The Pros and Cons of Working Out Twice a Day

Should You Exercise Twice a Day?

Women working out in studio
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Two-a-day workouts are usually relegated to the world of high-level athletes training for a specific sport or competition. The average person has enough trouble carving out enough time for a single workout each day, much less making time for two workouts a day. But that doesn't mean you should scoff at the concept altogether. Working out twice a day has its benefits, so as long as you know how to apply them appropriately, it might be worth adding a second sweat session to your daily calendar.

Benefits of Working Out Twice a Day

One of the most obvious benefits of two-a-day workouts is that you're logging more activity than if you were only working out once. Considering that a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Obesity points to time spent sedentary as a clear risk factor for coronary heart disease and increased waist circumference, if you can find a way to increase your daily activity, that's a good thing.

But increasing your total daily activity isn't the only potential benefit. Brandon Mentore, a strength and conditioning coach and sports nutritionist, points out that two-a-days are great for improving overall performance, "Training twice in the same day can trigger accelerated muscle growth and strength gains," Mentore says. "Training volume is an essential factor for almost all fitness goals, and training multiple times a day allows you to squeeze in more volume per unit of time, increasing protein synthesis, metabolic capacity, and anabolic output." In other words, when programmed correctly, you can reach your goals even faster.

Drawbacks of Working Out Twice a Day

The problem with two-a-day workouts, though, is clear: More training volume can put you at risk for overtraining. "It can really tax your neuromuscular system," Mentore says, "increasing your likelihood for injury, disrupting sleep patterns, suppressing your immune system, and many other symptoms if you don't take the time to recover appropriately." 

How to Exercise Twice a Day the Smart Way

Of course, no one wants to end up sick or injured, so you have to be smart about implementing a two-a-day plan. According to Mentore, these are the rules of thumb you should consider when starting your plan:

  • Moderate-intensity workouts should have at least six hours of space between the first and second session.
  • More strenuous workouts should be done earlier in the day, typically in the morning hours, with less-demanding training completed later in the day.
  • Longer workouts should be done earlier in the day, with shorter workouts incorporated later.
  • In between workouts, you should prioritize nutrition and hydration to adequately prepare your body for the second session of work, allowing yourself to recover sufficiently.
  • When possible, you should add short sleep cycles (naps) to your day to facilitate rest and recovery—sleep is critical to performance.
  • The more advanced or competitive you are, the more days in a row you can do two-a-days; however, typical "weekend warriors" shouldn't do more than two days in a row of multiple workouts, following two days of two-a-days with a rest day.
  • On rest days, increase calorie and nutrient intake slightly to facilitate recovery, and make sure you pay attention to your sleep and stress management; consider adding massage therapy or meditation to your recovery days.

    Two-a-Day Training Ideas

    The nice thing about twice-daily workouts is that there's no "one size fits all" specification. The decision to incorporate multiple workouts can be as simple as wanting to focus on a single type of training during each routine, rather than mashing them together into a single workout. Or, if you've wanted to add a new type of training to your routine, but you can't fit both into your lunch break, adding a second workout gives you the ability to accomplish all your goals. Here are a few ways to try two-a-days:

    • Heavy training followed by a recovery workout: If you're bad about stretching after your typical routine, adding a second workout focused on recovery may be a good option. Your first session can incorporate your typical, heavy training, whether you strength train, do more intense cardio, or high-intensity interval work. Then later in the day, you can add a recovery workout consisting of low-intensity cardio, yoga, stretching, or foam rolling.
    • Strength training and cardio: If you like doing strength training and cardio on the same day, but you hate how long it takes to do both, you may want to split your workouts into two separate routines. Start your mornings with whichever workout is most taxing (for instance, if you tend to lift heavy, do your strength training in the morning, but if you're training for a race, run or bike first thing), then do the opposite routine in the evenings.
    • Split sessions: When you're training for a serious competition or event, splitting your training up into two separate sessions is a good way to add miles or repetitions while giving your body rest between workouts. For instance, if you're training for a marathon, you could split your miles into two separate workouts, one in the morning and one in the evening. Likewise, if you're a strength athlete, you could lift certain muscle groups in the morning, and different ones in the evening.

    If you decide to give two-a-days a go, ease your way into it. As Mentore suggested, don't start with more than two days in a row, and decrease your overall intensity for a few weeks before ramping up your effort. It takes your body time to acclimate to new stressors, so be smart and allow yourself to adjust. 

    Sources:

    Tigbe W, Granat M, Sattar N, Lean M. "Time spent in sedentary posture is associated with waist circumference and cardiovascular risk." International Journal of Obesity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28138134?dopt=Abstract. March 2017.

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