First things first with this type of training: if you don’t like going to the gym, if your job restrains you from accessing the gym twice a day, or if you’re full of excuses, then this mode of training isn’t for you.
The twice a day training principle was popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He firmly believed his “double-split system” allowed him to separate himself from the pack and win his first Mr. Universe title.
I was introduced to the practice through Nick Mitchell via Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin. Poliquin suggested that muscle gain would be greater if we could train twice a day on a consistent basis. Obviously this isn’t for us all, and it isn’t something that can be done for long periods.
For me, the aim of using this style is to build as much size possible, in a small period of time. I will use it when I feel that my muscle development has plateaued, or when I’m highly motivated, like when I have a shoot coming up.
The Rules, to ensure you don’t burn out:
- You need to limit the practice to no more than two weeks in a row, with a one week de-load / active recovery week before you repeat for no more than 3 cycles.
- The timings of your workouts don’t need to be exact, but I would allow at least 5-6 hours between the two sessions. For me this is easy since I work within a gym, but due to other work commitments, most find it a struggle. Your best options are to get a workout done in the morning before work and then hit another workout after work, alternatively go on your lunch break and then again in the evening. As long as you’ve waited roughly 6 hours as a typical guide, your levels of intensity required for each session shouldn’t diminish.
- You must train the same muscle groups in both sessions and limit these sessions to no longer than 45 minutes of intense strenuous lifting. Quality not quantity!
- Get on top of your nutrition! You need to design a set macro ratio specific to you and make sure you hit it, including your 2 post workout meals. Monitor your gains and listen to your body, as things may need to be tweaked to cope with the extra demands you are now under. *It’s hard to go any further into the nutrition side right now, as you are all individuals and for me to recommend macros etc. may not be specific to you. I wouldn’t recommend this type of training if you were intermitting fasting.
- Train heavy in the morning, focusing more on strength using compound movements, high intensity / low volume. This will serve to kick-start the nervous system. Avoid training to failure and generally use a controlled tempo of 31X1 with longer rest periods.
- In the evening a typical hypertrophy based workout is applied, lower intensity / higher volume. Here you will use more typical bodybuilding isolation based exercises with a slower more controlled tempo such as 2121, contracting hard throughout the movement. Take less rest between sets and unlike earlier you will train to failure, hit it and hit it hard.
Generally I would always recommend a ‘2 days on – 1 day off – 1 day on – 1 day off’ principle, or just ‘2 days on – 1 day off’ etc. it all depends on your split. You may get away with 3 on – 1 off, but if you’re truly performing with maximum intensity on the first 2 days, you will be screaming to take that third day off. When it comes to body part grouping this is entirely up to you and what suits your needs best. Typically my personal split looks like this.
Day 1 – Chest, shoulders & triceps
Day 2 – Back & biceps
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Legs
Day 5 – Off, or back to chest, shoulders & triceps, if 2 on – 1 off cycle.
Day 6 – Repeat cycle
After 2 weeks of these double sessions, or the equivalent of 4 doubles per split, you are ready to de-load for a week (also known as active recovery).
A de-load is a planned reduction in volume, or intensity, where the purpose is to allow the body to fully recover, and prepare you for the second cycle.
Why we should De-Load:
De-loading allows your joints, tendons, ligaments, and other supporting tissues to repair. Your central nervous system (CNS) has been highly stressed, so this will have time to recover, as well as giving yourself a mental break from the intensity of hitting the gym twice a day. However, importantly we apply this to stop overtraining and allow the muscle to grow and prepare you for even greater gains to come.=
How to De-Load on doubles:
The main thing here is work at 50% of what you have normally been doing. Drop to single day sessions and apply what was your second pm session as the basis to your workout. You keep your split and work 3 days on – 1 day off – 3 days on – 1 day off, and boom, you’re ready to get back onto doubles. You should feel re-energized and raring to go, if not… perhaps you didn’t back off enough. I know backing off is hard and I have been victim to feeling this myself, but trust me, less is more in this case. Take the foot off the pedal and learn to appreciate the knowledge of others when they say ease off buddy.
So there you have it, the basic in’s and out’s of Twice a Day training. Maybe you have used it before, maybe you haven’t, it’s certainly not for the casual gym goer. You must be focused, truly dedicated, and highly motivated to do this type of training. However, if you are committed to the cause, and you have the flexibility to do so then I strongly recommended you give it a go.
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