How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?

How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?

Ever wonder why the local powerlifter at your gym spends what seems like hours hogging up the squat rack? Are they being rude to other members or is there a method to this madness?

In this article, you’ll learn all about how long you should be resting in between sets based on your goals. And while it may be frustrating, your neighborhood meathead might onto something!

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Table of Contents

Using and Restoring Energy

Optimal Rest Time Between Sets

Rest Time for Hypertrophy

Rest Time for Strength

Rest Time for Power

Rest Time for Endurance

Rest Time for Weight Loss

If You Don't Have Much Time for the Gym

Main Points

  • With volume equated, longer rest times (2-5min) are generally better for improving strength, muscle growth, and power because they allow you to perform more quality sets with higher intensity over time

  • Shorter rest times should be used for endurance training and are acceptable towards the end of workouts when you perform less taxing accessories

  • If you need to use shorter rest times, be strategic so you don’t lose out on intensity or volume

  • Your ability to recover from sets will depend on your strength, exercise selection, and fitness levels

Using and Restoring Energy

Our bodies have three main energy systems that allow us to perform a wide range of activities. The main output of these systems is to produce ATP which is known as the energy-carrying molecule.

Creatine Phosphate (short duration intense exercise)

  • This system provides up to 30 seconds of energy
  • Your body has CP storage readily available to create ATP for use
  • Exercise Example: throwing a shot put

Anaerobic Glycolytic System (higher-intensity medium duration exercise)

  • Provides energy for exercises lasting from 30 to 90 seconds
  • Your body breaks down glucose to create ATP
  • Exercise Example: 400m sprint

Aerobic Energy System (long-duration exercise)

  • Provides energy for exercise that can range from two minutes to a few hours
  • Your body’s oxygen supply interacts with glucose to form ATP
  • Exercise Example: jogging

We wanted to briefly cover the energy systems first so you understand why our bodies need to rest in between bouts of exercise. Now let’s look at rest times!

Optimal Rest Time Between Sets

Rest time matters, but mostly in an indirect way. The main driver of strength, muscle growth, power, etc. lies in our ability to perform quality work over time.

To get stronger you need to lift heavier weights.

To get quicker you need to train explosively.

To get bigger you need to train close to failure while maintaining enough volume (sets x reps x weight).

All this requires the ability to recover so that every set can be executed with focus and intention. We don’t want junk volume. We don’t want to go through the motions and get participation points.

This is why longer rest times are generally better than shorter rest times (assuming volume is equated). It’s easier to bring effort to each set.

If you are noticing a huge drop-off in performance from your first set to subsequent sets, it’s time to either extend your rest time or improve your recovery rate.

Here are some factors that can impact your ability to recover in between sets:

Getting Stronger

Every movement has a metabolic cost. It requires energy to do stuff (go figure)! If you thought of energy as currency, a 400lb deadlift would be “more expensive” than a 200lb deadlift. It’s more taxing on your body and requires more oxygen and caloric expenditure.

So as you get stronger, expect to need more rest time in between sets.

Intensity of Exercise

The further away you are from reaching true failure, the shorter your rest time will need to be. 

Muscle Groups & Exercise Selection

Smaller muscle groups can recover quicker than larger muscle groups due to the lower metabolic demands required to perform isolation exercises.

Doing a bicep curl isn’t as demanding as a clean and jerk which uses multiple muscles, joints, and heavier loads.

Fitness Levels

Having adequate levels of aerobic conditioning will have a positive impact on your recovery ability. If you are huffing and puffing from doing 10 heavy squats, it’s time to hop on a bike so you can handle more volume.

Rest Time for Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth)

What’s optimal and what’s practical make giving specific rest time recommendations tough. It really does depend. However, if you did want a range to start from, try ninety seconds up to three-plus minutes for hypertrophy.

As mentioned above, you can get away with smaller rest times when performing movements with lighter weights. Rest at least 2 minutes for your compound sets and at least 90 for your accessories and finishers.

Rest Time for Strength

If you are doing strength training and are focused on heavier compound lifts then you should be resting at least two to five minutes.

Because strength gains are first driven by getting proficient at movements (ingraining neural patterns), it’s important that you are executing each and every set properly. Your body learns and adapts better when it’s fresh!

Once you become really good at the movement, then it’s time to pack on muscle if you want to continue to get stronger.

Rest Time for Power

A good general recommendation for power training would also be to rest 2 to 5 minutes between sets. This would be for exercises such as sprints, med ball slams, box jumps, etc. Basically anything where you are exerting max effort to improve athleticism. Train fast to be fast!

