Do you want to pack on strength at an alarming rate? Do you have a relatively uninhibited schedule and want to see what you would look like if you “pushed the envelope” for a bit? Do you want friends you haven’t seen in a while to stare at your physique and ask, “Dude, what the hell have you been doing?”
Well then, this article is for you.
Depending on the time of year, coaches of high level athletes and sport teams normally increase training volume by incorporating two-a-day training sessions as part of a loading and rapid conditioning phase. Think of any highly competitive athlete, such as Olympic lifters, swimmers, football players, or track and field athletes – they all train twice a day.
However, when it comes to strength training and bodybuilding, the prevailing wisdom is to “give the muscle enough time between workouts to rebuild,” even saying that the same muscle(s) can’t be trained within a 48-hour window.
Thing is, we’re not beginners. And we’re not wusses.
We know what we’re doing in the gym and our goal is to get as big as possible, so we can take a less conservative approach. Some might even call it insane.
Let them stay skinny and average. If your goal is to get big and strong, two-a-days are where it’s at. Here’s how to do it.
Training twice per day can break through frustrating plateaus and barriers to growth and allow for more intense workouts each time you hit the iron.
For one, the shorter sessions make it easier to focus on lifting quality and getting the most out of every set and rep. It emphasizes quality, not quantity. The ability to “refocus” and recharge between training sessions helps you attack each workout with vigor, instead of petering out during longer once-a-day sessions.
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!
To maximize your muscle building potential, here are the most important training parameters (Schoenfeld, 2010):
- Mechanical tension: external forces put on the muscles by the weights, resulting in muscle contraction.
- Metabolic stress: the accumulation of metabolic byproducts, referred to as metabolites (e.g., lactate, hydrogen ions, and inorganic phosphate) during and following resistance exercise, which indirectly mediate cell and muscle swelling.
- Muscle damage: referring to micro tears accrued from deliberately lifting weights, usually accompanied by DOMS.
- Train the same muscle groups in both the morning and evening workout. You may be familiar with two-a-day training protocols targeting different parts of the body in each workout. However, for hypertrophy purposes, it’s more effective to hit the same muscles.
- Space your workouts 6-8 hours apart and make sure you hit your daily macros. Poor nutrition will directly hinder your ability to train at the level this program requires. It’s not the time to be taking the newest fasting diet out for a test drive. Do that and you can kiss your recovery and any potential progress goodbye. Embrace hypertrophy-friendly eating habits including peri-workout nutrition and get ready to grow.
- Perform this program for a 4-week block.
- Progress by adding weight to the bar each workout while keeping all other training parameters constant.
- Make sure you’re strict with the rest intervals and follow the clock. The whole point is to get in and smash shit up, then get the heck out and recover. Sitting around updating your Facebook status between sets won’t help.
- Take it easy the fifth week. This will allow your body time to recover, rebuild, and regenerate to levels greater than before the program started, which is commonly referred to as supercompensation (Zatsiorsky & Kraemer, 2006).
Focusing on compound exercises will serve to kick-start the nervous system. This will also incorporate co-contractions of other synergistic muscles to help promote structural balance and reduce the potential for injury associated with the constant grinding away at open chain exercises.
In these morning sessions, use a controlled tempo with increased time under tension – a 3122 tempo is ideal.
Tempo: Indicates a rep cadence where the bar is lowered for 3 seconds, followed by a 1 second pause in the bottom position, then a 2 second concentric or “up” phase, and ending with a 2 second contraction at the top.
Avoid training to failure during this workout since you’ll need stuff in the tank for your second workout later in the day. By the end of your workout, which shouldn’t last longer than half an hour, you should be feeling pumped and stimulated, not fatigued. If you leave the workout completely gassed you’ll need to take your foot off the pedal the next time around.
This is where the bodybuilding-inspired stuff comes into play. Isolation exercises play a greater role, although the same rules apply – slow tempos and hard 2-second contractions at the at the top of each rep.
Here’s the kicker. Remember how you didn’t train to failure in the first workout? Well, now you’re gonna haul ass.
Turn the last set of each exercise into a drop set. Upon reaching failure, reduce the load by 20% and continue the set. Repeat until failure/complete exhaustion. This maximizes the pump, muscle damage, and metabolic stress.
