PPL or Bro-Split? Is One Better Than the Other?

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In terms of muscle growth potential, PPL is better than bro-split (as long as you’re training a 6-day PPL split). It is estimated that optimal muscle growth occurs when you train the muscles every 3-5 days. This is achievable on a push/pull/legs split. However, when it comes to training the bro-split you’ll only be hitting each muscle group once a week.

PPL vs. Bro-Split – The Basics

An Athletic Man Tensing His Muscles

Firstly, I think it’s important to state that there is no actual “best” training split for everyone.

In fact, in the same way, there is no “best” exercise for everyone.

What I mean by this is that in just about every walk of life, we as human beings are always looking for the “best” solution.

However, what may be considered the best for one person will not be for another.

So, on the face of it, the best workout split is always going to be what suits your individual needs.

That being said, I see no problem in giving a generic answer to the question, “What is Better PPL or Bro-Split?”

In their most basic formats push/pull/legs will always be better than the bro-split.

Now, the reason I say this is simply due to how often you’re training each individual muscle group.

It is estimated that optimal muscle growth is at its best when you train a muscle group every 3-5 days.

This allows that specific muscle group to fully recover, thus meaning it’s ready to train again.

So, if you follow a push/pull/legs split then you can literally hit each muscle group twice a week.

However, when training the standard bro-split, i.e. chest, back, legs, shoulders, arms, you will usually only be hitting each muscle group once every 7 days.

That being said, in order to train each muscle group at least twice a week with PPL you would need to work a 6-day split.

Therefore, you would work your push muscles, pull muscles, and leg muscles twice a week.

This also means that if you do PPL just once a week, as a 3-day split, then the bro-split would be better for overall muscle growth.

The simple reasoning here is that on a 3-day PPL split you will only be training each muscle group once a week, typically with only one exercise.

However, the bro-split will allow you to hit each muscle group with numerous exercises and from a variety of angles.

So, in reality, it comes down to how often you can train PPL that will determine whether this is better than the bro-split.

Your Training Experience

Okay, which training split is better will also largely depend on your training experience.

And if you want me to be completely honest, I wouldn’t class push/pull/legs or bro-split as a beginner training split.

In fact, as someone new to the gym, typically in your first 6 months of training, I would suggest that you avoid both these training splits.

In reality, your first few months of training are when you can expect to experience some of the best size and strength gains you may ever achieve.

The reason I say this is because your body isn’t used to the stresses and strains of working out.

And therefore activating and stimulating the muscles, often for the first time, can lead to some fairly significant gains.

These are typically called “newbie gains”, although they won’t last forever.

So, the best way to train as a beginner is generally to focus on a full-body split, usually training for 3 days a week, while hitting mainly compound exercises.

“The ideal weekly training split depends on your experience level, training goals, and recovery capacity. Experiment with different splits like PPL, upper/lower, or full body to find what works best for you.”

Layne Norton, PhD., Bodybuilder and Researcher

In fact, this is even how Arnold Schwarzenegger first started training.

And let’s face facts, if it’s good enough for Arnold, then it’s good enough for the rest of us.

In effect, you could actually only train 5 exercises as a beginner, i.e. squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, bent-over rows, three times a week.

🏋️‍♂️ Arnold’s Golden 6 Full Body Workout 💪
Exercise Target Muscles Sets Reps
Barbell Squats Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes 4 10
Wide-Grip Barbell Bench Press Chest, Shoulders, Triceps 4 10
Chin-Ups Back, Biceps 3 AMRAP
Behind-the-Neck Overhead Press Shoulders, Triceps 4 10
Barbell Curls Biceps 3 10
Bent-Knee Sit-Ups Abs 5 AMRAP
Brought to you by mybodyweightexercises.com

It’s not until your progress starts to slow down, often around the 3-month mark, that it may be time for a new training split.

And this is when you should decide whether to follow push/pull/legs or the bro-split.

That being said, as I’ve mentioned, training is an individual thing, so what works for someone else may not work for you.

This is also why I feel that you should perhaps try both training splits and see which one works better for you.

Personally, I would start with push/pull/legs, train this for 6-8 weeks and then take a complete week’s rest.

Following this I would train the bro-split, once more for 6-8 weeks, before taking a complete week’s rest again.

This should then allow you to determine which workout split felt better for you, plus which produced the greater results.

Time Availability

The final factor to consider is the time you have available for training.

I actually also include the time required for recovery in this too.

Something that I like to do, regardless of the training split I happen to be following, is to hit a certain amount of working sets per muscle group per week.

As an example, for the larger muscle groups, e.g. quads, hamstrings, glutes, chest, back, shoulders, etc. I like to train each muscle for 10-12 sets over the course of a week.

And the smaller muscle groups, e.g. biceps, triceps, forearms, calves, etc. I aim for 6-8 sets per week.

Plus, as I’ve mentioned, I also like to hit each muscle group twice a week.

Now, let’s say that I’m limited to only 3 days training a week, then clearly push/pull/legs will be better.

This way I can fully concentrate on each group of muscles one day per week.

However, I now have to take into consideration that I won’t be able to train each muscle twice during the week.

Plus, in order to hit my “sets goal”, these are likely to be fairly long workouts.

Nevertheless, PPL makes more sense, as I’ll be required to train at least 5 days a week on bro-split.

“The PPL (Push, Pull, Legs) split is a fantastic option for intermediate and advanced lifters who are looking to increase muscle mass and strength. It allows for high training frequency for each muscle group while still providing adequate recovery time.”

Jim Wendler, Powerlifter and Coach

Then again, perhaps I can train for as many days as I want, but I find it hard to recover, and often I’ll need more than 3 days before training the same muscle group again.

This being the case, the bro-split would be the better training split for me.

So, as you can clearly see, it’s almost impossible to claim that one training split is better than the other for EVERYONE.

As I say, it always comes down to you as an individual, what you’re looking to achieve, how much time you have available, and how well you recover.

That being said, if your goal is muscle growth, then I stand by the fact that PPL is the better option, as you can hit the muscles more often.

Key Learning Points

  • PPL is better than the bro-split in terms of overall muscle growth.
  • Performing PPL 6 days a week means you’ll hit each muscle group twice per week.
  • The traditional bro-split involves training 5 days per week, but you’ll only hit each muscle group once during the week.
  • Optimal muscle growth is achieved by hitting each muscle group once every 3-5 days.
  • Whether PPL or the bro-split is better for YOU personally will mainly depend on your overall training experience, and as a “newbie” you’d be better off with a full body split for at least your first 6 months of training.
  • The amount of time you have available to train each week is also a factor. PPL is generally done for 3 or 6 days a week, whereas the bro split is usually trained for 5 days a week.

You’ll also be interested to discover what I thought when comparing PPL and an upper/lower split.

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