So, you're ready to get serious about working out. You’ve committed a certain amount of days a week to going to the gym and actually lifting weights but now you don’t know how to best maximize your time there. There are many different “splits” out there and it's important to try different ones to see what works best for you. In this blog post, I am going to talk about what I think are the 2 main splits out there; the Bro Split and PPL (push, pull, legs).
Okay but first let me back up a little. A “split” in terms of weight training simply refers to splitting up your training by body regions and doing certain body regions on certain days of the week (Rogers, 2020).
I also want to include a bias disclaimer here. I love the PPL Split! I did the Bro Split for years and saw very little results and then started doing PPL and saw major changes in my body definition and strength. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Bro Split would be bad for you or that PPL will work great for you too. Different people react differently to different splits and you have to find what works best for you.The only reason I mention this is to let you guys know of my favorable bias towards PPL. I am going to try and write this blog post as unbiased as I can, focusing on nothing but the facts, but I wanted to be fair and just inform you guys of my bias just in case it comes off as I’m saying PPL is better than Bro Split. Okay without any further ado, please enjoy my analysis of The Bro Split VS PPL:
The Bro Split is a certain type of 5-day split, meaning you have 5-days on and 2-days off. The idea behind this split is that you work out each of the 5 muscle groups once a week and take the other 2-days as rest days. The 5 main muscles groups that are focused on in any split are the chest, arms, shoulders, back and legs. However, as you can probably imagine a lot of chest exercises also work your shoulders and arms and vice versa. So, the order that you complete each muscle group is actually very important to allow ample rest. Bodybuilding.com suggests the following split:
Day 1: Chest
Day 2: Back
Day 3: Shoulders
Day 4: Legs
Day 5: Arms
Day 6: Rest
Day 7: Rest
This split ensures that the chest, shoulders, and triceps (arms) are all separated by at least 48 hours in order to not overtax any muscle group (Geiger, 2018).
If you go and google “Bro Split” right now, you are going to get a lot of dramatically negative info. Many people shit on the bro split commonly comparing it to the “better” “science split,” which is PPL. However, just like many “fitness influencers” out there, these people are just using flashy infographics and dramatic claims to catch your attention and get your money. The Bro Split may not work for you as it didn’t for me but there are still many people out there who swear by it and have seen results (a trainer who goes by the alias of J-Dawg talks about how much he enjoys this 5-day split on Bodybuilding.com). Again, you have to find what works best for you, so don’t blindly listen to what other people shit on just because they didn’t see results from it.
The main reason everyone shits on the Bro Split is because of a 2016 analysis of 10 different studies that did conclude that “major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to maximize muscle growth” (Schoenfeld et al., 2016). The Bro Split, as I explained only works each muscle group once a week. Therefore, according to this study the Bro Split is not as effective at gaining muscle for most athletes.
However, these studies are done for the sole purpose of seeing which types of splits will result in the most amount of muscle gain. But what if your goal isn’t necessarily to gain muscle?? What if your goal is simply to go to the gym 5-days a week? What if your goal is to get the heart pumping and blood flowing? What if you just want to take dope pics of yourself after a crazy awesome bicep pump for your Tinder profile? The Bro Split will still allow you to accomplish all of these goals! Additionally, Muscleandstrength.com makes a pretty solid argument for the Bro Split, explaining how it is still better than not working out at all. If the Bro Split is more favorable to you and if by doing the Bro Split, you feel more motivated to go to the gym, then it is 100% an awesome and effective split to do (England, 2020)!
The PPL split, or Push-Pull-Legs, is a type of 6-day split that focuses on 3 types of muscle groups. The Push muscles are the chest, shoulders, and triceps. The Pull muscles are the back and biceps. And the Leg muscles are the legs (hamstrings, quads, glutes, calves etc.). Usually people do the PPL split twice a week meaning it looks something like:
Day 1: Push
Day 2: Pull
Day 3: Legs
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Push
Day 6: Pull
Day 7: Legs
Unlike the Bro Split, PPL focuses on the actual motion of the lift you are doing and not as much on the specific muscles. For example, if you imagine a chest press, you are pushing the weight away from you as you are simultaneously working your chest, deltoids (shoulders), and triceps. I like to call these muscles your “push muscles” and they are activated in most exercises that involve pushing something away from your body. The same is for the pull muscles of the back and biceps when you are pulling something towards you. An easy example of that would be pull-ups that work both the full back and biceps.
Again, there are many studies that show that working a muscle group twice a week increases both muscle hypertrophy (size) and overall strength. With the PPL split, you are indeed working out each muscle group twice a week so this would be favorable for muscle growth according to these studies. It also just makes more sense as when you do a major lift such as the bench press, you are already activating accessory muscles like the shoulders and triceps, so mind as well finish working them out instead of waiting a whole 48 hours as in the Bro Split (Geiger, 2018).
As always, you want me to tell you which one you should be doing. Well as always, it's not that easy! Sorry!
Everyone is different and it all depends on your body type and your goals. If you really enjoy the idea of the Bro Split and all you need is something that will get you to the gym and moving 5-days a week, then the Bro Split is for you. If you're only interested in gaining muscle and you don't care what you have to do to achieve that goal, then the science suggests that PPL would likely give you the best chances, but no guarantees! Take these studies (and everything I say in my blog posts) merely as suggestions and not cold, hard facts. Start out with doing a PPL split because that’s what works for most athletes, but keep in mind you might not be most athletes and if you aren’t seeing the results you want in a month or two, change it up! Maybe try the Bro Split or even another type of split. There are thousands out there! FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU!
I hope this helped summarize the difference between the Bro Split and the PPL split and hopefully you have a better idea of what to do when you get to the gym!
England, Josh. “3 Reasons Why BodyPart Training Splits Are Still Worthwhile.” Muscle & Strength, 13June 2020, www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/3-reasons-body-part-splits-are-still-worthwhile.
Geiger, Bill. “The UltimateGuide To An Effective Training Split.” Bodybuilding.com, 19 Apr. 2018, www.bodybuilding.com/c ontent/the-ultimate-guide-to-an- effective-training-split.html.
J-Dawg. “What Is The Best5-Day Workout Split?” Bodybuilding.com, 21 July 2020, www.bodybuilding.co m/content/ what-is -the-best-5-day-worko ut-spl it.html.
Rogers, Paul. “Pros andCons of Split System Training.” Verywell Fit, 24 Mar. 2020, www.verywellfit.com/split-system-training-purpose-and-routines- 3498381#: ~:text= Split%20 system%20 training%20 is%20a ,upper%2 Dbody%20 split%20 on%2 0Thursdays.
Schoenfeld, Brad J., et al. “Effects ofResistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A SystematicReview and Meta-Analysis.” Sports Medicine, vol. 46, no. 11, 2016, pp.1689–1697., doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8.
A special thank you to all my friends and family who have not only supported me on my journey but have helped along the way. None of this would be possible without them. Remember to take time to appreciate those in your lives!
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