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Skyrocket Your Strength And Muscle Gains In Two Workouts A Week!

Training two days per week takes efficiency and intensity to another level. See how to defy mainstream lifting logic and become stronger and bigger with less time in the gym!

Most lifters won't take this claim seriously: You can build PR-worthy strength with only two training days per week. You can roll your eyes all you want and return to curling five days per week, but this isn't a virtual girlfriend story. It's reality.

This claim does require a preface, however. When I talk about hitting two workouts per week, I'm not talking about unmotivated, haphazard training sessions that involve more yak-yak than heavy lifting. No, these two days per week must be a focused and driven attack on the iron.

Even with intense focus, I'll admit that achieving measurable strength gains on only two sessions per week seems unlikely. But I've done it. I've seen my clients do it, too. I coach, attend grad school, and work a full-time job, so I don't have much spare time.

For someone like me, two-day training is perfect. The key is to focus volume and intensity toward specific goals and lifts.

The Foundation

Okay, here are the principles. Simplicity is paramount.

No Deloads ///

Most training cycles I pen include a deload between weeks four and six, but this one doesn't. Training two days per week won't accumulate enough stress to require a deload. A "down" week would just be wasted time. You can apply the template below for 12 solid weeks without any deload weeks.

Limited Variation ///

Progress is dependent on focus, and exercise variation must be limited for progress when training twice per week. If you throw several exercises at your body in a short timeframe, limited adaptation results. Strength gains require exposing your body to constant stimulus, especially in a limited training window. There's no need to get fancy.

You're going to pick two lifts and get good at them. Really good. You'll do them every time you train, after all. With only two training days, I know it seems logical to use as much variation as possible, but variety doesn't promote progression. Building skill does. Getting good at lifts allows us to train harder and get stronger.

The two lifts you choose will be done with speed and vigor. They're included at the end of your warm-up preceding your main lifts, which are the same lifts loaded more intensely.

Forget About Body Parts ///

To get strong, we train lifts, not muscles. If you're a body-part-split aficionado, you must remove your bias and open your mind to try this template.

High Intensity ///

All lifts, except for your warm-up lifts at the beginning of each workout, are going to be heavy. We're talking about high intensity. There's no time for fluff and unnecessary volume. We have to use intensity to get strong.

The main lifts are loaded using heavy sets of 2-3 reps. Assistance work will stay between 5-8 reps per set.

Training Days Devoted to One Lift ///

By now, you know that you have to choose two lifts and train them with a chip on your shoulder. It's not rocket science. One training day will be devoted to the first lift you choose, and the subsequent day is devoted to the other lift. All assistance work on each day is devoted to develop the main lift.

The Template


A Few More Guidelines ///

Exercise Pairings: Pair a lower-body exercise like the squat or deadlift with an upper-body exercise, like the overhead press or bench. This combo creates training efficiency and helps the body adapt to the new loading parameter.

Intensity Ratings: Below you'll find nomenclature describing training intensity based on Mike Tuscherer's rated perceived exertion (RPE) system. Here's a quick rundown:

  • 6 = Bar moves quickly without much effort
  • 7 = Bar moves quickly with maximal effort
  • 8 = Could've done 2-3 more reps
  • 9 = Could've done one more rep
  • 10 = Absolute max, couldn't do one more rep
Sample Days ///

Below are twosample days aimed to build a stronger deadlift and bench press. The first day is the deadlift day. Notice that all the assistance work is deadlift-specific. This is a template example, so feel free to set up your own programming. Choose assistance exercises based on your individual weaknesses.

Deadlift Day

Bench Press Day

Throughout 12 weeks, "wave" the volume based on your individual ability to recover and adapt. Some people need more intensity, while others need more volume. When you determine your needs, try to keep volume fluctuations around 10 percent.

If you find that your body responds best to increases and decreases in intensity, work up to a "9" intensity level on your main lifts 2-3 times during the 12-week cycle, but keep 3-4 weeks between the high-intensity sessions.

Testing ///

Test yourself on week 13. Complete a low-volume, low-intensity version of your current plan at the beginning of the week and focus mostly on technique with your two chosen lifts. Cut the assistance work if necessary. A few days later, test your one-rep max on your two chosen lifts.

You can make excuses or you can make progress—you can't do both. For the lifter hell bent on getting stronger, limited time is no excuse. Two hours per week is enough time to become a monster.


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About The Author

Todd Bumgardner works as a strength and conditioning coach and manual therapist at Ranfone Training Systems in Hamden, Connecticut.

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SaraSolomon

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SaraSolomon

interesting read

Jul 25, 2013 5:52pm | report
lokerola

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lokerola

This is a bit confusing. There are deadlifts on bench press day and bench presses on deadlift day. Also, what are the A1, B1, etc, supposed to represent?

