5 Day Bro Splits: The Ultimate Guide!


The 5 day bro split is one of the most popular bodybuilding splits in the world.

Many of the world’s top bodybuilders like Steve Kuclo and Chris Bumstead train using the 5 day bro split.

If you want to learn how to train like the pros then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Traditional 5-Day Bro Split
  • Part 2: Fouad Abiad’s 5-Day Bro Split
  • Part 3: Dante Trudel’s 5-Day Bro Split
  • Part 4: John Meadows’ 5-Day Bro Split

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about how to design your own 5-day bro split workouts for every body part.

The 5 day bro split is a bodybuilding-style training split where you train each muscle group once per week. You train your chest, shoulders, back, arms and legs on their own training day once per week.

Many of the world’s biggest and strongest bodybuilders have trained using a 5 day bro split.

For example here is Larry Wheels incline pressing 400 pounds for 17 reps on his bro split chest workout:

What an incredible lift!

Bodybuilders love this split because you can train each muscle group with several different exercises per workout.

Here is what the 5-day bro split usually looks like:

The Traditional 5-Day Bro Split

  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Back
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Shoulders
  • Day 5: Legs
  • Day 6: Arms
  • Day 7: Off

This is the classic way to set up this split. You have 5 workouts per week and 2 days off from the gym.

Most bodybuilders like to take off days after their back and leg workouts because these workouts are hardest on your recovery system.

There are many different ways that you can design your workouts using the 5 day bro split. Professional bodybuilders have used high-volume workouts, low-volume / high intensity workouts and everything in between.

In this article I want to teach you how some of the world’s top bodybuilders and bodybuilding coaches approach their own program design using this split.

One oldest and most effective strategies is to use a powerbuilding approach. This is a favorite strategy of the Mr. Olympia finalist Steve Kuclo.

Steve likes to start his workout with one heavy compound exercise to build strength and target the fast-twitch muscle fibers. After that he moves onto a bunch of high-rep exercises to create more metabolic stress and get a massive pump.

Here is one of Steve’s Mr. Olympia chest workouts. Check it out:

Steve Kuclo’s Powerbuilding Chest Workout

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree incline DB press, 4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Exercise #2: Supine machine press, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Hammer strength incline press, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Incline dumbbell fly, 4 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Cable crossover, 4 sets of 10-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is a very normal looking chest workout for Steve Kuclo. He starts his workout with some heavy sets of incline dumbbell presses. Steve works up to the 200 pound dumbbells for this workout – wow!

After his primary chest exercise he moves onto a couple of higher-rep pressing movements. Finally he finishes up with 2 very high rep isolation exercises like incline dumbbell flies and cable crossovers.

This powerbuilding approach is a great way to train if you have above average recovery ability. You get the benefits of lower-rep strength work to build the fast-twitch muscle fibers and higher-rep bodybuilding style sets to give that full bodybuilding-style look.

If you are more of a high-volume guy then a great strategy is to use bodybuilding style cluster sets. This is a favorite strategy of the bodybuilding coach Josh Bryant.

The basic idea is to perform sets of 4-8 reps for 5 minutes straight with only 10-15 seconds rest in between sets.

Here is a shoulder cluster sets workout that you could try. Check it out:

Josh Bryant’s Escalating Density Workout

  • Exercise #1: Machine lateral raise, sets of 6 reps, 15 seconds rest**
  • Exercise #2: Reverse pec dec, sets of 6 reps, 15 seconds rest**
  • Exercise #3: Hammer strength overhead press, sets of 6 reps, 15 seconds rest**
  • Exercise #4: 30 degree prone partial rear delt DB fly, sets of 10 reps, 15 seconds rest**

**Perform as many sets as you can for 5 minutes with 15 seconds rest between sets, then move onto the next exercise

Here is the training video for this workout:

This workout is much harder than it looks! Josh says that you should pick a weight you can perform for about 15 reps.

The first few sets are going to be very easy. After all, you are only performing 6 reps with a weight you can lift 15 times. As you progress through the cluster set your reps will become harder and harder.

By the end of the 5 minutes your muscles will feel like they are ready to explode!

Josh really likes bodybuilding style cluster sets because you can get a lot of high-quality work done in a very short period of time. They are also very easy to perform in a busy commercial gym. 

Another great way to design your workouts using the traditional 5-day bro split is actually giant sets.

Giant sets are a bodybuilding technique popularized by Milos Sarcev where you perform 4 or more exercises in a row for the same body part with only 10 seconds rest between sets.

