So you train chest on Mondays, Back on Tuesdays, Shoulders on Thursday, Arms again on Friday and then Legs on Saturday (well if your hangover allows). Cool Bro! Nice split.
Now do you actually want to see some progress?
In that case switching up your training frequency could be a powerful tool for you to implement. One extreme way of manipulating training frequency is twice a day training.
Training twice a day can increase strength, power, muscle mass and the ability to sustain strength throughout the day.
That’s a solid sales pitch, right?
And it is all true as long as you know how to properly plan twice a day training.
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Below I will outline everything you need to know to optimally incorporate 2-a-days into your training schedule.
Twice a day training can allow for a significant increase in training volume which is fundamental to muscle and strength gain. Done intelligently this planned overreaching will yield phenomenal results!
Don’t Jump in at the Deep End!
You should gradually increase the duration of your sessions when beginning twice a day training. Although twice-a-day training offers many benefits, you need to be patient with it. It can take several months to fully adapt to this type of training. According to some experts it can take as long as 6 months to fully acclimatise to the demands of twice a day training.
As with most things in life…patience is a virtue. Your patience will pay dividends and allows your body to adapt and leaves you scope to ramp up the volume in future. To begin with it is smart to keep the AM session to 20-30mins, then rest 4-6 hours before performing the second session lasting 20mins.
Sticking to this 4-6 hour gap between sessions is important. A shorter rest period will leave you too fatigued to complete a high quality second session. Resting longer, however, means that the nervous system activation you gained from session will largely be negated.
To begin with simply split your normal training session into two shorter ones. The beauty of splitting a single long workout into even two shorter workouts with a break almost always allows a trainee to maintain or even increase the intensity/quality of their workout. Then begin incrementally adding volume to create an overload.
Below is an example of how you can gradually build up the volume of your training using 2-a-days.
(Table adapted from Poliquin Principles)
The benefit of increasing the volume of work in each session should be fairly obvious…
…you can now perform more total work than is achievable in one long session and the quality is higher. WIN WIN!
For example, training at a high intensity and staying focused during a 60min session is tough. 90mins is killer and anything on top is likely garbage volume.
Adding a second shorter session (say 30 mins), allows you to bump to 2 hours of training per day without increasing the length of that primary workout. Since you are already moving to two-a-day training it might even be worth going from the one 90-minute workout to two 60 minute workouts. Increased volume AND quality results from that approach.
In my experience the maximum you should work up to is 60min per session.
For almost everyone except elite athletes I would actually suggest a maximum of 60mins in the morning and 40min in the evening. Training with intensity for these periods twice per day is no joke and any more would be counterproductive unless all you have to do is put your feet up, eat and nap.
Me neither but, getting two high quality 45mins sessions in is possible for most and will be far superior to the usual single 60mins session so many of us are married to.
Set yourself up for success with some simple diary planning
A great tip to help you get the most from two-a-days is to begin doing them on weekends. Doing this means you can go home, eat well, chill out and get a nap in between sessions. According to Charles Poliquin doing this will help you to adapt to the training.
Deload to re-load
Another very useful practical tip I picked up from Poliquin was to delaod every third week when doing 2 a days. So on the third week you would back off and just perform the AM session. Sounds like wimping out? Don’t worry in my experience if you train hard then you WILL want and need to take the deload in week 3.
Morning sessions should be the heavier of the two workouts with a focus on the big compound lifts when you are freshest. The get your big rocks in the jar first principle.
These AM sessions should serve to fire up the CNS for the PM session.
Don’t hit failure in the AM sessions. The aim of this session is to stimulate not annihilate. If done correctly, you should feel alert and eager to train again NOT fatigued.
Focus on quality over quantity in this session and creating lots of mechanical tension with heavy loads and relatively long rest periods. The PM session is where the “fun” pump style metabolic stress training is applied.
In the PM session you can use more stereotypical “bro” style bodybuilding style training. Feel free to incorporate machines and isolation type exercises to fully stimulate the target muscle group. If you want to utilise intensifying techniques such as, drop sets, super sets, tri-sets, rest pause, forced reps or partial ROM burn reps then this is the time and the place.
More is better…a word of warning!
Actually better is better. In the past when I experimented with twice a day training I would do 5 or maybe 6 days a week of 2-a-days. I thought more training = more gainz.
I was wrong!
Instead I suggest 4 days per week of 2-a-days. This is the sweet spot. Find out why below.
Twice-day-training can improve recovery…
The beauty of twice a day training actually lies in the fact that you can do more overall work while having the same (or often more) full rest days. I learnt this from Derek Woodske (https://www.facebook.com/derek.woodske). Lyle McDonald (http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/) has discussed it too.
(Derek and Lyle are all well worth following if you want to improve athletic performance).
For example, if you typically train 5 days a week try switching to 4 days per week, twice per day for a total of 8 sessions.
