It seems like a lifetime ago that a bodybuilder's devotion was measured only by training hours per day—and days per week—spent in the gym.
Now we know that our testosterone levels are shot after about an hour of exercise in the weight room. Doing much weight training beyond that hurts us more than it helps us. We also know that 3-4 days per week are all that's needed to get the body of your dreams.
So, with all this new knowledge about duration and frequency of our workouts, we should all be growing like weeds with just those 3-4, one-hour training sessions per week, right?
This, of course, is not the case! Today, there are just as many frustrated lifters as there were 20 years ago, when gym rats spent 20 hours per week or more in their local box.
Most bodybuilders hit plateaus, no matter how often they lift, because they don't want to change their routine—comfort quickly leads to fewer gains.
Using an old pre-season football strategy of two-a-day workouts—literally lifting twice in one day—is a great way to mix up your routine, giving you better muscle and strength gains while helping to slash body fat.
And no, you don't have to be in the NFL to do two-a-days!
This approach is great for anybody looking to make awesome gains on a tight schedule because, as it turns out, two 30-minute workouts are actually more productive than one 60-minute workout.
Advantages of Two-A-Days
One of the greatest benefits of doing two-a-days lies in the obvious—you're working out twice in one day and, hopefully, you're also eating two post-workout meals!
By working out twice, you get your protein synthesis and other anabolic systems racing. If you take full advantage of this by having two post-workout meals, you can start to see your gains skyrocket.
You will also find yourself able to train with more intensity.
When faced with a full hour's worth of exercise, most of us subconsciously conserve our energy early on, so we don't find ourselves dragging through the latter portion of the workout. By splitting the total day's training between two sessions, intensity levels start and finish higher, which is key to new strength and muscle gains!
And since you're fully ramped up for each workout, you'll burn more total calories than if the whole workout had been done at the same time.
The greater calorie deficit will offset the extra food being eaten, and the overall affect is more muscle with more fat burn!
How to Do Two-A-Day Work
Some basic rules apply to all two-a-day programs.
While you don't have to be exact with the timing, you need to allow at least six hours between the two workouts. If your workouts are much closer than this, you'll be too tired for optimal performance during round two.
Because of this, most people find it easiest to hit the gym in the morning before work and then catch another session after work. Going on your lunch break and then again in the evening also works well, as long as you've waited at least six hours.
You also have to make sure you limit your workouts to no more than 40 minutes in length, excluding the warm-up.
And yes, it is very important for you to perform a proper warm-up and cool-down to speed up recovery, since you'll be back in the gym before the day is over!
The light, rhythmic exercise you get with a proper cool-down, such as 5-10 minutes of an easy aerobic activity like running, will help the heart to return the pooled blood trapped in the pumped-up muscles, speed up the removal of lactic acid and other metabolic byproducts, and allow the muscles to lengthen again after the chronic contractions of a good lifting session.
You'll quickly get tired of two-a-days if you're constantly fatigued, so a quick and efficient recovery is the key to this program's success.
Two-A-Days Should Be Cycled
Simply doing two random workouts in one day will quickly lead to overtraining and burnout. There's a proper way to structure your program so that you meet the increased energy demands and take full advantage of this unique fat-burning and muscle-building opportunity.
Due to the intensity of training, these programs are best saved for busting through plateaus, or for those times when you're extremely motivated to work out and the idea of going to the gym that much sounds appealing.
To avoid overtraining, two-a-days should be cycled—two weeks on, one week off—or you'll burn out and, alas, plateau—the very thing you'd hoped to overcome.
Treat the two-a-day regime with respect, and it will respect you back!
Designing A Two-A-Day Program
While there are plenty of ways to design your program, one of the most effective is lifting heavy in the first workout, then lighter in the second.
This lets you train your high-threshold muscle fibers—the ones with the most strength and growth potential—with a short, tough workout in the morning, while fitting in an evening workout that's easier but longer.
Here's an example:
Day 1: Chest/Back
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Arms
Day 5: Rest
Note: A five day split will still fit into a two-week time frame if the fifth day is a rest day. That way the last workout of the third rotation will fall on day fourteen, or exactly two weeks from day one.
Nutrition & Supplements For Two-A-Days
A huge part of recovery is proper nutrition and supplementation.
If your goals are strength and size, then your nutritional program is pretty easy: eat! Don't skip your post-workout meals, add calories whenever you can, and fit in an extra protein shake on your training days.
You will need the extra nutrients to maximize your strength and muscle gains.
Ideally, you should increase your protein intake to 1.5-2 grams per pound of body weight. A macronutrient ratio of 60 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, and 15 percent fat works very well for most people for strength and muscle gains.
If your goal is weight loss, then you'll want to be careful not to create too large of a calorie deficit that will send your body into a starvation state.
The workouts will create a calorie deficit by themselves if you simply maintain your current food intake. For most people, this is exactly what I would recommend!
For people who want to truly maximize fat loss, creating a slightly larger caloric deficit will help, but you'll be risking hard-earned muscle by doing it.
No matter what your training goals, make sure that your main supplement bases are covered. You should be taking a daily multivitamin at least 3-6 grams of vitamin C daily, an antioxidant formula, a zinc and magnesium combo, a good whey protein, and flax seed or fish oils for the essential fatty acids you'll need for recovery.
Unless you have these basic nutrients covered, then all the "specialty" supplements in the world will not help you maximize your gains.
Two-a-days are certainly not for the casual fitness enthusiast, but if you challenge yourself and see at least one full cycle through, you'll bust through plateaus and see amazing gains in a really short time!