Pete McCall by Pete McCall

For many people, August marks the return of one of the country’s most popular sports—football.

From high school to the professional level, final preparations for the upcoming fall football season are done in August, which means boys and young men around the country are likely suiting up for two separate football practices a day for a tradition known as “two-a-days.” There are three primary reasons for the two-practice-a-day tradition:

  • Practicing in the early morning and late afternoon is a way to beat the worst of the August heat.
  • Two practices a day are required to get the athletes in game shape.
  • Athletes need the extra time and practice to learn and commit complicated plays to memory.

Two-a-day training programs are typically divided into two sessions, one focusing on technical training and the other focusing on tactical training. The first type of training session is referred to as technical training because it focuses on the technical conditioning needed for a specific sport. Technical training can be high intensity to improve overall fitness level and refine sport-specific skills. The second type of training session is referred to as tactical training because it is structured to teach the strategies and tactics that all players need to know to function successfully as a team. Tactical training is designed to be lower in intensity to allow players to learn the movements so they are eventually able to execute plays reflexively as a reaction without needing the time for conscious thought or cognitive processing.

Are two-a-days beneficial for you?

For people with specific fitness goals, could organizing your workouts into two training sessions a day provide any benefit? The answer, of course, depends on a number of variables. To determine whether two-a-day training might be right for your needs, ask yourself the following questions:

What is your existing fitness level?

What is your specific outcome or training goal?

What do you need to improve to be successful and achieve your goal?

And, most importantly, how much time can you dedicate to your workouts?

If your reason for exercising is to improve your general health or overall fitness level, then two-a-days might not be necessary. If the goal is to achieve a specific outcome (whether performance- or appearance-based), then working out twice a day might be the most effective way to achieve that goal.

Here are a few examples where organizing two-a-day workouts might be helpful for achieving a specific goal. Of course, there are a number of variables that would determine the specific training program, so keep in mind that this list is designed to simply provide a few ideas. 

The Olympic Weightlifting Lifts: The Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. Both of these exercises require a high degree of mobility and technical movement skill, as do a number of the kettlebell lifts. If you want to improve your technical skill for specific lifts, consider training for movement skill in the morning and the actual lifting, or specific strength training, in the afternoon. The morning sessions should be bodyweight only to focus on improving range of motion, mobility and dynamic flexibility, while the afternoon workout should focus on the high-intensity training required to improve strength and power.

Adding muscle mass or developing the definition required for a figure or body-building competition requires a high volume of training for both strength training to improve muscle size and low-to-moderate cardio training to burn fat. A two-a-day training schedule might feature body part-specific strength training in the morning to increase lean muscle and definition, combined with an afternoon session dedicated specifically to cardiovascular training for burning excess calories and unwanted fat.

Specific Strength- and Power-based Competitions (e.g., Powerlifting, Strongman or CrossFit). For people training for these types of competitions, two-a-day workouts could be organized into a morning session using external weights to focus on specific strength or power exercises that will be an integral component of the competition. The afternoon session could be focused on bodyweight exercises to improve core strength, mobility or explosive jumping power to support the work being done with the external resistance. 

Obstacle Course Races (e.g., Spartan Race or Tough Mudder). If your training goal is to participate in these races, you might want to split your workouts into morning runs that alternate between distance for aerobic endurance and sprinting for anaerobic strength and afternoon strength-training sessions to improve the muscular strength and coordination required for successfully overcoming the obstacles.

Marathons, Triathlons or Ultra-marathons. If your fitness goals include training for pure endurance races, it might be a good idea to split workouts into two sessions per day to increase the volume of training required for success. For endurance races, it might be necessary to focus on a specific cardiovascular endurance session in the morning for volume training and an afternoon weightlifting session to improve the strength endurance of the legs and core muscles, which can help improve running efficiency and stride rate. 

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