This is a 62.5% increase in training sessions per week BUT with a WHOLE EXTRA REST DAY PER WEEK (3 instead of 2). If programmed intelligently this affords you the opportunity to train more AND have better recover from your training.
Now that is powerful!
When I switched to this 4 day a week, twice a day split I no longer felt the overwhelming fatigue I had previously felt with my 5 or 6 day a week attempts. I felt refreshed when I came into most sessions. I’m not going to lie to you and say I didn’t feel tired sometimes – this is still tough training BUT I felt recovered and ready to go most of the time and retained a good drive to train. Even better I saw fantastic progress in my lifts.
With the 5 or 6 day a week attempts earlier in my career, however, I had felt wiped out and lost the motivation to train within a week to 10 days.
Now during my first trial of the 4 day per week, 2-a-days, I was in a strength phase and I found my strength improved dramatically! I broke through some stubborn plateaus on my front squat, deadlift and overhead press.
This isn’t that much of a surprise given the growing list of studies identifying that increased training frequency improves strength. The reason? To quote Lyle McDonald…
“Basically, again up to a point, sending the same training signal more frequently has the potential to promote better adaptations because every time you train in a certain fashion you express certain genes and over time, that cumulative expression leads to increased protein synthesis and adaptation (growth/etc.).”
Now there is a growing weight of evidence that higher frequency training is optimal for muscle gain. To my knowledge, however, there have not been many (if any) studies on twice per day weight training and hypertrophy.
From an in the trenches standpoint I can tell you though that twice a day training POTENTIALLY CAN work to accelerate muscle gain.
Why the “potentially can” caveat?
Well it requires a great degree of attention to nutrition.
For muscle gain, twice a day training works great BUT nutrition is essential to see a return on your investment. If you don’t get your nutrition right you will most likely end up over trained and working your nuts off for no reward.
For an exact twice-a-day training plan complete with detailed diet and supplement guides, go here
Nutrient Timing Matters
Nutrient timing has had a bad rap lately. The truth is that for many they focus on the details of nutrient timing rather than the basics of good nutrition. I am assuming, though that if you are considering twice a day training that you take your nutrition pretty seriously. If you don’t you will need to start paying close attention to it.
While hitting your calories and macros are far more important than the timing of these nutrient when training once per day the emphasis on good workout nutrition is magnified when training multiple times per day. All of a sudden peri-workout carbohydrates are a very good idea if you want to recover and top up glycogen stores between sessions 1 & 2. If you don’t then session 2 will be sub-par…possibly rendered pointless given your ability to train at a high quality will be significantly reduced.
I would suggest you add 400calories per day to your diet when training twice per day. Most of these calories will come from additional carbohydrate. Getting these nutrients in ASAP after session 1 is key.
As a result, I’d suggest a protein shake with some fast acting carbs immediately after the first session. This should then be followed by a solid meal also containing a good serving of protein and carbs. I would suggest fitting another meal in before session 2.
The Skinny on this Massive Muscle Approach…
…Twice a day training principles for muscle mass:
- Train the same muscle groups in both the morning and evening workout. For hypertrophy purposes, this is the most effective approach.
- Do the heavy lower rep work in the AM session and the more traditional bodybuilding style stuff in the PM.
- Space your workouts 4-6 hours apart.
- Training is 100% AND Nutrition is 100% – Make sure you eat to gain muscle. This means being in a caloric surplus and consistently hitting your daily macros. This is not the time to be cutting. Do that and it will become a gigantic exercise in futility. Focus on the goal of getting massive and embrace hypertrophy-friendly eating habits.
- Peri-workout nutrition is key to a successful stint of twice a day training.
- Perform 2-a-days for 2 weeks, then take a deload of once per day training before repeating this 3-week cycle. This will allow your body time to adapt by going through the process of recovering, rebuilding, and regenerating. You will then slingshot past your previous best. This effect is commonly referred to as supercompensation (Zatsiorsky & Kraemer, 2006).
Follow the above training principles when adding twice a day training to your mass gain arsenal for OPTIMAL results
Hopefully, you now have a good overview of how to make twice a day training work for you. If you are still uncertain or have any questions, then drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or a message on Instagram @tommaccormick
I will be happy to help.
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PS twice a day training CAN be used to aid fat loss.
To quote Lee Boyce…
“If you’re cutting or trying to get leaner, incorporating two-a-day training (and eating a clean diet) is like throwing gasoline onto a raging fire. Research shows that splitting a 30-minute moderately intense cardio session into two 15-minute sessions, separated by roughly six hours, can burn more calories compared to slogging through the full 30-minutes at once (Almuzaini et al., 1998).
Researchers attributed this to an increase in EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) – and this was seen during only moderate intensity cycling! Imagine the potential increase in EPOC when doing two high intensity weight training sessions!”
I will address this in another article as the training and nutrition need to be tweaked a little to maximise your results.
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