Many professional bodybuilders talk about training twice a day, particularly in the run-up to a competition. But how common is this? Should regular bodybuilders attempt to emulate this? What about natural bodybuilders or regular gym-goers? In this article, we will attempt to answer the question “Can you train twice per day in bodybuilding?”.
It is possible to train twice per day in bodybuilding, but not for natural bodybuilders. Pro bodybuilders are able to do so due to their use of anabolic steroids. Even then, training twice per day requires you to have your diet and recovery strategies in place, and is not sustainable long term. Training twice per day is inadvisable for the vast majority of lifters.
This article will take a look at how bodybuilders manage to train twice per day, why they do it, and why you should not! The aim is to give you a much better idea of why training like your heroes is actually a bad idea.
Let’s be clear here. When we talk about training twice per day, we’re not talking about splitting one 45 minute workout into two 22 minute workouts. We’re talking about two workouts that last 45 minutes or more each.
I’ve read some decent articles that talk about splitting your workout into two smaller, and shorter sessions. This removes the main issue that I have with training twice per day, the issue being that there would be too much volume.
Of course, splitting your workout into two smaller workouts still isn’t that good an idea for most people. It’s completely impractical, requires double the time to warm up and cool down, plus travel time, getting changed, showered etc. All without really offering many benefits.
But when bodybuilders talk about training twice per day, they are talking about full sessions. Either two resistance workouts, or a resistance workout and a cardio workout. Of the two, the latter option is the more realistic. But neither strategy is going to be that effective long term.
There are several reasons why a “normal” bodybuilder cannot realistically train twice per day. Some of these reasons are practical, some of them are physiological. But the short answer is that it will tire you out without offering better results. Why work harder for poorer long term results?
I can understand why people get confused by this. It seems logical that exercising more will lead to results coming faster. If you spend twice as long revising for an exam, then you will get better results at the end, right?
Well, sort of. If you are barely revising then doubling your revision time will obviously get you better results. But if you are already revising 10 hours per day, then switching to 20 hours per day will actually worsen your results. You will get tired, you won’t have time to recover, relax, and take care of yourself. You may oversleep on the day of the exam and miss it completely.
There is an ideal amount of time to spend revising for an exam, and there is an ideal amount of time to spend exercising. Our bodies cannot exercise 24/7. Even if you could exercise for that long, the quality of the workout would sharply decline until you were barely achieving anything.
Everyone knows this, it’s why people rarely go to the gym immediately after finishing a marathon.
You know that you can’t exercise for six hours in a row because you know that your muscles will ache, you will feel fatigued, and you are more likely to get injured. If we can all agree that there is such a thing as too much exercise, then we can hopefully all agree that training twice per day is likely to lead to you training too much over the course of a week.
Recovery is crucial for you to train at optimal capacity, and part of recovery is managing how much volume (sets, reps, and weight used) your workout contains. Most people recognise that it is important to take a day off every now and again to fully recover.
Overtraining is a serious issue in bodybuilding, and many hardcore bodybuilders suffer from it without even realising it. Here are some common symptoms of overtraining:
Now, overtraining may not be responsible for you having a bad night, but if you are noticing 2-3 symptoms then it could well be down to too much volume in your workouts. If you are suffering from overtraining, then taking a week off and focusing more on your diet and sleep will really help you to recover.
What is quite annoying is that many bodybuilders claim that overtraining doesn’t exist and that it’s just a sign of weakness. CT Fletcher and Kali Muscle are two bodybuilding “experts” who have claimed that overtraining doesn’t exist.
Well, for starters both men have clearly used anabolic steroids in the past. I’ll talk about steroids and overtraining later, but suffice it to say, you can lift a lot more weight without resting if you have double the testosterone levels of a normal man!
Secondly, these two men are both in the top 1% of bodybuilders. They are incredible athletes, who can therefore train harder than almost anyone. Even if they have never experienced overtraining (which is highly unlikely) that doesn’t mean that YOU won’t.
Kali Muscle talks about how people in prison would train every day without ever taking a day off. But if you think about it, in prison you basically get one hour to train, and then 23 hours of rest and recovery! A prisoner is less likely to overtrain than an office worker because they don’t also have to work an 8-hour shift. Nor do they have to tidy their homes, walk the dog, chase after the kids.
