Hypertrophy Uncategorized

Are you ready for twice-a-day training?

Editor’s Note: We were very sorry to hear of the passing of Charles Poliquin in September 2018 aged 57. He was responsible for popularising so many of the training methods used today in gyms the world over and, as much as anyone, changed the way we all lift weights for the better. For that, we will be forever grateful.

Charles Poliquin is one the world’s most successful strength coaches, having coached Olympic medalists in twelve different sports. He is based in the Rockies, Colorado.

Of all the training protocols I have tried over the decades in the gym, nothing beats twice-a-day training for adding muscle fast. The reason is simple. It’s the law of repeated effort. Think about it: what’s going to increase muscle mass the most? Training three times per week, or doing twice-a-day training for three days out of five? The sheer volume adds up.

But there are drawbacks. This volume very quickly drains you both physically and mentally. Recovery becomes a huge consideration. Which is why moving from single-day training to twice-a-day sessions requires a very considered and sensible approach to avoid burnout. You also need to have a positive attitude before undertaking this type of protocol. Any negativity or fears over getting too tired and beat up and you’ll never succeed. Don’t get me wrong. You are going to be tired, and cranky, and borderline suicidal at times, but that’s the price you have to pay for making such rapid gains.

Before you begin
You need to ask yourselves a couple of questions before embarking on twice-a-day training, and both have a simple yes or no answer. The first is do you want to get really big and strong really fast? I am assuming that’s a yes. So here’s the second. Do you have at least two years of quality training experience in your locker? I mean proper training, not doing single-arm curls on a Bosu ball. If the answer is yes, then you’re ready to begin. But before you do, introducing double daily sessions in the right way is the key to ensuring a smooth transition. Diving in at the deep end is the surest way to fail.

Session strategy
AM: Strength-based
PM: Hypertrophy-based
The morning session is always strength-based, with sets of between two to six reps, while the afternoon or evening session is always focused on hypertrophy and getting the maximum pump possible. Sets can be in the eight to 12 range, or even 25+, giant sets or eccentric-only sets, if your morning sets were at the low end of around two or three reps. Some of my students nicknamed the evening session pousser l’enveloppe, which translates as ‘busting or pushing the envelope’. You’re chasing the pump the whole time.

There is no deviation from this approach of strength training in the first session and hypertrophy in the second. Your central nervous system can’t handle it the other way around. You’ll never be able to go heavy in session two if you’ve gone to town on reps in the morning. As for tempo, the morning session should be relatively slow eccentrics with explosive concentrics, while the second session should be even slower eccentrics, possibly with even isometric pauses. For rest, as is typical with these protocols, take longer in the morning and shorter rest periods in the second session.

Training frequency
I always implement twice-a-day training over five day cycles. And you never do more than two successive cycles without a unload cycle. No matter what your training goal your body can’t handle more than 10 days of hard training. Besides, these unload cycles are where you actually grow. You can expect to lose weight during the ten days of hard training, but you will put it back on – and more – during the five-day recovery cycle.

Here’s the body-part split for each five-day cycle:
Day one: chest and back
Day two: legs
Day three: rest
Day four: arms and shoulders
Day five: rest

Or, if you have very good rates of recovery, I recommend this split:
Day one: quads and calves
Day two: chest and back
Day three: posterior chain (including calves)
Day four: arms and shoulders
Day five: rest

Session length
This is the crucial part, not only for how you introduce twice-a-day training, but also how you build in unload cycles effectively.

Cycle One – Five days
AM session: 60 minutes
PM session: 20 minutes

Cycle Two – Five days
AM session: 60 minutes
PM session: 20 minutes

Cycle Three: Unload – Five days
AM session: 20 minutes
PM session: None

After the first two five-day cycles, you’ve hit the ten-day limit for intensive training so you need to back off. In cycle three the morning sessions are cut to 20 minutes, still strength-focused, and you ditch the afternoon workouts to give your body more recovery time. There is also a huge psychological benefit in knowing that, after ten days of brutal training, all you have to do is 20 minutes in the morning, then you’re done for the day. This makes it far easier to get in, bust a nut, then get out.

This is the cycle where you will regain, and increase, your muscle mass and total weight. After this cycle, you reintroduce the afternoon session, but increase its duration by ten minutes.

Cycle Four – Five days
AM session: 60 minutes
PM session: 30 minutes

Cycle Five – Five days
AM session: 60 minutes
PM session: 30 minutes

Cycle Six: Unload – Five days
AM session: 30 minutes
PM session: None

Again, after ten days you need to unload, so the morning session drops to 30 minutes and afternoon sessions stop. Then for the next cycle you increase the afternoon workout by another ten minutes.

Cycle Seven – Five days
AM session: 60 minutes
PM session: 40 minutes

Cycle Eight – Five days
AM session: 60 minutes
PM session: 40 minutes

Cycle Nine: Unload – Five days
AM session: 40 minutes
PM session: None

That’s how the training cycles work. Every two cycles, so ten days in total, you have a unload cycle, and the afternoon workout should never last more than 40 minutes.

Rest and recovery
You are going to be tired. You are going to sad, depressed even. If you don’t half contemplate suicide at some point during these cycles then you’re not training hard enough. So adequate rest and recovery are absolutely essential if you want to make this work.

You need a lot of sleep. You’re going to want to sleep a lot. This workout isn’t plausible for a toll-booth operator. Ideally you need to be a self-employed, work in a gym, or work from home. Having a midday nap – all you need is 20 minutes – will make a big difference, both in terms of how you feel and how well you respond. Without a quick sleep in the day you can make this work, but a nap is the accelerator for growth.

Food and supps
Even if you don’t usually have an appetite, training this way will make you hungry around the clock. And you will need to eat. When I do this protocol I eat around 4.4g of protein per kilo of bodyweight, and easily top 800g of carbs and 150g of fat per day. You need a lot of calories doing this – it is how you grow.

As for supplements, I end every session with a carb and protein shake, plus take magnesium, fish oils and curcumin, which helps manage the amount of inflammation your body is going to experience. And that’s it. So if you want to add muscular size and strength as quick as possible, consider twice-a-day training and watch yourself grow faster than you ever thought possible.