2 Day Split Workout: The Perfect Routine for Busy People

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 25, 2024
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Split workout routines and full-body workouts are essential for muscle growth but do not produce the same muscle mass and strength results.

Nevertheless, many don’t have enough time for three to four weekly workout sessions, so a good old 2-day split workout becomes necessary to stay in shape.

After a thorough 27-hour research and based on my personal experience as a personal trainer, I singled out the best-split workout types you can use to achieve superior results.

After reading the entire article, you will know the pros and cons of all split types, how to implement them into your daily routine, and learn some important things periodization-wise to keep you on track with the results.

Quick Summary

  • The best 2-day split workouts are usually based on push/pull or hypertrophy type of splits since limited time requires creative programming to hit all major muscle groups and gain lower body and upper body strength.
  • Full-body and split workouts must include compound exercises as the foundation and isolation exercises in the same workout to ensure strength and hypertrophy gains.
  • According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, hypertrophy training requires multiple sessions per week, moderate reps (around 6-12), several sets (3-6), moderate loads (60-80% 1RM), and short rest intervals (60 seconds).
  • In my professional view, the 2-day split workout offers an optimal balance of efficiency and effectiveness for those with tight schedules.

Best 2-Day Workout Split for Beginners

Man is making schedule for 2 day split workout

If you are an advanced lifter, skip to the next section that describes all types of split workouts since this beginner full-body split workout will not be sufficient for you.

However, if you are starting with split workouts and don’t know where to begin, the workout below will be a great place to start.

As an experienced fitness trainer, I ensured all exercises were carefully selected on the criteria of technique and how well they are for hypertrophy and gaining strength.

"1940s bodybuilder Steeve Reeves was famous for following a full-body split. Until bodybuilding started to grow and others found out the effectiveness that split routines have on the physique."

- Ben Pollack, Certified Personal Trainer

Full Body – Day 1

A person doing squats at home

Here is the entire full-body workout for day 1 of the week:

  1. Squat – perform 3 sets of 6-8 reps and rest for 2 minutes between each set.
  2. Bench press – complete 3 sets of 6-8 reps and rest for 2 minutes in between.
  3. Bent over row – perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps and rest for 90 seconds between the sets.
  4. Romanian deadlift – complete 3 sets of 8-10 reps and rest for 90 seconds between the sets.
  5. Seated dumbbell overhead press – perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps and rest for 90 seconds between the sets.
  6. Dips – complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps and rest for 90 seconds in between.

Full Body – Day 2

Here is the entire full-body workout for day 2 in the same week:

  1. Deadlift – perform 3 sets of 6-8 reps and rest for 3 minutes between the sets.
  2. Overhead press – complete 3 sets of 6-8 reps and rest for 2 minutes in between.
  3. Pull-ups – perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps and rest for 2 minutes between the sets.
  4. Lunges – complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg and rest for 90 seconds in between.
  5. Bicep curls - perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps and rest for 90 seconds between the sets.
  6. Planks – do 3 sets of 60-second plank holds and rest for 30 seconds between each following set.

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Consider incorporating mobility and flexibility exercises into your routine to enhance your overall fitness and reduce the risk of injury. Simple stretches or yoga poses at the beginning or end of each workout can be beneficial.

Additionally, integrating mental health aspects such as mindfulness and stress reduction techniques into your workout can enhance the psychological benefits, contributing to overall well-being.

Types of 2-Day Split

A gym coach writing down on a clipboard

There are numerous types of 2-day splits if you have the time for only two workouts during the week.

However, not all of them are the same, some yield better results muscle-building-wise, and some are better for maintaining your cardiovascular health and for beginners.

Below you may find the best types of split weekly workouts you may implement already today.

Upper/Lower Split

A person doing bench presses in the gym

According to BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, the upper/lower split uses two workouts: the first focuses on your upper and the second on the lower body [1].

Usually, it is better to start with the lower body since it is more demanding.

You will have plenty of time to recover for the next workout, so there isn’t much to worry about unless you are extremely out of shape and inexperienced.

On the upper day, you will target the muscles of your chest, shoulders, and back.

Some of the exercises you may implement on the upper day include:

  • Bench press variations
  • Rowing variations
  • Pull-ups
  • Overhead press variations
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep extensions
  • Lateral raises

For the lower split, you will mainly focus on activating big lower body muscles such as the quadriceps, femoris, glutes, and hamstrings.

