Illustration of a bodybuilder doing biceps curls for the Arm Day of his Bro Split Workout routine.

The Perfect Bro Split Workout Routine

The Bro Split is surprisingly controversial. Most guys assume it’s for casual lifters who never took the time to learn how to program a proper workout split. That’s not the case. 2/3rds of competitive bodybuilders use Bro Splits (study).

Well-designed Bro Splits can be incredibly good for building muscle, especially in your arms and shoulders. In this article, we’ll teach you how to do it right. We’ll talk about why it works, how to build your own Bro Split, and then give you a sample routine you can follow (and customize).

A skinny guy building muscle. Illustrated by Shane Duquette for Outlift.

What’s a Bro Split?

A Bro Split is a body-part split with an emphasis on muscle size and aesthetics. “Bros” are lifters who follow their hearts instead of their brains. As such, the Bro Split isn’t rooted in science or knowledge but rather in experience and wisdom. These workout routines are passed down from wide mentor to slender apprentice.

Bro Splits are pure bodybuilding routines. They use hypertrophy training principles to maximize your rate of muscle growth, especially in the muscles you’re most eager to grow. Most of them are 5-day workout splits that favour relatively high training volumes.

What separates the Bro Split from other workout splits is its focus on just one body part per workout. Here’s an example of a classic Bro Split:

If you’re paying attention, you may notice something strange about that schedule. “Arms” isn’t a muscle group. Neither is “legs.” Our limbs contain several different muscle groups with entirely different functions. Bro Splits are more nuanced than they seem.

Illustration of a bodybuilder doing a bro split.

Debunking the Criticisms

The most common criticism levelled against the Bro Split is that the training frequency is too low. Muscles recover 2–4 days after a workout, so if you’re only training each muscle group once per week, you’re missing out on 3–5 days of muscle growth (study).

Furthermore, if you dedicate an entire workout to just one muscle group, it’s too much volume all at once. Instead of recovering in 2–4 days, it might take closer to a week before you feel ready to train that muscle again.

The problem with that argument is that Bro Splits train one body part per workout, and each of those body parts contains several different muscle groups.

  • Monday may indeed be Chest Day, but most pressing movements do a pretty good job of training your shoulders and triceps, too.
  • Tuesday may be Back Day, but it probably starts with deadlifts, which do a great job of training your hips. Moreover, most pulling exercises train the biceps and forearms.
  • Wednesday is Leg Day, which might have lifts like front squats, which also train the back and serratus muscles. Plus, guys often do their ab exercises on leg day.
  • Thursday is Shoulder Day, which probably includes pressing and pulling, working the chest, back, biceps, and triceps.
  • Friday is Arm Day, which focuses on arm exercises but can also include lifts like the close-grip bench press and lateral raise, working your chest and shoulders.

A good Bro Split will have you training your arms and shoulders three times per week, your chest and back 2–3 per week, and your legs 1–2 times per week. That training frequency might not be enough to maximize quad growth, but that’s not what Bro splits are for. They’re designed for guys who are trying to build formidable upper bodies.

They’re designed to build the “classic” male physique most guys are intuitively drawn to, with broad shoulders, a thick chest, a wide back, and strong arms. If that’s the type of physique you want, a Bro Split will help you build it.

Illustration of a bodybuilder flexing his biceps. Illustrated by Shane Duquette for Outlift.

The Advantages of Bro Splits

Bro Splits have been popular for many generations, surviving because they work, and growing better over time. Here’s why they work so well:

  • Focus: Bro Splits allow you to focus on one goal per workout. If your only goal is to train your arms, you have an abundance of time and energy to accomplish that goal. Instead of doing a good arm workout, you can do the perfect arm workout.
  • Exercise Variety: If you’re doing full-body workouts, you’ll do the big compound lifts several times per week. Every workout will have some sort of squat, hinge, press, and pull. By the time you finish those big lifts, you won’t have much energy left for smaller ones. With a Bro Split, you’re only doing those big compound lifts once per week, then moving on to several smaller ones, radically increasing exercise variety and thus simulating a wider variety of muscle fibres.
  • Recovery: Bro Splits train each muscle group several times per week but with varying intensity. Your arms can easily recover from the arm work you do on Chest Day and Back Day, and they have a full week to recover from the onslaught of Arm Day.
  • Volume: As you build more muscle, those muscles grow tougher, making it harder to stimulate more muscle growth. The Bro Split offers a good solution to that problem. By devoting an entire workout to stimulating just one body part, it’s easy to get enough good volume to stimulate muscle growth.
  • Every Tool is On the Table: Because you have more than enough time to recover, nothing is held back. You can do drop sets, supersets, or giant sets. You can do reverse pyramid training, rest-pause, or train past failure.

