Working the same muscle groups two days in a row

I’ve seen this question asked pretty often; “Can I work out two days in a row?”

Usually, the curious guy or gal refers to working the same muscle/exercise/routine two days in a row, more so than just working out two days in a row. A very legitimate question.

Just imagine this very common scenario; You usually work out Monday, Wednesday and Friday, doing a fullbody routine each of those days. However, for the upcoming week, you’ve got the calendar booked with life-draining appointments, such as dinner with the in-laws or some other soul-drenching family small-talk marathon.

This means you’re not able to hit the gym Wednesday, and not Thursday either, which was the day you would normally postpone your now “cancelled” Wednesday fullbody workout to. 

But you don’t want to move the Wednesday session to Tuesday, as that would be just 24 hours after your session Monday, because random bros on the internet, self claimed gurus and this-pretty-big-ass-dude-at-the-gym has told you that each and every muscle needs at least 48 hours of rest between sessions. Some will have told you 72 hours is the magic catch-all number. 

Tell these people you want to work out the same muscle groups two days in a row, and they will lose it.


Now, if you have read my post on getting bigger biceps with high frequency training, you’ll know that from a purely biological muscle building perspective, there’s nothing wrong with hitting the same muscle two or even several days in a row. In fact, it might be beneficial if done properly. 

But if you end up in the scenario I described earlier in this post, and don’t have all those days available, wouldn’t the results of cramming 2 or 3 workout together in consecutive days be worse than having them spread out over the course of the week?

Well, I’m glad to be able to say that a very recent study indicates that no, it’s not worse to cram the workouts on consecutive days!

Fresh science on working out the same muscle several days in a row

In their 2018 paper, Yang et al compared two groups of young, healthy and recreationally active men doing the same workout 3 times a week – which consisted of 3 sets of 10 reps in the Legs press, Leg curl, Leg extension, Shoulder press and Lat pulldown (These studies always prescribe the weirdest protocols, wtf).

The major difference between the two groups where on which days they conducted this 5 exercise low-volume workout;

  • Group A completed the 3 weekly workouts on 3 consecutive days (e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday).
  • Group B completed the 3 weekly workouts on 3 non-consecutive days (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, Friday).

This effectively means that group A only had 24 hours of rest between workouts, while group B had at least 48 hours of rest. The study ran for 12 weeks following this setup, and luckily, the scientists strived to keep the intensity constant between the two groups, to eliminate as many other factors as possible.

It doesn’t matter

The results where clear – no real difference or discrepancies in muscle gains nor strength increases as well as no differences in the recovery capacity of the participants.

Both groups experienced similar results from the workout protocol despite the heavily off-set rest interval, where one group had little rest between consecutive workouts (24 hours) but long rest between workout stints (120 hours) – and the other group has more rest between non-consecutive workouts (48 hours) but less rest between workout stints (72 hours).

For real life purposes, this indicates that we likely have more flexibility towards our workout scheduling than what many people seem to think. When you’re still likely to reap the same benefits of a number of consecutive, crammed workouts as opposed to spreading them out during the week, this enables us to better plan our workout weeks when something as unfortunate as grueling neighbor garden parties get in the way.

This also support one of my main tips in my post on how to stay in shape while on vacation without gym access, which prescribes increasing your workout frequency and volume in one or more weeks leading up to your vacation. Just because the workload is condensed into a smaller time-frame, doesn’t mean it’s less effective!

Further takeaways 

Now, to further expand on the point I made in the vacation post, and coupling it with this new study, I think it’s safe to say that an even more effective approach to a busy schedule would be to slightly ramp up the volume if you are forced to cram your workouts into consecutive days.

Lets take the initial example, where you have to do 2 of your fullbody sessions within 48 hours, Monday and Tuesday. With the knowledge that you’re out of the gym Wednesday and Thursday, thus giving your body two full days of rest – why not add in a little extra work on the Tuesday fullbody session?

Normally, you would perhaps wait for the Friday session to ramp it up a bit before racking the weights for the weekend, but seeing as you now have more rest available after your seconds fullbody session of the week – you could very well make your Tuesday session extra killer. 

Anyways, that’s enough of my ramblings for now. Hope some of you found this post informative! 

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