Two very popular training splits, or ways to break up which muscles you exercise each workout, are a Full Body split and the Bro Split.
I’ve used both methods personally at different times in my training, and I’ve recommended both to athletes that I coach. The important thing is to understand the benefits of each and then apply the splits appropriately to your focus and goals.
What makes the Full Body vs Bro Split different? The Full Body split uses a blend of upper body, lower body, and core work in each workout every training day during the week. The Bro Split trains one specific muscle group (quads, chest, arms, back) per workout so the full body is worked over a week, rather than a single workout.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What a Full Body and a Bro Split is, with examples of each
- The 3 main differences between Full Body and Bro Splits
- Pros and cons of Full Body and Bro splits
- How to decide which training split you should do
- Workout templates of each split
What Is A Full Body Split?
A Full Body split is one that exercises both upper and lower muscle groups each time you exercise.
The Full Body split doesn’t suggest that you train every possible muscle in your body every time you exercise. But the goal is to include both the upper or lower body, for example arms and legs.
In practice, these workouts usually rely on compound movements to activate several muscles in a single exercise, rather than isolated movements that focus acutely on a single muscle.
By incorporating compound lifts, like squats, deadlift, lunges, bench press, overhead press, and pull-ups, you can train more of your body at once with fewer exercises (and less time).
The weekly arrangement of your Full Body workouts is way more flexible than a program that splits up your body into segmented parts. If you miss a day, or change which day you rest, it doesn’t take away a day dedicated to a single muscle group, or risk skipping that muscle group for a whole week.
A common week on the Full Body split might look like this:
Monday – Full Body
Tuesday – Rest
Wednesday – Full Body
Thursday – Rest
Friday – Full Body
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Rest
While this is just one example, a lifter following the full body split could theoretically still train 6-7 days a week, if desired. With that said, the most common approach is 3 days per week with a day's rest in between.
What Is A Bro Split?
The Bro Split gets its name from the popular application of the split by, well, gym bros. The guys with the gallon jugs of water, stringer sleeveless shirts, and carefully tanned skin.
The Bro Split breaks up your body by individual muscle groups, training each one in a single workout. This arrangement allows the lifter to completely fatigue or even exhaust the muscle group in a single workout, then rest it until the following week.
Because every muscle group is only trained once a week, this split is dependent on high frequency training (usually 5-7 days per week).
If you miss a day of training, you miss an entire week’s worth of training for that muscle, be it chest, arms, back, or legs. But when you do train it, it gets trained so hard that your final sets and reps are often very difficult to complete.
A common weekly breakdown of the Bro Split looks like this:
Monday – Chest
Tuesday – Quads
Wednesday – Back
Thursday – Glutes/Hamstrings
Friday – Shoulders
Saturday – Biceps/Triceps
Sunday – Core/Calves or Rest Day
Want to get advice on programming, technique, or competing? Speak with one of our coaches.
Full Body vs Bro Split: 3 Differences
The 3 main differences between the Full Body and Bro Splits are:
1. The Full Body Split Requires More Rest Days
The Bro Split requires hitting every training session each week, while the Full Body split allows for more flexibility and rest.
Put simply, if you’re only training your shoulders once a week and you miss that workout, it’s a big deal. Since you train seven days a week, there’s little opportunity to make up for the missed workout, since you need to train your other muscle groups on the remaining days of the week.
If you train the Full Body split and you miss a workout, it’s no big deal, because you already trained (or will still train) those muscles in the same week.
That being said, since the Full Body split does indeed work your entire body each workout, it’s likely you need to rest between workouts, rather than train consecutive days. Because your whole body is trained and tired, you can’t easily train the next day and focus on fresh muscle groups.
Research has indicated that training a muscle group two times per week is more effective than training it only once per week for hypertrophy. So, the Full Body split incorporates that practice inherently, assuming you are doing more than one full body workout each week.
Takeaway: If you choose the Full Body workout, you will need to incorporate more rest days. If you choose the Bro Split, you’ll need to be committed to completing every planned workout each week.
