Total Body Training Twice Per Week

Question: CW, due to work demands I can only lift weights twice per week. The other two days I do Muay Thai. Can you help me design a program to get bigger and stronger? Thanks, BS

CW Answer: First off, when you can only train twice per week it’s essential to do total body (i.e., full-body) training. This allows you to hit all the major muscle groups twice per week, and that’s sufficient to make progress. In fact, I have many professional fighters perform two total body workouts each week since they’re constantly toeing the line of overtraining because of all the boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, etc. they must also perform.

Since you only have two days per week to get bigger and stronger, there are a few adjustments that should be made.

1. Increase the Volume of Each Workout: In my book, Huge in a Hurry, I outline a system of training a total number of reps per exercise with a specific starting load. For example, you might start with a load you can lift 6 times and perform as many sets as it takes to reach 25 total reps for that lift while sticking with the original load. Each subsequent set typically consists of fewer than 6 reps due to fatigue: that’s how it’s supposed to be. So to reach 25 total reps, your reps for each set might be: 6, 5, 4, 4, 3, and 3.

However, with only two workouts per week it’s better to perform a greater number of total reps per exercise, such as 40 or 50. When the total number of reps is up around 50, use a lighter starting load. A load you can’t lift more than 8 times for the first set works well in this case. If you attempt 50 total reps with a 6 rep max you’ll end up doing too many sets of 1-2 reps in the end.

So your quest to reach 50 total reps with the original 8 rep max will probably go something like this: 8, 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 4, and 4. The other option is to perform 10 sets of 5 reps and avoid reaching failure on any set.

Now you might think that 10×5 per exercise would protract the workout. It won’t if you use compound lifts and organize the exercises in a circuit. I favor a higher number of sets, and that’s why I’m also a big proponent of circuits. The following full-body workout, for example, can be finished in approximately 25 minutes:

1A Pull-up from rings for 5 reps
Rest 30 seconds
1B Dip from rings for 5 reps
Rest 30 seconds
1C Romanian deadlift for 5 reps
Rest 30 seconds, repeat 1A-1C nine more times

2. Perform Unilateral Exercises Each Week: Performing exercises one limb at a time is essential in any training program, regardless of the frequency. But when the frequency is low it becomes even more important to have a workout that builds stability strength around the joints and spinal column. This ensures that your body stays strong and in balance.

So your second workout of the week could look like this:

1A One-arm row for 5 reps, each arm
Rest 30 seconds
1B One-arm bench press for 5 reps, each arm
Rest 30 seconds
1C Reverse lunge for 5 reps, each leg
Rest 30 seconds, repeat 1A-1C nine more times

Again, this is a relatively brief workout that takes around 30 minutes, even though you’re performing 10 sets per exercise.

3. Add More Exercises to the Circuits: Make the most of your two trips to the gym each week by adding exercises that target your weaknesses. The above examples fulfill the requirement of a total body workout: upper body pull, upper body push, and a squat or deadlift or lunge variation. But if you have the time, add more exercises to the circuit. When a client is limited to two workouts per week, I’ll typically perform a circuit of five exercises. The two extra exercises don’t have to be compound moves: you might want to add a calf or abdominal or arm exercise.

When you add extra exercises to the circuit, decrease the volume of each exercise to 40 total reps. Here’s an example:

1A Pull-up from rings for 5 reps
Rest 30 seconds
1B Dip from rings for 5 reps
Rest 30 seconds
1C Lateral raise for 5 reps
Rest 30 seconds
1D Romanian deadlift for 5 reps
Rest 30 seconds
1E Ab wheel rollout for 5 reps
Rest 30 seconds, repeat 1A-1E seven more times

Follow these three steps when you’re limited to two workouts per week and you will get bigger and stronger.

Stay Focused,
CW

9 thoughts on “Total Body Training Twice Per Week

  1. I really liked this article. I am training 2x per week full body. I am currently doing two leg exercises per workout and I feel quite drained afterwards. In your sample workouts, you are recommending one leg exercise per workout.

    I just wanted to clarify from your examples that on one workout I could do a reverse lunge, split squat etc. and on on the other workout do a romanian deadlift and sufficiently hit my legs.

    Thanks again for a great article,

    Marc

    CW: Correct. And you can use two leg exercises, but you should keep the total leg volume the same. So 5×5 for two exercises, not 10×5.

  2. Wow, I had the same problem with my supplementary traning. Most off the time I ended up doiing more supplementary training then train my martial arts.

    I like this routine very much, its simple, easy to follow and I think it will give great results. And above all, it leaves plenty off time to train my martial arts, running, skipping etc. By the way, can you combine this workout with running/sprinting by the way? I mean after finishing the workout?

    CW: Yes, you can do cardio after the workout. But I prefer cardio on other days when you don’t lift weights.

  3. Awesome stuff, Chad. The total rep method really worked wonders with me adding size and strength over the years. This article did a great job providing insight on incorporating the gymnastic style weight training you’ve been talking about with ‘traditional’ weight lifting. I ran through Huge in a Hurry and Body of Fire with great results and am really looking forward to your new product. Long comment short, thank you for the continuing evolution of your ideas.

    CW: Thanks Jason!

  4. Fantastic post Chad. I was wondering about a 2 day per week frequency myself. As ever your training advice is straight to the point and understandable. Much appreciated.

  5. Hi Chad,
    Would this program still work if I don’t do it in circuits?Cause most of the time the gym where I go is crowded. It’s kinda hard to do it in circuits.Any other option?

    CW: You don’t have to use circuits. However, I prefer to choose exercises that you can do in a circuit. For example, a DB shoulder press, DB row and reverse lunge can be performed in just about any crowded gym since you’re not using multiple pieces of equipment.

  6. Hi Chad,
    I do not have access to rings. May this be substituted with traditional pull and dip bars?
    Also, would you recommend this training for women who are seeking strength? Thanks in advance for your reply :)

    CW: You don’t need rings. I just gave examples of exercises I use. For women, this volume can make them bigger so I would stick to a lower volume such as 5×3 for each exercise.

  7. Chad, this couldn’t have come at a more perfect time! I do have a question based on what you stated in a previous article. You mentioned that Squats and Deadlifts play by a different set of rules as compared to curls when it comes to total reps in a training session. What are your new rules for Squats and Deads and how would you would change the format in Huge in a Hurry to implement them? Thanks!

    CW: Mike, I’m not sure what you mean by “a different set of rules.” I generally keep the volume similar with leg and upper body exercises. In other words, 10×5 front squat will grow your quads and 10×5 pull-ups will build your arms and upper back.

  8. Chad-

    How do you sturcture or handle a client with postural imbalances and overuse injuries that likely resulted from doing only one specific movement for 7 or 8 sets (say the deadlift) and as a result has limited mobility in the hips, tspine, ankles, etc…
    I understand the need for total volume in a workout for muscle growth but what if more diverse exercises are called for vs only one exercise for many sets?

    CW: You don’t need to perform just one exercise to reach the volume require: 10×5 for example. You could do three exercises for 4×5, 3×5 and 3×5.

  9. Chad, since I`ve met you at São Paulo I started to read and follow your insights. It`s great how you think about training. Other coach I have great respect is Jason Ferrugia. I live in Brazil, so it`s hard to attend your seminar and apply the use of rings, but everything else I`m doing and getting greats results with my clients. Thank`s for sharing the knowledge.

    CW: Thanks Brunno. I plan on returning to Brazil this year so stay tuned.

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