If you’re a guy (or girl… I guess) who regularly works out to increase muscle mass, you’ve probably come across the Bro Split – in fact, you’re probably in the middle of one right now. Popularized in the 80s by heavily juiced gym rats like Arnold, Bro Splits are the classic bodybuilder weekly program that divides up your week (usually 4 or 5 days) into body parts.
A typical Bro Split looks something like this:
- Monday – Chest
- Tuesday: – Back
- Wednesday – Legs
- Thursday – Shoulders and Abs
- Friday – Bis and Tris
You’ll notice that unlike upper/lower or push/pull/leg splits, the popular Bro Split targets each muscle group only once per week. The idea is to blast that one muscle group so hard, it will need almost a week to recover. The other great thing about bro splits is that the vast majority of your week is dedicated to the upper half of your body – aka chest and bis. Leg day (no one likes you, leg day) on the other hand, only gets 1/5th of your attention despite making up one half of your body. Makes sense.
Well I ran the numbers – did the math – and it doesn’t check out. Here’s why.
To maximize hypertrophy or even strength, each muscle group needs to be targeted 2-3 times per week because recovery takes only 3-4 days. So even though you did those 18 sets of chest on Monday, by Thursday they’re already good to go again, yet you’ve chosen to let them run on Idle for 3-4 more days.
Not only that, but you’ve also managed to waste even more time and energy by overtraining your chest for little to no advantage. Studies show that in order to maximize hypertrophy, each muscle group should be trained for 10 sets per week in the 8-12 rep range. Beyond 10 sets you will still see gains but the comparative advantage begins to plummet the more you do. So 12 sets per week is great, 18 sets – you’re redlining it. That is, of course, unless you’re on some solid gear.
Therefore, if you’ve hit a plateau, it doesn’t necessarily mean its time to switch up the rep range – it could just mean you are overtraining or tiring yourself out. Try dropping the weights and intensity for a bit and see if you don’t end up pushing more iron.
So how could you work out more efficiently? Well, for starters, add more lower body sets and decrease the outrageous upper body volume. For example, with regard to chest, do 7 sets of two different exercises on Monday and then sneak in 3 sets of flys, incline or decline on Thursday. Or maybe 6 sets Monday and 6 Thursday – however you split it, just make sure each major muscle group gets hit at least twice a week.
Now, you may be thinking “But that means I’ll have to put deadlifts on a leg day. IMPOSSIBRUUUUUUU!” No its not. And that’s especially true if you do what you’re supposed to do in a hypertrophy phase and limit your weight so you can actually pull off 10-12 reps. Doing ego sets of 3 or 4 while you’re supposed to be building muscle is a goddam waste of energy.
- Work each body part twice a week with 3-4 days rest in between. As soon as you’re not sore anymore, you’ve recovered.
- You begin to lose efficiency after 10 sets per muscle group per week… Unless you’re on gear.
- Lower the weight – get your damn 10-12 reps in without cheating or help.