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Productively timing your two a day workout

Danny O'Dell explains how it is possible to successfully strength train multiple times per day.

Scientific research into the circadian cycles of the athlete has been going on for years. With competition as close as it is at the top levels of sport, it stands to reason that every bit of a legal edge one can get will be important. This may come as a result of maximizing your time in the gym to a corresponding maximization of your body's ability to make strength gains. One of these methods involves training multiple times per day. These periods are carefully determined via electrical muscle activity studies that are conducted over a twenty-four-hour period.

Research, conducted by Shcherbin, Y.V. and Mironenko, P.M. showed that rhythms in the body fluctuated over twenty-four-hours. Not only did they fluctuate but at certain times the muscles showed increased ability and capacity to tolerate greater workloads and intensities at specific times during the day. The two scientists worked with specially designed devices that allowed close monitoring of the electrical activity in the neuromuscular systems of their athletes. The findings showed what many athletes and trainers had intuitively felt for quite some time - there are periods in the day that are more conducive to making strength gains than other parts of the day.

The clearest indicators of this enhanced ability to gain strength, i.e. the higher bioelectrical activity, showed up during the hours of 1200-1400 and again at 1800-2000 hours. But just knowing these are prime training times is not enough. It will not make much difference in the outcome if the muscles are not ready to produce the strength and power that is indicative of this increased electrical activity. Additional confirmatory tests are required.

During the same twenty-four-hour period, there were strength measurements taken. The tests conducted were the standing grip dynamometer and various others that differentiated muscular force and explosive force in the lower torso. Interestingly enough, it was noted that at the same time as the neuromuscular activity was the greatest these were also the times when strength gains were potentiated. The research showed that between the times of 1100-1400 and 1800-2100 muscular power increased by 10-30%. These are astounding figures that should not be dismissed by the serious lifter. Imagine if you will have a 10% increase in your ability to squat during these times.

This fluctuation in the ability of the body to produce increased strength positively influences the outcome. Shcherbin and Mironenko made special note of the greater increase in strength during the rise in bioelectrical activity. Their recommendations were to adjust the training time of the first workout of the day to 1100-1400 and to set up the last session at 1800-2100 hours.

There should be time enough in these six hours to get your athlete in and out of the gym. Certainly, it may be said that not only is the training time important but also the content of the session. The advantage of these twice-daily training periods is the coach can manage more closely the number of lifts and the percentages used. Additionally, if a particular stage of the lift is lagging behind more time can be devoted to bringing this up to speed with the rest of the lift. In the final analysis, it would appear that lifting twice a day increases the chances of raising your total.

Exercise progression

The main thrust of correctly sequencing exercises is to further the goals of the athlete in their sport. Performing the most valuable movements relating to fine motor control and maximal neuromuscular outputs necessitates these movements be performed first in the session. This allows the organism to be in a rested state before the initiation of these primary exercise skills and motions. Looking at it in more detail means these types of exercises will be the first to be executed in the strength training session.

To avoid the inevitable fatigue which accompanies mid to late portions of the session, the schedule more than likely will follow these suggested progression lines. Begin with the main sports exercises before starting on the auxiliary movements. After the main sports moves are finished then begin the explosive dynamic types of exercises such as the power cleans, clean and jerks and the snatches. Once the explosive motions are made, go next to the larger muscle groups such as:

  • The legs with the squats
  • The upper torso with the bench presses and barbell rows
  • The lower back with a deadlift
  • Military presses and chin-ups or pulldowns

You will be exercising from the larger to the smaller muscle groups unless there is a specific reason to do otherwise. If the session is designed to increase strength while at the same time avoiding unnecessary muscle hypertrophy, then successive exercises should not follow closely on the heels of the previous series of movements. The next set of exercises should, therefore, minimally if at all, involve the same muscle group.

For example, doing a set of triceps extensions followed by military presses and then barbell rows paired with bicep curls would be a sequence made for triceps and bicep hypertrophy. The correct order to increase strength would be along these lines: triceps extensions, biceps curls, military presses and barbell rows. Performed in this order, the muscles have a chance to recover before being called upon to repeat a similar active motion.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • O'DELL, D. (2007) Productively timing your two a day workouts. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 41/ April), p. 9-10

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • O'DELL, D. (2007) Productively timing your two a day workouts [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Danny O`Dell is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning coach from the USA. He is the author of several training manuals including The Ultimate Bench Press Manual, Wilderness Basics, Strength training Secrets, Composite training and Power up your Driving Muscles. Danny has published articles in national and international magazines describing the benefits of living a healthy fitness lifestyle.