Bro Split vs PPL: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?

the differences, the pros and cons of ebro split and ppl and decide which approach is best for you

Two of the more common training splits (or ways to break up which muscles you lift with each workout) are the “Bro Split” and “PPL.” 

So, what are the differences between the bro split and PPL? The Bro Split focuses each workout on a particular muscle or group, rotating each muscle each day, while a PPL split (Push, Pull, Lower), divides your workouts by the function of your upper body muscles (whether they are used to push or to pull), and your lower body (legs and glutes).  

Beyond that simple comparison, let’s dive into the details of each split so you can understand the differences, the pros and cons of each, and decide which approach is best for you. 

What Is A Bro Split?

the bro split is simply a method of dividing the body up by individual muscles and dedicating a training day to each one

The Bro Split is simply a method of dividing the body up by individual muscles and dedicating a training day to each one, or sometimes a combination of two. 

A bro split can be broken down for any training frequency, but most commonly spreads across a 5-day or 6-day per week split.  

For example, a beginner bro split might look like this:

  • Monday – Chest and Arms 
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Legs
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Back and Abs

In this version of the Bro Split, the lifter only has three days a week to train, so we combine some related muscle groups together. 

This allows the lifter to perform exercises that are both isolated to a single muscle (like a dumbbell curl for biceps or a tricep rope pulldown) as well as compound lifts using related muscles (like a bench press for pecs, shoulders, and triceps) in the same workout. 

A second example of a Bro Split that covers six days might look like this:

  • Monday – Chest
  • Tuesday – Arms
  • Wednesday – Legs
  • Thursday – Back
  • Friday – Shoulders
  • Saturday – Abs

With the true bro split dedicated each day to a single muscle group, the lifter can (and often should) add more sets of those muscle groups to keep the workout as long as the previous example that includes three or four muscles. 

For example, if you started with a three-day split and wanted to switch to a six-day split, your Monday just changed from Chest, Biceps, Triceps, and Shoulders to just Chest. 

So now you have 45-60 minutes of a workout you can dedicate to just the chest, instead of splitting your time among those four muscles. So instead of doing 1-2 exercises across 4 muscle groups, you would now do 6-8 chest exercises for 3-4 sets.  

With all the chest work done in one workout, you’re sure to feel a good soreness after, but you don’t have to worry about training it again until next Monday, giving you ample time to recover from hitting it that hard.

Bro Split Pros and Cons

As you evaluate the Bro Split for yourself, keep in mind the pros and cons below:

Pros

  • It can provide great focus
  • It can teach you to work harder
  • It’s been used for years
  • Maximum rest and recovery
It canIt Can Provide Great Focus

Nothing is more focused than hitting a single muscle group for a whole workout. 

Especially if you are writing your own workouts on this program, it makes it really easy to clear out all the other exercises you see others doing in the gym and just focus on the 5-6 that will hit the given muscle best that day. 

Secondly, you always know what you’re doing when you walk into the gym, allowing you to focus on making it count. 

It Can Teach You to Work Harder

I remember distinctly the day I was performing hammer curls for sets of 10. 

When I got to 10 on my last set, I decided I would keep going and see how many reps I could get beyond what the program called for. I ended up with something like 25 reps and realized I was living way below my potential when it came to intensity and weight selection. I could then push myself so much further, because I realized I wasn’t pushing myself much at all at that point. 

Lifters can have those kinds of realizations with total sets, too. 

When you are restricted to only training biceps, and you know you need 18-30 total sets of 8-12 reps that all train that muscle, you either pick weights that allow you to do it easily and gives you little in terms or results, or you learn something new about yourself and unlock a new gear in your mind to push through that whole workout until your biceps want to explode. 

It’s Been Used for Years

The bro split is the time-tested method of bodybuilding. 

The Golden Era of bodybuilding was built on the bro split, and if Arnold or Lou are your idols, you’re in good company training with the Bro Split. 

