T Nation

Thoughts on a 2 Day a Week Split?


#1

I was chatting to someone at my gym who along with his brother was a top level powerlifter in the 90s and he keeps telling me that moving to training twice a week would really help my lifts.

He said they used to do bench Mon then on Thurs alternate light squat & deadlifts one week and heavy squats the other week.

Has anyone personally tried something like this?

I have typically done 4 days a week but at the moment i really struggle on my deadlift day due to an impinged nerve injury, i’m wondering if only doing lower body once a week will help me out with this, but i would probably initially add in a 3rd day for light assistance work too.


Why am I Not Getting Any Stronger?
#2

Pete rubish mentioned this too, my opinion is that it’s a horrible idea. Maybe someone who’s done it has good things to say but I can’t see progress getting made unless you are lifting so heavy that you can’t recover. I squat over 405 2-3 times a week (usually 455+ for 2 of those days) and pull 545+ twice a week and recover fine.


#3

I trained 2 days a week for a while. I lost strength and muscle. 4 days a week is a pretty modest approach. I like how vince trains


#4

Yeah, I check into your log and can see high frequency and intensity works well for you.

The trouble for me is currently my sciatica still feels horrible on Thursday from squats on Monday and i end up not being able to deadlift. Thats why i was thinking adding in a third day with some exercises that don’t aggrevate my lower back (machines etc) but increase volume could help.

It seems there are very strong guys who workout anywhere from 2-6 days a week and what works best is different for everyone


#5

It’s hard when you have to work around pain. That was the main reason for my switch to sumo. My back would hurt to much to squat heavy and every once in a while id really hurt it. The hardest part of figuring ways around it and still being able to train some intensity. Could possibly get away with hitting variations that won’t take you out for the next few days. Tricky with Deadlift unless you can pull sumo squat is a bit easier to work around.


#6

Have you seen a physiotherapist about your sciatica?

The program you are talking about sounds like the Lilliebridge method. If you are around 300lbs. of muscle and take PEDs then this might be appropriate for you. Otherwise you probably won’t get too far, the frequency is too low to get adequate technique practice and you will be limited in how much volume you can do.


#7

Yeah I’ve spent more time and money on a PT for this than i would have like to admit, and found nothing that helped noticeably. I also had an MRI when i first started getting the symptoms about 6 years ago which didn’t find anything so it seems to be some sort of imbalance/ poor posture that causes it. I think sitting at a desk for 8 hours really doesn’t help.

I think you’re probably right. Do you think something like light squats & deadlifts on Mon, heavyish squats & bench on Wed and then another bench day with potentially some lower body isolation exercises later in the week could work? This should hopefully leave me feeling good enough to pull on Mondays with 4 days off from potentially aggrevating movements beforehand.


#8

Really all comes down to recovery. I personally do best in terms of strength by giving myself as much time as possible to recover, despite not always training that way. 3-4 days a week is the bare minimum I’d recommend for most people, as previously stated.


#9

That sounds better. Or you could bench 3 days a week and either squat or deadlift on the same days (as in sq or dl and bp in the same session) and then have an accessory day. That’s if light squatting doesn’t cause you any pain.

If you sit a lot you probably have tight hip flexors. Stretching + myofascial release might help. Not all PTs are created equal, either try to find a better one (preferably one that has experience with athletes) or look for advice online.


#10

Askold Surovetsky, a well-regarded coach in Russia, suggests setting up a 2 day/week program like this:

week 1, day 1:
moderate squat
bench
light deadlift

week 1, day 2:
heavy squat
bench

week 2, day 1:
light squat
bench
moderate deadlift

week 2, day 2:
bench
heavy deadlift

(Bench would follow any of a number of schemes). I like that setup but obviously those days are going to take awhile and afford you limited opportunity for assistance work. With Surovetsky’s training philosophy assistance isn’t super important.

