bro split

Is the Bro Split a Myth?

Guys, we’ve all been there – rushing out to pick up the latest copy of Flex, Muscle and Fitness and Muscular Development.  One of your favorite bodybuilders or fitness models is on the cover, and they look incredible!


Then there’s the outlandish feature title:

“Six Pack in Six Weeks“

“Add an Inch to Your Arms in 29 Days!”

“Slap on 30lbs of Jacked MUSCLE!”

bro split


The last is our personal favorite.  We would try to follow and wonder why we weren’t putting on slabs of muscle.  

We were definitely not happy as the dude on the cover. Look at that cheesy grin!

This particular split was set out like this:

Mon – Chest

Tue – Legs

Wed – Back

Thur – Shoulders and Calves

Fri – Traps and Abs (what is this about?)

Sat – Bicep and Triceps (this particular arms workout was a minimum of 279 reps!)

Sun – Rest or repeat cycle

Now that is a ton of volume, especially for a novice/beginner trainer!

We believe one of the main stumbling blocks is that everybody believes an advanced program is guaranteed to get advanced results? Fitness publications glorify these sort of programs, but the “more is more” mentality couldn’t be further from the truth.  

What’s Wrong with Regular Splits?

We all freak out when someone says you can spend less time in the gym and get better results.  It shouldn’t make sense.

But it does, and there is now some compelling scientific research that proves it. We now know that full body splits and training a muscle group more than once a week is best for natty trainers.  

Many studies have shown that total training volume correlates with muscle hypertrophy. But there comes a point when training volume actually diminishes your strength, hypertrophy gains, and recovery.

You know when you absolutely smash your legs and wake up the next morning, barely able to make it down the stairs for your egg white omelette? Chances are you have gone way over the top on training volume and compromised your gains.

A 2007 study looked at the effect of frequency, intensity, volume and type of strength training on whole muscle cross section in humans. It concluded that for hypertrophy gains, training a muscle group two to three times a week is better than training the same muscle group just once a week, even when volume is the same.

One problem with single body splits is that the amount of reps per session for a single body part is way too much for a natural trainer. As the old saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

For example, instead of doing 80 reps on your chest at some half-assed intensity, why not spread those 80 reps over 3 separate workouts and work at an intensity that proven to elicit hypertrophic gains?

The study also concluded that there are certain intensities that maximize hypertrophy gains. When your number one goal is muscle hypertrophy, they recommend training at 70 to 85% of your 1RM. We’re betting you can’t keep that intensity up throughout your average 90-minute chest workout.

You could, however, probably keep it up  for a 60-minute full body session or even a 60-minute upper or lower body session. This would mean you’re training in a more optimal range towards your goal of building muscle.

We practiced typical splits religiously for a good 3 years, but we now have a few issues with them. First of all, you get lost in the program and completely over-complicate things. You start believing that if your workout routine/split is so difficult, you must be adding slabs of muscle, right?


Some of the main issues when it comes to single body splits and  measuring your progress in the weight room are:

You have no idea of repetitions per sessions.

You have no idea of total weight lifted for that session.

You have no idea of total volume throughout the week.

You have no ideas what intensities you’re lifting at.

Your weights fluctuate from one workout to the next, therefore…

You have no way to measure your progress.

You can’t tell if you’re getting stronger, bigger and hitting your goals.

So we ask you, if you can’t measure any of the variables correlated with muscle gain, what’s the point?

bro split

What to Do Next

You’re probably saying to yourself:

“They still haven’t told us why I should stop doing my 6 day split.

How can I train less and see more results?!”

This is exactly how we used to feel, like there was no way we could train less but see more results.

We are here to tell you — this is the best way to go if you are a novice, beginner, or intermediate NATURAL trainer.

More importantly, the messiah of hypertrophy, Mr. Brad Schoenfeld, will tell you the same thing.

Until recently, there had been little research on this specific topic. We’ve always relied on word of mouth. You the see the big guys in the gym with the huge chest and traps and ask them, “How do you get so big bro?”

They usually say you have to smash that body part into submission every single session. Hit it from every single angle and go to muscle failure every set.  You also need to down a protein shake as soon as you finish your final rep and live off egg whites and tuna… but nutrition is a topic for another blog.

There has never been much scientific evidence on this specific topic. That is, until recently when Brad Schoenfeld and his team carried out a controlled experiment to investigate the effect of training frequency on muscular adaptations. So no more hearsay — it’s time to get down and dirty with the scientific research.

Schoenfeld and his team took 19 trained individuals with an average lifting career of 4 years. They definitely weren’t newbies, which makes the results even more compelling. They were randomly assigned to two different training programs.

