Twice daily training is growing in popularity amongst bodybuilders.
Or so it seems from where I’m sitting.
I can see why, because bodybuilders are always looking for ways to do more, because in our head this means better. Unfortunately more doesn’t equal better, better equals better, but what does that mean? How can we use twice daily training to improve our results? Or is it even something we should consider?
For 15 weeks I performed 2 training sessions a day, 5 times per week and I’ve also used this with a few clients.
The results have been pretty damn cool, but there have been some key lessons too.
Today I am going to give you as best I can a guide to using twice a day training as a bodybuilder. Laying out what it actually looks like on paper, how it might work in practice and then the practical concerns and implications of doing such a thing.
What is twice daily training?
Many people think it’s doing two full workouts.
Well at least not in the way I am discussing and how you as a bodybuilder or someone who wants to grow large muscles should approach it. Rather it’s as simple as splitting up your usual workout into two sessions, that’s right, you’re not doing chest in the morning and back in the evening.
You’re simply splitting up your workouts.
OK so that’s simple enough for you to understand, now comes the next important factor; the time between workouts. Basically you need enough time to allow the muscles you worked first to somewhat recover, which means you need ample time to get in some nutrition. You’ll find anything less than 4 hours to be a bit too short a window with anything around 4 to 8 hours being best, personally I edge closer to 4.
So we know what it is:
- A division of your usual training into two workouts.
- A second session at least 4 hours later.
As stated already it’s not doing more full workouts, but it also isn’t a game changer or anything spectacular or magic. You must realise that it’s going to have a very, very minor impact on your results and before even thinking about it you should probably already address the following:
You get the picture, focus on the big principle rocks before moving towards things like twice daily training or supplements for example.
What are the main benefits?
Interestingly enough you can probably draw from your pool of training programming knowledge and retrieve the answers immediately.
Think about it, why do bodybuilders progress from something like:
- 3 x Full Body
- 4 x Upper/Lower
- 6 x Push/Pull/Legs
As you progress through your training career you’re splitting up your training into more workouts, by doing so you can do more volume. Volume is the king of hypertrophy and as you get more advanced you need more, plus you’re stronger now so you need to spread to out to help recovery.
This is much the same as the benefits of twice daily training, think of it as splitting your workouts out even further.
1.] Increased training quality
This was immediately obvious, and it will be for you to, your training quality will be higher.
I put this down to:
- Less potential rushing on the main compounds.
- Muscle groups feeling much fresher after some extra recovery time.
- Reduced potential to get bored.
Basically because you’re in the gym for less time each time, you always give yourself ample rest. Of course we should always be taking care to give ourselves plenty of rest, but sometimes we have other commitments or just want to get a workout done in a certain amount of time. By having your workouts split you don’t have the same urgency, which is actually good, because you can then perform better.
Also you know the feeling after benching a bunch and you have some heavy tricep movements to do afterwards? You know you can’t give your all to these. Well this issue is removed when you split your workouts up, because now your triceps are much fresher.
Lyle McDonald also wrote on this stating:
“with every workout, there tends to be a limit to the duration of the workout that can be accomplished while maintaining that quality”
So increased quality means:
- More load.
- More reps.
- …probably better form, or less chance for form breakdown.
Which is an all-round win, think of it this way; are you better at revising for an exam 4 hours in a row or splitting that into two 2 hour sessions? Well we all know after 2 hours of full on focussed revision we’re fried, so by splitting it up we can come back fresh with higher quality revision.
2.] Increased recoverable volume
Hopefully you’re aware of Maximal Recoverable Volume (MRV).
If you’re not, then you’ll probably want to click on that and have a read over so you fully understand the rest of what I am going to talk about. However, the cliffs is that we all have a limited amount of volume we can perform and recover from, we can’t simply just keep doing more. Therefore, this acts as some sort of limitation to the amount of work we can perform.
Many things impact your MRV and I have written about this before in detail here.
Training twice daily would have a positive impact on your MRV, for one your training quality is better as already described, this means you’ll be able to perform more reps, sets and or load within a given workout. For example after training your back with several sets of rows and pulldowns your biceps are pretty fried, maybe you can only do a couple of high quality sets, whereas if you had say 5 hours of rest after your back work you’d be better recovered to do more sets.
This can be thought of as ‘intra-session’ MRV, in that during a workout there is only so much muscles can do before they exceed their ability to produce effective work. Past this intra session MRV would be considered junk volume, in which the loads are not heavy enough to contribute to quality volume for promoting further adaptations.
You can see this below:
For hypertrophy this is a really good thing, because currently evidence supports a dose response relationship with the amount of purposeful volume we do. Which means as we do more volume, we see more muscle growth, of course we must be able to recover from this volume, and doing twice daily training increases our abilities.
3.] Increased results
Bodybuilders are interested in growing the most muscle possible.
As already stated, if we can do more productive training volume, we can stand to grow more muscle. Thus because twice daily training improves both our training quality and consequent volume we see increased results. However, I must again point out that this IS NOT a game changer, there are plenty of individuals who are more jacked than I who do not do twice daily training.
However, just like taking creatine monohydrate won’t make or break your results, it can certainly aid them.
4.] Side benefits
What I am going to talk about here are some side benefits you might consider.
Me and the clients I have done this with have found that it’s not only provided increased results via muscular gain/retention. Due to the fact you have to get to your gym twice a day you actually end up doing a larger number of steps, and this could increase your Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), helping with fat loss.