2. The Full Body Split Requires Less Gym Sessions Per Week
The Bro Split is most commonly used in the bodybuilding world, as it has been proven to be a great way to trigger a hypertrophic response in the muscles. The Full body workout is commonly applied to those who are pressed for time or want to improve their overall fitness levels, not just muscle size or strength.
When you look at these two splits, you should understand that they are commonly applied to get different outcomes or serve different purposes.
The Bro Split dedicates an entire workout to a single muscle, like the biceps. Over that workout, the lifter will perform dozens of sets across a handful of variations, all targeted to hit the biceps and nothing else. By the end of the workout, the lifter has (likely) done more biceps volume than someone who trains biceps three times a week as a small part of a full body workout.
By pushing the muscle that hard, that deep, once a week, the lifter is focused 100% on growing that muscle. By giving it the rest of the week to recover, they have the ability to absolutely exhaust that muscle and introduce stress that isn’t possible in many other ways.
The Full Body split isn’t usually capable of inducing that kind of stress on a muscle, as there’s simply not enough time to fatigue your whole body with that kind of specificity.
Instead, the Full Body workout introduces a generally equal amount of stress across the body to stimulate muscle and strength growth. By incorporating compound movements like lunges, shoulder presses, deadlifts, burpees, and box jumps, a higher amount of total energy is expended than a lifter only focused on isolating a single muscle.
Takeaway: the Full Body split is usually applied to those seeking a more general, broad improvement to their overall health and fitness, or have less consistent ability to train. The Bro Split is usually applied to those who have specific goals to grow their muscles as much as possible.
3. The Full Body Split Benefits The Novice Lifter Greater
The biggest difference between these splits is the stage of lifter that benefits most.
In his Starting Strength courses, Mark Rippetoe discusses the idea of Rate of Adaptation. In the early months, a new lifter will adapt to new stresses very, very quickly, allowing them to progress quickly.
This means that a new lifter can add weight to the barbell faster, gain muscle faster, lose fat faster, and generally progress much faster in every way than someone who’s been training for five years.
As such, a new lifter can train every muscle in their body just about every day of the week in the first weeks and months of training. They can go to sleep at night and come back ready to take on another workout due to this high rate of adaptation. This makes a Full Body split a fantastic starting point for new lifters.
The rate of adaptation decreases quickly as time goes on.
While a new lifter responds to any new stress introduced, a more advanced lifter will need to induce a much higher stress to see any kind of change. They require more recovery time and complex training programs to add even the slightest growth to their visible muscle mass, while a new lifter can appear totally transformed in just 90 days.
In order to keep the muscle growing, the advanced lifter has to keep introducing an increased stress to get the desired reaction in the muscle. In this case, the Bro Split allows the advanced lifter to dig deep into a single muscle or group, hitting it much harder and intensely than they’d be able to if they were trying to train many muscles at once with such focus.
Takeaway: Consider your goals, your time constraints, and apply the split that fits best based on your phase of training.
Full Body vs Bro Split: Pros & Cons
Full Body Pros
Full Body Workouts Train Your Muscles 2+ Times per Week
When it comes to hypertrophy, training your muscle groups twice per week is a huge factor in getting the desired results.
The Full Body split covers this base. And while the jury is still out on how effective three or four sessions a week on a muscle group are, you can be confident you’re at least hitting the required work twice per week.
Compared to the Bro Split, which only hits each muscle once per week, the Full Body is superior based on this metric.
It Allows for More Flexible Training Schedules
The Full Body split is a great way to train if you need flexibility.
For those of us that live in the real world, training doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes we miss workouts, we have to travel for work or fun, or other commitments get in the way of following our training plan exactly.
Since the Full Body split trains your whole body a few times a week, it allows you to change things up as you need to.
Can’t make it in on Monday? No big deal, you can trade it with a day you usually rest.
Pressed for time on Wednesday? No big deal, cut your sets in half, knowing you’ll hit them two other times this week.
Full Body Cons
It Loses Efficacy Over Time
Based on the laws of rate of adaptation, the best results will come early with the Full Body split and diminish over time.