However, you must also target the muscles such as your adductors, soleus, gastrocnemius, and similar.

Some of the exercises you may include on the lower body day include:

  • Squat variations
  • Deadlift variations
  • Lunges
  • Step-ups
  • Hip thrust variations
  • Bridges
  • Hamstring walkouts
  • Calf raises
  • Adductor machine/sliders

These are just some examples, but changing equipment and how the exercise is done (unilateral/bilateral) can create a dozen more exercises.

Push/Pull

A person doing bench presses in the gym

Push/pull split is my favorite because:

  • It creates the least muscle imbalances
  • Builds functional strength
  • Develops balance between agonists and antagonists
  • Promotes holistically built body

Push/pull splits offer numerous benefits, which is why I prefer them over other types. They're widely adopted in professional sports like basketball, football, and volleyball.

In this split, the first day is dedicated to push exercises, encompassing squat, vertical, and horizontal movements.

The second day focuses on pull exercises, including deadlifts and vertical and horizontal pulls.

In my experience as a health and performance coach, clients have demonstrated significant improvements in strength and balance using this method.

Related: Chris Bumstead Push Pull Legs Routine

 

Push exercises include:

  • Bench press variations
  • Overhead press variations
  • Squat variations
  • Lunge variations
  • Tricep extensions

Pull exercises include:

  • Deadlift variations
  • Rowing variations
  • Pull-up variations

Full Body

A person doing deadlifts in the gym

Initially, it might seem confusing to combine split and full-body workouts, as they are typically distinct.

Yet, integrating a full-body workout into a 2-day split effectively targets various muscle groups. This approach suffices for muscle development and maintenance.

However, based on my coaching experience, advanced individuals should limit full-body workouts, as they are less effective for significant muscle building and overall strength enhancement.

Exercises you may include in the full-body workouts include:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Core exercises
  • Bench press
  • Overhead press
  • Rows
  • Pull-ups
  • Biceps curls
  • Triceps extensions
  • Lateral raises
  • Calf raises
  • Hip thrust
  • Unilateral exercise variations

Hypertrophy

A person in the gym doing bicep curls

The hypertrophy split is the best for increasing your muscle mass since it splits exercises into two workouts, focusing on major muscles of your body for the best possible results.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, hypertrophy training will require multiple sessions per week [2].

However, we are limited to only two weekly workouts, so certain compromises will be made.

Here is the first day of the hypertrophy split:

  • Barbell bench press
  • Overhead press
  • Incline bench press
  • Chest flyes
  • Rear foot elevated split squats
  • Lunges
  • Biceps curls

Here is the second day of the hypertrophy split:

  • Cable machine row
  • Pull-ups
  • Single leg deadlift
  • Hip thrust
  • Tricep extensions

You'll observe the absence of regular squats and deadlifts in this program, a necessary adaptation for a two-day weekly workout schedule.

Including these intense exercises, especially at the start, alongside major upper-body exercises, can overly strain the nervous system and heighten injury risk.

Therefore, we opt for unilateral variations, reducing injury chances while still achieving substantial hypertrophy outcomes, as evidenced in my client training experiences.

"Building a lean, muscular physique complete with peaked biceps and a ripped midsection isn’t as easy as those 1970s movie training montages make it seem."

- Anthony O'Reilly, Certified Personal Trainer

Bodyweight

A person doing push ups

Bodyweight split is similar to all other split routines, except it emphasizes using your body weight as a form of external resistance.

Here is day 1 of the bodyweight split routine:

  • Pull up
  • Push up
  • Bulgarian split squat
  • Pike pushup
  • Single leg hip thrust
  • Inverted row
  • Jump squat
  • Single leg standing calf raise

Here is day 2 of the bodyweight split routine:

  • Pike pushup
  • Assisted pistol squat
  • Chin up
  • Decline push up
  • Nordic hamstring curls
  • Inverted row
  • Bench dip

Additionally, combining your 2-day split workouts with other fitness activities like swimming or cycling can offer a more holistic approach to fitness, enhancing cardiovascular health alongside muscle building.

What Is the Best 2-Day Split Workout Routine?

A person doing bicep curls for a 2 day split workout

The best 2-day split workout routine combines hypertrophy and push-pull exercises to target major muscle groups, promote muscle growth, and prevent imbalances.

Hypertrophy split uses advanced programming to ensure all major muscles of your body are targeted while developing the most muscle in the shortest time possible.

The push/pull routine is the best for avoiding muscle imbalances, building functional strength, and developing both agonists and antagonists.

