The Pros and Cons of Working Out Twice a Day

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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 making time for a single workout, much less carving out enough time for two bouts of exercise a day.

But that doesn't mean you should scoff at the concept altogether. Working out twice a day has its benefits, as long as you know how to implement the right schedule for you.

Benefits

  • Increased training volume

  • Reduced sedentary time

  • Performance gains

  • Accelerated muscle growth

Drawbacks

  • Overtraining risk

  • Increased injury risk

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 exercising 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 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 several times a day allows you to squeeze in more volume, increasing protein synthesis, metabolic capacity, and anabolic output."

In other words, when programmed correctly, two-a-days could help you reach your goals faster.

Drawbacks of Working Out Twice a Day

Aside from the fact that double the workouts means double the sweaty laundry, the primary problem with two-a-days is that increased training volume puts you at greater risk for overtraining.

Exercise is considered a form of physical stress, and even though this type of stress stimulates physical adaptations that support all-around good health, adding too much at once can prove problematic.

"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."

As the adage goes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Advice for Beginners

A Word of Caution

To be clear, anyone new to exercise, or anyone who has taken a break from regular sweat sessions for several weeks or months, should not jump into a two-a-day training routine. For starters, there's no clear benefit to doing so.

There's no guarantee you'll build muscle or burn fat faster or more efficiently by implementing a two-a-day plan, especially if you're a beginner.

The people who benefit most from this type of training are those who are specifically training for a competition or event, or those who have been exercising consistently and are looking for a way to increase workload in a way that naturally fits with their schedule.

Not to mention, most people doing two-a-days are doing so with the guidance of a trainer or coach. This helps ensure that the potential drawbacks of overtraining and injury risk are being monitored and, hopefully, managed appropriately.

How to Add More Movement to Your Day

If you're new to exercise or coming off a break, the best way to implement twice-daily workouts is to simply look for ways to increase your total daily activity level.

This does not mean you head to the gym and pump iron for 30 minutes, then head back later in the day for a run on the treadmill. Rather, it's all about finding ways to stay active throughout the day. For instance, consider the following ideas:

  • After a morning strength training session, foam roll at night while watching TV.
  • If you did yoga or Pilates earlier in the day, turn on music while doing your regular housekeeping and dance as you go, further increasing your heart rate for a little extra cardio
  • If you don't have time to stretch immediately following a workout, try taking a 10-minute walk with your family after dinner, then spend a few minutes stretching together.

Small bouts of activity throughout the day can be a helpful way to gradually increase your workload over time.

How to Do Two-a-Days the Smart Way

Of course, no one wants to end up sick or injured. If you want to work out twice a day, and you've been consistently exercising for at least six months, you still have to be smart about implementing your plan. According to Mentore, these are the general guidelines you should follow when getting started:

  • Allow at least six hours of space between moderate-intensity workouts. This means if you finish your first workout at 8:00 am, you shouldn't start your next workout until at least 2:00 pm. If you're going to do higher-intensity workouts, aim to allow more time between sessions.
  • Do more strenuous training earlier in the day, and less-demanding exercise during your second session. This keeps you on a steady schedule and supports continued recovery after your first, more challenging, routine.
  • Do longer workouts earlier in the day, and shorter workouts later.
  • Prioritize nutrition and hydration between workouts to adequately prepare your body for the second session. Again, this supports recovery between and following each session.
  • Try to add short sleep cycles (naps) to your day to facilitate rest and recovery—sleep is critical to performance.
  • Start slow. 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, followed by a rest day. As your body adapts to the new routine, you can gradually increase training volume with more two-a-days.
  • Increase calorie and nutrient intake on rest days 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" plan that everyone should follow. The decision to incorporate multiple workouts can be as simple as separating two types of training, such as cardio and strength work, rather than mashing them together into a single routine.

Or, if you want to add a new type of training to your schedule, but you can't fit both workouts into your lunch break, adding a second workout gives you the ability to accomplish multiple 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 and mobility 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 workout into two separate routines. Start your morning 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 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 running sessions, 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.

    A Word From Verywell

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

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    Article Sources

    1. Calogero G, Papior NR, Bøggild P, Brandbyge M. Large-scale tight-binding simulations of quantum transport in ballistic graphene. J Phys Condens Matter. 2018;30(36):364001. doi:10.1038/ijo.2017

    2. Roy BA. Overreaching/Overtraining: More Is Not Always Better. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. 2015;19(2):4-5.

    Additional Reading

    • 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://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2017.30. March 2017.