Training

A Workout Guide, How To Start Lifting Weights Twice A Day

Updated April 23rd 2020; January 14th 2020

You probably want to start lifting weights twice a day but do not know how to do it properly.

Gym lovers and elite athletes alike try their absolute best to maximize the amount of time they spend lifting and training hard each and every week. 

While the average gym-goer might find it difficult to fit in 2 to 3 sessions of lifting throughout their week this group of dedicated athletes typically finds ways to train at a much higher frequency as well as greater intensity. 

In some cases, people wanting to reach peak physical condition may decide that it is necessary for them to train twice a day in order to fit in all of their volume and carefully selected movements throughout the week. 

While this style of training may be appealing to a young lifter it may not always be the best approach when just starting out. 

For beginners, lifting twice a day would not be the best use of their time since they could spend more time on recovery.

There are numerous factors to take into consideration when making the decision of whether to train doubles for lifting and those who are interested in this method of training should ensure that they approach this plan steadily and with caution.

Workout twice a day, is it good?

This depends highly on your goals but for a majority of people, working out twice a day will not give them any additional benefit.

Why?

For two reasons.

The first reason is that this is not scalable in the long term.

Sure, you can work out twice a day for the next three months. Perhaps even in the next six months.

But can you do this for two years? A decade?

Unless you are getting paid or sponsored to train, it is incredibly difficult to sustain for the long term.

The second reason is that the physical results you get from working out twice a day has diminishing returns due to your body’s capacity to recover.

If you could recover from the training stress, then you would get the green light from me.

But we have details and training logs from some of the best bodybuilders, powerlifters and Strongman available and they would not train twice a day.

Not long term any way.

Powerlifting twice a day

But with that said, there are a few goals that can be achieved if you train twice a day.

For some powerlifters, they can train twice a day and get much closer towards their goals?

How?

With higher frequency, your volume will need to drop substantially. 

You might only do being singles or doubles.

But you will be doing them every day.

The other way to keep training is by lowering your intensity but if you are powerlifting, this cannot be a viable option since the goal of your sport is to lift maximum weight.

We will just stick with lowering the volume if this is a route you choose to go for.

Pros and cons of lifting twice a day

For a video representation, here is a video I share the same opinions with:

When considering whether or not to train twice a day athletes should look at both the potential benefits and consequences involved.  

One of the major benefits of lifting twice a day is that it allows an athlete to train the major muscle groups more than once a week in most cases. 

Numerous studies have shown that in order to maximize muscle growth those who lift weights should train each major part of the body at least twice a week. 

By doing so the body is able to carry out additional protein synthesis throughout the week due to the increased hypertrophy involved.  

Another benefit to training twice a day is that it can aid the overall fat loss process for those who are in competition prep or those who are looking to have better body composition. 

Athletes who complete two workouts a day generally burn more calories since they can place more effort into 2 separate sessions rather than one extremely high-volume session. 

When relying on one session alone to meet training volume requirements athletes will experience a gradual decrease in strength, intensity, effort, and focus within the session and their glycogen depletes. 

The third benefit of training twice a day is that for some athletes having two separate and shorter sessions fits their schedule much better than allotting 90 min to 120 min for one session alone. 

Athletes may use the first shorter session to start off their day and then return at night to complete the remaining portion of that day’s lifts once their major responsibilities are over and out of the way, allowing them to be completely focused on the training session.

 

In contrast to the above benefits, there are several potential consequences with training twice a day.  

Perhaps one of the more serious consequences is that athletes who are not used to the higher training frequency may place themselves at a higher risk for conditions such as rhabdo, or exertional rhabdomyolysis. 

This serious condition occurs when cells within muscles burst and then seep their contents into the bloodstream which leads to weakness, muscle soreness, limited mobility, dark urine and even injury to the kidneys. 

In essence, rhabdo is a much more intense version of the usual muscle damage that takes place following lifting, however, the fibers within the muscles are unable to repair leading to cell death and toxic buildup. 

In most cases, this condition occurs after an athlete completes a single training session which was overly intense and had too long of a duration and their body’s energy supply couldn’t properly fuel the session.

Another potential consequence involves the athlete infringing upon their overall recovery process. 

When training twice a day athletes generally cut into their usual and most critical hours of sleep to get up at the crack of dawn to train or to train extremely late at night to get their second session in. 

