The Best 2-Day Workout Splits

Need an effective workout routine, but don’t have the time or schedule for the typical programs that require doing 3-6 workouts per week? No problem.

In this guide, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about working out just 2 days per week.

You’ll learn whether 2 days is enough to still make good progress (spoiler: it is), the benefits of training only twice per week, and most importantly of all, I’ll show you the best 2-day workout splits to choose from and explain which is most ideal for you.

Let’s get started…

What Is A 2-Day Workout Split?

2-day workout split is any weight training schedule that involves training 2 days per week and having the other 5 days off.

What Are The Benefits?

  • It’s the most convenient schedule there is.
    You can’t beat having just 2 workouts per week when it comes to convenience. This is easily the biggest benefit. Regardless of how busy your life is and how little time you have for working out, it’s going to be close to impossible to not find a way to make a 2-day split work for you.
  • It can work for building muscle and gaining strength.
    I’m not going to lie to you and say 2 workouts per week is the “best” approach to building muscle or gaining strength. It’s not. With all else being equal, 3, 4, or 5 workouts per week is going to be ideal for producing the best results possible. However, if you’re not able to make that happen, a 2-day split is still capable of getting the job done and allowing for decent muscle and strength gains to be made.
  • It’s sufficient for maintaining muscle while losing fat.
    Past the beginner stage, your focus during fat loss (besides fat loss) will typically shift from trying to build muscle while losing fat to trying to maintain muscle while losing fat. A 2-day split can work for this purpose.
  • It’s sufficient for long-term maintenance.
    For example, if you’ve reached your goals and just want to maintain going forward (details here: long-term maintenance), then 2 workouts may be all you need.
  • It’s sufficient for short-term maintenance.
    For example, if you’re temporarily extra busy with work, school, family, traveling/on vacation, moving, or whatever else, and want to do the bare minimum needed to maintain for a bit rather than push yourself hard to make additional progress. 2 workouts can be absolutely perfect for this scenario.
  • It’s unlikely to cause any recovery issues.
    Assuming everything is set up properly (more about that in a minute), you are much less likely to run into recovery issues with 2 workouts per week than you’d be with 3-5 workouts per week.

Now that we know the benefits, let’s look at the best options and figure out which one is right for you…

1. The 2-Day Full Body Split

  1. Monday: Full Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Full Body
  5. Friday: off
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

The full body split is one of the most popular and proven workout splits of all time.

It’s most often done with a 3-day schedule, where you train every other day (i.e. Monday, Wednesday, Friday).

However, the 2-day version you see above is another popular option.

(Note that the exact days of the week you choose doesn’t matter as long as you keep at least one day off between workouts. So if you prefer to have the weekends off, this is perfect. But if you prefer to train on other days or have other days off, you can easily adjust to make that happen.)

As for the workouts themselves, there are a few ways to set them up. The most common would be…

  • Repeating the same workout twice.
    In this case, you’d have one full body workout and you’d repeat it both days.
  • Create two separate workouts.
    In this case, you’d have Workout A on one day, and Workout B on the other. For most people, this would be the best option since it allows for more variety and emphasizing certain body parts/exercises in each workout, both of which are beneficial when you’re limited to just 2 workouts per week.

What’s The Training Frequency?

The 2-day full body split will allow you to train each body part 2 times per week. For goals like building muscle or gaining strength, this is within the frequency range that’s going to be most effective for most people.

As you’ll see shortly, this is the only 2-day split that allows for this frequency to be met.

Who Is It Best For?

I’d consider the 2-day full body split to be the best option for anyone that can only train twice per week and still wants to make meaningful progress. It’s perfectly fine for maintenance goals as well.

As mentioned a second ago, this is the only split that allows for each body part to be trained twice per week.

This matters, because you need to do a certain amount of volume per week to maximize muscle and strength gains. And, since you only have 2 workouts available to reach this amount of volume, you’re really going to need to divide it up among both workouts and train each body part twice per week.

Otherwise, you’re going to end up doing insane 4-hour workouts if you want to hit those volume numbers for every body part. No thanks.

Don’t get me wrong, the other options we’re about to cover can also work.

However, if you’re looking to build muscle or gain strength and can only train twice per week, this is almost always going to be the best option. I recommend it more than any other.

Additional Info And Workouts

2. The 2-Day Upper/Lower Split

  1. Monday: Upper Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Lower Body
  5. Friday: off
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Shown above is a 2-day version of the extremely popular upper/lower split. While much less common than the typical 3-4 day versions of it, it’s another option to consider when you’re limited to 2 workouts per week.