Jul 25, 2013 7:26pm | report
jramelb

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jramelb

if they have the same letters, they're supersetted. Ex. A1 is supersetted with A2, B1 and B2, and so on.

Jul 26, 2013 8:58am | report
KthxHibye

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KthxHibye

Sounds interesting if you wanted to raise up your Dead or Squat... But Im too in love with isolation work and just hitting the gym in general to only go twice a week. Hell going 4 times a week doesnt feel like "enough" but any harder and it becomes detrimental

Jul 25, 2013 7:34pm | report
AlexisBT

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AlexisBT

I gotta say I feel the same. I have a very busy life and sometimes I can't go to the gym more than twice a week. I always keep my workout intense but in the end, I just end up losing my gains. Heck, even 3 or 4 times a week isn't enough to get me back at the level I was when I did 5-6 workouts per week.

Interesting read, but there's no substitute to workout frequency.

Jul 25, 2013 11:56pm | report
hieusername

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hieusername

Good read. I will keep this in mind.

Jul 25, 2013 11:43pm | report
XxmetallicaxX

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XxmetallicaxX

Who is dat face pull guy, Holy Cavs Batman!

Jul 26, 2013 5:49am | report
shanedamane

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shanedamane

lol yea thought the same thing

Jul 26, 2013 6:21pm | report
PandaTom

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PandaTom

Think i saw him in a calves article I think... I printed it out long ago... I'm trying to get those!

Jul 27, 2013 3:17am | report
eplamers

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eplamers

Preston Noble!

Aug 1, 2013 9:50am | report
rennbj4

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rennbj4

I did two workouts/week for awhile. Squat, dead, overhead press, pullups were the only exercises, 2 of them each workout. Either reverse pyramid style, 5x5, or 20-rep sets.

If you do these exercises with real intensity, 2 workouts is all you need for gains. The glutes take up to 6 days to recover from a tough workout. No use in training them every other day.

Jul 26, 2013 9:08am | report
lionheart2189

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lionheart2189

yeah if i wasnt on a 12 week training plan already id be down i mean i started working out with deadlifts but i get just as much of a tear from isolation methods of working out

Jul 26, 2013 9:57am | report
vsniperviperv

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vsniperviperv

Hmm would have chosen deadlifts - with back and squats with chest... hence shoulders on both.

Jul 26, 2013 2:40pm | report
gomezvilla

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gomezvilla

This works.

Jul 26, 2013 5:53pm | report
Amine999

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Amine999

Ok can someone please clear this up for me? Do you this workout alongside your current workout? Or do you replace chest days for bench press days and back/biceps days for deadlift days? How do I incorporate this into my current workout cycle? Or do people do this without ever training legs, triceps, abs or anything?

Jul 27, 2013 8:02am | report
Amine999

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Amine999

Ok can someone please clear this up for me? Do you this workout alongside your current workout? Or do you replace chest days for bench press days and back/biceps days for deadlift days? How do I incorporate this into my current workout cycle? Or do people do this without ever training legs, triceps, abs or anything?

Jul 27, 2013 8:02am | report
FridayFury

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FridayFury

I have always trained in this way since day one and had fantastic results. I've only logged in to tell the users that this method works. I mean really works. I was low on cash so didn't want to splooge a lot of money in the gym. But since I used to attend many MMA based martial arts classes Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday I would go to the gym Monday and Friday. It has been a year and a half since I last lifted (I lifted for three years) and after a month period I'm back to being able to bench 8 reps of 100kg 75reps of 47.5kg.

The memory muscle must have retained in this period considering I'm doing the exact same exercises I was before. I have to say though that this won't get you big. But it sure will make you strong. After all if your body gets so used to throwing these specific types of movements over and over again it's going to be a strength powerhouse when it comes to their application in throwing a punch or kick, and that it is.

My point is this was always something I would do, just as in the process of finding what would work for me when it comes to making strength-gains, which I decided to do after reading Bruce Lee's book. You know, you don't want to blindly follow the latest exercise routines, especially marketed ones. You want to test them but always be making progress in the most optimal way that works for you. That this does for me. Just (aposteriori) make sure to keep it explosive and don't rush into getting into the higher and higher weights.

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Jul 27, 2013 8:41am | report
DHallization

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DHallization

I only lift twice a week and I've gotten pretty good results. Thanks for the article. I've been waiting for some advice on how to switch things up!

Aug 8, 2013 9:29am | report
SolitBarAthlet

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SolitBarAthlet

A very open-minded read, it may be beneficial for your body to let it rest a lot. I can combine this with some sprint training once a week.

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Dec 21, 2013 5:03am | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 14'8"
  • wt: 176.37 lbs
  • bf: 10.0%
Showing 1 - 19 of 19 Comments

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