However, if your workout lasts over 30 minutes, it’s time to hang up the Chuck Taylors. You’re done.
|AM||Rest||Legs||Chest & Triceps||Rest||Back & Biceps||Shoulders & Abs||Rest|
|PM||Rest||Legs||Chest & Triceps||Rest||Back & Biceps||Shoulders & Abs||Rest|
|A||Back Squat||4||6-8||3122||90-120 sec.|
|B||Leg Press||4||8-10||3122||90 sec.|
|C||Romanian Deadlift||4||8-10||3122||90 sec.|
|A||Glute-Ham Raise||3||12-15||4132||60 sec.|
|B||Knee Extension||3||12-15||4132||60 sec.|
|C||Hip Thrust||2||20||4132||60 sec.|
|D||Seated Calf Raise||2||20||4132||60 sec.|
Chest & Triceps
|A||Barbell Bench Press||4||6-8||3122||90-120 sec.|
|B||Incline Dumbbell Bench Press||4||8-10||3122||90 sec.|
|C||Weighted Dip||4||8-10||3122||90 sec.|
|A||High Cable Pec Fly||3||12-15||4132||60 sec.|
|B||Pec Dec||3||12-15||4132||60 sec.|
|C||Decline Dumbbell Triceps Extension||2||20||4132||60 sec.|
|D||Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension||2||20||4132||60 sec.|
Back & Biceps
|A||Weighted Pull-Up||4||6-8||3122||90-120 sec.|
|B||Chest Supported Row||4||8-10||3122||90 sec.|
|C||30-Degree Lat-Pull Down||4||8-10||3122||90 sec.|
|A||Straight Arm Press Down||3||12-15||4132||60 sec.|
|B||Low Cable Decline Pull Over||3||12-15||4132||60 sec.|
|C||Incline Bench Corkscrew Curl||2||20||4132||60 sec.|
|D||EZ-Bar Preacher Curl||2||20||4132||60 sec.|
Shoulders & Abs
|A||Military Press||4||6-8||3122||90-120 sec.|
|B||Arnold Press||4||8-10||3122||90 sec.|
|C||Dumbbell Shrug||4||8-10||3122||90 sec.|
|A||Face Pull||3||12-15||4132||60 sec.|
|B||Lean-Away Lateral Raise||3||12-15||4132||60 sec.|
|C||Side Lying External Rotation||2||20||4132||60 sec.|
|D1||Reverse Crunch||2||20||Controlled||60 sec.|
|D2||Farmer’s Carry||2||20||N/A||60 sec.|
What to Expect
The cumulative volume of this program exceeds that of most programs, so the body may exhibit a “shock” reaction to it the first week. But remember, this is not a strength program, it’s a size program.
If you’re looking to increase your squatting, pressing, and deadlifting numbers, move on to the next article. This one’s for making muscles increase in size – that’s it.
That said, focus on stimulating the muscle by putting the tempo guidelines and tension techniques into practice. Size programming like this is geared towards increasing sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and as much as microtrauma plays a role – the “pump” and time under tension is equally, if not more important.
Be sure to mentally prepare before each of your workouts. It takes a lot of focus to get through the sets while maintaining the tempo down to the last rep. Stay disciplined – it will yield results we’re sure you’ll be pleased with.
It’s a simple equation – train more frequently (within reason), and you’ll see more results from doing so. Take a page out of the book of the great athletes like Michael Phelps, LeDainian Tomlinson, and Michael Jordan who used this method to their athletic advantage and apply the same mentality to bodybuilding training.
It can be the difference between jaw dropping gains and someone asking that loathsome question we’ve all come to know: “Do you even lift, bro?”
- Almuzaini, K.S., Potteiger, J.A., & Green, S.B. (1998). Effects of split exercise sessions on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption and resting metabolic rate. Can J Appl Physiol, 23(5), 433-443.
- Schoenfeld, B.J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res 24(10), 2857-2872.
- Thibaudeau, C. (2006). The black book of training secrets. Enhanced Edition. F.Lepine Publishing.
- Zatsiorsky, V. & Kraemer, W. (2006). Science and practice of strength training, Second Edition. Human Kinetics.