Choose Your 2×2 Objective
Frequently Asked Questions
This program is initially designed to be done every other day, three times per week. Monday/Wednesday/Friday for example. However, you can do it once a week if that’s a better starting point, or even twice a week if you like. Doing less per week just makes improvements a little slower, but it won’t be 300% slower. It’s not a linear relationship.
Don’t let a three time a week program put you off, a lot of people would get a ton of benefit from doing this just 1-2 times a week. Meet yourself where you’re at and hopefully work up to 3x a week.
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
A1/A2 and B1/B2 is a simple training notation that implies the exercises are done in an alternating fashion. These are called, “Paired Sets” and you might see other coaches use 1A/1B and 2A/2B instead. Same thing.
This implies the approach is different from traditional resistance training approach of doing one exercise at a time. The traditional method takes a lot longer as you do one set, wait the appropriate rest (often 1-5 minutes depending on the intensity) then do another set of the same exercise. That rest interval could be better spent doing another non-conflicting exercise.
Rest intervals are largely individual, and are linked to your objectives. For instance women can typically rest shorter time frames than men and do more repetitions with higher intensity loads.
I don’t recommend getting too strict with rest intervals until you’re a more advanced trainee, where you can use them as a programming variable to shock your system a bit.
However, you should keep rough time frames in mind:
- Strength – 2-5+ Minutes of rest between the same exercise
- Hypertrophy – 90-120 seconds of minimum rest between the same exercise
- Endurance – 30-60 seconds of rest between the same exercise
Loosely translated for each paired set:
- Strength – 90+ seconds between A1/A2, or B1/B2
- Hypertrophy – 50-60+ seconds between paired exercises
- Endurance – 15 seconds or so between paired exercises
Most people assume the above is a ‘Program’ but it isn’t really a program. It’s merely a way to easily structure ‘phases’ of programs. You see programs have to cycle and vary things like exercise selection, intensity, volume, etc… so that a person continues to see adaptations.
A program is really the macrocycle, or how you structure what’s called a macrocycle, or a long 6-12 month period of ‘programming.’ The microcyle is how you manage weekly training (alternating the above each week is the microcycle).
Basically most people will need to change something every 3-8 weeks. Long enough to improve what you want to improve, but short enough so that you don’t plateau your progress.
The easiest way to do that is to change your exercise selection (among others) once you stop making progress on your most important lifts (you determine what those are, but it’s usually A1) for 2 weeks straight. You can also change the set/rep scheme if you know what you want to improve. I generally just do both, and one of the easiest ways to periodize (AKA: Program) is to use what’s called ‘Alternating Periodization.’ Whereby you simply alternate between 2 different styles of training on a phase-by-phase (or mesocycle-by-mesocycle) basis. For instance do a phase of strength-hypertrophy work (2-5 sets of 5-8 reps), followed by a phase of hypertrophy endurance work (2-4 sets of 9-12 reps). Changing your exercise selection slightly each time you switch-things-up.
There are lots of ways to change programming on a phase by phase basis, and they are all valid. This is just one of the easiest ways to think of it. You can make it extremely complicated and everything in between. Keep an eye on the blog and I might discuss them.
AKA The Posterior Chain or AKA Glute Dominant Exercise
It’s not always black and white but you can usually tell by what you feel working the most.
Switching to single leg training for B2 will halve the load you need to use to tax the leg. Thereby reducing any unnecessary low back stress above and beyond what is needed to create a training effect.
You don’t always have to go this way, but it’s generally a smart way to go.
It’s something that is generally lacking in most programs you’ll find on the internet.
You can switch this around to suit your training objectives and even you could switch A2-A1 around if you really wanted to hit pulling harder than squatting for instance.
Furthermore, not everyone can handle overhead pressing with ease. I generally encourage people work up to strict overhead pressing. Most people are ready for horizontal pressing right out of the gates.
Intensity of lifting is based off percentages of your one repetition max (1RM). The most intense lift a person can do is their 1RM or 100%. However, we won’t ever ask you to lift for only 1 rep here, it’s just not what we’re teaching.
Your three repetition maximum (3RM) is still pretty intense at roughly 90% of 1RM.
Most of the lifting in this framework (about 50%+, at least initially) will fall between 5-12RM or 70-85% of your 1RM.
While some lifting is less intense, but allows you build more fatigue and train muscular endurance. You will also see lower intensities between 40-70% or 12+RM.
This calculator might help you conceptualize this better. The more intense lifting you use, the more rest you’ll need between sets and the more ‘strength’ you’ll generally build.
We can even overload you with loads at say 110% but you will probably only be able to hold it or lower it. That’s risky though, so leave that kind of training to elite athletes…
However, if you wanted to emphasize your bench press for instance you could do that as A1 and a deadlift variation as A2 instead. You want to do the most important lift for you, first in the training session.
So for example, you want to work on your upper arm flexors (biceps/brachialis/etc…) then add an arm curl at C or C1. If you also wanted to work on say your calves or hamstrings, you could add a paired C2 exercise for that specific muscle group.
I like paired exercises to balance between the lower body and upper body generally as you’re guaranteed to not be interfering with your exercise selection but there are grey areas, I teach about in Fitnack. If you’d like to know more, I encourage you to sign up for our coaching system. It’s too much to put in an FAQ.
i.e. I want to improve my back more, add a C or C1 back exercise into the mix on each training day. See the other FAQ about training muscle groups. I find more than 3 exercises for a muscle group each day is generally unnecessary and time consuming.
Meaning; If you want muscle growth, you’ll need some strength and some endurance. If you want muscle strength, you’ll need some muscle hypertrophy. All of these components are relatively inter-related and reliant on one another. Keep that in mind when making set/rep choices.