Rest Time for Endurance

The primary goal of endurance is to be able to do an activity for longer or more work in less time. This would require you to train under conditions where you do have less rest time compared to strength training.

You should rest between 30 to 90 seconds for endurance training and use lighter loads (30 to 50% of your max).

Rest Time for Weight Loss

Some people assume that because shorter rest times make you “feel the burn” that it would equate to more fat loss and hence be better for body composition goals. And while HIIT and circuits might allow you to perform more work in a shorter amount of time, exercise isn’t as big of a weight loss factor compared to food intake, BMR, NEAT, lifestyle, etc.

Our advice would be to use exercise for performance goals. Focus on getting stronger and building muscle and let your diet and lifestyle habits drive weight management.

In short, don’t worry about specific rest times for weight loss.

If You Don’t Have Much Time for the Gym

Most people don’t want to spend hours in the gym so if you need to use shorter rest times, be strategic!

  • Focus on compound movements that give you the most bang for your buck
  • Incorporate supersets with two movements that will have minimum impact on one another (i.e a push and a pull)
  • Use cluster or drop sets as finishers to get more volume in a shorter time
  • Work on conditioning: the better shape you’re in, the less you’ll need rest in between sets
  • Monitor your performance: if you’re making progress with shorter rest times, awesome! If you aren’t able to accomplish the necessary intensity or volume to see gains, than you’ll need to improve recovery or simply carve out more time for the gym

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Brian Oddo CPT

Founder

About The Author

Brian Oddo is the founder of Uplift Others and a Certified Personal Trainer through ACE. He also holds specialized certifications in Sports Nutrition and Behavior Change. Brian has been training clients both in person and online for over six years.

As a former Division 1 basketball player, Brian enjoys weight training, plyometrics, and any sports to stay active.

How to Grow Your Biceps

How to Grow Your Biceps

If someone were to ask you to flex, what is the first muscle you think of? Biceps, of course. You’d raise your arm up and show them which way the beach is. Biceps have been glamorized since the beginning of fitness time and if you were wondering how to make them grow, you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we will break down what biceps are, their purpose, how to make them bigger, and some exercises and routines to try!

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Table of Contents

What are Biceps? Bicep Anatomy

How to Make Your Biceps Bigger

Best Bicep Exercises

Bicep Workout Routine

What are Biceps? Bicep Anatomy

Free language lesson! “Bi” has Latin roots meaning “two” and “ceps” means “head”. Your biceps are obviously located on your arm, but did you know that they have two heads that attach to your shoulder at the origin and insert past the elbow at your forearm?

The two heads are commonly known as the short head (located more towards the outside of your arm) and long head (located more towards the inside of your arm). You can perform bicep movements in certain ways to target them both for well-rounded muscle growth.

bicep-anatomy

Your biceps have two main functions: to flex your elbow by bringing your forearm closer to your shoulder joint and to supinate which is a fancy word for turning our palms upward.

With that in mind, the best way to target your biceps would be to perform a variety of curls since that motion forces your biceps to contract. Changing your hand and elbow positioning and even grip width can help emphasize different parts of your biceps.

Ways to Emphasize the Short Head of the Biceps

  • Elbows in front of your body
  • Wider grip width (outside of shoulders)
  • Curl with supination (start with a neutral grip and finish with palms up)

Ways to Emphasize the Long Head of the Biceps

  • Elbows at the side of your body
  • Normal or narrow grip
  • Palms up through the full range of motion (fully supinated)

Ways to Emphasize the Brachalias

There is another muscle located next to the biceps lower towards your elbow that is the most responsible for flexing your elbow joint called the brachialis. It will get targeted with any bicep exercise, but if you want to give it some extra love, you can perform curls with your palms facing each other in a neutral position (ie hammer curls).

How to Make Your Biceps Bigger

We will get into specific exercises and routines at the end of this article, but first, you’ll need to understand how muscle growth works so you can apply these principles to your training.

Muscle growth mainly occurs through three different mechanisms: mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress.

Mechanical Tension: In order to get stronger and bigger, you need to apply progressive overload. This is where you place stress on your muscles that’s greater than what you are used to in order to force adaptations.

Muscle Damage: When you work out, you break down your muscles. Your body recognizes this and sends satellite cells to help you recover and grow back stronger.

Metabolic Stress: Think of this as the “pump”. Your muscles will appear larger due to swelling that occurs from lifting weights. You can feel this during grueling drop sets training to near failure.

