You want more muscle than you have right now.
But you’re busy.
And you don’t have much time available to go to the gym and lift weights.
What’s the minimum amount of training time required to build muscle?
If you’re willing to work hard and push yourself, you can build muscle with a full body workout performed twice a week.
In fact, research shows very similar gains in size and strength whether you train a muscle group twice or three times a week.
Training Twice a Week: The Research
• In one study, subjects training a muscle group twice per week made around 70% of the strength gains (measured by maximal strength in the squat) compared to subjects training three times per week.
• In another, training twice per week led to around 80% of the isometric strength gains achieved by those training three days per week.
• Canadian researchers compared the same total training volume divided across two or three weekly workouts. Gains in muscle size and strength were virtually identical with both routines.
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• Researchers from the University of Memphis compared the effects of a strength-training program performed either twice or three days per week in a group of adults aged over 60. The rate of progress in both groups was almost identical.
• A 2018 study shows that distributing the same amount of training across two or four weekly workouts led to roughly the same amount of muscle being gained. Although the group training twice a week spent longer in the gym, they didn’t have to go there as often.
• When a team of scientists compared studies that investigated training muscle groups once, twice or three times a week, they concluded that “the major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to maximize muscle growth.”.
“All a muscle needs to grow is two workouts a week,” writes Vince Gironda in his book The Wild Physique. “This goes for champions too. Hit muscles twice a week and they will get bigger, perhaps at a faster rate than you may believe possible.”
There are several other benefits of training twice a week:
1. The first is obvious. Lifting weights twice a week won’t take up much more than a couple of hours, which is less than 2% of the time available to you over the course of a week.
That gives you plenty of time to get other stuff done.
2. If you’re into a particular sport (e.g. cycling, running, or martial arts) and want to incorporate some strength work in your program, lifting weights twice a week will allow you to do so without interfering with your other training.
3. Training twice a week will let you retain (and in some instances gain) both size and strength while you drop fat. It’s also a good fit if you’re using a carbohydrate cycling protocol where the primary goal is to get strong and ripped.
Increasing your carb intake on the days you lift weights will make a big difference to your performance in the gym while having a relatively minor impact on your weekly calorie deficit.
4. If you’re in your 40’s, 50’s or beyond, you’ll know that it takes longer for your body, especially your joints, to recover from a hard workout.
Cutting your training frequency back to twice a week is an ideal way to gain size and strength while still giving your body the recovery time it needs.
From best-selling author Dan John:
“What has always amazed me about training twice a week is how good my joints feel and how much energy I seem to have to do all the other important things in life.”
The 2-Day Full-Body Workout Routine
With all that out of the way, here’s an example of what a 2-day full-body training program can look like.
Full Body Workout 1
Bench Press 4 sets x 5-8 reps
Lat Pulldown 4 sets x 10-15 reps
Squat 4 sets x 5-8 reps
Leg Curl 4 sets x 10-15 reps
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 sets x 5-8 reps
Full Body Workout 2
Incline Dumbbell Press 4 sets x 10-15 reps
Seated Cable Row 4 sets x 15-20 reps
Leg Press 4 sets x 10-15 reps
Romanian Deadlift 4 sets x 10-15 reps
Lateral Raise 3 sets x 15-20 reps
The number of sets listed are the actual work sets only, and don’t include warm-up sets. It’s always a good idea, especially if you’re using heavy weights, to do several progressively heavier warm-up sets. This will prepare the joints, the muscles and the nervous system that controls those muscles for the heavy work to come.
To keep each workout down to a reasonable length, there’s no direct arm work. However, the biceps and triceps are worked indirectly during all the pushing and pulling exercises included in both workouts.
Exercises like the bench press and incline dumbbell press, for example, will hit the triceps, while the lat pulldown and seated cable row will work the biceps. But if you’ve got time, there’s no reason why you can’t throw in some direct arm work at the end of each workout.
So, there you have it.
If you can’t make it to the gym as often as you’d like, don’t worry.
A couple of full-body workouts twice a week is still enough to get the job done.
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