But even with all that, they would still suffer from overtraining if they continually tried to push themselves day-in, day-out without ever resting or training a different muscle part. What happens if you train the same every day is usually you stop putting in the same amount of effort.
There are two types of bodybuilders who train twice per day: Bodybuilders who are on anabolic steroids, and bodybuilders who are lying about being on anabolic steroids. I guess there is also the third group which is bodybuilders who are about to get injured.
The truth is that without massive doses of testosterone your body is only able to perform enough muscle protein synthesis to sustain a certain amount of volume each day. After that, your body will begin to struggle. You could get away with two workouts per day for a couple of weeks or so. But after that, you are going to crash.
Steroids can help you to train a lot more, but even then you may still struggle. To train twice per day long-term without overtraining you will need the following:
That last point is crucial. You need to have built up a certain level of fitness and strength beforehand. Otherwise, you will still be able to train twice per day, but the sessions will be lower in quality, and you would be better off switching to once per day.
While I disagree that training twice per day is necessary or even effective. I feel that I should at least give you an idea of how it can work. Training like this for a couple of weeks won’t lead to overtraining, but nor will it give you better results than training well once per day. Here is how I would schedule my day.
I’d ensure that I was fully hydrated throughout the day as exercise will dehydrate you. I’d also add an electrolyte drink. High protein and high carb meals would be crucial, and a high dose of caffeine 40 minutes before each workout will really help.
This would be problematic for the 6 pm gym session, as the caffeine may affect your ability to go to bed at 10 pm. I would either look to train at 5 pm or I would swap my pre-workout caffeine for a non-caffeinated pre-workout. Sleeping at least 8 hours is very important as you will definitely need to recover well from two workouts.
As you can see, training twice per day requires you to pretty much schedule your entire day around the gym and eating. Not a problem if you are focused on becoming a professional bodybuilder, or if you happen to work in a gym. But it can be very difficult if you work outside the gym and/or have a family to look after.
While I’m definitely not a fan of two resistance sessions in a day, the idea that you might train weights in the morning and then perform a cardio session in the evening is not quite as abhorrent to me. In fact, this could actually work. However, it would have to be a compromise.
I said at the beginning, that you can train twice per day, but the sessions would have to be shorter or less intense. This would be the case if you train weights in the morning and then cardio in the evening. Or vice versa.
You can do it, but you have to lower the intensity/duration of at least one of those sessions. This can work quite well for fat loss, but obviously, it would be detrimental to building muscle mass. I would personally aim to perform the resistance workout first, as this is the most important (in my opinion). With the cardio being low-intensity steady state. However, you could probably do it either way round.
If you are doing this every day for a couple of weeks then it won’t make much difference which way round you do it. Just remember, as with the double-resistance split, focus on your recovery, getting enough sleep, and ensuring you are consuming enough calories to fuel your workouts. Though as this is for fat loss purposes, you also need to ensure that you are still in a calorie deficit.
You can indeed train twice per day in bodybuilding, but the truth is that doing so is pretty pointless. If you need to train twice per day to get enough volume into your week, then you probably aren’t doing enough in your regular sessions.
The most likely result of training twice per day is overtraining. However, a cardio/resistance split may be effective for fat loss in the short term. Bodybuilders are able to train twice per day thanks to the use of anabolic steroids. While I do not recommend using them, if you do then training twice per day may be feasible. Even so, you would need to get your diet and sleep to optimal levels.
Regular gym-goers, particularly those of you who are new to the gym should avoid training twice per day at all costs. It may appeal if you are feeling desperate about losing weight or gaining muscle mass. But that would be an emotional decision on your part, rather than an informed one. Following such a program will actually have the opposite effect. Slowing your progress and potentially leading to injury.
Building muscle can be very difficult, but the process is pretty simple. Lift weights for 40-60 minutes, four times per week, eat enough protein, stay in a calorie surplus, and sleep eight hours. Do this consistently following a training program that slowly increases the resistance. Do this and you will see results. Try to fast-forward to the end rarely works in life, particularly when it comes to lifting weights.
If you like this article, then check out my article on whether bodybuilding can be done without steroids. It really helps you to get a good idea of the likelihood of success as a natural or non-natural bodybuilder.
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.