When considering how to break up your training, two popular “splits” are the Bro Split and the Upper Lower split.
While they are similar in some ways, they each have their benefits and setbacks, which you should understand when deciding which is best for you.
So, what is the difference between a Bro Split and an Upper Lower Split? The Bro Split dedicates a single workout to one muscle group, like a “chest day” or a “quad day,” allowing the lifter to exhaust that specific muscle. The Upper Lower Split divides training days by a broad selection of upper body and lower body exercises, where one half of the body is trained each day.
At the end of this article, you’ll be able to consider and determine whether the Bro Split or the Upper Lower split is best for you. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What the Bro Split and Upper Lower split is
- 3 differences between the Bro Split and Upper Lower split
- Pros and cons of the Bro Split and Upper Lower split
- Selecting which split is right for you
- Workout examples of each split
What Is A Bro Split?
The Bro Split gets its name from the popular application of this training method by the “bros” you like to joke about in the gym. With their gallon jugs of water and stringer tank tops, it’s all about looking good and getting big.
But don’t let the stereotype scare you away from the very legitimate training method these folks apply. There’s a reason it’s popular among those focused on growing their muscles as big as possible.
In the Bro Split methodology, each day is given its own muscle group to train. By training a single muscle group each day, a lifter can train every day of the week (or maybe six days a week, if they still want a rest day).
This is because the workouts are so isolated, you can completely exhaust your back muscles on one day, and still show up the next day to train quads, or some other muscle group, without needing your fatigued back muscles to do more work than they did the previous day.
Additionally, by only training each muscle group once a week, this workout calls for much more intense sessions in order to accumulate enough total volume on that muscle to affect change. Essentially, a lifter must get the same amount (or more) bicep work done in a single workout as someone else who trains arms 2-3x a week.
An example of a week on a Bro Split might look like this:
- Monday – Chest
- Tuesday – Quads
- Wednesday – Back
- Thursday – Hamstrings and Glutes
- Friday – Shoulders
- Saturday – Biceps and Triceps
- Sunday – Core, Calves, or optional Rest
What Is An Upper Lower Split?
The Upper Lower split breaks up your body into two groups – upper body and lower body. Each workout will be dedicated to either upper body muscles or lower body muscles.
Because there are only two groups (upper and lower), the expectation with this split is that you will repeat training sessions of each group at least once per week.
Ideall, this means four total workouts, two focused on the upper body, two focused on the lower body. A lifter with an accommodating schedule could certainly do as many as six workouts per week, if desired.
Because more muscles are trained in each session, the workouts will tend to leave the lifter with a greater need to rest between sessions of the same muscle group, as they may still experience soreness or muscle fatigue by the time they want to train that same muscle group again.
However, because the split focuses on two separate ends of your body, you can certainly train your upper days consecutively with your lower days without rest in between. The question will be how long you personally need to rest before hitting your second or third sessions of the week on those same muscle groups.
An example of a week on the Upper Lower split might look like this:
Monday – Upper
Tuesday – Lower
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Upper
Friday – Lower
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Rest
The rest days are flexible, and can be adjusted to meet any scheduling demands, or your own personal rest and recovery needs.
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Bro Split vs Upper Lower: 3 Differences
There are 3 main differences between Bro Split and the Upper Lower split:
- The rigidity of the training days
- The number of rest days
- The specificity of the workouts
1. The Rigidity of the Training Days
The Bro Split is much more rigid in terms of structuring your training week.
Think about it this way: since you only have one day a week to completely train your chest (or quads, or biceps, or whatever), if you miss that day of training, then you miss an entire week’s work of volume for that muscle.
Because of this, if you want to see effective results, you must be committed and consistent in showing up every day and training each muscle effectively. That one day of training your dedicated muscle for the day is all you have until next week, so you can’t waste it.
The Upper Lower split, on the other hand, is much more flexible, as your Upper workout will likely include a bit of arms, chest, and back in each workout. So missing your second or third Upper workout of the week isn’t as impactful.
2. The Number of Rest Days
The Upper Lower split allows for several rest days in a week, ranging from 1-5, depending on how frequently you train.
