Weight training, or strength training (not just high rep workouts but training that actually gets you stronger like we have in our Man in the Arena Tribe (free here)) should be a staple of every guy's life.
Ideally we want to be in the gym, whether it's in our home or at an actual public gym, 4-5 days a week. Of course, cardio is also important. But we'll save that aspect of our overall health and performance for another article.
Today, we're talking about lifting heavy things, and when the best time to do that is, but I have to start with a caveat...
The best time to weight train is when you will actually weight train. Meaning, if you're only going to find time early in the day, do it then. If you have more time at lunch or after work, do it then.
The key is to set your workout time for the time of day when you won't have an excuse to miss it or to 'put it off for another day'.
So, with that said, let's get into what the best time to weight train is depending on goals, and various other positives or negatives.
Morning Training: Dawn of Dedication
- Consistency: Morning routines can often be more consistent since they are less likely to be disrupted by daily responsibilities or unforeseen events.
- Metabolic Boost: Morning weight training can jumpstart your metabolism, potentially enhancing calorie burn throughout the day. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that resistance training in the morning can elevate post-exercise energy expenditure.
- Stiffness: Our body's core temperature is lower in the morning, which might make muscles and joints feel stiffer. This necessitates a thorough warm-up to prevent injuries. Personally, I like weight training in the morning because the entire day is then dedicated to work.
However, if I'm doing squats or deadlift, I'll typically push it to the afternoon so as to avoid injury. Even with a warm-up in the morning, I don't have the same performance on bigger lifts.
- Potentially Lower Performance: Testosterone, crucial for muscle growth, peaks in the morning. However, other factors, like reduced body temperature and glycogen stores, might compromise performance.
I have certainly found this to be true and weight lifted in the afternoon is greater than the morning. Of course, that doesn't always matter. Getting the workout in when you can is more important.
Pro tip: don't weight train fasted in the morning. Though you may not be hungry, having a piece of fruit like a banana can be of great benefit.
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Afternoon/Evening Training: The Prime Power Period?
- Peak Performance: Muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance tend to peak in the late afternoon/evening. This is corroborated by research in the Chronobiology International journal, which found that late-day resistance training might optimize performance outcomes.
- Safety: With increased body temperature and blood flow during this period, there's potentially a reduced risk of injuries.
I notice this a fair bit with the heavier lifts as mentioned before.
- Stress Relief: After a hectic day, lifting weights can be therapeutic, acting as a potent stress-reliever.
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- Crowded Gyms: Prime time means more people, which can result in waiting for equipment or adjusting your routine based on gym occupancy.
- Potential Sleep Disruptions: Intense training too close to bedtime may hinder sleep quality due to elevated heart rates and core body temperatures.
- Lack of Energy: My energy can get zapped after a few good work sessions. Which is sometimes why I'll plug a workout into the late morning and use it as an energy boost. But those long, busy, arduous days can leave you drained, often making it a better decision to get into the gym earlier rather than later.
Both morning and evening weight training sessions have their merits. The choice primarily hinges on individual priorities – be it consistency, performance, or using exercise as a form of relaxation after a long day. Ultimately, the best time is when you feel at your best and most motivated. Always remember, consistency trumps timing.
So, in short, workout when you know you'll be able to workout at the same time everyday. It leaves the guess work out of your training.