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Training Twice a Week Full Body vs Push/Pull/Legs?

Hello all! I’m a real estate agent and since September my schedule is overbooked (which is good!). I start at 8am and quit at 8-9pm, after that I still have to cook dinner as my s/o also works late - except for Fridays - and my gym closes at 10pm.

So this basically means I have to sneak in a workout at 8am (this is when the gym opens) and re-schedule other things, or try to make it to the gym in time after work for a quick workout if I still have the energy for it. In that case I’d be doing the BLS (by Mike matthews) program - push/pull/legs. As they are short workouts, 45mins each, which I can do two of during the week and one in the weekend.

Another option is something like the article by Dan John, where he proposes to do 2 workouts a week. Bench + deadlift + upper body accessories one day, bench + squat + lower body accessories the other day. I could do one longer workout during the week and then another one in the weekend.

The first option would provide me with more training volume throughout the week. The other with more training frequency. I don’t know which is best, so please advise me!

I know some of you guys are very passionate about lifting and would tell me to ‘just make it fit’ into my schedule. I’m 26, I have a bum shoulder and hip and have absolutely no aspiration to stand on stage in a speedo, nor to be able to say I lift x amount of pounds. So my sole purpose of going to the gym is trying to build some muscle (or at least maintain what I have) and don’t end up with a beer belly when I turn 30. I want something sustainable which I can do for the next 30-40 years.

Thanks!

You’ve got clear goals. This is good.

For sustainability, Dan John is hard to better.

The whole frequency vs volume thing can open a can of worms, and I don’t like worms. However, I will say that one dude on here has built what I consider to be one of the most impressive everyday guy physiques I’ve seen training mostly twice a week with a busy job and lots of family commitments. I’d recommend checking out @simo74 log to see how he has it set out. It’s pretty similar to the Dan John setup you mentioned.

The biggest thing that will help you is maintaining a good diet. Nothing extreme, no religious counting or measuring. Just eating plenty of vegetable and mostly unprocessed food.

You would also be advised to try and do something about your hip and shoulder. Donnie Thomson is one guy I tend to go to for fixing stuff. If you can provide some detail of the problems, @FlatsFarmer tends to have some good ideas on how to fix things. It’s generally easier to train (and live generally) if your body is working as well as possible. Fixing the issues also doesn’t necessarily mean not training, there may well be some work arounds.

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Thanks for the tag in and the kind words @MarkKO

Marks is right I have been training 2 days a week for the last 3 years (other than the last 3 months where I increased it to 3 days).
I am not sure what level you are currently at or what help I can give but happy to answer questions.
I kept my training real simple, for a bit over a year I did a basic full body program 2 days a week. About 6 exercises, 3 sets per exercise, 8-10 reps a set and used simple double progression, either the weight went up each week or the reps did. This build a solid foundation. (You may already be well past this stage)
After that I played with 531 on a 2 day program. Squats and bench day 1 and deadlift and oh press day 2. Focused on hitting. PR’s and cycled the supplemental between BBB or 5 x 5 FSL. I liked this and it added some good rep strength and muscle but I wanted something that also focused on lower rep range.
I then switched to simple block periodisation training. I still had a squat and bench day and an deadlift and oh day, and added accessories to work on weak points or hypertrophy. The blocks cycle between, volume, intensity and hypertrophy depending on what I want to achieve. The blocks don’t look too different the only real change is the load (weight on the bar) and the rep ranges.
Regardless of what system you chose if you eat right and train hard and most importantly consistently, you will make good slow progress. The only thing limiting how far you go is time.

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Thanks a lot for your encouragement and taking my quesion seriously. Also for confirming that only training twice a week isn’t a waste of time.

I have a labral tear and spent a year training 3 days a week with a physical therapist. I avoided a surgery and I’m 95% painfree. I used to suffer from severe nerve pain, couldn’t sleep and it started to influence my daily mood. Had to take 8 painkillers to get through the day. Glad this is over, although I’m limited in my range of motion. Only sometimes it flares up, but after 2-3 days of anti-inflammatory meds it’s over. Overhead presses, back squats and pull/chin ups are movements I can no longer do (they are also the cause of the flare ups when I try to re-incorporate them). Lots of lateral/rear delt raise, CG lat pulldowns and front squats are fine ‘tho.

@simo74 would you share that routine with me please? You say 6 exercises, 3 sets, 8-10 reps, done twice a week. Which 6 exercises in particular?

My BP is up to 70kg for 6 again, DL 110kg for 5, squats I have no idea. Used to be 100kg for 5. Bodyweight 78kg at 1m83. Very thin frame, wrists like a girl… I got some good calves so that’s something at least.