Another obvious and easy way to do it would be:

Squat
Bench

Dead
Bench

You could setup any kind of undulating program that way. A 600 lb squatter I’ve trained with works up to a daily max, then rotates between sets of 8, 5 and 2 for backoff work. Minimal assistance.

Both of these involve lower body work twice/week though. Not a fan of only one day of SQ/DL per week, but obviously it has been done.

Good luck.


#11

PreviouslyI was planning on doing a program from the new 531 with 3 day a week, bench and squat every day and deadlift twice. I may stick with this but switch out deadlifts on one of the days, and if that doesn’t work also switch out one of the squat sessions for leg press or something.


#12

I’ve done two days/week with success. You just make sure you put in a lot of work for those two days. I did not squat/deadlift in the same week. Squat one week, deadlift the following week.

Everyone is different. Do it if you feel its necessary for the time being. Recovery is everything.


#13

My father used to train like this in his powerlifting days. Squat/bench one day and deadlift the other. He would sprinkle in light stuff throughout the week like pull ups and body weight stuff. Like others have said you have to make those sessions count, but everyone is different and it could be optimal for some.


#14

I just recently moved back to my 2 days a week program. I had the two strongest meets of my life training 2 days a week 1780 at 220. My joints feel amazing doing it, in always 100% ready and recovered ready to give 150% on every set, I’m motivated training like this, my home life is obviously better, I recover much better, and it helps me keep my body weight up with out having to force feed my self as much. It’s safe to say though I work construction in Georgia humidity and heat 10-12 hour days up to 7 days a week if it isn’t raining. So after a 90-104 degree day with 100% humidity for weeks straight I just don’t have the energy, want, or focus to train 4-6 days a week. We almost always have Sundays off so Sunday is always my big squat and lower body day. I don’t care as much about my bench and upper so I essentially just go off feel and what ever day I get lucky and don’t feel as drained after work is when I do it. Usually shoot for Wednesday or Thursday but, could just as easy be Tuesday or Friday work and my kid pretty much dictate my training.

When I train 3 or more times a week I pretty much only give it my all 2 sessions. The last one is usually just going through motions tapping into recovery ability and family time in my opinion. So, I generally set up looking like this.

Day 1- Squat and Lower Accessory
Usually 6-10 sets of squats reps vary as the weight increases and get closer to meets. Variation will change occasionally but usually SSB, High Bar, or Front Squats.
2 accessory for lower and 2 accessories for upper back.

So Day 1 effectively may look like
High Bar Back Squat Paused: 10x3-10
RDL Deadlifts or Block Pulls: 5x3-8
Supine Bosu Ball Leg Curls: 5x10-20
Pull Ups:50 reps weighted
Horizontal Pull: 5x5-15

Day 2- Bench and Upper
Close or Wide Grip Bench: 10x3-10
Incline Bar or DB Press: 5x5-10
Pulldowns:5x8-12
Horizontal Row: 5x5-15
Dips or Triceps Extensions:5x8-15
Curls of some sort: 5x8-15

All accessory moves are done focusing form and quality of reps rather than just moving weight. I often take them to fail or just at and I focus on alot of squeezing, pausing at contractions, and slow negatives. I don’t put in as much work as others so the work I do put in has to be intense and correct. Farther out of meets I’ll also add in some supersets and drop sets. I also keep rest quite low. The above usually doesn’t take longer than 2 hours and that’s including time changing clothes, warming up, and drinking post workout shake. I don’t talk or bullshit I get in and get it done. Try to limit rest between big movements 2-3 mins it will go up as I get heavier but never over 4 and I run a clock. Accessory moves about 90 seconds.

I usually do 1-2 very focused mobility days. Lots of stretching, tissue work, and the such. Usually also do some core on these days just some timed planks and the such. But I can do this at home in well under an hour before bed so doesn’t take away time really.

You have to pay special attention to diet when doing this. You only have one shot getting your training in for the week. So, if you eat like dog shit, or go partying the night before, or don’t eat one day like you should and you have shitty training day we’ll that’s pretty much it and you pissed away a week of progress. 2 days a week can be done but, it requires 100% on point focus, preparation, and execution.