You could (and should) certainly progress your workouts to increase weight, sets, reps, and intensity, but that gets harder and harder to do, as your workouts will get longer, become more taxing, and eventually impossible to get it all done in a single workout.
Eventually, you’ll need to adjust your workouts to follow some kind of split that still trains your whole body, but does so over several workouts in a single week, rather than in a single workout.
Without making those kinds of changes, you’ll eventually just reach a plateau that maintains your level of size/strength/fitness, but doesn’t improve it.
It Can Become Repetitive
Doing a full body workout three days a week every week can get boring, let’s face it.
There’s nothing wrong with boring, so long as it’s effective. But the risk of boring is that you could stop doing it entirely. And the only thing worse than an ineffective program is no program at all.
Bro Split Pros
It Trains Your Muscles Intensely and Deeply
This is the whole point of the Bro Split, and therefore its largest benefit. You can’t hit a muscle any harder than to complete exhaustion, and that’s what this split is designed to do.
As we discussed, your body adapts to the stressors applied to it. If you make your muscle move weight, it gets bigger and stronger as a response to that stressor. If you leave the stressor at the same level, your body no longer needs to adapt, it simply maintains its abilities to serve that static stress.
The Bro Split keeps us from staying on that plateau by putting each individual muscle to work for an entire workout, hitting the muscle hard and deep.
If you are in need of added stress to get a result, the Bro Split will ensure you have a chance to add plenty of new stress to a muscle by wearing it out entirely.
Bro Split Cons
It Only Trains Your Muscles Once per Week
Multiple training sessions per week on each muscle group can have superior results to training just once per week. And that’s controlling for total volume (do the same number of reps/sets/weight in a single workout or spread across two workouts).
This doesn’t paint the whole picture, but is important to note. For most lifestyle lifters (not competitive or dedicating exorbitant time and money to lifting), training your muscles twice a week will be extremely important, and you don’t get that with the Bro Split.
You Can’t Skip Any Workouts
Not only do you only train muscles one per week, but if you miss a workout, suddenly you only trained that muscle group once in two weeks.
This split demands that you show up 6 or 7 days a week and train each muscle with intensity. If you can’t maintain that, you’re going to be undertraining some muscle groups each week, leaving you more sore and spinning your wheels once the beginner phase ends.
Should You Do A Full Body or a Bro Split?
I can’t decide what is right for you, but you can take the definitions, the pros and cons, and comparisons of these splits and decide for yourself which better suits your needs.
Do A Full Body Split If
You Can Only Train a Few Times per Week
Based on the science that you should train your muscles at least 2 times per week, if you can’t train more than 2-3x per week, the Full Body Split is the way to go.
Instead of sporadically training arms one week, then legs the next, or back the following week, then back to legs, train a little bit of everything a few times a week. You’ll get more bang for your buck and ultimately see better progress than half-heartedly following a split that doesn’t train your muscles regularly.
If you’re short on time, the full body split is a great choice.
You Care More About Total Fitness Rather Than Just Muscle Growth
Because the full body split incorporates more compound movements and trains your whole body more consistently, there are added total health benefits.
The compound lifts burn more calories. They typically leave you needing to catch your breath, adding to your cardiovascular health. You can incorporate things like burpees and jumping jacks and box jumps (or box jump alternative) in a full body workout.
If you aren’t laser focused on growing your muscles, but just want health through lifting and strength training, the full body split is a fantastic path for you.
Do A Bro Split If
You’ve Progressed Past Newbie Gains
As we stated, the newbies can do the Full Body workouts over and over and see huge results from introducing a new stressor to their body.
But you do outgrow that phase, and soon you’ll need to add a more intense stress to get any kind of result.
If you’ve reached this stage, it may be a good time to move to the Bro Split to put more intensity on each muscle to get it to grow the way you want. Regular training with sub-par stressors won’t do the trick, and sporadic training with high stressors won’t do it either. Balance the two, and you’ve got a great Bro Split future ahead of you.
