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The Right Way to Do 2-a-Days

Doubling up on your workouts with a morning and afternoon session can take results to the next level—if you use the right approach. Simply piling on another intense session after you leave the office when you did an equally challenging routine before work can lead to damaging amounts of muscle breakdown and other less-than-desirable results such as decreased metabolism and feeling totally depleted.

Done properly, however, “adding an extra workout can make all the difference in the world if you are just teetering on the edge of getting results, such as losing body fat,” says Andrew Wolf, exercise physiologist at Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, AZ. Keep these important guidelines in mind before upping the ante with a second round of exercise for the day.

Vary the Intensity
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Exercise stresses the systems of the body, which then require recovery time to heal and become stronger than when you started, Wolf says. If you complete a tough a.m. workout and then hit it even harder in the evening, you will certainly wind up burned out—and possibly injured. And if you do cardio twice a day, you could break down muscle tissue, lowering your lean body mass and therefore your metabolism (read: calorie burn), says Stacy Adams, owner of Fitness Together in Central Georgetown, MD.

So if, for example, you took a strenuous spin class in the morning, your post-work workout should be at a much lower intensity, one that may even feel a tad wimpy, Wolf warns. [Tweet this tip!] “But keep in mind that injuring yourself means you’ll be doing no workouts per day instead of two a day.”

Split Up Cardio and Strength
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Dividing your cardio and weight workouts reduces your risk of overtraining by using different muscles and energy systems. “At the end of the day it doesn’t much matter which one you choose to do in the morning or evening so long as you do it,” says Julie Sieben, a chiropractor and author of Six Weeks to Love Running.

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Wake Up with Cardio to Lose Weight
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“Cardio—specifically high intensity interval training (HIIT)—may be better to do in the morning so that you can enjoy the ‘afterburn’ in which your metabolism is working on overdrive through out the day,” says Sieben, referring to EPOC or excess postexercise oxygen consumption. “This helps you burn through more calories consumed during the day.” [Tweet this tip!] You’re also less likely to become revved up after a workout if you do strength training at the end of the day versus cardio, which can keep you up at night, she says.

Save Cardio for Later to Grow Stronger
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If you enjoy tough strength training workouts, you may be better off saving cardio for your evening workout, says Jerry Greenspan, a personal trainer and physical therapist in Columbus, OH. This way you’ll avoid training muscles that have been pre-fatigued from a grueling morning cardio workout, meaning there’s less risk of injury since weight training places higher force demands on the muscles, he explains.

Switch Up Complex and Simple Moves
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For twice-a-day strength training, Greenspan recommends performing complex movements—those involving more than one joint such as squats and lunges—earlier in the day and simple exercises—using one joint like biceps curls and triceps extensions—at night. This reduces your chances of injury by not working muscles later in the day that are taxed from an earlier workout. Complex exercises also include total-body power moves such as those performed in CrossFit WODs, so if you usually hit a box, focus on smaller muscle groups during your other session.

Keep Sessions Short and Spaced Out
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Do not exceed 45 minutes per workout, Adams advises. “A shorter, more intense workout gives you better results and is more realistic for your long-term goals of maintaining results.” Workouts longer than 45 minutes begin to use muscle for fuel, which can slow your metabolism, she explains. And plan your sessions at least six to eight hours apart to give your body as much time as possible to recover before you go at it again.

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