We’ll cite some important research about frequency below, but don’t let that scare you away from the greatness that is the Bro Split when applied right. 

Maximum Rest and Recovery

You can’t beat six days of rest between workouts when it comes to maximizing rest and recovery, and that’s exactly what you get with the Bro Split. 

You hit it hard (really hard) for one workout, then don’t worry about it for a whole week while you train the rest of your body. 

This allows you to almost handicap yourself with how hard you work that muscle with very few repercussions affecting your performance the rest of the week, because you know you don’t have to actively use that muscle for six more days. 

If you’re the type who enjoys that kind of rest, this is a huge plus. 

Cons

  • It only trains once a week
  • It can require a wider knowledge of variations
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Not useful for strength training
It Only Trains Once a Week

Research has shown (cited below) that training a muscle twice a week is more effective than once a week when it comes to hypertrophy. 

If your goal is to get big muscles as fast as you can, you’re doing yourself a disservice by only training each muscle once a week. 

It Can Require a Wider Knowledge of Variations

If your goal is to work biceps for a full workout, you know you need 18-30 sets of 8-12 reps all hitting your biceps. If you aren’t too versed in variations of biceps curls, you’re going to be doing a lot of the same exercises over and over again. 

If you do have a wide knowledge of exercise variations, great, you can use those to change up your approach and hit the muscle a little differently with each exercise. 

But without that knowledge, you may find yourself in a plateau as you adapt too quickly to doing the same thing over and over. 

Check out my other article on How Do Powerlifters Train Arms

Increased Risk of Injury

When you train a muscle to complete failure, you are increasing the risk of injury

Even recently, I dealt with some major biceps tendinopathy after just a few weeks of adding this kind of biceps work to my regular powerlifting programming. The pain and discomfort set me back in my upper body lifts for over two months as I worked to heal and get back to normal.  

This illustrates that it doesn’t have to be a crazy injury to set you back. I didn’t break my wrist or tear my bicep from the tendons, but this extra biceps day I added to my program came at a cost. 

Not Useful for Strength Training

If you are interested in strength training (i.e. gaining maximal strength), this will not be a useful split. 

As many strength athletes want and need to add more muscle, you can absolutely use this kind of split to train for added muscle in conjunction with your strength training. 

However, you would not want to apply this split to your powerlifting or strongman training program as a means to improve your strength. 

Looking for a high frequency powerlifting program, check out my article on The 6-Day Powerlifting Split: How To Do It The Right Way.

What Is A PPL Split?

a ppl split (push, pull, lower body, or legs) divides up your training sessions by muscle groups

A PPL Split (Push, Pull, Lower body, or Legs) divides up your training sessions by muscle groups, but instead of just picking muscles to train, it divides them by the function of those muscles – whether they are used to push or to pull. 

More importantly, this split only has three groups (push, pull, and legs), which means a six-day training split hits these muscles twice per week. 

For example, a PPL split over six days would look like this: 

  • Monday – Push
  • Tuesday – Pull
  • Wednesday – Legs
  • Thursday  – Rest
  • Friday – Push
  • Saturday – Pull
  • Sunday – Legs

In the PPL split, you hit each muscle group twice a week, allowing you to either incorporate more total volume than you would be able to do by hitting it once a week, or to divide your volume across two workouts to make the load more manageable.

Now just because you train the same muscle groups twice a week doesn’t mean you repeat the same workout twice each week for each muscle group. 

While your first legs day might include squats to train your quads and hamstring curls to hit the hamstrings, your second leg day may call for leg extensions to hit the quads after hitting deadlifts to target your glutes

Interested to learn more about how to train the same muscle group twice per week, but not overtrain, then check out my article on Daily Undulating Periodization where I breakdown this approach further.

PPL Pros and Cons

Here are the pros and cons of the PPL and why you might like it or not: 

Pros

  • It trains muscles twice a week
  • It adds variety to your program
  • Great for beginners and intermediate lifters alike
It Trains Muscles Twice a Week

Research has proven that, when it comes to hypertrophy, training muscles twice a week is more beneficial than once a week, even when controlling volume to be the same.

