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Yesterday, I did a fairly heavy upper body workout around 11am. I worked my arms until I could barely move the EZ bar to put it away.

A while later, at around 7pm, I had had a couple drinks, and felt the need to workout again (I don't know why). I did another workout, almost as intense at the one earlier in the day; working the exact same muscles.

I know you're supposed to give your body time to rest between workouts, but it's within the same day, and I'm not doing any lifting today (the day after).

My question is, what was likely the result of the second workout that day? Was it more likely to be beneficial, or harmful?

I'm a 23 year old male.

  • Here you see an exercise routine where the same muscles are exercised during the day. – Count Iblis Feb 28 '16 at 21:27
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My question is, what was likely the result of the second workout that day? Was it more likely to be beneficial, or harmful?

You could have injured yourself, for starters. Following that first workout at 11am, you broke a lot of tissues down in your body and weakened yourself. With rest and recovery your body heals, plus a bit of size and strength to overcompensate. That alcohol was floating around in your system further impaired your coordination, muscle recruitment, force production, and healing.

It was more likely to be harmful, by quite an extent.

There are some people who exercise multiple times a day, but generally these are Olympic lifters where the limiting factor is explosiveness and coordination, not raw power output. You will generally not find strength athletes training more than once a day, unless it is very imbalanced (doing a run or some conditioning, then later doing some lifting, etc). Even then, I don't see it much.

I would recommend finding and adhering to a successful strength training program. The guesswork will be removed for you, you'll get much better results, much safer, and much quicker.

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It is not exactly wrong, at age 23, at least. However, working out twice a day is not really more beneficial than working out once a day either. The explanation for this is because after your first workout your muscles already began to recover, so all working out several hours later did was break them back down again and now the recovery process will have to start all over again. Usually you should rest the entire next day to recover properly, so as you state that you are doing that, you probably should be fine. So, I wouldn't really call what you did harmful or beneficial, it is just not necessary.

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    Necessary in what context? Also, could you elaborate on the recovery process? Why would it have to "start over again"? – Daniel Feb 29 '16 at 23:43
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Working out twice a day is quite typical when reaching advanced and elite levels. When people ask this question, I constantly make reference to olympic weightlifters, who lift heavy hours per day, often twice or three times per day.

Practically every elite (strength-related) athlete lifts or utilizes their muscles to a similar extent multiple times per day. Take professional football players for example: weightlifting and practice almost every day. There are some exceptions to this rule, but those are folks who are lifting at inconceivably large tonnages (if you're squatting 800+, this is you).

I love this quote by John Broz, coach of 2011 and 2012 US national weightlifting champion Pat Mendes:

If you can't go into the gym and squat heavy twice a day, every day, you aren't overtrained, you're undertrained.

Love him or hate him, I think Greg Glassman hit the nail on the head with this quote as well:

Why is it that those most inclined to worry and ask about “overtraining” are about as likely to set a new record in the Olympic Decathlon as they are to ever overtrain?

The main concern is injury. Injuring (straining) muscle tissue is a concern, but more important are the other soft connective tissues which can take months to heal. Cartilage and discs of the spine are also easily damageable when overdoing it. So it's important to gradually increase your volume.

To answer your question, I would imagine the additional volume was beneficial, at least in acute bouts such a single day. It generally takes a long time to start seeing positive or negative effects of modifying training volume and frequency. If you want a legitimate answer, you need to be scientific about it and measure. You know, stick to twice-per-day on your arm workout for six weeks and see if your strength improves. Get a measuring tape and measure your upper arms. That sort of thing.

Frequency is just another variable in the progressive overload equation, which, by the way is a pretty complex equation once you start being scientific about it. Bret Contreras lists these 12 methods of progressive overload in an article, a couple of which are relevant to your question:

  • Lifting the same load for increased distance (range of motion)
  • Lifting the same load and volume with better form, more control, and less effort (efficiency)
  • Lifting the same load for more reps (volume)
  • Lifting heavier loads (intensity of load)
  • Lifting the same load and volume with less rest time in between sets (density)
  • Lifting a load with more speed and acceleration (intensity of effort)
  • Doing more work in the same amount of time (density)
  • Doing the same work in less amount of time (density)
  • Doing more sets with the same load and reps (volume)
  • Lifting the same load and volume more often throughout the week (frequency)
  • Doing the same work while losing body mass (increased relative volume)
  • Lifting the same load and volume and then extending the set past technical failure with forced reps, negatives, drop sets, static holds, rest pause, partial reps, or post-exhaustion (intensity of effort)

I'm sure, especially at 23, it was almost a non-issue for your body. Just get enough rest and eat. Here's some further reading if you're interested:

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  • "Why is it that those most inclined to worry and ask about “overtraining” are about as likely to set a new record in the Olympic Decathlon as they are to ever overtrain?" - Disagree, despite asking about overtraining myself, I spent much of my high school swimming career overtraining as per the common symptoms (loss of appetite, poor muscle recovery, loss of motivation etc.). Overtraining is way more likely than that quote suggests. Perhaps less of a risk in hobbyist strength training circles, but once you start taking on athletic competitiveness, it's a real risk and it certainly sucks. – andrewb Mar 2 '16 at 0:34
  • @andrewb I think you just reworded and reaffirmed the quote you disagreed with. Glassman's point is exactly what you said: risk of overtraining is more of a concern with those in elite competitive spheres, not Joe Gym Rat. – Daniel Mar 2 '16 at 0:50
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    It's just a bit of an exaggeration, that quote. I was far, far off Olympic records (didn't even podium finish for individual events in my final regional comp), but certainly was overtraining. I appreciate that your casual gym rat who's doing three sessions a week and starts worrying about overtraining perhaps doesn't need to be worried, but we don't need to swing so far the opposite that we say overtraining is only an issue for the very elite. – andrewb Mar 2 '16 at 4:44

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