Compared to the Bro Split, which offers as much as one rest day (if you want it), you’ll find the Upper Lower split offers much more time for recovery and life’s other responsibilities.
When training the Upper Lower split, the minimum you should train is twice per week – once upper, and once lower, leaving you five rest days a week.
However, I wouldn’t advise training this infrequently if you have the opportunity to train more often. The ideal Upper Lower program would have four workouts per week, leaving you three rest days to break up the week however you prefer.
3. The Specificity of the Workouts
The way you train your muscles in each split will differ greatly, as one split calls for very isolated, specific training, and the other tries to cover a lot of ground in a single workout.
For example, on the Bro Split, if you’re training shoulders, you would perform 6-8 different exercises for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps each, all hitting your shoulder from various angles. By the end, your shoulders should feel completely exhausted, and performing a single rep more should be very difficult with any amount of weight.
We might start with overhead barbell presses with relatively heavy weight, but by the end, we are performing dumbbell lateral raises with 5lb or 10lb dumbbells, wincing at our 11th and 12th reps to finish it out and keep our form intact so we don’t get any help from muscles other than the isolated shoulders, which are our only focus for the day.
On an Upper Lower split, your Upper workout would certainly include one or two shoulder exercises, but they would be combined with a number of back, bicep, tricep, chest, and even abs exercises, as the goal is to train your entire upper body.
In this workout, if we have the same 60 minutes as the Bro Split shoulder workout, we don’t have as much time to hit all those muscles as hard as if we trained each of them individually for an hour.
In order to train as much of our upper body as possible, we’ll rely on compound movements, like the overhead barbell press, bench press, and pull ups to incorporate several muscle groups into a single exercise.
Bro Split vs Upper Lower: Pros & Cons
Bro Split Pros
It Forces You To Train With Intensity
If you’re gonna do it, you have to do it right, and that’s what the Bro Split expects of you. Why is that a benefit? Because if you understand this, then you are going to go hard in the gym every day that you are there to train.
Knowing the expectation of the split, knowing this is the only day of the week you have to train whatever muscle is on the docket that day, it drives you to make it count.
It Is Widely Applied and Popular
There’s a reason that it’s so commonly applied – it works.
Granted, you’ve got to be following it correctly – truly accumulating all the volume you need at the levels of intensity necessary to make your muscles grow – but assuming you’re doing that right, the split will make you grow.
That’s the reason so many follow it around the world, and likely the reason you’ve heard of it before you started reading this article.
Bro Split Cons
It Lacks Flexibility
There’s no denying it – if you are on the Bro Split, then you’ve gotta follow it by the book. As we established above, skipping workouts will quickly hurt your progress, as it skips an entire week’s worth of training that muscle group that you skipped.
If you have a hard time getting to the gym every day, if your schedule is inconsistent, or if you really dislike a particular muscle group and are prone to make excuses and skip it, I’d advise looking at a program that trains a little of everything more often so your training is more forgiving of your schedule or other priorities.
It Only Trains Your Muscles Once per Week
Training your muscles twice a week is proven to be optimal for hypertrophy.
The only way the Bro Split is effective is if you truly get the same or more total volume on each muscle group in a single workout than you would in a split that breaks it up over a few workouts.
If you don’t have this, then you are only training muscles once a week with less than required intensity and volume, and you’d be better off with a split that trains muscles twice a week.
Upper Lower Pros
It Trains Your Muscles Twice per Week
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Bro Split, the Upper Lower split calls for two or even three sessions per week to hit each muscle group.
As long as you are truly incorporating a bit of everything in each workout (Back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, core in your upper workouts; quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves in your lower workouts), then you’ll automatically be training them twice a week just for showing up and doing the work.
It Offers Flexibility in Scheduling
The programmatic benefits we detailed above about training your muscles twice per week offer additional benefits – greater flexibility!
If you know you’re following the research and training your muscles twice per week, then you can enjoy more flexibility in which days you train and in making adjustments for the realities of life.