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Firstly let me say I am just a guy who trains and this is just what I used. I’m not saying its the best and there are probably many other better or great 2 day programs from recognized coaches on this forum / website that you could use. The best program for you is going to be something that you will stick to and give the appropriate effort to. Consistency, effort and time are the three most important factors to get better in my opinion.

This is about as basic and old school as it gets, it will work if your consistency and effort is good and your recovery and food is right. If you aren’t progressing week to week then your either under recovering or under eating. It doesn’t really matter what exercises you use, but I would try to stick with as many big compound movements as you can do.

  1. Squat 3 x 10 (if you don’t want to do 3x10 squat the other option is to do a set of 20 followed by a set of 15 but as the weights progress it gets nasty !!)
  2. Bench press 3 x 8 (I also did a set of 5 pull ups in between the sets of bench)
  3. Bent over barbell row 3 x 8
  4. Military press 3 x 8 (I also did a set of 5 pull ups in between the sets of OH)
  5. Deadlift 3 x 8 (I did SLDL for about 1 year before moving to conventional, but any deadlift variation is fine)
  6. Barbell curls 3 x 10
  7. Added some sort of abs at the end. Weighted sit ups, ab wheel rollouts, knee raises …… whatever you like really.

Given your restrictions you could substitute Front squat, maybe pull downs or band pull aparts or rear lateral raises for pull ups, and incline bench or dips for OH press. Try to pick exercises you will allow for progression over time. Whilst a lateral raise might be good at giving you a shoulder pump, its hard to continue to progress with bigger and bigger dumbells so wont give you the same training effect as an oh press.

The main focus on this type of program is to progress either weight or reps every session. Maybe start a little lighter to give you a week or so to get used the plan. Aim to add 5-10lbs to the bar every session or week. If you hit the reps for all 3 sets you add weight simple as that. If you don’t hit all the reps, so lets say for squat you get 10, 9, 7 then the next session you get more reps until you hit 10, 10, 10 and then you add weight.

If you are stalling and aren’t progressing for a few sessions then look back at my point about under recovery or under eating this is normally the issue with most people who aren’t progressing. Either that or your consistency and effort is not on par.

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If your only limitations are no squats with the bar on you back, no overhead pressing and no pullups you’ll be fine. I’ve got pretty dainty wrists myself, and relatively small hands. Hasn’t stopped me yet.

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How long do you typically rest between sets? B/c if you’re taking 3 full minutes, this turns out to be a looooong workout!

Thanks for the tips on swapping exercises. I’ve noticed with lateral raises that you can actually progress with them, by switching techniques. I alternate between full ROM, constant tension, swinging (with slow eccentric and heavy weight), one-and-a-half reps, isometric reps, … If I can add 1kg to my dumbbells in each hand every month for the same amount of reps, I’m happy. And I really notice progress in the way my shoulders look by doing them like this. Same with rear delts. Dumbbell shoulder presses with a neutral grip and limited ROM (just stopping shy of the point where you should ‘shrug’ up) are fine for me. I usually superset these with lateral raises to make up for the lack of tension overload you’d get from a regular OHP.

You don’t do any triceps iso? Skulls/pushdowns?

I’ve noticed that aswel, recovery is key and has always been an issue for me. I do great on 4 days a week programs for about 2-3 weeks and then I’m trashed. Might do me some good to only train twice a week!

One question 'tho: with autoregulated progression like double progression I always find myself overdoing it. Do you go to failure on some sets or always keep a rep or two in the tank?

@MarkKO yeah, my wrist is also a bit banged up b/c I broke it while snowboarding a few years ago… But as you said, plenty alternatives!

Rest for this would be pretty minimal, maybe 60-90 secs. This type of session would only last 45-50 mins (1 min to do set, 2 min rest X by 18 sets is only 54 mins that would be max)

You could use all those techniques and little increase for lateral raises but the fact is an isolation exercise is not going to work as well for building overall strength and size as a compound movement like OH press.

No triceps in this because they get worked hard in bench and oh press. If you add them the session just gets longer.

No need for auto regulation, you do the sets and reps prescribed only and you add weight for the next session. This is how you progress. If you decided to add a load of reps to chase down failure or a pump, you have to ask how this will contribute to the overall goal. The answer is it wont, the goal of this program is to progress and the best way to do it, is to hit the reps prescribed then recover and then up the weight and hit them again.

I’m not sure how everything feels in that shoulder of yours, but John Meadows shared this video and it basically proves that you don’t have to do any pressing to build your delts.

Squats are an arbitrary lift. We now have more toys than a barbell so you can avoid squats and still build your legs. My favorite non-squat movement is this devil.

According to Paul Carter, this is one of the best lat movements so you’re good.

The key to any program is slow and steady progression. That’s why @simo74’s stuff works. He has a plan and sticks to it. The loads build very slowly and then he’ll back off and start again.