In other words, doing 10 sets of biceps across two workouts per week is more advantageous than doing 20 sets of biceps on one workout per week.

Our muscles grow more with that added frequency. And while the jury is still out on the benefits of three times a week, we are very confident that twice a week is better than one. 

The PPL program is a great way to train all the muscle groups in your body twice a week, when done correctly. 

It Adds Variety to Your Program

The PPL keeps you working on different muscles in a single workout. A “push day” can incorporate pecs, shoulders, and triceps, while a pull workout can incorporate back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and traps. 

With that kind of variety, you won’t be bored. 

Great for Beginners and Intermediate Lifters Alike

I’ve seen some authors say the PPL is not for beginners, but I strongly disagree.

First, it’s easier to know if an exercise is ‘pushing weight away from your body’ or ‘pulling the weight into your body’, rather than knowing the anatomy of specific muscle groups and which exercises target them. 

Secondly, the PPL split covers more muscle groups in a single workout than a split that focuses on one muscle group per workout, and additionally trains those muscle groups twice a week. 

With beginners, recovery from a workout typically happens much faster, so full-body workouts (or near full-body workouts) are proven to be very effective in this stage of lifting and muscle development. Given that training a muscle twice a week is proven to improve the results of hypertrophy, the PPL split checks many of those boxes as a great split for beginners.

This mostly remains true for intermediate lifters. But while they won’t see the same growth rate as the “beginner gains,” the science still supports the benefits of training 1-3 muscle groups in a single workout two times per week. Which means the PPL split won’t become obsolete to you as you progress.   

Cons

  • It can be harder to focus on specific areas of improvement
  • It can become repetitive 
  • It can lull you into a lack of intensity
It Can Be Harder to Focus on Specific Areas of Improvement

If you’re an intermediate or advanced bodybuilder, you may have some concrete feedback from judges or areas of personal preference you want to improve. The PPL split is great for making your whole body grow, but if you specifically need to improve shoulder caps or biceps or triceps, you may well be better off incorporating the bro split for those areas. 

The PPL split could lead to further gaps in symmetry or balance that you need to improve in the sport of bodybuilding, which may be the sign you need to switch to the bro split for the next little while. 

It Can Become Repetitive

A PPL split can get repetitive if you do the same push workout twice a week, the same pull workout, and the same leg workout over and over again.

But that’s not how I recommend you design your training split, anyways.   

Across your PPL split, you need to do different exercises, rep ranges, time under tension, and intensity levels to vary up your workouts each week. Otherwise, you can fall into that repetitive trap that puts you on a plateau.  

It Can Lull You into a Lack of Intensity

Yes, there’s great research that shows training twice a week is more effective than once a week for a specific muscle group, but that’s only true if we are properly training with intensity. 

If you get so confident that the PPL split is the magic bullet and you stop bringing the intensity, relying on the frequency to take care of you, you’re in danger of that awful plateau. 

Careful when you take on this split and be aware of your commitment to intensity to really get the most out of it. Remember: if you don’t work, the program doesn’t work. 

Bro Split vs PPL: 3 Differences

3 differences between bro split vs ppl

With that understanding of each program by itself, let’s compare them side by side. I’ve found four major differences between the two splits. 

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Personal Preference

Frequency

The biggest difference between these splits is how often you will train each muscle group, even if you were to run each program on a 6-day split. 

In the Bro Split, your chest only gets trained once, on chest day. 

In the PPL split, you’ll train chest twice during Push workouts. 

This is an important distinction from the bro split for one big reason. 

A study in 2016 evaluated training frequency and the effects on hypertrophy. When comparing the training frequency of muscle groups once per week versus twice per week (with equal volume), the study concluded that: 

“The current body of evidence indicates that frequencies of training twice a week promote superior hypertrophic outcomes to once a week. It can therefore be inferred that the major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to maximize muscle growth”

This doesn’t mean the bro split is worthless and should be ignored, but it does make a strong case for the double frequency of the PPL split. 