If you have weekend plans and can’t make your Friday or Saturday workout, you can easily adjust and get it done earlier in the week without worrying about missing a whole muscle group. I can’t say the same for the Bro Split.
Upper Lower Cons
It Can Limit Your Total Weekly Volume
There are two reasons these workouts can limit your total volume – one is that you need more rest between workouts that incorporate more muscles, and two is that you can only fit so much work into each workout.
When you train several muscle groups in a single workout, you have fewer options for muscle groups you can train the next day that are still rested.
The more rest days you have, the fewer training days you have, and the harder it is to get enough work done each week to make your muscles change and grow.
With fewer days to train, your only option is to get more done in each workout. And unless you have unlimited time and energy, you’ll find there’s an upper limit to how fast you can cram your work into the same hour, or how long you can train beyond an hour each day.
In short, hitting a little bit of everything gets hard once your body starts to adapt and requires more attention and more stimulus to really make a change than it did when you first started.
It Can Become Repetitive
Yeah, you may be able to train six days a week on the Upper Lower split, but coming back to hit the same leg muscles three days a week and the same arm muscles three days a week can get old. Fast. You start feeling like “I just did this two days ago,” and can lose that drive to make it count.
Everyone has different preferences – maybe you like it this way – but if you find yourself falling into that trap, then this is the worst downside of all, because a program you don’t like can easily become a program you don’t follow at all. And not training at all is the worst.
Find a split that keeps you excited and focused each week. For me – Upper Lower ain’t it.
Should You Do A Bro Split or Upper Lower Split?
You may have already made up your mind which path is the path for you, but I’ve got my own recommendations based on what I’ve shared above.
Do A Bro Split If
You Are Laser Focused on Muscle Growth
The Bro Split is best applied to hypertrophy goals, so if that’s your focus, this is a great option for you. There’s a reason this split is popular among bodybuilders, because it’s good for serious bodybuilding!
Assuming you are committed and can show up for each workout and really hit each muscle hard and get all the volume you need, you should have great success with the Bro Split in growing your muscles.
You Have a Schedule That Allows for Regular Training
On the heels of that last recommendation, this program does require commitment to the schedule. If you have the consistency and flexibility in your schedule to dedicate time every day in the gym, then you are set up for success on the Bro Split.
If you can’t consistently train six or seven days a week, I’d definitely recommend something else, like the Upper Lower split to minimize the impact of missed training.
Do An Upper Lower Split If
Your Schedule Is Limiting How Regularly You Train
If you can’t commit to the rigidity of the Bro Split, keep your chin up – that’s a great sign that the Upper Lower split is a better fit for you!
There’s nothing wrong with having a busy schedule outside of training. That’s actually how most of us live – with work, family, social, and other responsibilities and priorities. Even as I write this, I daydream about how nice it would be to just focus on training, eating, and sleeping, but it’s not possible for me right now.
Embrace that balance, and still enjoy training by following the Upper Lower split so you can get multiple sessions in each week without feeling like it’s all fallen apart the first time you miss a session. The Upper Lower split is great for allowing you to train your body head to toe each week while still enjoying the rest of the things life has to offer.
You Have Some Strength Goals in Additional to Muscle Growth
This is my personal favorite element here, as a strength athlete. The Bro Split is fun for me in the off season when I’m trying to add muscle here and there, but the Upper Lower split will allow you to actually include strength elements in your training. It’s kinda pointless to train strength on the Bro Split.
Because the Upper Lower split relies on training several muscles in a single workout, we can incorporate compound movements that train strength and accomplish both goals. By performing reps on the bench press and overhead press, I can train chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps, and back all while getting stronger.
All the Upper Lower split dictates is that we train the upper body and lower body in separate sessions. That’s it. You are free to decide if that’s hypertrophy training, strength training, calisthenics, or anything else you enjoy.
If you have goals to get stronger, and not just bigger, the Upper Lower split is a much better fit for reaching both of those goals.