Giant sets are so effective because they prolong the time under tension of the set and force your muscles to work longer than normal.

One of Milos Sarcev’s favorite strategies is to perform giant sets where you alternate back and forth between bicep and tricep exercises. For example:

Milos Sarcev Giant Sets Arm Routine

  • Exercise #1: Machine preacher curl (supinated grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #2: Hammer strength dips, 1 set of 8-15 reps**, no rest
  • Exercise #3: Preacher ez-bar curl (supinated grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #4: Cable french press (straight bar), 3 x 1 set of 8-15 reps***, no rest
  • Exercise #5: Cable preacher curl (supinated grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #6: Ez-bar french press, 1 set of 8-15 reps****, no rest
  • Exercise #7: Cable preacher curl (wide / pronated grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps*****, no rest
  • Exercise #8: 45 degree supine cable pushdown, 1 set of 8-15 reps******, no rest
  • Exercise #9: 45 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #10: 45 degree prone cable rope pushdown, 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #11: 30 degree supine cable curl (low pulley / supinated grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #12: 30 degree supine cable rope extension (low pulley), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #13: 30 degree prone ez-bar spider curl (supinated grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #14: 30 degree prone DB tricep kickbacks (hammer grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #15: 30 degree prone DB spider curl (supinating grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #16: Bent over DB tricep kickbacks, 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #17: 90 degree preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #18: Machine preacher curl (supinated grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #19: Machine skull crusher (hammer grip), 1 set of 8-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #20: V-bar dips (upright torso), 1 x AMRAP*******, no rest

**Your training partner adds extra manual resistance on the eccentric range of every rep. You perform the concentric range on your own and your partner adds extra resistance manually on the eccentric range.

***Perform a single drop set after reaching failure

****Perform a DC-style rest-pause set. Train to failure, rest 10 seconds, train to failure, rest 10 seconds, train to failure, done!

*****Perform a mechanical advantage drop set. Train to failure with a wide / underhand grip, then immediately train to failure with a narrow / pronated grip

******Train to failure on the supine cable pushdown exercise, then switch to the mid-pulley position and perform cable skull crushers to failure, then switch to the low pulley position and perform overhead cable extensions to failure

*******Perform 1 set to failure with your bodyweight only

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about a brutal workout! Milos Sarcev has his client perform 20 exercises in a row for this giant set!

Alternating between bicep and tricep exercises is an extremely effective way to train even if you are not using a giant sets program.

Research shows that alternating between sets for biceps and triceps helps you recruit more muscle fibers in both muscle groups and improves your muscle endurance. It also gives you an incredible pump!

The bodybuilding coach John Meadows is also a big fan of the giant sets approach for arm training.

So far we’ve looked at workouts you can do using the traditional 5-day bro split. The truth is there are some other ways you can design a bodybuilding bro-split.

The professional bodybuilder Fouad Abiad likes to break up his leg workouts into a quadriceps day and a hamstrings day. Check it out:

Fouad Abiad’s 5-Day “Pro-Split”

  • Day 1: Arms
  • Day 2: Hamstrings / Calves
  • Day 3: Back
  • Day 4: Off
  • Day 5: Chest / Shoulders
  • Day 6: Quads
  • Day 7: Off

Fouad Abiad says that most people don’t know what they’re talking about when they use the term “bro split.” Here is Fouad getting the record straight:

“It’s not a bro split… it’s a PRO SPLIT!!”

Fouad brings up a great point: almost every professional bodybuilder in the world trains with some variation of the 5 day bro split. Maybe we should start calling it a “pro split” instead?

I think I’m going to keep calling it a “bro split” just to annoy Fouad Abiad but to each their own!

One of the interesting things about Fouad’s 5 day bro split is he trains quads and hamstrings on separate training days. This can be a great strategy if you have a hard time performing enough exercises for both muscle groups in a single training day or if your hamstrings lag behind the rest of your body.

Here is one of Fouad Abiad’s hamstrings workouts. Check it out:

Fouad Abiad Hamstrings Only Workout

  • Exercise #1: Unilateral lying leg curl, 4 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #2: Smith machine stiff-legged deadlift, 7 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Glute ham raise machine, 3 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Exercise #4: Smith machine squat, 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Prowler push, 3 sets of 100 feet reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

That’s 5 separate exercises for hamstrings! It would be very hard to perform this many hamstrings exercises in a single workout using the traditional 5-day bro split where you train quads and hamstrings on the same day.

