How you organize your workouts and decide which muscle groups to train on which days of the week is known as a training split. Read enough articles, watch enough videos, and listen to the endless stream of social media chatter, and you’ll be quickly convinced and/or equally confused as to which split is “best.”
Two of the most popular training splits you’ll encounter are the bro split and push/pull/legs (PPL). If you’re trying to decide which is the best training split for building muscle, losing body fat, or improving total body fitness, then you’re in the right place.
Here’s everything you need to know about bro splits vs PPL training programs.
What is a Bro Split?
A bro split (also known as a body part split) refers to a workout schedule that focuses on training a single major muscle group once a week. In a given week, you’ll have 4-6 training days, but each workout only addresses one or two muscle groups. Since you’re only training each muscle group directly one time per week, each workout will include a high volume of sets. It’s quite common to do 10-12 sets for a single muscle group. Compare that to a full-body workout where you’re likely performing 3-4 sets for each muscle in a single workout. The difference is that with a full body workout, you’re training the body’s major muscle groups multiple times per week (usually between 2-4 times per week, with an average of three workouts/week).
Following a bro split, each major muscle group is only trained directly one time. Due to the low frequency, you have to compensate with higher volume.
An example of a traditional bro split is:
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Back
- Wednesday: Off
- Thursday: Legs
- Friday: Shoulders
- Saturday: Arms
- Sunday: Off
Each workout will include a mix of compound and isolation exercises that train the target muscle group of the day. For example, a chest workout on a bro split could look like this:
- Bench Press: 3 sets x 6-8 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets x 8-10 reps
- Machine Chest Press: 3 sets x 10-12 reps
- Dips: 3 sets x AMRAP
- Cable Crossover: 3 sets x 12-15 reps
What is a Push/Pull/Legs Split?
A push/pull/legs split divides the body according to shared movements patterns -- pushing, pulling, and legs. This allows you to train muscle groups together that naturally work together.
The push workout targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, which work together in numerous compound lifts, including the bench press, incline press, overhead press, dips, push ups, and any other compound pushing exercise. Compound exercises are followed by a few isolation exercises for the pecs, delts and triceps. This could include lateral raises, flyes, pushdowns, and/or overhead triceps extensions.
The pull workout targets the back and biceps. While the “back” is referred to as a single muscle group, it really contains many different muscle groups, including the lats, rhomboids, traps, rear delts, and spinal erectors. As such, back & bicep workouts will include a diverse range of exercises that have you performing pulling movements from multiple angles. Typical compound pulling exercises include pull ups (chin ups), dumbbell rows, cable rows, lat pull downs, machine rows, chest-supported rows, bodyweight rows, and deadlifts. Common isolation exercises for the biceps and rear delts include all manner of curls (hammer, dumbbell, ez bar, incline, cable, etc.), rear delt flyes, face pulls, and hyperextensions.
Leg day (as you likely guessed) hammers the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves with exercises including barbell squats, leg press, lunges, Bulgarian split squats, leg extensions, leg curls, hip thrust, Romanian deadlift, and calf raise.
P/P/L splits can either be performed once or twice a week depending on your training preferences, goals, and recovery. Most often, individuals will follow a PPL training program that mimics:
- Monday: Push
- Tuesday: Off
- Wednesday: Pull
- Thursday: Off
- Friday: Legs
- Saturday: Off
- Sunday: Off
Performing only three resistance-training workouts each week allows for more recovery time, and the opportunity to improve other aspects of your fitness and conditioning. “OFF” days can include active recovery, yoga, hiking, interval training (HIIT), boxing/martial arts training, or cardio.
Bro Split vs P/P/L: Which Is Better?
The reality is that any well-crafted training split can work, providing you put in the work at the gym and in the kitchen.
Why does that matter?
Well, given the advances in technology, genetic testing, and artificial intelligence (AI), there will continue to be a swell of training programs advertised as “optimized for your biology.” While this might sound enticing, keep in mind that you could have the most perfectly tailored training program for your biorhythms, hormone fluctuations, and dietary preferences. However, if you utterly despise said program, the chance that you will consistently show up and give each workout everything you have, is slim, which means you won’t get the results you want.
That is part of the reason we say that any training program can work. Any training program can also fail, but that’s not really the fault of the workout program, it’s more on the individual.
So, where does that leave us on deciding which is better bro split or P/P/L?
Well, as easy as it would be to say just use “x” program, that wouldn’t benefit you and wouldn’t hold true to our ethos.
Truthfully, there are several things to consider.
As mentioned above, your personal preference for training is one factor -- do you like hammering a single muscle group into oblivion in a workout, or do you like to train multiple muscle groups? Another thing to consider is how much time can you (or want to) devote to training? Some individuals may only be able to make it to the gym 3 times per week, which makes a PPL split or full-body workout a better option compared to a bro split or body part split.
However, if you love to train and/or frequent the gym, a body part split or 2x/week PPL split may be more favorable to your preferences.
What Is Your Goal?
The next thing to consider is the goal of your training program -- build strength, gain lean muscle, maintain, etc.?
Research has shown that different training frequencies can be effective for building lean muscle from one time per week up to 3-5 times per week. This means that bro splits, full body workouts, upper lower splits, etc. can be effective for achieving your goals.
For those seeking the “optimal” route, some research indicates that hitting a muscle group at least twice per week is superior to once a week.
So, while training a muscle once per week can stimulate growth, results may come more quickly with higher training frequency. This is why following a 5 or 6-day PPL split may be more effective than a bro split, since you train each muscle group twice every seven days, which stimulates muscle protein synthesis more frequently, thereby fostering a more favorable environment for hypertrophy (muscle growth).
However, training frequency on a bro split does vary from one muscle to another. For instance, “chest day”, in addition to hitting the pecs, also involves the shoulders and triceps to a certain degree. Also, compound shoulder exercises (e.g. overhead press) recruit muscle fibers from the upper pecs and triceps (in addition to the delts).
If your goal is more general fitness or maintaining your transformation challenge results, then the bro split can be just as effective as a P/P/L (or any other training split) since research shows that the amount of training volume (and frequency) is significantly less than the volume required to build muscle.
Consistency is Key
Yet another point to keep in mind is that building considerable amounts of lean muscle requires consistent effort for years -- not weeks, not months. A HUGE part of staying consistent is actually wanting to go to the gym.
If you’re more motivated to train consistently with effort and intensity following a bro split, then it’s far more likely that a bro split is better for you. On the flip side, if you love to train multiple muscle groups in a given workout and/or train the same muscle multiple times per week, then a bro split isn’t the “best” training split…for you.
In other words, a training split is only as effective as your ability to stick to it.
One last point worth mentioning is that the best training split for you right now may not be the “best” training split for you (based on your training goals, preferences, availability) in a few years. As such, be open to the idea of mixing up your workouts and experimenting with different training splits (aka “muscle confusion”) as you mature, develop, and evolve along this wonderful journey that is fitness.
No matter where you currently are, where you’ve been, or where you are going in your fitness journey, 1UP is here to support, encourage, and empower you. If you’re not sure what training program is right for you, our free fitness app offers customized training programs and nutrition recommendations based on your preferences, goals, and availability. Our extensive line of premium-quality supplements accelerates your results no matter if you’re looking to build lean muscle, lose body fat, or sculpt and tone.
- Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2016 Nov;46(11):1689-1697. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8. PMID: 27102172.
- Bickel CS, Cross JM, Bamman MM. Exercise dosing to retain resistance training adaptations in young and older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jul;43(7):1177-87. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318207c15d. PMID: 21131862.