Just like before, the exact days of the week you choose doesn’t matter. The workouts can be done with 1-3 days off in between, or on consecutive days with no days off.

The workouts would be divided up as:

  • Upper Body
    You’d train chest, back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps.
  • Lower Body
    You’d train the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Abs are usually included in this workout as well.

What’s The Training Frequency?

The 2-day upper/lower split has you training each body part once per week. This is perfectly sufficient for maintenance goals, and while certainly not ideal, still has the potential to work for building muscle and gaining strength.

Who Is It Best For?

This split is fine for maintenance goals, and it’s the option I recommend most for people who can only train on back-to-back days and still want to make good progress.

While you can do full body workouts on consecutive days as well, it has the potential to be problematic over time in terms of recovery and overuse injuries because you’re training the same body parts both times and placing significant stress on the same joints and tendons.

The 2-day upper/lower split avoids this, making it a much more ideal long-term option for someone with this type of schedule.

Additional Info And Workouts

  • The Upper/Lower Split – This is my guide to the different versions of the upper/lower split, and how to design each workout. It includes free sample workouts as well.
  • The Muscle Building Workout Routine – This is my most popular upper/lower routine, although it’s designed for being done 3-4 days per week rather than 2.

3. The 2-Day Push/Pull Split

  1. Monday: Push
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Pull
  5. Friday: off
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

This is the 2-day version of the push/pull split. Similar to upper/lower, it’s also typically done 3-4 days per week. But yet again, it’s another good option to consider when you’re limited to only 2.

The exact days of the week you choose doesn’t matter much with this split. The workouts can be done with 1-3 days off in between (my preference), or on consecutive days with no days off if your schedule requires that (but note this has the potential to be problematic for reasons explained below).

The workouts would be divided up as:

  • Push
    In this workout, you’d train all of the upper body muscles involved in “pushing” exercises (chest, shoulders, triceps) along with all of the lower body muscles involved in “pushing” exercises (typically quad dominant exercises, and calves).
  • Pull
    In this workout, you’d train all of the upper body muscles involved in “pulling” exercises (back, biceps) along with all of the lower body muscles involved in “pulling” exercises (typically hip dominant exercises, which includes hamstrings and glutes).

What’s The Training Frequency?

The 2-day push/pull split trains each body part once per week… for the most part. There is some overlap between lower body pushing/pulling exercises in that the hamstrings and glutes are involved quite a bit in most quad exercises.

This is something to keep in mind if you’re looking to train on back-to-back days using this split, and why I’d prefer to see at least one day in between.

Who Is It Best For?

This is another split that’s fine for most maintenance goals.

4. The 2-Day Push/Pull+Legs Split

  1. Monday: Push
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Pull+Legs
  5. Friday: off
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

This one is very similar to the push/pull split, with one main adjustment.

The lower body isn’t divided up in terms of pushing/pulling. It stays together in one workout along with upper body pulling.

This change eliminates the potential overlap issues we talked about a minute ago that you may run into with a typical push/pull split, especially if it’s being done on consecutive days.

Now it really makes no difference at all which days of the week you train on. The workouts can be done with 1-3 days off in between, or on consecutive days with no days off if your schedule requires that.

The only potential issue now is that the pull+legs workout can get pretty long, especially compared to the push workout. We can improve this a tiny bit, though.

The workouts would be divided up as:

  • Push
    You’d train all of the upper body muscles involved in “pushing” exercises (chest, shoulders, triceps). I also like to put calves and abs in this workout to balance them out a bit better.
  • Pull+Legs
    You’d train all of the upper body muscles involved in “pulling” exercises (back, biceps) along with the majority of the lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes).

What’s The Training Frequency?

The 2-day push/pull+legs split trains each body part once per week.

Who Is It Best For?

This is another split that’s fine for maintenance goals, and it’s also a good option for people who can only train on back-to-back days.

Summing It All Up

In a perfect world, we’d all have the time to get in 3, 4, or 5 workouts per week without any problems.

In the real world, that’s not always the case, and sometimes 2 workouts is the best we can do.

The good news is, that’s fine. It can work. Muscle and strength can still be gained (or just maintained if that’s your goal at the moment).

And in my experience, the best option for this purpose is the 2-day full body split. Once again, my favorite 2-day workout (which uses this split) is included as part of Superior Muscle Growth. It’s the one I recommend the most.

The one exception to this recommendation is if you are only able to train on consecutive days (e.g. Saturday and Sunday). In this case, I usually prefer the 2-day upper/lower split instead.

What’s Next?

If you liked this article, you’ll also like:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.