Intensity

By training the muscle only once a week in the Bro Split, the lifter must push that muscle harder in a single workout than if they were training it a second time later that week. 

That means the one day you train legs on the bro split may leave you feeling pretty crippled by the end. 

On the PPL split, you can divide that work up over two days.  You’ll still hit the exercises with the same intensity and effort, but it won’t be one mega workout that will leave you feeling like you can’t walk. 

Personal Preference

In the end, each of these splits boil down to your personal preference. 

Some lifters love to “go deep” into a muscle and work it til you can’t move anymore (i.e. the bro split). Personally, I enjoy hitting muscle groups like that from time to time. 

Others, however, prefer to hit a muscle with intensity, but stop long before they reach total failure. By training this way twice a week, they still accumulate as much volume as the lifter above, but in a different approach. 

Ultimately, these two splits allow you to choose one that’s better suited to how you like to train. And as long as you are training each split with intensity, you should see great results from either one. 

Should You Do A Bro Split or PPL Split?

should you do a bro split or ppl split

Here are my recommendations on when you should do each split: 

Do A Bro Split If

  • You can bring the intensity
  • You aren’t afraid of soreness
  • You like the split more

You Can Bring the Intensity

If you believe you can bring the intensity and really work a muscle to failure, grab this split. 

There’s really no room for sub-max training on this approach since you’ll have a full week off between training the same muscle groups.

You Aren’t Afraid of Soreness

Between the high intensity, high volume, and once-a-week frequency, you’re going to have more DOMs than a lifter who spreads out their volume, and trains a couple times a week. 

If that’s you, or you enjoy the satisfying feeling of sore muscles, the bro split is for you. 

You like the Split More

Bottom line, you gotta do what you love. This split will grow muscle, no doubt. 

Do not let the article we cited about training twice a week make you think the bro split is worthless.  

The best split is the one that you will stick to long term, so if you enjoy the bro split style of training, and can be consistent over many months and years, you’ll gain both strength and mass. 

Do A PPL Split If

  • You want to grow muscle as quickly as possible
  • You don’t care about stage symmetry
  • You have some strength training goals

You Want to Grow Muscle as Quickly as Possible

There’s no denying the science – training your muscles twice a week is better than once a week, even when controlling for total volume. 

If your goal is to build muscle everywhere, use the PPL split and keep eating in a caloric surplus with lots of protein. 

You Don’t Care about Stage Symmetry

This isn’t saying that you don’t care about how you look, cause we all do to one degree or another. What I’m saying is that if you don’t care about your shoulders having the right ratio to your neck, or biceps, or pecs, and you just want to be bigger and have more muscle, this is a great way to go. 

The Bro Split is a useful way to address those specific needs and leave some other areas out of it so you can help those smaller areas catch up to the ones that grew and developed faster. If that’s not your concern, you can jump into PPL and enjoy all the benefits of it carefree. 

You Have Some Strength Training Goals

As a powerlifter, this is my favorite benefit here. Sure, you can bench press on chest day, or squat on leg day in the bro split, but if you’re only doing it once a week, you won’t see much strength progress after your rookie gains. 

If you are incorporating some goals around getting stronger, not just adding muscle, the PPL split is better, because you can start to use it to mimic powerlifting programs. For example, your first Push day can incorporate a bench press for strength, while your second Push day uses a variation like close grip bench press to both develop your triceps as well as provide added frequency to the overall strength of the bench press. 