Athletes who don’t have strong control over their sleep schedule and work-life balance will be impacted the most by this type of training and it is vital for them to first obtain a sufficient sleep schedule prior to training more in order that they make the most out of every training opportunity and maximize recovery. 

Additionally, athletes who train twice a day but do not plan their meals and meal timing in advance place themselves at risk for impeding protein synthesis or fueling their sessions properly, thus leading to less effort and less results over time. 

Workout twice a day benefits

  • More training = more potential growth
  • Can help you lose more fat (you are moving more)
  • Can be time-efficient to split workouts up

Lifting twice a day downsides

  • May increase your risk of injury
  • Less time to recover(sleep) = less growth

Is lifting twice a day too much?

Ultimately, this is your decision to make but for most people, I would not advise doing so.

Why again? Learn from my mistakes.

When I was running Greyskull LP during my second year of strength training (fantastic program by the way, but I was being an idiot), I thought it would be a good idea to train twice a day.

I would do my GPP (general physical preparedness) work which involved calisthenics every day.

So, I was lifting twice a day for at least 4-5 times a week.

It was fun at first.

But eventually, my body felt terrible and I was not recovering properly from all my workouts.

One key sign was that I was not making fast progress during linear progression on my main barbell lifts.

And again, you can see where I am at fault here - I was trying to do too much all at the same time.

I bit off more than I can chew and I paid the price with my progression.

So, unless you have a very specified goal that calls you to go to the gym twice a day, you have no business doing so.

Workout twice a day same muscle

Usually, it is not common to work the same muscles out twice a day because this does not drastically improve your results.

And one reason why you decided to go to the gym is to grow muscle and develop your strength in the most efficient way possible.

Working out twice a day and hitting the same muscle will not aid in this goal.

Instead, you should focus on programs that actually work...

Common Training Splits 

Those who decide that lifting twice a day is best for them should carefully select the lifts they choose to do and when they choose to do them. 

While some athletes find it best to train two different parts of the body within the same day others may find it better to train the same group twice within one day but separate accessory lifts from more intense, grueling lifts. 

The answer as to which style is best is all dependent on the specific athlete and their individual needs. 

Some of the most common ways athletes may divide their training sessions and days include the following lifting splits:

Push, Pull, Legs

In this training split, athletes separate their training into one day per focus. 

Push days involve pushing movements and usually consist of upper body lifts. 

Common lifts of push day may include bench press or dumbbell press, military press or shoulder press variations, push-ups, dips and triceps exercises.

On pull days athletes focus on lifts that involve weight being pulled towards the body and may include pull-ups, barbell or dumbbell rows, standard or Romanian deadlifts, curls, and face pulls. 

Finally, leg days involve lower body movements such as leg extensions, leg curls, squats and calve raises. 

Athletes who would like to train twice a day but still follow this method of training could still keep one day per focus but split their AM and PM sessions based on the intensity of certain lifts or separate different parts of the body. 

For instance, on push days athletes could train harder lifts during their morning session and then perform lighter accessory lifts at night. 

Alternatively, they could separate their lifts by muscle groups with one session being chest focused and the other session being shoulder or arm focused. 

More elite athletes may decide to train 6 days a week for 12 sessions following this split but it is always best to take a cautious approach when adding volume and athletes should gradually build towards this high of frequency. 

Training with this split allows athletes to maintain a high training volume while still maximizing strength and performing the major lifts.

Upper vs. Lower Splits

Another common split similar to push, pull, legs are separating upper body training from lower body training. 

In this approach athletes generally, alternate days between upper body and lower body training, and those who train twice a day tend to split their sessions into one major lift session and one accessory lift session per day. 

An example of this training layout would consist of 2 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on broken down into upper body, lower body, rest, upper body, lower body. 

The upper body day may consist of a morning session with the bench press, bent over rows, deadlifts and military press whereas the second session may involve lifts including dumbbell rows, pec fly, curls, triceps extension, lateral raises, etc. 

The rest day in the middle of the week allows each part of the body to have adequate recovery (between 48 to 72 hours) so that intensity and volume may be maintained throughout the week. 

If the athlete wanted to wait until the end of the week to take a day off they may replace the middle of the week rest day with something light such as abdominal work or perform active recovery such as steady-state cardio or yoga. 

This training split generally allows athletes more time to recover in between training sessions than other plans and it involves higher training volume per area of the body per session to increase hypertrophy and lead to muscle growth. 

