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

  • Connector.

    A1) Knee Dominant Exercise

    Squat, Lunge, Step, etc…

  • Connector.

    A2) Horizontal Pull Exercise

    Row, Facepull, etc…

  • Connector.

    B1) Single Leg Hip Dominant

    Deadlift, Bridge, Hinge, etc…

  • Connector.

    B2) Vertical Push Exercise

    Overhead Press, Incline Bench, etc…

Workout 2

  • Connector.

    A1) Hip Dominant Exercise

    Deadlift, Bridge, Hinge, etc…

  • Connector.

    A2) Horizontal Push Exercise

    Bench, Push Up, etc…

  • Connector.

    B1) Single Leg Knee Dominant

    Squat, Lunge, Step, etc…

  • Connector.

    B2) Vertical Pull Exercise

    Chin Up, Pulldown, etc…

Choose Your 2×2 Objective

I'd Like to Shed Fat

Our most popular option. For most folks who want to use nutrition combined with exercise to shed some fat and look a little better naked. This one's for you.

For the Svelte

Click the button below to apply 2x2 for fat loss and/or weight loss objectives. (Coming Soon)

Join the Alliance!

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)

Join the Empire!

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)

Join the Movement!

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)

Join the Club!

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.
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.

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 (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.
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.

Got a Question?

We always love to hear from our friends and fans. If you’ve checked out all the guides and the FAQ and still have questions…