Why is there never a free bench on Mondays? That’s right— it’s Chest Monday. Most lifters in the world train using a method called “the bro-split”. This way of training has the individual focus on a single muscle group per session, with daily workouts: and this is where Chest Monday comes from. The bro-split received its’ popularity during the golden era of bodybuilding, with greats such as Schwarzenegger promoting it through books and magazines. This approach is not suited for everyone, and there are multiple reasons as to why you may need a different alternative if you want to keep progressing. Enter full body training. The method is as it sounds: its’ workout sessions are composed of full body exercise rather than selecting and isolating only one muscle group. Why would this be better than concentrating on a single muscle group? Here is why training full-body is better than any split:
When training in a bro-split fashion, your muscles receive stimulation only once per week. When doing PPL (Push-Pull-Legs) or an Upper-Lower type split, the muscles receive stimulation either once or twice per week. Now, would 52 workouts in a year yield greater results than 156? Would exercising once per week result in more improvement than doing it three times per week? One can perform full-body training as often as three times per week while including both hypertrophy and strength training. Frequency is the key to the room of gains for natural lifters. Upon training, muscle protein synthesis remains elevated for the following 48 hours. With full-body training, it remains elevated almost all of the time, which it does not with any split. This allows for a higher hypertrophy production, as 6/7 is more than 2/7. As for strength, ask any powerlifter what to do if you want to squat more. Most will tell you to simply squat more. With full-body, one could do squats three times per week without any issues.
How many hours are you at the gym, on a weekly basis? A person who trains in any type of split must train for at least four days per week, if he desires sufficient frequency. This is in the case of an Upper-Lower split. With a bro-split, on the other hand, much more time is required to secure maximal gains. Some train as often as 12 times per week, while most train six or seven. Let us calculate the time required to do all of this, starting from 12 and going all the way down to three.
High-End Bro-Split: 12 x 60 min = 12 h / week
Typical Bro-Split: 7 x 60 min = 7 h / week
Upper-Lower Split: 4 x 60 min = 4 h / week
Full-Body: 3 x 90 min = 4.5 h / week
It seems that full-body training takes more time than the upper-lower split. Does this mean that the latter is better? No. Firstly, the time accounted for is only the time spent exercising. It does not include the 20-minute walks to and from the gym, showers etc. If this were included, full-body would take the least time. In addition, is it not worth it to spend 30 minutes extra per week if this would result in more gains? If one were to equalize the frequency of full-body and an upper-lower split, full-body would win again. If the full-body was only twice per week, it would result in 3 hours, still much more effective than any split.
For the ones training in a split-manner: do you regulate volume between different muscle groups? Did you know that your triceps and chest receive much more volume than your biceps and back? This is difficult to see if not performing full-body training. In a split, there is a chest day, a shoulder day and a triceps day (or arms). On the first one, one would do bench press. On the second, a shoulder press. On the third one dips, or possibly even close grip bench press. When it comes to pulling, there are two opportunities: the back day and the biceps day (or arms). Isolation movements that only include the biceps and the forearms are usually the sole components of the biceps day. This means no pulling. Pressing thrice weekly while pulling once. What could this result in? At best, poor posture with forward rounding of the shoulders, due to them being much stronger than the musculature of the back. At worst, an injury caused by improper development of the back and the lack of strength in its’ stabilizing muscles used in many pressing exercises. When doing full-body training, it is simple to see how much volume each muscle group gets. One performs everything on the same day, and if the chest gets a 5×10, the back does too.
A final note about the bro-split: it was steroid users who created it. What works for those on PEDs will not work for natural individuals. A study has shown that steroid users do not even need to exercise in order to gain muscle mass . The study had four groups of subjects:
- No steroids, no exercise
- No steroids, exercise
- Steroids, no exercise
- Steroids, exercise
The fourth group was naturally the one with most resulted hypertrophy, while the first one was last. The part that may not be as obvious is that the subjects who received testosterone injections gained more muscle mass than the ones who exercised naturally. They also received more strength gains. The non-exercising steroid subjects increased their bench press by 9kg on average, over a period of 10 weeks, while the non-exercising placebo subjects remained at the same level of strength.
The recovery of steroid users is superior to that of natural individuals and thus can handle a higher amount of volume while taking less time to recover. When using steroids, the muscle protein synthesis remains elevated for a longer period than it does for natural individuals, thus requiring a lower frequency in order to gain the most muscle mass possible.
Have this be a rule of thumb in the future: if a steroid user preaches it, it will not work for naturals, more often than not.