Other training splits have different ways of offering these same advantages, and some come along with advantages of their own. The Bro Split isn’t necessarily the best training split, but it’s up there among the best. If you want to know more, I wrote an article on training splits on Bony to Beastly.

Illustration of a man doing front squats to build bigger leg muscles.

Bro Splits Aren’t for Beginners

Bro splits are great for intermediate lifters, and they’re especially popular among the most advanced. The best bodybuilders in the world tend to use them. However, they aren’t nearly as good for beginners.

Beginners are weaker, with smaller muscles. Even when they push themselves hard, they aren’t working as much muscle mass. It isn’t nearly as fatiguing. As a result, it’s much easier for them to train all of their muscles in a single workout. This makes full-body workouts especially effective for beginners.

The other advantage of full-body workouts is that they give us more practice. Instead of bench pressing just once per week, you’d be doing it three times per week, improving your lifting technique much faster.

Overall, full-body workouts are much better for beginners. Once they start to become cumbersome, though, workout splits start to make more sense. If you’re looking for a good workout split, Bro Splits are a great choice.

Illustration of a bodybuilder doing deadlifts to build a bigger posterior chain.

The Bro Split Workout Routine

The Bro Split has good bones we can build upon. We can keep the classic split, training just one body part each workout, but we want to lean into how those body parts overlap with one another. We want to intentionally bring our triceps and shoulders into Chest Day, our biceps and spinal erectors into Back Day, and our chests and backs into Arm Day. That way, we get the ideal training frequency, at least for our upper-body muscles.

I’ve reordered the workouts to put the Shoulder Day before the Leg Day. This gives your spinal erectors an extra day to recover before hammering them again leg day. It also gives an extra day for your shoulders to recover before training them again on Arm Day. Finally, it lets us sneak in some extra chest work into Arm Day under the guise of being a front delt exercise.

Day 1: Chest Day

The main goal of Chest Day is to stimulate the mid, lower, and upper pecs through a deep range of motion, allowing you to build a thick, wide chest. We can do this with the bench press, dips, and incline press. That’s a complete chest routine.

The secondary goal is to stimulate your shoulders and triceps. The bench press, dips, and incline press already work your shoulders and triceps. All we need are some overhead extensions to work the long head of your triceps.

ExerciseSetsReps
Bench Press3–4 sets6-12 reps
Bodyweight Dips3 setsAs Many As Possible (AMRAP)
Incline Press3 sets8-12 reps
Overhead Tricep Extensions3 sets12-15 reps

Day 2: Back Day

The main goal of Back Day is to stimulate the myriad muscles of your back: your lats, traps, rear delts, rotator cuff, rhomboids, and spinal erectors. Deadlift variations train all those muscles quite well. We’ll use Romanian deadlifts because they’re a bit less tiring, saving more energy for the other exercises. Pull-ups (and pulldowns) work your lats under a deeper stretch and do a great job of stimulating your lower lats. Rows add even more volume.

With the back fully trained, we still have time for bicep curls. You can do them as straight sets or drop sets.

ExerciseSetsReps
Romanian Deadlift2 sets10–15 reps
Pull-Ups (or Pulldowns)3 setsAMRAP
One-Arm Rows3 sets10–15 reps
Overhand Cable Rows3 sets10–15 reps
Bicep Curls3 sets8-12 reps

Day 3: Shoulder Day

Shoulder Day is designed to bulk up your front, side, and rear delts. The overhead press is ideal for your front delts but also works your upper chest, upper back, and triceps. Lateral raises are ideal for your side delts but also work your rear delts and upper traps. Rear delt flyes work your rear delts and upper back. Feel free to do them as drop sets.

After training your shoulders, we still have room for push-ups, adding even more volume for your front delts and giving your chest, triceps, and serratus muscles extra stimulation. Even better if you can do deficit push-ups, getting a deeper stretch on your chest and shoulders at the bottom of the range of motion.