The first training group was a total body training group, so they worked all muscles in the same session.

The second training group was a typical split body routine, with  2 to 3 muscles worked per session.

The most important aspect of this study was that both programs had the same total volume. Both groups performed exactly the same number of sets and reps during the week. All trainers performed 3 sets of 8 to 12RM and training lasted for 8 weeks.

The table below shows the programs for both groups.

bro split

As you can see, the split body routine breaks down into chest and back, then legs, then shoulders and arms. The total body routine, on the other hand, worked all muscle groups more frequently. Remember that both groups had the same total weekly volume (sorry we keep repeating ourselves, but that is a key point!).

Both groups increased hypertrophy in the arm and leg muscles, but the total body group significantly increased muscle mass in their biceps. Which means… less work, bigger guns! The total body group also saw major increases in quad size.

Do you still think you’re going to get big legs by squatting once a week or twice a week?

I think you know the answer to that one.

As for strength gains, both groups increased their 1RM performance in the squat and bench, although the total body group’s bench press increase was larger.

The bottom line? All the muscle groups studied showed a greater growth from higher training frequency.

This means that there’s a proven hypertrophy advantage to training a body part more than once a week.

bro split

There’s a proven hypertrophy advantage to training a body part more than once a week. Image courtesy of Body Vision Fitness.

We go back to it again but more specifically the biceps results showed “statistically significant” results, meaning that there was more than a 95% probability that this did not occur by chance.

So this study is for all the guys that obsess over bigger guns (you know who you are). Stop  annihilating your arms once a week with an insane amount of reps! Full body workouts will get you bigger arms compared to single body splits. There’s evidence to prove it.

The results also correlate with the timeline of muscle protein synthesis, which lasts around 48 hours. This means that when you do your full body program on Monday, your protein synthesis stays elevated through sometime on Wednesday. Then your protein synthesis spikes with your Wednesday workout, and the cycle repeats throughout the week.

This repeated spiking of protein synthesis results in greater muscular gains over time.

The Wrap up

Sometimes less is more when it comes to the gym and making consistent gains. I cannot tell you the amount of different bodybuilding splits we have followed — GVT, DTP, Arnie’s program, superset programs, pre-exhaust programs… You name it, we’ve done it! I think we are all trying to look for that magic formula that will get us the body of our dreams.

The problem is all your favourite bodybuilders and cover models you see on these magazines who are promoting these INSANE programs have a little extra help (to say the least).

If you are a natural trainer, you can’t go guns blazing in the weight room for 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. You will burn out and get injured. You definitely won’t put on the slabs of JACKED muscle the magazines promise you.

If you’re burned out, you cannot build muscle.

bro split

If you’re burned out, you cannot build muscle. Image courtesy of Sport e Muscle.

If you’re injured, you cannot build muscle.

If you’re naturally training single body parts 6 days a week, with a ridiculous amount of volume and without the right amount of rest, recovery and deloads, you’re bound to run into problems.

Right now we both follow higher frequency training plans.

Simon is following an Upper/Lower/Upper/Lower split

Joe is experimenting with some DUP principles to gain more strength and mass.

We are finding that our strength is going up on a weekly basis and we’re hitting new PBs every week

Every time we hit the gym we feel fully rested and recovered and ready to train with some harsh intensity!

We hope this blog has shed some light on the difference between the typical “bro” split and training a body part more frequently. We know which one we prefer if we want to add muscle, get stronger, and basically become more of a tank.

But if you want to stick with your single body split, that’s cool, too.

Hey, we would even be up for a classic arms session with you every once in a while. Just as long as it’s not 279 reps!

About the Author

bro splitSimon and Joe Passey of SJ Fitness believe in a No FAD, No GIMMICK, No BS approach to getting clients into great shape without all the “bro” advice. We have been there done that and bought the bro t-shirt and it got us nowhere. We are now dedicated to learning from the best in the industry and rely on science for results instead of gym gossip. If you want to find out more about us check out our brand new website:

Schoenfeld, Brad J., Nicholas A. Ratamess, Mark D. Peterson, Bret Contreras, and Gul Tiryaki-Sonmez. “Influence of Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Adaptations in Well-Trained Men.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 29.7 (2015): 1821-829. Web.
Wernbom, Mathias, Jesper Augustsson, and Roland Thome. “The Influence of Frequency, Intensity, Volume and Mode of Strength Training on Whole Muscle Cross-Sectional Area in Humans.” Sports Medicine 37.3 (2007): 225-64. Web.