The truth is Fouad Abiad isn’t the only bodybuilder breaking up their quad and hamstrings day using the bro split. This is a favorite strategy of the Classic Physique Mr. Olympia winner Chris Bumstead.

He says that he gets much better results when he can devote an entire training session to both of these muscle groups.

Here is what Chris Bumstead’s quads-only workouts look like. Check it out:

Chris Bumstead Quads Only Workout

  • Exercise #1: Back squat, 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Exercise #2: Walking barbell lunge, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Machine squat, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Seated leg extension machine, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Chris is constantly mixing things up in his routines. However, some things always stay the same. Chris likes to keep back squats in his quad routines most of the time.

He says that he suffered a knee injury leading into the 2019 Mr. Olympia competition and he couldn’t squat for over 6 months. He did everything he could to maintain his leg size during that time but his quads gradually started to shrink.

As soon as his knee healed and he started squatting again his quads exploded back up in size. This just goes to show the importance of listening to your body and doing the exercises that work best for you.

So far we’ve looked at higher-volume workouts that you can perform using the 5-day bodybuilding bro split.

The truth is you can also perform lower-volume / higher-intensity workouts using this training split. The bodybuilding coach Dante Trudel sometimes uses a 5-day bro split with elite bodybuilders like Dusty Hanshaw. Check it out:

The DC Training 5-Day Bro Split

  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Biceps
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Off
  • Day 5: Shoulders / Triceps
  • Day 6: Back
  • Day 7: Off

Dante Trudel’s split is a little different than the traditional bodybuilding bro split.

The advantage of this split is you have a day off after your toughest leg and back workouts. You also minimize the number of training days where you do heavy compound pressing movements. You train shoulders and triceps on the same day which helps to minimize overlap between muscle groups.

The main disadvantage of this split is you do not train biceps and triceps together. If you like to perform antagonistic supersets for biceps and triceps then this is not the split for you.

Here is a low-volume / high-intensity chest workout that Dusty Hanshaw performed with this training split. Check it out:

Dusty Hanshaw Advanced Chest Workout

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree incline bench press, 1 set of 7-10 reps**
  • Exercise #2: Machine pec dec, 1 set of 10-13 reps***
  • Exercise #3: Flat DB press, 1 set of 10-13 reps***
  • Exercise #4: Hammer strength decline press, 1 set of 10-13 reps**
  • Exercise #5: Flat DB fly extreme stretch, 1 set of 60-90 seconds

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set

***Perform 3-5 extra forced reps after reaching failure

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about a brutal workout! Dusty performs 4 different chest exercises with one working set per exercise. For his working sets he either performs a rest-pause set or performs several forced reps after reaching muscular failure.

This is a viable way to train and many bodybuilders get great results from training this way.

The legendary bodybuilder Dorian Yates also trained this way throughout his bodybuilding career. Here is what Dorian’s shoulder / tricep workout looked like. Check it out:            

Dorian Yates’ Shoulder / Triceps Routine

  • Exercise #1: Seated smith overhead press, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
  • Exercise #2: Seated DB lateral raise, 1 working set of 8-10 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #3: Standing cable lateral raise, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #4: Standing DB shrugs, 1 working set of 12-15 reps to failure
  • Exercise #5: Two-arm cable pushdown (overhand grip), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #6: Ez-bar skull crusher (bar to forehead), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
  • Exercise #7: One-arm cable pushdown (underhand grip), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**

**Perform 1-3 extra forced reps with the help of your training partner after reaching muscular failure.

Here is the training video for this workout:

Dorian performs 3-4 different exercises per muscle group.

On most of his exercises he trains to failure and then performs 2-3 extra forced reps with the help of a training partner. His partner helps him through the concentric range of the exercise so he can lower the weight back down on his own.

Forced reps are so effective for building muscle because they let you overload the lowering portion of the exercise. Research shows that eccentric training methods like forced reps are a superior tool for building muscle mass and strength.

If you are going to perform low-volume workouts using a 5-day bro split then using techniques like rest-pause sets and forced reps is a great idea. These techniques do a tremendous job of overloading your muscles and your central nervous system to stimulate size and strength gains.

Finally let’s look at some options for using the 5 day bro split to bring up lagging body parts.

One of the most popular ways to bring up a weak muscle group is to increase your training frequency. This is a favorite strategy of the bodybuilding coach John Meadows. He sometimes has his clients train their weaker body parts twice per week using a “heavy” workout and a “pump” workout.