ExerciseSetsReps
Overhead Press4–5 sets6-10 reps
Lateral Raises3 sets12-15 reps
Push-Ups3 setsAMRAP
Rear Delt Flyes3 sets12-15 reps

Day 4: Leg Day

Leg Day is simple yet brutal. It begins with high-bar or front squats, which emphasize your quads. Then we move to the leg press, giving your quads even more work. From there, we go to Lying leg curls for your hamstrings and calf raises for your calves.

With your legs fully trained, you might still have enough vigour to train your abs. If you can muster the energy, now’s a great time for cable crunches or hanging leg raises.

ExerciseSetsReps
High-Bar Squat3–4 sets6-12 reps
Leg Press3 sets8-12 reps
Lying Leg Curls3 sets10-15 reps
Calf Raises3 sets12-15 reps
Cable Crunches3 sets12–15 reps

Day 5: Arm Day

The Bro Split is one of the few splits that sets aside an entire workout for your arms. I think this is one of its greatest strengths. We don’t want to squander this opportunity by beginning with compound exercises. Instead, we’ll dive right into bicep curls. I recommend starting with a heavy set of barbell curls.

Next comes a triceps-dominant pressing variation, such as a close-grip bench press (or triceps dip). The goal here is to warm up your elbow joint while getting in some good tricep, chest, and shoulder work. Once your elbows are warmed up, you can dive into skull crushers to finish off your triceps.

The hammer curls train your brachialis and brachioradialis along with your biceps, finishing off your forearm flexors. And then come the lateral raises. That’s because we’re counting shoulders as part of the arms. This lets us train our side delts twice per week, helping you build broader shoulders.

ExerciseSetsReps
Barbell Curls3–5 sets6-12 reps
Close-Grip Bench Press3–5 sets8-12 reps
Skull Crushers3 sets10-15 reps
Hammer Curls3 sets10-15 reps
Lateral Raises3 sets12–15 reps

How to Do This Bro Split

This is a classic 5-day Bro Split workout routine. If you’re familiar with the evidence-based fitness community, it may seem to break some rules. It doesn’t. Not really. It just flexes them.

You’ll be training hard, breathing heavily, and resting relatively little. That’s how these workouts are designed. The volume is on the higher side to account for the shorter rest times. The frequency is on the lower side to allow for harder training.

  • Exercise selectionChoose exercises that suit your body and your goals. If you prefer weighted dips to bench presses, choose weighted dips. If you prefer front squats to high-bar squats, choose front squats. If you prefer chin-ups to pull-ups, choose chin-ups.
  • VolumeWe have 4–5 exercises in each workout. In our experience, this tends to be the best default. If you want short workouts, trim off the last exercise. If you want volume, add another exercise for a muscle that still has some juice left.
  • ProgressionThe goal is to get gradually stronger over time. If you hit your rep target last workout, add a little weight. If you’re still trying to add more reps, try to get more total reps than last time. For example, if you got 13, 11, 10, and 9 reps (43 reps) last workout, try to get 44+ reps this time.
  • Rest times: These are dense workouts with short rest times, as is common with classic bodybuilding routines. Rest for 2 minutes between sets of compound exercises. Rest for 1 minute between sets on isolation exercises. You can take longer rest times, but your workouts may start to drag.
  • Reps in Reserve: Classic bodybuilding routines require vigorous effort. Push yourself hard on each exercise, trying to lift more weight or eke out more reps than last time. Leave 0–1 rep in reserve. Feel free to take your isolation lifts all the way to failure.
  • Schedule: The rest days can be anywhere. Feel free to move them around.
  • Muscle-Building Diet: You need enough food to fuel muscle growth. If you’re skinny-fat or overweight, you can get extra energy from your body fat. If you’re thin or lean, you’ll need to get that energy from food—you’ll need to gain weight.

Conclusion

The Bro Split may not be smart, but it’s wise. It’s a great workout split for intermediate lifters who want to bulk up their upper bodies. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a fun and effective way to train.

As with any workout routine, remember to eat enough food to support muscle growth. If you aren’t skinny-fat or overweight, that probably means eating a bulking diet. You’ll know you need to eat more food if you’re struggling with progressive overload—if you aren’t able to add any weight or reps to your lifts each week.

