Double-Split Training, Part Two
Understanding Why Double-Split Training is Effective
Here’s a cool thing about double-split training: there’s an endless amount of variety that you have at your disposal when it comes to double-split workouts. In fact, however-the-heck it is that you like to train, you can make your training a bit more effective by turning all of those workouts into double-split programs.
Do you like to train each bodypart once-per-week, by training one bodypart-per-day, and blasting the living hell out of it, then giving it a week to recover? (As I’ve written many times before, this was a very effective training system that I used to pack on pounds of muscle when I was much younger.) If that’s your cup of tea, no problem, here’s what your double-split program could look like:
Wednesdays: Legs (quads and hamstrings)
Fridays: Arms and calves
And here’s what your Monday workouts would look like:
Workout One: Flat Barbell Bench Presses for 10 sets of 8 reps
Workout Two: Incline Dumbbell Presses for 4 sets of 12 reps, Wide-Grip Dips for 3 sets of 10 reps, and Incline Dumbbell Flyes for 3 sets of 10 reps
Do the second workout about 4 hours after your first workout (so that soreness has yet to set in from all of the flat bench presses) and you should be on your path to an effective once-per-week program.
All of your other workouts should be of a very similar variety, and as long as you’re optimizing your peri-workout nutrition for both training sessions, you should have no problem gaining plenty of muscle on just such a program.
Okay, here are some quotes from several other bodybuilders/writers/strength trainers, and their thoughts about double-split workouts. As you can see, I’m not crazy for recommending such frequent training. It’s been used by others for quite some time in the bodybuilding world. And, besides just bodybuilding, Olympic lifters have used such training methods for decades.
The first quote is from John Meadows, a popular bodybuilding writer (and bodybuilder in his own right):
If you don’t like being in the gym, this program isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re a true M&Fer, you can’t wait to get back in there after every session. Sometimes you even wish you could go back sooner. If this is your attitude, or you’re a college student with an open class schedule or a guy who’s currently between jobs and must vent his frustrations by lifting as much heavy iron as often as possible, two-a-days are exactly what you need.
Training twice a day is a concept as old as bodybuilding itself but was popularized by Arnold more than anyone. He firmly believed his “double-split system” allowed him to separate himself from the pack and win his first Mr. Universe title. His rivals criticized it, saying it was too much training, and to their point, two-a-days have run many a lifter into the ground. But applied scientifically, there may be no better method for making big gains in a short period.
|Double-split training was obviously effective for Arnold|
The reason is frequency. Provided you can recover from each session, the more often you train a body part, the faster you can deliver a growth stimulus and the sooner your muscles will respond. Training your chest so hard that it takes a whole week to recover before you can hit it again isn’t as effective as hitting it light one day and then hard three days later. That’s two chest-building workouts in one week, so you essentially double the stimulus.
And here’s what another popular bodybuilding writer, Christian Thibaudeau, has to say about the way that European bodybuilders often train. I personally find these insights the most interesting:
The more you're involved in the world of strength training, the more you get to meet interesting people and learn new training methods. Last year I attended the Weider International Grand Prix of Canada, a bodybuilding contest organized by the Quebec Federation that included several of the world's best amateur bodybuilders from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Poland, etc.
What's interesting is that these countries aren't under the same influence as North American lifters. They haven't been contaminated by muscle rag propaganda. Rather, their methods are heavily influenced by the training of their Olympic lifters and powerlifters. In some cases, athletes from all three sports train together and some even compete in two or all three of these events!
So when you get to know these guys and learn how they train, you realize there’s more than one way to get big, and you don’t need to follow the 3 x 10 dogma to do it!
Needless to say, these guys know how to train for size. But exactly what are they doing? The following will explain their training system and how it can be adapted to fit the North American lifestyle.
Principle #1: Intensification/Accumulation Split Training
These athletes have two training sessions per day (on the days they train). The morning session is a high load workout, while the early evening (or afternoon) session is an "intensive" workout.
Don't confuse "intensive" with intensity strength training jargon. Intensity normally refers to the weight used (e.g. an intensity of 90% of your 1RM). Intensive means the use of advanced intensity techniques such as supersets, drop sets, forced reps, etc.
The heavy session is performed first when the CNS is fresh and ready to go. That's a very important point. At least 4-6 hours separate both workouts to allow the athlete enough time to use restorative measures and ingest two or three meals.
Principle #2: Mornings Are For Strength
In the morning session, train for strength. East European countries have a large background of Olympic lifting and this is reflected in the training of their bodybuilders. The bodybuilding coaches (they do have a national coach and a whole organized coaching system for their top athletes) were often old Olympic lifters. The same could be said about some of their athletes.
While they don't perform the Olympic lifts in their first session, they do employ an Olympic lifting mentality of using few movements (two or three) performed for a lot of sets of few reps, normally above 85% of the athlete’s maximum. This training session serves several purposes:
• It greatly increases muscle density and hardness (myogenic tone or "tonus").
• It can enhance neural efficiency, especially the capacity to recruit high threshold motor units. This means that subsequent bodybuilding-type training will be more effective since the body now has the capacity to recruit more muscle fibers.
• It can increase muscle size in its own right.
Principle #3: Evenings Are For "The Pump"
In the early evening session, train for "the pump." Well, the objective isn't the pump per se; it simply means that in the second workout of the day, the methods used are high-volume and high-density (a lot of work performed per unit of time).
Rest intervals are kept as short as possible and density training techniques such as supersets, pre-fatigue, post-fatigue and drop sets are used, as well as intensity techniques such as slow eccentrics, isometrics combined with regular reps and forced reps.
In the next installment of “double-split training”, I will include some of the workouts I personally believe can be the most effective when using many of these techniques mentioned above.