Twice a Day Training Vs. Longer Workouts: What’s Better for Muscle Mass
The legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger was known to have workouts twice a day at Gold’s Gym in Venice, joined by all of his closest friends—bodybuilding icons like Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, and Dave Draper. Not many bodybuilders train twice a day, but the physiques of Arnold and Franco were incredibly dense with muscle. Other bodybuilders such as Sergio Olivia and Lee Haney were known to spend hours in the gym for one super long marathon workout. So many people may wonder if training twice a day will lead to superior muscle growth than a one long marathon workout.
Researchers from Denmark set out to determine if short, micro workouts consisting of 15-minute workouts completed twice a day would result in the same results as one longer session that was 45 minutes. Twenty-nine subjects completed an 8-week controlled parallel-group training intervention. The researchers were using this application for the military perspective, trying to keep soldiers in top shape can be time-consuming, so the researchers were hoping that short bouts of exercise were as effective as longer bouts of exercise. The volume of training was kept the same between the two groups
-One group (“micro-training”) performed nine 15-minute training sessions weekly. Every weekday, one session was conducted in the morning and 1 in the afternoon, except Friday afternoon. Whereas a
-Second group (“classical training) completed exactly the same training on a weekly basis but as three 45-minute sessions. Traditional training performed three 45-minute training sessions weekly, including one strength (Monday), one high intensity cardiovascular (Wednesday), and one muscle endurance session (Thursday).
For each group, each session comprised exclusively strength, high-intensity cardiovascular training or muscle endurance training. Strength training consisted of leg exercises (deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, and one leg squats), with 1–2 warm-up sets and 2–3 target sets of 8RM, and upper-body exercises (pull-ups, dips, weighted push-ups, and 1 arm rows), with 1–2 warm-up sets and 2–3 target sets of 5RM. For progression, the exercises were adjusted using extra loading (sandbags in 1-kg steps) if the subjects were able to accomplish more repetitions than prescribed. If the subjects were not able to perform the number of repetitions prescribed, they performed as many as they could in proper form and finished the set conducting only the eccentric phase of the exercise.
At the end of the study, in contrast to classic training which was 45-minutues per day, the micro or short burst of exercise performed twice a day resulted in improved performance effects such as improved cardiovascular conditioning with increased peak oxygen uptake, maximal voluntary isometric force of the knee extensors, and number of lunges performed in 2 minutes. When comparing the groups’ body composition response to training, there was no difference between groups in any measurements after the training intervention period. There was no difference in fat loss or lean muscle mass gains between the two groups. In conclusion, similar training adaptations can be obtained with short, frequent exercise sessions and longer, less frequent sessions where the total volume of weekly training performed is identical.
So to sum up the study, twice a day training did not lead to greater gains in muscle than once a day training, when similar training volume is performed.
Kilen A, Hjelvang LB, Dall N, Kruse NL, Nordsborg NB. Adaptations to Short, Frequent Sessions of Endurance and Strength Training Are Similar to Longer, Less Frequent Exercise Sessions When the Total Volume Is the Same. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Nov;29 Suppl 11:S46-51.
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