You Can Commit to Training Very Frequently
I gotta emphasize this again – if you miss a day on the Bro Split, you missed a whole week’s worth of training. It would be like a baseball player skipping batting practice for a week or a powerlifting skipping squats for a week – it’s a big deal.
If you have the time and drive and you can commit to showing up for every workout, the Bro Split is a great choice. Some of us love training every day and we hate rest days. If that’s you, this can be a great way to stay busy every day, stay focused, and get great results.
Full Body Example
Here’s an example of what a Full Body workout could look like for a week:
Monday – Full Body Workout
- Squats – 3×8
- Pull-ups – 3×10
- DB Shoulder Press – 3×10
- Incline Bench Press – 3×8
- DB Biceps Curls – 3×12
- DB Floor Press – 3×12
- Planks – 4 rounds
- DB Romanian Deadlifts – 3×8
Wednesday – Full Body Workout
- Deadlifts – 3×8
- Bent over BB rows – 3×10
- BB Overhead Press – 3×8
- Chest Press Machine – 3×10
- Standing BB Curls – 3×10
- Skull Crushers – 3×10
- Crunches – 3xAMRAP
- Calf Raises – 3×15
Friday – Full Body Workout
- Leg Press – 3×10
- Bench Press – 3×8
- Close grip bench press – 3×10
- Cable curls – 3×10
- Lat Pull Downs – 3×10
- Hanging Leg Raises – 3×12-15
- DB Deadlifts – 3×10
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
- DB Flyes – 4 sets of 10
- Incline DB Flyes – 4 sets of 10
- Cable Crossovers – 4×10
- Single Arm Chest Press – 4×10
- Push-ups – 3xAMRAP
- Pec Deck – 3xAMRAP
Tuesday – Back
- BB Deadlift – 4×8
- Bent over BB Row – 4×10
- Underhand BB Row – 4×10
- Single Arm DB Row – 4×10
- Reverse Pec Deck Flyes – 4×10
- Seated V-Grip Cable Row – 4×12
- BB Shrug – 4×8
- Seated DB Shrug – 4×10
Wednesday – Quads
- Squats – 4 sets of 10
- Front Squats – 4 sets of 10
- Barbell Lunges in place – 4 sets of 10
- Leg Press – 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 4
- Goblet Squats – 4×10
- Leg extensions – 3 sets of AMRAP
- Single Leg Extensions – 3 sets of AMRAP
Thursday – Shoulders
- Incline Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
- BB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 8
- Seated DB Overhead Press – 4×10
- Seated DB Lateral Raises – 4×10
- Plate Front Raise – 4×10
- Cable Upright Rows – 4×10
- Bent Over Rear Delt Flyes – 4×10
- Cable Lateral Raises – 3xAMRAP
Friday – Hamstrings
- Stiff Leg Deadlifts – 4×10
- Single Leg Deadlifts – 4×10
- Good Mornings – 4×8
- Standing Single Leg Hamstring Curl – 4×10
- Lying Hamstring Curl – 4×10
- DB Stiff Leg Deadlifts – 4×10
Saturday – Biceps/Triceps
- Standing BB Curl – 4×10
- Seated DB Curl – 4×10
- Preacher EZ Bar Curl – 4×10
- Preacher DB Hammer Curl – 4×10
- Skull Crushers – 4×10
- EZ Bar French Press – 4×10
- DB Single Arm French Press – 4×10
- EZ Bar Tricep Cable Pushdowns – 4×10
- Rope Pull downs – 4×1-
Sunday – Calves and Abs
- Calf Raises – 4×15
- Seated Calf Raises – 4×8
- Toe-Up Holds – 4 rounds, 60 seconds
- Hanging Leg Raises – 4×10
- Planks – 4 rounds
- Decline Sit Ups – 4×12-15
- Crunches – 3xAMRAP
Check Out Our Other Training Split Articles
- Bro Split vs PPL: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?
- Bro Split vs Upper Lower: Pros, Cons, Which Is Best?
- Upper Lower vs Full Body: Differences, Pros, Cons
- Push Pull Legs vs Upper Lower: Pros, Cons, & Which Is better?
- PHUL vs PPL: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?
- 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.