What else can help ensure that your body is performing well in the gym and recovering properly to help grow your biceps? Here are some general tips:

Nutrition

  • Aim to get around 0.7-1lb of protein per pound of body weight. This will have a huge impact on recovery
  • Try to eat 3-5 evenly spaced protein-centric meals each day. This spikes muscle protein synthesis and can contribute to muscle growth
  • Eat in a small caloric surplus: give your body the energy it needs to fuel, recover, and grow
  • Don’t neglect whole foods, micronutrients, and everything else that can help you perform your best to get quality workouts in

Sleep

  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night
  • Sleep allows us to recharge and recover. It lowers cortisol levels and increases testosterone

Training

  • Smaller muscle groups can be taken to failure more often than heavy squats or deadlifts. Don’t be afraid to push it to the limit during most of workouts for these movements.
  • Prioritize biceps in training. If you really care about maxing out your bicep growth, you don’t have to wait until the end of your workouts as a finisher. Include them while you are fresh so you can get in more quality sets
  • Use compounds: there is nothing wrong with doing “isolation” exercises, but you can get plenty of great bicep work through pulling motions. Again, biceps are responsible for elbow flexion so any pulling motion with your back will also hit them. 

Best Biceps Exercises

Now to the good stuff! What are some of the best bicep exercises to help them grow? We need to make sure they target the muscle (duh), can be overloaded, and are challenging through a solid range of motion.

Best Dumbbell Bicep Exercises

Best Barbell Bicep Exercises

Additional Bicep Exercises

Compound Movements for Biceps

  1. Weighted Chin-Ups or Neutral grip
  2. Barbell Rows
  3. Single Arm Lat Pulldown with Supination

Find out what works best for you! Some exercises might be more comfortable than others, so give them a shot for 4-6 weeks to see what progress you make.

Bicep Workout Routine

Here’s an example of a back/biceps routine if you wanted a generic template to follow. We aren’t going to include bicep-only session since that’s not how we roll here at Uplift Others.

Modify the sets, reps, and weight to your ability:

Weighted Neutral Grip Pull-Ups: 3-5 sets for 6-8 reps

Seal Rows: 3-5 sets for 6-8 reps

Single Arm Lat Pulldowns: 3-5 sets for 8-10 reps each arm

EZ Bar Curls: 3 sets for 10-12 reps

DB Hammer Curls: 3 sets for 10-12 reps

Incline DB Curls (palms up): 3 sets for 15-20 reps

Build Your Biceps with Uplift Others!

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How to Deload Properly

How to Deload Properly

One of the most frustrating experiences every lifter faces is hitting a dreaded plateau. You might be eating well, sleeping, and following your Uplift Others program to a tee, but some days, even warm-up sets feel immovable.

In a utopian world, progress would be linear and every session we’d add 10lbs to our lifts until we are squatting 1,000lbs in our nursing homes. Life isn’t that kind.

Our bodies accumulate stress at the same time our fitness levels increase from training. This can be visualized through the “fitness-fatigue model” pictured below.

fitness-fatigue-model

We experience stress on multiple levels: through our central nervous system, metabolically, as well as outside stressors. These things are natural but cause temporary dips in performance. You can’t max out your bench on Monday and turn around and hit another grueling chest day Tuesday and Wednesday. It takes a few days to feel physically prepared for another session.

The graph shows that on those days where we aren’t prepared, it’s not that our fitness levels have all of sudden decreased, it’s that our performance is being hindered by cumulative fatigue.

One way to provide relief from stress is by incorporating deload weeks.

In this article, we will talk about what a deload is, its benefits, and how to use them in your training to see more consistent growth and fewer plateaus.

What is a Deload Week

A deload week is a strategy where a lifter intentionally reduces volume (sets x reps), intensity (weight), or both in order to shed fatigue and increase physical preparedness. There are two types:

  • Proactive Deload: These deloads are pre-planned into your programming regardless of how your body is feeling. For instance, some programs use them every fourth week of training to end a block. It’s nice to not have to worry about self-monitoring, but your preparedness doesn’t always line up perfectly with the training schedule. There are deload weeks where you feel like you can hit a new PR and there might be tough training weeks where you could really use the modified routine.

  • Reactive Deload: Our preferred method of deloading is reactive. These are incorporated on an as-needed basis. It requires strict self-monitoring but offers programming flexibility. Traveling for work one week? Plan a deload. Feeling beat up after a challenging training block? Pull it back for a week. The challenging part is not letting the stress exceed the tolerance.

