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What are the pros/cons of doing a full-body workout consisting of deadlifts, squats, rows, pullups, chest presses every session?

How is it better/worse than focusing on a single body part (bro split)?

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The bro split is famous for sucking.

A full-body workout is a much better idea.

Workout programmes consist of three variables:

  • intensity, normally represented by how much weight you have on the bar
  • volume, how many reps and sets you do for each exercise
  • frequency, how often you train each muscle (how many days per week)

And the most effective programmes for hypertrophy have high frequency.

So training each body part several times a week will give you much faster hypertrophy than training each body part only once a week (as a bro split does).

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As theonlygusti mentions, the bro split is looked down on. This is largely due to a 2016 meta-analysis of 10 different studies that concluded that

major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to maximize growth.

A more recent 2018 meta-analysis from 12 studies concluded:

Results from this meta-analysis suggest that no significant effect exists between LF and HF RT on muscular strength gain when the volume is equated. When weekly RT volume was not controlled, results suggest that no significant effect of increased RT frequency on muscular strength gains. Therefore, increased weekly RT volume can be attributed as the principal driver for increased muscular strength. It could be suggested that higher training frequency increases total weekly training volume, which provides a positive adaptive stimulus upon muscular strength.

LF - Low Frequency

HF - High Frequency

RT - Resistance Training

This simply means that training volume is what is likely the driving factor in strength gains. The reason Bro Splits likely perform so poorly is because it is nearly impossible to get as much volume in one day as you would get by working that muscle group 2-3 times per week.

Pros - Bro Split

If your goal is to get in the gym 5 days a week and feel great every single workout, this could be the workout for you. It provides long rest periods so you will always be fresh and will always feel a nice pump. At the very least, it is much better than nothing.

Cons - Bro Split

It simply will not provide gains as quickly as routines which stimulate muscle groups multiple times per week.

Pros - Full Body Workouts

Full body workouts are great if you want to spend fewer days in the gym, are a newbie, or are older and need more rest time between workouts. These are typically 2-3 days per week, and have longer sessions since you have more muscles to hit each session. Full body workouts typically have a higher total energy expenditure per session (more calories burned). This is likely the best option if you can only work out 2-3 days a week.

Cons - Full Body

It can be hard to focus on certain muscle groups because you will be tired from the previous movements. If you want to do 4+ full body workouts per week, you need to change up the movement patterns, lift lighter weights, or lower the number of sets per muscle group to ensure you don't overtrain. Generally when training any muscle you want to let the muscle rest at minimum 48 hours before training it again. Because of the higher energy expenditure, you will have much less energy for the rest of your day so these are usually better as night workouts.

Pros - Other Splits (I know that you didn't specifically ask about these, but I think it is important to include other options)

You will be able to focus certain muscle groups much more effectively. Common splits would be 3-6 days a week. These workouts are less metabolically challenging since you are focusing on certain muscle groups each workout. These workouts can and should be much shorter than full body workouts leaving more energy for the rest of your day.

Cons - Other Splits

Usually these workouts will require more days in the gym, with shorter workout times. If you include drive times, it is usually more of a time commitment overall. Splits can also lead to overtraining if you are spending too much time each day in the gym. Listen to your body, if you feel like you are overtraining, shorten your workouts or lessen the number of sets.

Recommendations

If you want 2-3 longer sessions a week, full body workouts will be optimal. If 4-7 shorter sessions week sound better, you should find some sort of a split instead. Do whatever will keep you in the gym, hitting your weekly volume consistently.

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