Cover illustration of the Outlift intermediate bulking program for naturally skinny guys.

If you want more muscle-building information, we have a free muscle-building newsletter. If you want a customizable training plan, check out our Outlift Intermediate Program. You can pick how many days you want to train and how much volume you can handle, then choose your exercises from carefully curated dropdown menus. These workouts are periodized, let you track your weight and reps, and recommend how much weight to lift next time. Plus, it comes with a hefty lifting guide.

If you haven’t gained your first 15–30 pounds of muscle yet, check out our Bony to Beastly Program. We’ll get you there in the next six months, guaranteed.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell. He's a certified conditioning coach with a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained 70 pounds and has over a decade of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people bulk up.

How to build 20 to 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Even if you have failed before

20 Comments

  1. Amir on June 6, 2023 at 1:23 pm

    Thank you, Shane, for your reply. I changed my routine by reading the new content on your site, and came to a new routine that works. I mixed all the contents of the site and came up with this routine.

    I lift five days a week. The first day I do bench press, incline press, dumbbell shoulder press, and dumbbell chest fly. Skull crushers on the second day. Deadlift on the third day. Overhead press, accessories on the fourth day, squats and accessories on the last day. I devote myself to my arms, but I do both barbell incline press and barbell row on arm day to increase the training frequency of those muscles and because these two movements overlap with my arms.

    My strength increases a lot, but my muscles grow less, so I am changing it to 6-15 repetitions to see how it works. I also considered the volume of training for the main muscles to be about 15 sets. For muscles like the arms, 12 sets.

    I train my main muscles with combined movements, what do you think about it, Shane, is there anything I should change??

    • Shane Duquette on June 11, 2023 at 11:09 am

      My pleasure, man.

      That all sounds great. I’m not quite understanding your second day, but if you’re training hard, and you’re sure each set is within a 0–2 reps of failure, then you’re probably stimulating plenty of muscle growth.

      Measure your muscles every month or two, tracking their growth. Also track your weight gain. Make sure you’re steadily gaining weight. That will give you the concrete data you need to adjust what you’re doing based on the results you’re getting.

  2. Sebastian on June 15, 2023 at 3:48 pm

    Great article Shane, interesting subject you covered here. The sample workout is definitely not “casual lifting” anymore. ( I like that it includes some calf raises.) Is such amount of volume still feasible for guys with average genetics? Is there, by your research or experience, any real advantage compared to a 4-day split like the ones you already covered?

    • Shane Duquette on June 16, 2023 at 3:41 pm

      Bro Splits are designed for bodybuilders who want to train both hard and often. It’s a maximalist approach to building muscle. However, keep in mind that these routines typically use relatively short rest times. Maybe you rest 2 minutes between sets on the first exercise, 1 minute in subsequent exercises. You can move through the routine relatively quickly. And since you aren’t training that much overall muscle mass, you leave the gym feeling fairly fresh.

      Adding more workout days doesn’t necessarily give better results, but it keeps your workouts shorter and more manageable OR allows you to focus on more goals at once.

      With 4-day splits, you can make full use of supersets, alternating between chin-ups and squats, or bench presses and rows, or deadlifts and dips. That’s a very efficient way of training. If you can set aside 4 days for lifting, you’ve got more than enough time to gain a ton of muscle and strength.

      When Marco was training professional and Olympic athletes, he had them on 4-day upper/lower splits. Mind you, they didn’t have an Arm Day.

      I built almost all of my muscle by training 3–4 days per week.

  3. Sebastian on June 17, 2023 at 1:40 am

    Thank you Shane, for your reply. With such short rests I am bleeding reps in my second and third set of the compund lifts. I think an arm day is nice but my personal experience is that I have to trade every set of bicep curl against a set of rows or chin ups. Otherwise elbow tendons feels sore all the time. That’s a reason why I do even with a 4 day split only one biceps exercise per week. It just not worth the trade. Best regards Sebastian

    • Shane Duquette on June 18, 2023 at 10:03 am

      It’s normal to bleed reps with shorter rest times and/or when you take your sets closer to failure. As long as you account for that when programming, it can work well. It all depends on how the whole program looks.