 

Arnold Double Split

An additional training plan for those wanting to train twice a day is the Arnold Double Split. 

This program is based upon the training that Arnold Schwarzenegger used to obtain his 7-time Mr. Olympia title. 

Due to his wildly popular success in both the bodybuilding and lifting world thousands of athletes swear by its implementation and have seen incredible results. Arnold’s program can be broken down into the following splits: 

Days 1, 3, 5 - chest and back in the morning then legs, calves and abs at night; 

Days 2, 4, 6 – shoulders, triceps, biceps in the morning then calves and abs at night. 

Day 7 is reserved for complete rest and is absolutely necessary for the success of the program. 

This plan was designed upon the realization that Schwarzenegger would have to compete against the bodybuilding legends of Sergio Olivia, Franco Columbo, Frank Zane, and Serge Nubret and that he needed a plan which would train every muscle group to the absolute limit in order to both promote maximal growth and enhance definition. 

This plan is generally best suited for those who already have several years of experience with lifting and who thoroughly understand the recovery process. 

This training split is also better suited for hypertrophy purposes and generally involves much higher repetitions and sets when compared to general strength-focused training. 

Suggestions for Training Twice A Day

If an athlete decides that the pros outweigh the cons for deciding to lift twice a day there are several steps they can take to maximize their effort during training as well as their long-term results. 

The first step they can take is to gradually increase their volume when starting a new program which involves lifting twice a day. 

In order to reduce their risk of overtraining and to ease their way into additional volume, it is best if new lifters only increase their training by no more than 10% per training cycle. 

Another step athletes new to training twice a day can take to maximize their training is to train with an intention of quality over quantity. 

Oftentimes athletes may add on additional training sessions to meet their goal of reaching a higher training volume throughout the week. 

Although it isn’t always bad for the athlete to add on volume it can be counterproductive if the athlete isn’t giving full effort into their sets or loses focus on maintaining proper form. 

When training with twice as much frequency, it’s best to start off by spreading the same training volume into all sessions throughout the week and then slowly adding in more work as the athlete becomes accustomed to their new schedule. 

When elite athletes or those with substantial experience with lifting have reached a training plateau incorporating doubles can be extremely helpful in lifting heavier weights or increasing muscular endurance.  

A final step to athletes who train twice a day can take to maximize their results is to keep their nutrition and sleep a top priority. 

Athletes who fail to sleep enough each night or fail to consume enough food to fuel their training and recovery will compromise their entire training program and lose the benefit of additional training sessions. 

Lifting is more about the recovery aspect than it is the actual action and athletes should always keep recovery first before training more to enhance protein synthesis and re-fill glycogen stores.

Training twice a day can certainly help athletes reach the next level within their sport of choice, however it is crucial that anyone who decides to train more frequently keep a close eye on their rate of recovery and take all necessary steps to ensure that they do not over train and make the most out of their new training program.

And for the true beginner? 

Most of this is not even relevant for your training experience. 

Your best bet would be to follow a general strength training program that is designed for you to get as strong as possible in the most efficient way possible. 

Are you ready for such a commitment? 

References

  1. Chavez L.O., Leon M., Einav S., Varon J. Beyond muscle destruction: A systematic review of rhabdomyolysis for clinical practice. Crit. Care. 2016;20:135. doi: 10.1186/s13054-016-1314-5.
  2. Honda S., Kawasaki T., Kamitani T., Kiyota K. Rhabdomyolysis after High Intensity Resistance Training. Intern. Med. 2017;56:1175–1178. doi: 10.2169/internalmedicine.56.7636.
  3. Lozowska D., Liewluck T., Quan D., Ringel S.P. Exertional rhabdomyolysis associated with high intensity exercise. Muscle Nerve. 2015;52:1134–1135. doi: 10.1002/mus.24784.
  4. Pearcey G.E., Bradbury-Squires D.J., Power K.E., Behm D.G., Button D.C. Exertionalrhabdomyolysis in an acutely detrained athlete/exercise physiology professor. Clin. J. Sport Med. 2013;23:496–498. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e318291d39e.
  5. Rawson E.S., Clarkson P.M., Tarnopolsky M.A. Perspectives on Exertional Rhabdomyolysis. Sports Med. 2017;47(Suppl. 1):33–49. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0689-z.
  6. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 46(11), 1689–1697. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8

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