Bro Split Example
Here’s an example of what a Bro Split workout might look like for a week:
Monday – Chest
- Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
- DB Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
- Cable Crossovers – 4×10
- DB Flyes – 4 sets of 10
- Incline DB Flyes – 4 sets of 10
- Single Arm Chest Press – 4×10
- Pec Deck – 3xAMRAP
- Push-ups – 3xAMRAP
Tuesday – Back
- BB Deadlift – 4×8
- Underhand BB Row – 4×10
- Bent over BB Row – 4×10
- Seated V-Grip Cable Row – 4×12
- Single Arm DB Row – 4×10
- Reverse Pec Deck Flyes – 4×10
- Seated DB Shrug – 4×10
- BB Shrug – 4×8
Wednesday – Quads
- Front Squats – 4 sets of 10
- Narrow Stance Squats – 4 sets of 10
- Barbell Lunges – 4 sets of 10
- Single Leg Press – 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 4
- Bulgarian Split Squats – 4×10
- Single Leg Extensions – 3 sets of AMRAP
- Leg extensions – 3 sets of AMRAP
Thursday – Shoulders
- BB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 8
- Incline Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
- Plate Front Raise – 4×10
- Seated DB Overhead Press – 4×10
- Seal Rows – 4×10
- Seated DB Lateral Raises – 4×10
- Bent Over Rear Delt Flyes – 4×10
- Cable Lateral Raises – 3xAMRAP
Friday – Hamstrings
- Good Mornings – 4×8
- Stiff Leg Deadlifts – 4×10
- Single Leg Deadlifts – 4×10
- DB Stiff Leg Deadlifts – 4×10
- Lying Hamstring Curl – 4×10
- Standing Single Leg Hamstring Curl – 4×10
Saturday – Biceps/Triceps
- Seated DB Curl – 4×10
- Standing BB Curl – 4×10
- Preacher DB Hammer Curl – 4×10
- Preacher EZ Bar Curl – 4×10
- EZ Bar French Press – 4×10
- Skull Crushers – 4×10
- EZ Bar Tricep Cable Pushdowns – 4×10
- DB Single Arm French Press – 4×10
- Rope Pull downs – 4×10
Sunday – Calves and Abs
- Hanging Leg Raises – 4×10
- Planks – 4 rounds
- Decline Sit Ups – 4×12-15
- Crunches – 3xAMRAP
- Calf Raises – 4×15
- Seated Calf Raises – 4×8
- Toe-Up Holds – 4 rounds, 60 seconds
Upper Lower Example
Here’s an example of what a PPL workout might look like for a week:
Monday – Upper
- Incline Bench Press – 4 sets of 8
- DB Fly – 4 sets of 10
- BB Upright Row – 4 sets of 10
- DB Front Raises – 4 sets of 10
- V-Grip Seated Cable Rows – 4 sets of 10
- DB Shrugs – 4 sets of 12
Tuesday – Lower
- Barbell Deadlifts – 4 sets of 8
- Stiff Leg Deadlifts – 4 sets of 10
- Good Mornings – 4 sets of 10
- Machine Hamstring Curls – 4 sets of 10
- Seated Adductor Machine – 4 sets of 12
- Seated Abductor Machine – 4 sets of 12
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Upper
- Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
- BB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 10
- Wide Grip Lat PullDown or Alternative – 4 sets of 10
- Bent Over DB Row – 4 sets of 8
- BB Curls – 4 sets of 10
- Overhead Tricep Rope Extension – 4 sets of 10
Friday – Lower
- Squats – 4 sets of 8
- DB Walking Lunges – 4 sets of 10
- Good Mornings – 4 sets of 10
- Single Leg Press – 4 sets of 10 (each leg)
- Seated Leg Extensions – 4 sets of 10
- Calf Raises – 4 sets of 12
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Rest
Check Out Our Other Training Split Articles
- Bro Split vs PPL: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?
- Bro Split vs Full Body: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?
- Push Pull Legs vs Upper Lower: Pros, Cons, & Which Is better?
- Bro Split vs Upper Lower: Pros, Cons, Which Is Best?
- Full Body vs PPL: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?
- Texas Method vs 531: Differences, Pros, Cons
- Texas Method vs Madcow: Differences, Pros, Cons
About The Author
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.