I’ve had great success with double progression. I do three sets at a given weight one workout and then I’ll do five sets with the same weight the next workout. I add 5-10 lbs and go back to three sets for the third workout and then repeat the cycle. This can be done with any exercise and any split.

There’s no perfect program or split. There are also no perfect exercises. Put together a plan for you and follow some sort of progression and you’ll see results.

If you’re pressed for time then you might try out supersets and giant sets. I’m currently doing full body and it’s easy to do an upper push, upper pull, and leg movement in a circuit style. I pair the movements based on available equipment and space.

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I always struggled with progression, either I was going too fast or it wasn’t consistent.

When I’m using a double progression system as layed out by @simo74 I always tend to overdo it. If it says 8-10 reps I’ll most likely go balls to the wall to get 10 reps, which very much affects my recovery and strength/endurance on subsequent sets and exercises.

Any tips for that?

Plan ahead. The first time I ran a structured double progression was April of last year. My best lifts were:

  • squat - 350-365
  • deadlift - 495
  • bench - 300
  • ohp - 165

I ran a 12 week program that was split in to three week phases - sets of 8, then 5, then 3, then a pyramid of 5/4/3/2/1. That last phase was kind of like peaking.

I planned the entire workout by selecting the weights I wanted to hit in week 12. I was just released to train like normal after hip surgery so I needed to ease back into it. Here’s what I planned for each lift and what I actually did. I basically maxed out on the final week.

  • squat - 365, hit 365
  • deadlift - 465, hit 500, then 545
  • bench - 285, hit 305
  • ohp - hit 165 (can’t remember my planned number)

I increased weight by 10 lbs per week and 20 lbs between phases on lower body. I did 5 and 10 lb jumps for upper body.

To accomplish all of this, I started with weights that felt very light. But even light weights were difficult to move when I was doing 5 sets of 8 on four different leg exercises.

I didn’t go to the gym and put Max effort into every exercise to see if I could add weight to the bar or do more reps. I just followed a simple progression. If you plan everything with realistic numbers in advance then you just go to the gym and put in the work. Strength is developed by accumulating volume in the 80 to 87% range. It’s not developed by maxing out every day (at any rep range).

@simo74’s training is no different. The weights, sets, and reps are planned and he just executes.

@simo74 how do you plan your caloric intake throughout the week? Every day the same amount or less on off days/more on workout days?

Btw thanks for all the replies guys!

One more question ‘tho: I started out about 3 years ago at 125lbs. Now I’m sitting at 170lbs (keep in mind I had a shoulder injury and I also had a stomach surgery before I started, so eating enough was a real struggle the first two years).

I’m at this weird place right now where you can see I gained quite a bit of muscle, but everything looks ‘soft’. I still have a lot of filling out to do, but I feel like everything I’ve gain over the last few months is more fat than muscle even though my surplus hasn’t changed. I guess I’m at 15% bodyfat right now. Would it be a good idea to lean down to 10% before lean bulking again?

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I like people to live in reality. If you think you look soft all over then you’re not 10% body fat.

Regardless of your BF%, try eating at maintenance and training hard for a while. You might succeed at a bit of recomp.

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Other than “just do as you’re told” nothing clever really. I am just a disciplined (boring !!) person so I just follow the program as written.

I keep it the same every day. I don’t really count macros every meal but I do work them out for the meals I am having. I focus on getting the protein every day first (1 gram per pound of body weight, maybe a little more), then just fill in with carbs, veggies and some fats.
My breakfast and the 2 meals I have at work each day are the same week to week. Literally ground hog day. Evening meals are whatever the family is eating. I just adjust portion size of the evening meal if I’m worried about calories or macros for the day, or add a protein shake.

I don’t subscribe to the whole lose some fat first and then bulk. Just hit your protein every day and adjust your carbs and fats as you require. What I mean by that is if you are not recovering or losing weight then add a little more fat and carbs. If you are gaining weight too fast and the waist of your pants start to get tight then drop some carbs.
Just hit your protein, eat enough to recover and work hard and consistently.

This is not a sprint, set up the right behaviours and the strength and muscle will build over time.

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I recommend a high frequency PPL routine but if you want to combine both power and hypertrophy training, look at PHUL or PHAT by Layne Norton.

I’d like to add that one needs not to use a static split.

For example, in one week I do an upper/lower 4 times, another week an upper/lower 6 times, another week full body three times, another week a PPL 6 times, some week can be 2 upper lowers and 1 full body, etc.
The only constant is weekly volume and intensity.

Depends on my schedule, how many sessions I can fit in during a given week, how long I can spare for each session, etc, because, well, LIFE, but at the end of the week my chest, back, or any other muscle group will have received the same amount of stress.