For example here is a split that you could use if you wanted to bring up your lagging upper back:

The Mountain Dog Training 5-Day Bro Split

  • Day 1: Back
  • Day 2: Chest / Shoulders
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Off
  • Day 5: Back (Pump)
  • Day 6: Arms
  • Day 7: Off

With this split you train your upper back twice per week and the rest of your body parts once per week.

You have one primary workout where you perform your normal high volume / high intensity stuff. Then you have a second workout for that body part later in the work where you perform joint-friendly pumping exercises for higher rep ranges.

The pump workout is designed to increase your training frequency without overtraining your body.

Here is what one of Marc Dugdale’s heavy back workouts looked like. Check it out:

Marc Dugdale’s Heavy Back Workout

  • Exercise #1: Lat pulldowns (narrow / neutral grip), 4 sets of 10 reps**
  • Exercise #2: One-arm barbell rows, 4 sets of 8 reps***
  • Exercise #3: Chest supported t-bar row, 3 sets of 10 reps****
  • Exercise #4: Rack Deadlifts, 1 sets of 10-15 reps*****
  • Exercise #5: 45 degree back extensions (holding DB at chest), 1 sets of 15-25 reps******
  • Exercise #6: Standing DB shrugs, 3 sets of 10 reps

**Perform 4 sets slowly ramping up in weight. The last set should be a hard set of 10. On the last set after your 10th rep perform a 15 second stretch with your arms extended.

***Use the 25 pound plates for a bigger range of motion. On your 4th set perform a double drop set. Marc Dugdale did 8 reps with 3 plates, 8 reps with 2 plates, 8 reps with 2 plates on his double drop set.

****On your last set do a single drop set followed by a 15-second stretch. So it’s 10 reps, then drop the weight and do 10 reps, then do a 15 second stretch with your arms straight with the new lighter weight.

*****Perform several light, low-rep warm up sets. Then perform a “challenge set” with about 70% of your 1-rep max. Get as many reps as you can in good form. Really push yourself on this set!

Marc Dugdale uses many different exercises, rep ranges and intensity techniques on his primary back workout. He even throws in a “challenge set” on rack deadlifts where he just goes crazy and gets as many reps as he can with good form.

This is a very normal looking Mountain Dog Training back workout written by John Meadows.

Now let’s look at one of Marc Dugdale’s upper back pump workouts. Check it out:

Marc Dugdale’s Pump Back Workout

  • Exercise #1: Hammer strength iso-lateral rows, 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #2: Cable pulldowns (narrow / neutral grip), 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #3: Cable pulldowns (medium / neutral grip), 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #4: Cable pulldowns (wide / overhand grip), 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #5: Dumbbell pullovers, 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #6: Unilateral cable pulldown**, 4 sets of 10 reps****

**Sit sideways at the seat so you are pulling your working elbow down and directly to your side.

****For each set perform 5 half-reps in the contracted position to place maximum tension on your lats, then 5 full range of motion reps.

For this workout Marc sticks to less stressful exercises like machine rows, cable pulldowns and dumbbell pullovers. These exercises are designed to increase his training frequency without burning out his central nervous system.

If you like the idea of using a 5-day bro split but want to bring up 1-2 lagging body parts then this Mountain Dog style training split can be a great option.

Just make sure you structure your workout correctly for the light days. If you train too hard and turn your secondary pump workout into another heavy primary workout then you may have problems with overtraining.

Conclusion

The 5 day bro split is the most notorious training split in the world.

A lot of “science guys” like to criticize this training split because the training frequency is so low and the average trainee will have a hard time making progress this way.

The 5 day bro split may not be the best choice for the average bodybuilder with average genetics but the truth is most of the world’s top bodybuilders train this way.

If you have above-average genetics and thrive on high volume / high intensity workouts then the 5-day bro split may be just what you need to take your training to the next level.

In this guide I showed you how some of the world’s top bodybuilders and bodybuilding coaches structure their workouts using the 5 day bro split. Everything from Dorian Yates’ “Blood And Guts” style to Milos Sarcev’s giant sets training was covered.

If the 5 day bro split works for you then roll with it! It doesn’t matter what the “science gurus” say as long as you are getting the results you want.

Here is a great quote by Fouad Abiad to pump you up even more:

“It’s not a bro split… it’s a PRO SPLIT!!”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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