I think a foundation or base phase of training is always the right place to start not matter what your real objectives are in the long run. Having a good movement foundation will make everything easier on you going forward.
I recommend picking exercises you can actually do (my first book is a good place to start) that fit the criteria of the program.
Then I recommend working up to (add 1 set per week) 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps as a starting point for the lifts you’ve chosen.
Start on the conservative side and add a little weight each set (2.5-20 lbs or 1-10 kg depending on comfort/ability) until you can do more than 6 reps, but no more than 8.
Beginners advance quickly but you’ll eventually reach a place where picking the loads on a day to day basis gets more and more difficult and you can’t keep adding a little weight each and every set.
What I call the ‘settling period.’
At this point you’ll have to switch things up for something usually a little more involved. See one of the training objective boxes above.
Generalized Strength: 2-5 sets of < 8 reps.
Generalized Endurance: 1-3 sets of >12 reps done to fatigue.
Hypertrophy (Muscle Gain): Stick with more like 2-4 sets of 6-15 reps.
Power: 2-5 sets of <6 reps, done explosively or with the intent of moving quickly.
If you need something more specific than that, then you should probably hire a coach as these aren’t set in stone and are more like rough guidelines or where you might want to spend the majority of your time in a training year.
People make the mistake of thinking they can do the same thing indefinitely or that there is some magical set/rep scheme (*ahem 3×10 or 5×5 being popular internet examples) that is the cure all of everything that is not physically fit.
This isn’t the case. Depending on how you plan, and what you’re planning to accomplish, you should probably hit 2-4 different qualities each year. For most people who aren’t training for a very specific thing, this is the best way to approach it.
Outside of that, most people are best served training the majority of their time in that 5-12 maybe 6-15 reps area with this particular program.
The first time you go through this, try only one set. Don’t worry you’ll get a training effect as someone new to the workout.
The next time you try, go for 2 sets.
And so and so forth, until you end up with the number of sets you are aiming for.
Too many people crush themselves on workout 1 by doing too much, too soon. That’s part of the reason I don’t prescribe specific set/rep sequences, because you should build up to it and minimize soreness along the way.
No one really wants to have trouble sitting on the john for 5 days right?
If you have a little more experience, you might be able to try 2 sets the first time around but any more than that usually will create a great deal of soreness after some time off.
That is, unless you load lightly, don’t lift to fatigue or use other more advanced training strategies for managing soreness.
AKA The Anterior Chain or AKA Quad Dominant Exercise
It’s not always black and white but you can usually tell by what you feel working the most.
So a chin up is I’m pulling by body vertically or parallel, while a row I’m pulling horizontally or perpendicular to my body.
Anything above a 45 degree angle or pull/press (i.e. an Incline Press) can generally be thrown into the vertical category and anything under that angle could be horizontal (i.e. a foot elevated push up is usually still a horizontal push).
However, I don’t recommend anything overly complicated unless you’re a pro (in which case you probably wouldn’t be here). Too many crappy bodybuilding programs online that only hit body parts once a week. It’s just stupid for anyone who isn’t a pro bodybuilder.
If you do want to use a split routine; Aim to train everything at least 2x a week. Meaning you’ll probably end up with some kind of Upper/Lower split routine or my ‘X’ Split Routine; Done 4x a week total, or 2 workouts repeated. Both can be done using the 2×2 approach, you just have to make modifications.
Volume = Reps x Sets x Load Used
The body is capable of a lot of different movements. Two different workouts means we can utilize 8 different exercises in each training ‘block’ or ‘phase’ instead of only 4. It gives us better training options long term.
Typically we want some variety but not a ton. Eight exercises is kind of representative of what we believe are the most basic human movements/exercises. Plus it gives you somewhere to grow as your skills improve.
Some people make the mistake of pairing two grip intensive exercises back to back.
While this can work for some training purposes, like endurance training or maybe you want to tax your grip more specifically with the training.
Often times it just means that you’ve got too high a volume of training while gripping something heavy. I’d recommend especially not doing that for higher intensity training routines (less than 8 reps).
Rep ranges in a research setting are based on a perceived theoretical 1 Repetition Maximum or 1RM.
1RM = The theoretical (or tested) weight that you could only lift with good form once.
This correlates as 100% of your ability and all other workloads are based roughly off of that percentage.
An 8RM is about 80% of 1RM.
5RM about 85%
12RM about 70%
3RM about 90%
15RM about 60%
Get the idea? If you’re going to lift in a specific rep range, then you want the right weight that relates to that rep range. Doing 5 repetitions with a load you can lift 15 times won’t yield much of a training effect.
You simply meet yourself where you’re at, with the exercises you can do for the rep ranges you want to improve upon.
Can’t do 2 pushups? Do a dumbbell press instead. It’s that simple. Meet yourself where you’re at and read the FAQ above on getting started.
The way I see it everyone has good intentions. The program itself doesn’t matter nearly as much as the execution of the program, so you have to set up the program yourself to make sure you can actually do it.
If the program was back squat for A1 on Day one and you couldn’t back squat, then you wouldn’t attempt this program. However, maybe you can do a bodyweight lunge at home until such time as you have access to external load. You’ll get a similar training effect (or the best possible training effect you can manage given what you have access to). It’s better to do the bodyweight lunge than to do nothing.
It’s ALWAYS better to do something, rather than nothing. The bodyweight squat you do now with no load, won’t build a ton of strength compared to a back squat but it’s better than the back squat you can’t do. Doing something softly or slowly, or with less load, is better than just having aspirations of doing something harder, faster or with more load.
Plan to do what you can actually do.
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