There are also programming styles that auto-regulate training day by day and even within the session so in theory, you never have to deload, but since that requires either a personal coach or years and years of experience, we won’t focus on that in this article.

Benefits of Deload Weeks

While there are many ways to incorporate deload weeks, they all seek to provide the same benefits:

  • Shed built-up fatigue
  • Prevent injuries
  • Reduce burnout
  • Offer flexibility when sick, traveling, or pivoting to a new program
  • Increase muscle sensitivity to muscle damage (can help with hypertrophy)
  • Taper for an event

How to do a Deload Week

Here are some deload examples using volume and intensity as variables:

Volume Based Deload

Normal Training Session Example

  • 4 sets of 12 reps of Squats at 70% 1 rep max

Volume Deload Session Example

  • 3 sets of 8 reps of Squats at 70% 1 rep max

For strength-based athletes, this might be a preferred method to allow continuous use of heavier weights.

Intensity Based Deload

Normal Training Session Example

  • 4 sets of 12 reps of Squats at 70% 1 rep max

Intensity Deload Session Example

  • 4 sets of 12 reps of Squats at 50% 1 rep max

Volume and Intensity Based Deload

Normal Training Session Example

  • 4 sets of 12 reps of Squats at 70% 1 rep max

Volume and Intensity Deload Session Example

  • 3 sets of 8 reps of Squats at 60% 1 rep max

You will have to gain experience and try to manipulate the variables to see what your body responds best to. Some people can train heavy year around and are more sensitive to high volume, where others will need to lay off the heavy work. Test and see what works best for you!

How often to do a Deload Week

Now you know how to use deloads, but how often will you need them? That depends on a few factors:

  1. Recovery Ability & Habits: If you get sore and drained from sessions fairly easily, you’ll need to incorporate deloads more frequently. Make sure you are sleeping well, eating plenty of calories and protein, and staying hydrated.

2. Training Age: Beginners don’t need to deload as frequently as trained lifters. You haven’t accumulated as much fatigue over the years, are likely handling lighter weight, and are going to be able to see a lot of progress without much volume.

3. Biological Age: The older you are, the longer it takes to recover.

4. Outside Stressors: If you have high physical and emotional demands from work, family, etc. you likely will need to have more frequent deloads scheduled.

5. Training Intensity: Doing high reps on bands at home won’t be as taxing as someone who is doing heavy squats and deadlifts 2-3x a week.

For general guidelines, try to deload every 4-10 weeks. For older, more experienced lifters, aim for more frequent deloads. If you are newer and not training at a very high-intensity level, you can get away with less frequent deloading.

When to Deload

What should you look out for so you know when you need a deload? Pay attention to the following symptoms if they are happening for a few weeks:

  • Weight you typically use feels heavier than normal
  • You feel worn down
  • Less motivation/enthusiasm for going to the gym (program feels stale)
  • Performance stalls or decreases

Over time you will learn to recognize these signs early before they turn into long-term issues. Deload weeks will feel boring since it’s not fun to go the gym without being challenged. But remember the big picture and use deloads like a slingshot.

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Progressive Overload

Progressive Overload

First to set the scene, imagine a picture of a sunset or a really aesthetic action shot of someone hiking up a mountain. Got it? Great. This is about to be so inspirational.

Here comes the italics, brace yourself.

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done” – Thomas Jefferson

Hope you’re fired up because this post is going to explain the most important concept in fitness.

In this hypothetical situation, someone comes up to me and goes “Brian, I need your advice, I’m not seeing any results even though I’m following that routine from Bodybuilding.com that they posted.”

I first ask, “What exactly are you doing in this routine?”

Well first I bench 135 for 3 sets of 10 reps, then I go do DB Incline press with 40lbs for 3 sets of 10, and then finish up with some pec flys for 3 sets of 10 with about 30 lbs.

“And that’s every time you go and do a chest workout?”

“Yeah, pretty much”

Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Side note about your body:

Your body doesn’t care about your bench press goal that you want to hit with your boys at  LA Fitness. We didn’t go through years and years of evolutionary hardship running from saber tooth tigers and bearing long winters in huts to care about bench pressing. Your body wants to keep you alive. Period. It’s stubborn and resilient and hates change.

You have to force your body to change. You need it to adapt. Your body needs to respond to stress in order to achieve homeostasis.

