Skill Based 2x2 Training

The 2×2 Training Framework is an easy to learn approach to weight training. It’s extensible, flexible and adjustable to you, the individual, rather than attempting to fix a square peg in a round hole. It can be adjusted to any split, over any number of days of training per week. It doesn’t matter if you’re using bodyweight, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells or sandbags the framework applies regardless of the tools you have. It is also easily suited to a variety of training methods from traditional set/rep schemes to density training. Making it an ideal starting point for most people who want a simple progressive routine to follow without the drawback of other ‘simple’ programs. Let’s get started!

Workout 1

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    A1) Knee Dominant Exercise

    Squat, Lunge, Step, etc…

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    A2) Horizontal Pull Exercise

    Row, Facepull, etc…

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    B1) Single Leg Hip Dominant

    Deadlift, Bridge, Hinge, etc…

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    B2) Vertical Push Exercise

    Overhead Press, Incline Bench, etc…

Workout 2

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    A1) Hip Dominant Exercise

    Deadlift, Bridge, Hinge, etc…

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    A2) Horizontal Push Exercise

    Bench, Push Up, etc…

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    B1) Single Leg Knee Dominant

    Squat, Lunge, Step, etc…

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    B2) Vertical Pull Exercise

    Chin Up, Pulldown, etc…

Choose Your 2×2 Objective

I'd Like to Shed Fat

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I'd Like to Gain Muscle

Sometimes you want to gain some muscle, maybe shed some fat. Flip this card to check out our guide for gaining muscle mass using the 2x2 Framework.

For the Muscle Heads

Click the button below for more on applying the 2x2 to gain muscle. (Coming Soon)

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I'd Like to Feel Good

For those that think weight is just a number. This is all about how you feel on the inside, energy, mood, and how the rest of your life integrates.

For the Healthy

Click the button below for more on applying the 2x2 to living healthy lifestyle. (Coming Soon)

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I'd Like to Perform

Competition. Function. Recovery. Performance. That's what matters most. Whether you're an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, this card is for you.

For the Athletes

Click the button below to apply 2x2 to athletic pursuits. (Coming Soon)

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Frequently Asked Questions

Depends on you. It doesn’t make sense to utilize a program you won’t do. Rather than give you an unrealistic expectation. Read this article.

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.”

~Bruce Lee

Put another way, the people who focus on solely what they should do never end up learning the nuances of how to do it.
How you do things is at least equally important to what you do, but it’s probably more important.
You’ll find more long term success from taking 2×2 and learning how to train. How to put together effective simple training programs, how to build off these 4 exercises, how to warm up for it, etc…etc…
Let’s say I tell you that A1 on Day 1 is a back squat, but back squatting hurts your back. You’ll be less likely to do A2, B1 and B2 just because the one exercise doesn’t jive with you at the moment. There is nothing more discouraging than failing your first time up, but an easy substitution, say a split squat is fine on your back. Sure it’s not a squat but it will yield a similar training effect.
I hate programs that give you square pegs to fit round holes. It’s why so many people struggle.
Rather than focusing on some arbitrary (but obviously great!) workout I can build off the top my head that will have to be changed in a few weeks/months anyhow.
The human body will crave some variety and it will thank you later, even if you don’t fully get it right now.
“Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
~Robert Heinlein

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
Depends on the volume you use. Typically we want to design a 2×2 program to be under an hour, but for athletes that might be longer. Most versions will take 20 minutes or so, minus warm up or cool down stuff.
Excellent question! A phase of programming is synoymous with a mesocycle of program periodization. You also have a microcycle, and a macrocycle. The fact that you knew to ask is great.

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.

A hip dominant exercise is one where the hips do most of the work.

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.

A1 will probably tax your low back in a reasonably high way as it’s often the heaviest exercise of the workout (typically a squat or deadlift variation).

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.

Rowing is highly effective and under appreciated for a variety of reasons and does more for posture/balance in my experience than vertical pulling.

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…

The lower body exercises come first because I feel most people don’t train the lower body enough. It’s a huge amount of muscle and great deal of your quality of life as you age.

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.

If your objective is hypertrophy or muscle mass gains of a particular area, those are typically added on to the core 4 exercises as necessary.

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.

2×2 training is already pretty much set up to hit every muscle in your body at least once per training session. That usually means at least twice per week with a different exercise. This is usually enough for beginners, intermediates may want to add an additional exercise (possibly two) to each day to target anything more specific they wish to improve.

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.

As indicated, it’s not black and white. As long as you’re adding load, you’re getting stronger to a certain degree. You just get more strength as a result of lower rep, higher intensity training and you get more endurance as a result of higher rep, lower intensity training. It’s a spectrum.

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.

Depends on your objectives:

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.

By working slowly into whatever structure your 2×2 takes on.

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.

A knee dominant exercise is one where the knees/quads do most of the work.

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.

Loosely we’re referring to the vector in which force is being applied relative to the body.

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).

At a time that is most ideal for you. There is little reason to seriously concern yourself with time of day if you can’t be consistent with the execution. Read this guide for optimizing when you train based on your lifestyle.
In short no, at least not until you’re an elite level trainee in powerlifting or olympic lifting. See some of the research on paired set lifting here.
Sure if you want. It’s been my experience that full-body training is just easier to manage for most people who aren’t interested in training more than 3x a week.

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 is a simple formula for tracking word done in a resistance training session.

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.

The rules of strength or resistance training don’t really change if you’re stronger or weaker.

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.

I find it easier to focus on the day to day so see the question ‘How many sets/reps should I do?’ It depends on the same goals you see there. You’ll do less total volume if you’re training more for strength or power and more total volume if you’re training for hypertrophy or endurance. Keep in mind that everything is just a range, you should adjust things based on how your body adapts. Some people thrive off low volume programs, while others need a lot of volume to progress. Just be careful, more volume usually means more stress, always start with less and add more on a workout-to-workout or week-to-week basis. See how you handle it, then back off if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
The ones that meet the criteria of the framework and that you have access to. Outside of that I don’t tell you exactly what exercises to do because not everyone can comfortably do everything. If you need more specific help then I recommend signing up for our Fitnack coaching app.

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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