#15

Really excellent post here, just wanted to highlight this one piece as I have nothing else to add beyond Reed’s fine post.

The amount of physical exertion outside of training matters. Reed has a very physical job. I sit at a computer banging a keyboard all day. The only “ambient” exercise in my day is walking to work and getting up to walk around a little during the day. I look forward to training almost every day because that’s my way to get out some energy after sitting around all day. Reed and Vince are both a lot stronger than me, for what it’s worth, but I’m squatting into the 400’s and deadlifting in the upper 500’s, and I still feel like I can train with higher frequency and recover reasonably well because I’m a desk jockey.

If I was a mover, or construction worker, or tree trimmer, or something else physical, I’m sure that I’d have a lot less energy (physical and mental) for training, and would probably scale back to 2 or 3 training days per week.

YMMV. Just thought this was worth pointing out. Age is probably a key factor as well.


#16

Thanks Reed, what you laid out is very similar to what i was talking about.

This is true for me too - If it wasn’t for my nerve issue i wouldn’t have really considered doing 2 day a week as shorter more frequent workouts are a much better fit for me.


#17

My question is whether you would train more often if you had a less demanding job, and whether you would recommend such low frequency training for someone a lot less advanced.


#18

I can honestly say I wouldnt. At most I’d go to 3. Have done 4 and as high as 5 and I just don’t enjoy it. Maybe if I switched to bodybuilding. But, Before when I did this 2 day training program I was working from home. I had about as sedentary life as possible lol. I was getting paid by the VA to go to school and I had a few online clients. So aside from cleaning the house and school work I didn’t do much physical work at all that wasn’t based on the gym. I personally just don’t enjoy training much any more. I do it because I have goals I want to hit before I quit and if I don’t train at all I’d just turn into a slob.

I have always followed a lower frequency program with 3 days being my average over the years. Occasionally going up to 4 with it almost always being a arm day or something like that.

As for a beginner I would probably say 3 is where I would put em. But I know 2 can be done. As my girl friend who was a complete 100lbs couldn’t squat a 45lbs bar none athletic back ground beginner managed a 365 squat, 195 bench and 350 deadlift at 152lbs bw on the platform. Managed a 400 squat in the gym as well. Only training 2 days a week for the past 2 years. But she also works a full time job and tries to take care of our son and have time for me and herself. So, she would rather go balls to the wall twice a week than spend 5 or 6 nights a week in the gym. I have literally watched her cry from pain on hack squats and deadlifts and just keep going. She is the definition of intensity that I wish I could find haha. She doesn’t quit and she makes it work. She literally started with a 20lbs fixed barbell and 20lbs goblit squats. She barely had the strength to do honest body weight squats at the beginning.

Is it the most optimal? I don’t know. Depends on the person, their mentality, and schedule and goals. I know it can work. But, intensity has to be there. Volume has to be there. I honestly frequency is the least important. It took me a week to recover from 500 for 20 squats a few weeks ago where I hit legit muscular failure. So, I don’t see a point or the benefit of adding another session before I was recovered from that.

Obviously high frequency can and does work as long as volume and intensity(load) and actual “intensity” of the training is lower per session and monitored. I just personally have always preferred to destroy my self, eat, sleep, and come back next week.

Even when I was squatting twice a week only one session was actually relatively hard. The second was just speed work and upper back accessories.


#19

Once again I am in no way saying it is optimal. I’m saying it works for me and if your enjoy it, it fits your life, or you are forced to do it then not all hope is lost.


#20

A lot of the training does come down to lifestyle. I have a physical job also so I generally train 3 days/week and work up to one heavy work set. I’ve been toying around with the idea of going squat/bench one week and pull/slingshot bench the following week and maybe a third day for accessory work.

I know Stan Efferding was training twice a week main lifts squat/bench then pull/bench the following week and a third day for abs and mobility when he totaled 2300.