How to Make Two-A-Day Strength Training Work for You

I try to avoid talking too much about lifting outside of the strength world. Understandably most people just don’t care what you do in the gym, and for the most part the ones who do are often after justification for their woefully misguided habits. But every now and then someone will ask a direct lifting question that just can’t be politely avoided. As was the case a few weeks ago at a job interview for a marketing role at a ‘healthy’ food chain, assuming I was in safe company I opened up.

“So how often do you train?”
“Probably about two to three times.”

“A week?”

“A day.”

“Why would anyone do that?”

“Errrrrm, to get stronger”

Cue five minutes of me having to diplomatically explaining my rationale. Fortunately, though, that did mean I didn’t have to talk about my lack of marketing experience and I left that cafe with a job offer but sadly no prospective training partners. The reality is that despite the stigma, training multiple times a day isn’t just for professional athletes and weirdos; it’s a brilliant solution for anyone with easy access to a gym and who wants to get the most out of their sessions.

There are a couple of distinct ways to get in multiple sessions in a day, the first is what I’m recommending: to split up your main lifts and accessory work into two smaller sessions with a rest in the middle. The second option is to just add in more separate training sessions in. For the normal person, the latter is rarely feasible; full time jobs and social commitments have a nasty habit of robbing you of the required recovery time to train like a Bulgarian weight lifter.

The First Four Weeks

Schedule your training around your own day; what works for most is to go on the way to or from work, with a morning ‘pump’ session and then an afternoon/evening session with bigger weights and more intensity. This not only provides the most recovery time between sessions but cuts down on travel to the gym. If you have a home or garage gym then it’s even easier.

Easing yourself into this higher frequency is key to not burning out in the first few weeks; instead of just jumping in with twice the heavy sessions a week’s start easy and build. The following four week plan has proven to do just that, and think of it as a warm up for your main session.

In the beginning these morning sessions are just designed to get you moving and reinforcing the fundamental movements. Resist the temptation to skip this vital piece of the puzzle and just jump into double deadlift days, your body will thank you and you’ll start to see improvements in movement and strength before the four weeks are up.

Week One and Two Morning Session

  • Five Sets of Pull-ups (3-5 reps short of failure)
  • Five sets of Push-ups (5-10 reps short of failure)
  • Five sets of 15 on a GHD (Kettlebell swings work in a push as a replacement)
  • Five sets of 5 paused front squats (keeping it light)

Week One and Two Evening Session

  • Train as normal, following your typical program.

Week Three and Four Morning Session

  • Five Sets of Pull ups (2 reps short of failure) supersetted with Five sets of Push-ups (5 reps short of failure)
  • Five sets of 15 on a GHD (Kettlebell swings work in a push as a replacement) supersetted with Five sets of 5 paused front squats (keeping it light)
  • One accessory movement from the evening session.

Week One and Two Evening Session

  • As normal but without the accessory movements done in the morning from the morning session.

The Real Deal

As your body and routine adjusts to the increased frequency and volume of the two a days, you can start to tweak up the program a little, though I heavily suggest keeping the pull ups, push ups, light squats, and posterior chain movements in (read more about bodyweight training for strength here). You can put these fundamental movements together in a circuit and blast through them in twenty minutes, but your body will thank you. On top of these basics you can start to add more intense movements/heavier weights into these AM sessions as you feel ready.

The best way to do this is to slowly swap your evenings accessory movements into the morning sessions. This leaves you with more time and energy to really get the most out of the big lifts or WODS in the evening. The other option is to use those morning sessions to bring up a weakness and maybe even make it a strength. Struggling to jerk? You won’t be after working the technique every morning for a couple of weeks; the same goes for fat loss, conditioning, or almost any other movement.

Just remember whatever you do in the gym, you need to be able to recover from, so if you are struggling to lock out heavy deadlifts, maxing out on rack pulls every morning is not the answer. But high volume dumbbell rows and technique work might be a good start.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Images: Christo Bland