      Sounds like you’ve found a system that works for you. How are you doing your arm exercises? If you’re using a straight barbell or using a straight pull-up bar, that might be why your elbows feel beat up after too much volume. Sometimes switching to dumbbells or even curl-bars/EZ-Bars can fix it. I’m not sure what’s causing the issue for you, though.

      Keep it up, man!

  4. Sebastian on June 18, 2023 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the reply! I think my elbow issues were a mixture of overreaching and bad pull-up/chin-up technique. I purchased a pair of Versa Gripps for the heavy pulling. (Big recommendation. Helps a lot for the Deadlift.)

    I think my home gym equipment is now on point. I have a straight bar, adjustable dumbbells, a short multi-grip barbell, and a multi-grip pull-up bar. My arm work is usually done with the multi-grip bar using a slightly angled grip. (The multi-grip bar looks like a very short football or Swiss bar.) Chin-ups are usually done with Versa Gripps in a neutral grip.

    So my conclusion is: I have to take things a bit slower. It is not a race. That is the really hard part. I was always a bit over-motivated.

    • Shane Duquette on June 20, 2023 at 1:28 pm

      My pleasure, man. That all sounds great.

      Glad to hear you’re like the Versa Gripps, too. I love those things. So handy.

      Great idea to switch to angled grips. I think combined with a more patient approach, you’ll do great.

      Good luck, man!

  5. Spencer on July 7, 2023 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Shane, I love your content. This article motivated me to try the Bro Split, after about a year of full body workouts. Loving it so far, and seeing some good gains. Thanks!

  6. Ayaan on August 5, 2023 at 4:45 am

    The Bro Split is highly effective for those on anabolic steroids, but it still works for natural lifters too, and it’s fun to do.

    • Shane Duquette on August 12, 2023 at 11:53 am

      Totally agree. Bro Splits are great fun and work wonderfully well.

  7. SHANE BURKE on August 28, 2023 at 8:30 am

    Shane, I love this article and love your name ! This article makes perfect sense to me. I always find myself in the argument about what’s the best routine for bulking and I always come back to this one. It makes perfect sense. I have done the push, pull, legs and the upper/lower workout and the full body. But I’m a busy dad with two jobs and the bro split in the morning is ideal and fun for me. I get to destroy one body part without having to hit another one. Plus I feel I build better when I focus on one or two body parts, and like you said, you’re hitting the other ones anyway when you do certain movements. I’m going to keep doing bro splits because I keep getting results. Thanks man.

    • Shane Duquette on August 28, 2023 at 10:36 am

      Thank you, other Shane.

      I hear ya. I’m in a similar situation, and I like them, too 🙂

    • Marc on December 12, 2023 at 1:57 am

      Hi Shane. Where would you personally fit shrugs into this workout plan ?

      • Shane Duquette on December 12, 2023 at 10:20 am

        Hey Marc,

        We don’t usually program shrugs because the traps already get plenty of work from deadlifts, overhead presses, lateral raises, and rows. Some people can definitely benefit from more trap work, though. Most people do shrugs towards the end of their Back Day workouts. That’s a good way of doing it.

      • Shane Duquette on December 12, 2023 at 10:21 am

        Oh, I’m realizing you’re asking the other Shane.

  8. Mike on June 5, 2024 at 6:16 pm

    Hi Shane, and thank you for this excellent bro split. I see you tried to sort of make some muscles be worked on twice a week or so, which is good. It’s a good alternative to the PPL. I did try the PPL for a few months, but I got tired of it, it’s just too much volume and too many days (my routine was 6 days), which is too much. On top of that, if you want to grow and build muscles, but you’re always in the gym everyday working out for hours, chance is that you’ll be overtrained and the muscles won’t grow. So your bro split is exactly what I was looking for, thank you!

    • Shane Duquette on June 6, 2024 at 10:05 am

      My pleasure, Mike! Glad you like the look of it. Let me know what you think when you try it!

      Yeah, I was trying to work most muscles twice per week. That isn’t absolutely mandatory, but it should help, mainly because it raises the total volume higher in a way that’s easier to recover from.

  9. Ankush on July 20, 2024 at 12:14 am

    Hi Sir, Thank you for the article! In another article you have mentioned that our gains max out at 6 sets/muscle/workout. So how is the bro-split effective since we train only 1 muscle/day and it would be more than 6 sets? Thanks again!

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