerous in terms of workouts. Some even feature as many as 6 training sessions per week, leaving only one day out of the gym.

For individuals who do not enjoy driving back and forth to the gym, or those with a limited amount of time, this many workouts can be a major drawback of bro splits.

Very Low Frequency of Training

Perhaps the greatest disadvantage of any bro split program is in its low frequency of training for each muscle group.

While bro splits are doubtless excellent for ensuring adequate workout volume is achieved concerning any single muscle, the frequency with which these workout sessions occur is only once a week - far too little to trigger any significant muscular development, according to modern sports studies.

This is the reason many lifters forego bro splits in favor of other training programs like PPL or upper/lower splits.

Can Result in Muscle Imbalances

Energy and adherence to recovery protocols can vary on a day to day basis, something that is not as much an issue for other training programs, but can be a major source of disruption when a lifter is following a bro split routine.

This is because of the single day frequency per muscle group, meaning that if one were to perform poorly during a single workout session, it is entirely possible for other muscle groups to eclipse whatever muscle is poorly trained.

If this occurs on a repeated basis - say, if one were still fatigued from a leg workout and always performed poorly the following workout - then a muscular imbalance may develop, leading to a number of other physiological problems.

Incompatible With Novices

Because of the high volume involved in each bro split workout, individuals who have yet to properly condition their connective tissues and cardiovascular system may perform poorly or otherwise enter a state of overtraining when following bro splits.

This is also true for individuals who are unfamiliar with training programming, as though it is entirely possible to find a pre-made bro split training program, they are far more effective when customized to the exerciser’s own training level and physiology.

Bro Split Program Variations by Number of Sessions

Not all bro split training programs are necessarily the same, or are even structured in the same manner. The main point of differentiation between these programs has to do with the number of workouts that are meant to be performed within a given training week.

Four day bro split programs may even begin to resemble the popular push/pull/legs training split, as they tend to separate the back muscles, chest, arms and legs into separate training sessions. 

More intense and thorough bro split programs like the six day split can even divide muscles further, separating the shoulders from the arms and even the core from the rest of the torso, in certain cases.

The following are just sample versions of the many variations of the bro split programming method, and are meant to provide an idea of how these programs are structured.

Example of a 4 Day Bro Split

Day 1 - Chest

  • Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 5 repetitions each
  • Cable Crossover: 3 sets of 8 repetitions each
  • Dumbbell Chest Fly: 3 sets of 8 repetitions each

Note that the bench press is occasionally omitted in 4 day bro splits due to its training of the triceps brachii, though this only occurs if the arms day is immediately following the chest day.

Day 2 - Back

  • Barbell Row: 3 sets of 5 repetitions each
  • Pull-Up: 2 sets of 8 repetitions each, 1 set to failure (AMRAP) or 2 sets to RPE 8, 1 set to failure
  • Machine Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions each

Unlike other programs, the biceps muscles are not included in a back workout of a bro split.

Day 3 - Legs

  • Barbell Back Squat: 3 sets of 5 repetitions each
  • Leg Extension Machine: 2 sets of 12 repetitions each, or 3 sets of 8 repetitions each
  • Hamstring Curl Machine: 2 sets of 12 repetitions each, or 3 sets of 8 repetitions each

It is up to the exerciser to gauge whether they are capable of adding the deadlift to their leg workout, or whether it even allows for proper recovery to occur prior to the following workout session. 

Though the deadlift is not entirely necessary, it is nonetheless an excellent movement to add to a bro split if possible.

Day 4 - Arms

  • Bicep Curl: 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions
  • Skullcrushers: 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions
  • Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 8 repetitions
  • Tricep Kickbacks: 3 sets of 8 repetitions

Example of a 5 Day Bro Split

Day 1 - Chest

  • Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 5 repetitions each
  • Pec Deck Machine: 3 sets of 8 repetitions each
  • Dumbbell Incline Chest Press: 3 sets of 8 repetitions each

Day 2 - Back

  • Barbell Row: 3 sets of 5 repetitions each
  • Pull-Up: 2 sets of 8 repetitions each, 1 set to failure (AMRAP) or 2 sets to RPE 8, 1 set to failure
  • Machine Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions each

Occasionally, some bro split programs will opt to place the deadlift during a back day instead.

Day 3 - Shoulders 

  • Barbell Military Press: 3 sets of 5 repetitions each
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 12 repetitions each
  • Rear Deltoid Flys: 2 sets of 12 repetitions each

Due to the sheer amount of volume placed on the shoulder muscles, a rest day is usually taken following the shoulder workout of a 5 day bro split.

Day 4 - Legs

  • Barbell Back Squat: 3 sets of 5 repetitions each
  • Lunges: 3 sets of 8 repetitions each
  • Goblet Squats: 2 sets of 12 repetitions each

Day 5 - Arms

  • Barbell Bicep Curl: 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions each
  • Overhead Tricep Extensions: 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions each
  • Cable Curls: 2 sets of 12 repetitions each
  • Tricep Kickbacks: 3 sets of 8 repetitions each

So - Should You Pick a Bro Split Over Other Programs?

In truth, unless you are in specific circumstances that make a bro split the best option, it is probably a better idea to pick a different training program.

The disadvantages associated with bro splits are well-established in exercise science, and unless you are willing to program it to maximize the associated advantages, it is otherwise an ineffective program.

This isn’t to say that bro splits are bad training programs, simply that they require more experience and rather niche circumstances to truly shine.

References

1. M, W., J, A., & R, T. (2007). The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 37(3), 225–264. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200737030-00004

2. Evangelista AL, Braz TV, La Scala Teixeira CV, Rica RL, Alonso AC, Barbosa WA, Reis VM, Baker JS, Schoenfeld BJ, Bocalini DS, Greve JMD. Split or full-body workout routine: which is best to increase muscle strength and hypertrophy? Einstein (Sao Paulo). 2021 Aug 30;19:eAO5781. doi: 10.31744/einstein_journal/2021AO5781. PMID: 34468591; PMCID: PMC8372753.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
inspire us logo
Inspire US serves as an informational hub for people looking to start their fitness journey.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information being shared is for educational purposes only. You must consult with a medical professional before acting on any content on this website.
Copyright © Inspire US 2023