That being said, if you are ONLY looking to get stronger, there are much better splits/programs out there specific to strength training. Check out our reviews of those programs: 

Bro Split Example

bro split example

Monday – Chest

  • Bench Press – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • DB Bench Press – 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Incline DB Flyes – 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Chest Press Machine – 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Pec Dec Flyes – 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Push Ups – 4 sets of AMRAP (as many reps as possible)

Tuesday – Arms

  • Barbell biceps curl – 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6
  • Alternating DB Curl – 4 sets of 12
  • Preacher Hammer Curl – 4 sets of 12
  • Skull Crushers – 4 sets of 12
  • DB French Press – 4 sets of 10
  • DB Kickbacks – 3 sets of AMRAP 

Wednesday – Legs

  • Squats – 4 sets of 10
  • Barbell Lunges in place – 4 sets of 10
  • Leg Press – 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 4
  • Leg extensions – 3 sets of AMRAP
  • Deadlift – 4 sets of 8
  • Stiff leg deadlift – 4 sets of 10
  • Lying hamstring curl – 3 sets of AMRAP

Thursday – Back

  • Pull Ups – 4 sets of 10
  • Wide Grip Lat Pull Downs – 4 sets of 12
  • V-Grip Lat Pull Downs – 4 sets of 10
  • Reverse Grip Lat Pull Downs – 4 sets of 8
  • Seated underhand rows – 4 sets of 12
  • Seated V-grip rows – 4 sets of 10
  • Barbell Shrugs – 3 sets of AMRAP

Friday – Shoulders

  • DB Military Press – 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6
  • Barbell Overhead Press – 4 sets of 10
  • Plate Front Raise – 4×10
  • Seated DB Lateral Raise – 4 sets of 12
  • Cable Upright Rows (straight bar) – 4 sets of 8
  • Bent over rear delt flyes – 3×10

Saturday – Abs

  • Plank holds – 4 sets of 1-2mins
  • Weighted Sit ups – 4 sets of 15-20
  • Hanging Leg Raises – 4 sets of 10
  • Plank Holds – 4 sets of 1-2 mins

PPL Example

ppl example

Monday – Push

  • Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
  • DB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 10
  • Chest Press Machine – 4 sets of 10
  • Arnold Press – 4 sets of 10
  • Tricep Cable Pushdown – 4 sets of 12
  • Overhead Tricep Cable Extension – 4 sets of 12

Tuesday – Pull

  • Bent over BB Row – 4 sets of 10
  • Chest Supported DB Row – 4 sets of 10
  • Lat Pulldown – 4 sets of 10
  • Standing BB Curl – 4 sets of 12
  • Alternating DB Curl – 4 sets of 8
  • BB Shrugs – 4 sets of 10

Wednesday – Legs

  • Squats – 4 sets of 10
  • Barbell Lunges in place – 4 sets of 10
  • Leg Press – 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 4
  • Leg extensions – 3 sets of AMRAP
  • Deadlift – 4 sets of 8
  • Stiff leg deadlift – 4 sets of 10
  • Lying hamstring curl – 3 sets of AMRAP

Thursday  – Rest

Friday – Push

  • Incline Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
  • BB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 8
  • BB Skull Crushers – 4 sets of 12
  • Landmine Press – 4 sets of 10
  • Arnold Press – 4 sets of 12
  • Dips – 4 sets of AMRAP

Saturday – Pull

  • Single arm DB Row – 4 sets of 10
  • Cable BB Curls – 4 sets of 12
  • Underhand Tricep Pulldown – 4 sets of 10
  • Rope Pulldown – 4 sets of 12
  • DB Lateral Raise – 4 sets of 8
  • DB Front Raise – 4 sets of 12

Sunday – Legs

  • Leg Press – 4 sets of 10
  • Front Squats – 4 sets of 8
  • Sumo Deadlift – 4 sets of 8
  • Goblet Squats – 4 sets of 10
  • DB Split Squats – 4 sets of 10
  • Walking Lunges – 4 laps (down and back, 12 steps per leg)

Check Out Our Other Training Split Articles


About The Author

Adam Gardner

Adam Gardner is a proud resident of Utah, where he lives with his wife and two kids. He has been competing in powerlifting since 2016 in both the USPA and the APF. For the past three years, he and his wife, Merrili, have coached beginning lifters to learn the fundamentals of powerlifting and compete in their first powerlifting competitions.