What Are the Benefits of a 2-Day Split?

A 2-day split routine allows for efficient targeting of all muscle groups in just two weekly sessions, making it ideal for beginners and offering ample recovery time.

Also, you may allow more time to recover for the upcoming workout session, allowing for super-compensation of glycogen.

Two-day splits are also excellent for novice athletes and beginner lifters entering the world of lifting and trying to build motor skills and knowledge before indulging in more complex training methods.

Pros and Cons of the 2-Day Split

A person doing 2 day split workouts

Here are the pros and cons of the 2-day split workout routine.

Pros

  • You can program your training using numerous methods and approaches, including upper/lower and full-body splits.
  • Excellent for making your schedule more flexible since you can target all major body muscles with just two weekly workout sessions.
  • It is more than enough for regular people to have two weekly sessions to increase strength and include hypertrophy effects.
  • An excellent option for busy individuals and entrepreneurs who are on a tight schedule and need to get in and out fast.
  • It is great for athletes due to their need for recovery and peak performance on game days.

Cons

  • Not the best option for building muscles since you have limited time to develop each muscle group.
  • Great for beginners, but advanced lifters can't use 2-day splits since the intensity and training volume aren't enough to even preserve muscle mass.
  • The progress with two-day splits is much slower than the 3 or 4-day splits because the total volume is smaller.

Periodization for 2-Day Workout Split

A gym coach writing down a 2 day workout split

Here are the three main ways to use periodization for your workouts.

Linear Periodization

Linear periodization is the best approach for beginner lifters.

This approach allows you to start a training block by focusing on low-intensity and high-volume and ending it with the opposite.

As your weight increases, the reps you perform decrease over time.

Here is one example of linear periodization for squats:

  • Weeks 1 to 4 - 3 x 10-12 at 150lbs
  • Weeks 5 to 8 - 3 x 8-10 at 175lbs
  • Weeks 8 to 12 - 3 x 6-8 at 200lbs
  • Weeks 13 to 16 - 3 x 4-6 at 225lbs

Block Periodization

A gym coach explaining block periodization while writing on a clipboard

focusing on a different goal to produce the best possible end result.

For example, to build strength, you will have the following two blocks:

  1. Accumulation - the phase with increased total volume, reps, sets, and percentage of 1 rep max to build the necessary strength. This phase enables the following phase to supercompensate, resulting in the best possible strength gains.
  2. Transformation - sometimes called tapering- is the phase where you decrease the total trading volume. At the end of this phase, the peak strength is achieved due to the previous accumulation phase.

It takes time to achieve peak strength, depending on your time in the accumulation phase.

The maximum amount you should spend in the accumulation phase is around 42 days.

This means that after 42 days in the transformation phase, you will achieve the peak strength since the amount of time you spend accumulating strength is the same as the amount of time it takes in the following phase to experience maximal strength results.

Undulating Periodization

Undulating periodization is a more advanced technique used by professionals and experienced lifters.

It refers to the method where the intensity increases weekly, sometimes daily. Beginners must avoid this approach for safety reasons.

FAQs

Can You Build Muscle With a 2-Day Split?

Yes, you can build muscles with a 2-day split. However, you must use proper programming, including sets, reps, rest intervals, training volume, and exercise selection, to achieve superior results with only two weekly sessions.

What Muscle Group for 2-Day Split?

For a 2-day split, it is better to program workouts based on push-pull patterns than to train for individual muscle groups separately. You cannot hit all major muscles of your body, including the small ones, and experience maximal hypertrophy and strength results with two weekly sessions.

What Split Do Most Bodybuilders Use?

Bodybuilders use split routines targeting specific muscle groups such as the chest, back, shoulders, legs, etc. However, using this split workout routine with only two weekly sessions is impossible.

What Supplement Should I Use for Split Workouts?

The best supplement to use for split workouts is creatine and protein powder.

Pick the creatine monohydrate if you want to go hard, pump up the intensity, and ensure maximal strength and muscle-building gains.

Creatine monohydrate is an excellent supplement that will help form your fastest energy source in the body called creatine-phosphate, which is responsible for energy production during high-intensity exercise.

Read our guide on the 7 best vegan creatine supplements to pick the best one that will suit your personal and fitness needs the most.

Let me know what is your favorite 2-day split workout routine and why.


References:

  1. https://bmcsportsscimedrehabil.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13102-022-00481-7
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950543/
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
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James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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