In addition to this it splits up your day quite nicely, for me someone who works from home I can be quite flexible with my working hours. Or if you’re a student or don’t have strict working hours this may also work. In that rather than spending longer periods of time working and then working out, you can split these up, which might allow you to be more effective with both.
After 4 hours of constant client and content production I know my head starts to spin, this then is the perfect time to get out of the house and why not go to the gym? For me this is simply very convenient, and I know for most it’s not something they can do. However, maybe you can only afford 45 minutes to workout at lunch, you could maybe then do a 30 minute workout after work? Or even do 30 minutes before work? This might be more plausible.
It’s important to realise that doing twice daily training has some implications.
Again these factors are not going to make or break your results, but if you can be sure to get these right you’ll not screw yourself up and why are you doing twice daily training? To get the most results possible, thus you need to take into account the following things.
When you want to try out more advanced training protocols the degree of importance of both nutritional timing and composition rises.
Typically when we are training a single muscle group a day and then not for a following number of days the surrounding nutrition isn’t super-duper important. This is because glycogen replenishment etc. can happen over several hours/days so the muscle is fully recovered before it’s blasted again.
However, as you can see above if we are training muscle groups twice in a single day our nutritional timing becomes much more important and related to this is our food composition. As we know when we train we’re using our current stored energy, and when we train we also become more sensitive to nutrient replenishment, this means we certainly want to time nutrients around our workout.
Nutrient timing practically applied:
- Close to your workouts: Higher GI carbs, fast digesting proteins with minimal fats & fibre
- e.g. rice cakes with egg whites, dextrose with whey isolate
- Further from workouts: Medium to Low GI carbs & any high quality protein with some fat & fibre
- e.g. roast chicken salad sandwich with mayo (light), oats with berries & whey protein mixed in
- As you can see I have also touched on food composition, this is because the type of food you consume will also impact the timing due to the digestibility. High GI carbs and easy to digest proteins want to be consumed when in close proximity to your workout, this is because they are the fastest to digest and utilise. At other times this becomes less important, and of note is also the fact the meals closest and between your workouts are also low-fat and fibre, because these too would slow digestion rates.
- Nutritional timing won’t make or break your results, but they’re going to provide meaningful results.
2.] Pacing of volume
If you haven’t read it already I strongly recommend you read Hypertrophy Volume Landmarks by Mike Israetel.
Basically you want to be moving from your Minimum Effective Dose (MED) to your Maximum Adaptive Volume (MAV) to your Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV) through your mesocycle. This holds true for any hypertrophy mesocycle including if you’re training twice daily. The key is always not getting ahead of yourself, many start of in week 1 with too much volume and then cannot overload sufficiently.
If you start out too gun ho you’ll either not provide much overload week to week or you’ll need to deload too soon because you hit your MRV in say week 2 or 3. The goal should be to hit your MRV after 3 to 5 or so weeks, not 1 or 2, this is a good paradigm between overloading and deloading.
Now this is of extra concern when training twice a day simply because you feel so damn good! Seriously when you start out you’ll feel like superman, especially if you start with your typical MED. As already started your MRV will be bigger, and so will your MAV, so you can increase through your mesocycle more than usual with volume. However, don’t get carried away, edge on the side of caution, just because you’re splitting your workouts into two doesn’t mean you can double your training volume.
If you push too hard too soon you’ll cut your progress by needing to deload early.
3.] Training structure
Last but not least; training structure.
Now I have already touched on how you want to structure your workouts, but I think there are some serious considerations I need to point out. As said you don’t want to train twice a day with major muscle groups, this will leave you hitting your MRV real quick. Rather we are hitting our compounds in the first session and then isolation movements in the second.
You’ll want to structure it this way round for the same reason you would want to do your compound movements before your isolation movements in a normal workout, if you did it the other way you’d be fatigued for the biggest bang for buck movements. Not only would this limit the intensity and volume you’d be able to perform it would also increase the risk of injury.
So compounds first, then later isolation movements e.g.
- 7:30AM: Bent Over Rows, Pull Ups & Machine Rows
- 1PM: Barbell Curls, FacePulls & Upright Rows
^ something like that would be an appropriate split.
I’d say here that remember you don’t need to train twice daily for every workout, if you can’t do it for every session then that’s OK, plus it might not be appropriate in every case.
You’ll also note I used a Pull workout as an example, this would typically find you training 5 or 6 times per week, which in my opinion you should probably be doing already before looking to split up your workouts into two. Say splitting your workouts into two gives you a 10% benefit, actually splitting it over a whole extra day would be more like an extra 20% benefit or more.
Why not then train everyday?
You’d not want to train everyday because Sunday is the day of rest…no seriously, you really really benefit from having at least one whole day of rest. Sure you recover pretty well with light sessions, but a whole day of rest is like you trying to clean the house, mow the lawn and wash the car in a couple of hours vs. having an entire day, you can just clean things up much better with that day. The extra recovery it provides more than likely outweighs the potential benefit of spreading your training over another day.
Plus hopefully we have some sort of life outside of the gym and having a mental break from the gym is nice and makes you want to crush it again.
Twice Daily Training for Bodybuilders
There we have it twice daily training for bodybuilders.
It’s not a magic bullet.
It’s not going to make or break your results.
…but it could provide that extra little something if you have the lifestyle that makes it a possibility. Just like if you have the disposable income to purchase supplements, it’s nothing more than an optional extra like sprinkles on your ice cream.
Your ice cream will taste good regardless.
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