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The Twice-A-Week Plan For When Life Hits

Make no mistake: A couple of high-quality training sessions a week is far, far better than nothing at all. Use these two plans for two different life situations, and make the most of the time you have!

It's great to post things on social media about having no excuses and never missing a day in the gym, but sooner or later, whether you like it or not, life will usually find you.

I don't mean this to be a bad thing, either. Maybe you have a new kid, a demanding project, or a professional opportunity that you can't—and shouldn't—take lightly. These things sometimes have to take precedence over the gym, and to pretend they don't would be silly.

But the question remains: What do you do on those days? To start, don't set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Training two days a week, while much better than nothing, probably isn't going to get you into the proverbial "best shape of your life." There's just no way around that. However, it's definitely enough to maintain strength and keep anyone from asking "What happened to you?"

Here are two complete plans, for two situations. Keep them filed away, and when you need them, make good use of them!

The Weekender and the Twice-a-Weeker

When it comes down to training twice a week you have plenty of split options, depending on your situation and how those days are spaced. Here are the two I prefer:

  • If your training days are back-to-back or close to it, like weekends, I recommend an upper/lower split so that the two days don't interfere much with each other.
  • If you can separate your sessions by at least a couple of days, (such as Wednesday and Saturday, or something similar) I prefer two full-body training sessions: one full-body push, the other full-body pull.

Either option is fine, and it comes down to your situation and personal preference. Both are also compatible with the home gym setup I laid out in my article "Get Maximum Results from Minimal Equipment."

Just remember that, since you only have two days to train, you want to focus on getting the most bang for your buck. Unfortunately, that means there won't be a whole lot of isolation work in there. Therefore, you'll want to start with a foundation built of heavy, compound lifts:

  • Squat variations
  • Deadlifts
  • Explosive pulls, like snatch high pulls and barbell cleans
  • Bench presses and overhead-press variations
  • Pull-ups and rows

Supersets and paired sets are also your friends here. I can hear some of you already thinking, "That's no different than any training program", and you'd be right.

The difference is that with a normal program of 4-5 days per week, there is more room to dabble. With only two days you don't have that luxury, so these lifts will have much more focus placed on them. That's not to say you can't do some curls—you will—but acknowledge on the front end that you're not going to be getting a full arm session in.

Perfect Anytime for Energy, Endurance, Recovery, and Muscle Repair*

The Weekender: Two Consecutive Training Days

Day 1: Lower Body

Snatch Pull (from the floor)

6 sets of 4 reps, rest 90 sec.
Snatch Pull Snatch Pull


Front Squat (pause at bottom)

5 sets of 8 reps at 70% of 1RM, rest 90 sec.
Front Squat (Bodybuilder) Front Squat (Bodybuilder)


Romanian Deadlift

4 sets of 8-10 reps, rest 90 sec.
Romanian Deadlift Romanian Deadlift


Barbell Reverse Lunge

4 sets of 10 reps, rest 90 sec.
Barbell Reverse Lunge Barbell Reverse Lunge

Superset 4 sets, rest 60 sec. between rounds

Leg Extensions

4 sets of 10-12 reps
Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

Lying Leg Curls

4 sets of 10-12 reps
Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls

Ab circuit: 4 rounds, resting as little as possible

Ab Roller

10 reps
Ab Roller Ab Roller

Oblique Crunches

20 reps per side
Oblique Crunches Oblique Crunches
Reverse Crunch Reverse Crunch

Day 1 Notes:

  • For the leg extensions, use a leg extension/curl tool off of the end of a bench. Alternately, you can perform goblet squats.
  • For the leg curls, use a leg extension/curl tool off of the end of a bench. Alternately, you can perform the natural glute ham raises with your feet anchored.

Day 2: Upper Body
Paired set: 5 rounds

Push Press

8 reps at 70% of 1RM, rest 30 sec.
Push Press Push Press


8 reps, rest 90 sec.
Pullups Pullups

Paired set: 5 rounds

Barbell Bench Press-Wide Grip

8 reps, rest 30 sec.
Barbell Bench Press-Wide Grip Barbell Bench Press-Wide Grip

Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row

5 sets of 10-12, rest 60 sec.
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row

Superset: 4 rounds
Dips - Chest Version Dips - Chest Version

Face Pull

4 sets of 15-20 reps
Face Pull Face Pull

Superset: 4 rounds
Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension

Barbell Curl

12-15 reps
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

The Twice-a-Weeker: Nonconsecutive Training Days

Day 1: Full-Body Push


5 sets of 5, rest 60 sec.
Pushups Pushups


Barbell Squat

5 sets of 8 at 70% of 1RM, rest 90 sec.
Barbell Squat Barbell Squat

Paired set: 5 rounds

Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip

5 sets of 8 at 70%, rest 30 sec.
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip

Split Squat with Dumbbells

5 sets of 10-12, rest 90 sec.
Split Squat with Dumbbells Split Squat with Dumbbells


Seated Dumbbell Press

4 sets of 10, rest 60 sec.
Seated Dumbbell Press Seated Dumbbell Press


EZ-Bar Skullcrusher

4 sets of 12-15, rest 60 sec.
EZ-Bar Skullcrusher EZ-Bar Skullcrusher

Day 2: Full-Body Pull

Power Clean

6 sets of 4 reps, rest 90 sec.
Power Clean Power Clean


Barbell Deadlift

4 sets of 8 reps at 70%, rest 90 sec.
Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift

Paired sets: 5 rounds


5 sets of 8 reps, rest 30 sec.
Pullups Pullups

Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells

5 sets of 8 reps, rest 90 sec.
Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells


Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row

4 sets of 10-12 reps, rest 60 sec.
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row


Barbell Curl

4 sets of 10-12 reps, rest 60 sec.
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

What Makes These Programs Work

If you look at the structure of both sessions, you'll find that they follow a tried and true sequence. As long as you follow this general structure, there's an infinite number of workouts you could construct on your own. The workouts I've given you are just the start.

First: Explosive Power Work

In the programs above, these include snatch and clean variations, push-presses, and explosive pull-ups. Done for low reps, these moves develop power and lifting speed, and also preferentially recruit fast twitch muscle fibers, priming your system for what's to follow.

Second: Compound Heavy Lifts

These are your benches, deadlifts, squats, and pull-ups. In the twice-a-week programs, I recommend you stay in the heavy-but-not-crushing rep range of around 8 reps. This is just heavy enough to maintain strength and get a little hypertrophy stimulus. This is the main course of the workout. Don't skip it!

Third: Secondary Movements for Volume

Here are your rows, dumbbell moves, and lunges. By focusing on supersets and paired sets, you'll be able to maintain muscle and push your heart rate. If you have a truly limited amount of time, this and detail work are where you start cutting.

Fourth: Detail Work

Arms and abs aren't the main course in minimalist training, they're the dessert. Enjoy them, but don't let them get in the way of the entree.

Pro Tip: Fit Other Stuff in When you Can

Even if you can only make time for a serious training session a couple of times per week, you can amplify your training by weaving in a little bit of extra work wherever possible.

Sitting at home with your family at the end of a long day of work? Great. Try knocking out a set of pushups, sit-ups, planks, or pull-ups during commercial breaks when you're watching TV. It's amazing how quickly sets of 20-50 pushups add up over the course of the night. Your pecs, tris, and delts will thank you, too.

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You Have Options!

Depending on your needs and equipment, there are endless variations to this. The point is that, while probably not ideal, training twice a week can still be effective. If you can commit to this, throw in some conditioning work once or twice a week, and keep your diet somewhat in line, you won't lose any ground. In fact, you may find you like how much energy and excitement you bring to your two workouts.