Have you heard that when you break a bone that it actually heals stronger? Your body doesn’t want to have to deal with that trauma again so to defend against it in case it happens again, it heals your bone to be even stronger than before.

So finally we are going to introduce the concept of progressive overload. By definition, it means to gradually expose an increasing amount stress or tension to your body over time. This is where we see results.

When we lift weights, we essentially are damaging the muscles. We are creating little micro-tears that are body responds to and repairs to make the tissue stronger. If you were to face that stimulus again in the future, you will now be better equipped to handle it.

So how do we achieve progressive overload? There are a ton of ways!

1. Increase in Total Volume

Volume is calculated by taking sets multiplied by reps multiplied by weight. If you bench pressed 135 for 3 sets of 10 your volume would be (135 x 3 x 10 = 4,050lbs of volume)

This is probably the easiest variable to manipulate in order to achieve progressive overload. You can do an extra set, more reps, or increase weight from session to session. Easy in theory, but as you become a more experienced lifter, progress doesn’t happen as linearly, but we will save that discussion for another post.

2. Density

You can do more work by way of increasing volume as mentioned above, but another way to progress would be by doing the same amount of work in less time. If you performed 135 pounds in 3 sets for 10 reps with 2 minutes rest, and the next session you took 90 seconds rest in between sets, you have made progress in density.

3. Improving Technique

Maybe you are unable to lift more weight in your next session, but don’t be discouraged. If you improved your bench press just 5 pounds a month over the course of 5 years, that’d be an increase of 300 pounds. That just isn’t realistic for most people. So one way you can still improve is by honing in your technique. Focus on smoother reps, proper breathing, placing tension on the intended muscle, and lifting with control as opposed to overusing momentum by swinging or jerking the weight up. Improvements in technique will yield improvements in efficiency and efficiency will pay off in the long run. If you have poor technique and practice bad motor patterns, that is a recipe for injury!

4. Reduction in Bodyweight while Maintaining Strength

If you are able to lift 200 pounds at 140 pounds of bodyweight then you lose 10 pounds and are still able to lift 200 pounds, you have achieved progressive overload. Even though you didn’t have an improvement in absolute strength, you have increased your relative strength, which is still an awesome sign of improvement!

5. Range of Motion

I’m sure everyone has seen a guy at their gym slap 500 pounds on a squat bar, unrack it, and barley bend their knees before racking it and screaming for attention to overcompensate for getting cut from their JV football team. Now I highly doubt that someone who is quarter squatting would be able to do that 500 pounds through a full squat. As we all know, performing exercising in a full range of motion is more beneficial for both strength and muscle1. So, if you’re able to increase your range of motion for a specific exercise over time using the same weight, that is also progressive overload. Over time, you can then add weight as an intensifier.

Now that we have learned the different variables of progressive overload, in an upcoming post, I’ll share some examples of what this would actually look like in a program!

 

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Sources

1. Impact of Range of Motion During Ecologically Valid Resistance Training Protocols on Muscle Size, Subcutaneous Fat, and Strength

Fasted Cardio: Is It Better For Fat Loss?

Fasted Cardio: Is It Better For Fat Loss?

What is fasted cardio?

The fitness industry is guilty of constantly peddling “tricks”, “hacks”, and “shortcuts” to us lowly consumers because we want results and we want them right now. One of the supposed optimal fat loss methods that has gained popularity in recent years, is fasted cardio. This is where you would opt out of eating breakfast before your morning run with the idea that it would accelerate fat loss. On the surface, this seems to make a lot of sense, because after sleeping for 8 hours, your glycogen/carb storages that you use for energy are low, and thus, you would turn to stored fat to use as fuel resulting in quicker fat loss. Also, your insulin levels are typically low in the morning since you don’t have many carbs in your system. When insulin levels are high, it impedes fat loss, so the lower levels will help make fat loss easier. So, is there merit to this? Is it better than training at a fed state? Let’s look into what the latest research has shown

Does fasted cardio work?

In 2017, two researchers, Daniel Hackett and Amanda D. Hagstrom, conducted a meta-analysis of fasted vs. fed cardio and its effects on fat loss. In full transparency, it only reviewed five studies, and there is still a lot more research to be done before we can be completely confident in their effects.

What they found was that DURING exercise, yes, you burn fat at a higher rate, but, over the course of a day and several weeks, the total amount of fat you lose was the same as people who were fed given that the calories are equated and they are in a deficit. The reason being is that it has been shown that if you use a particular fuel source during a bout of exercise such as carbs or fat, you will burn less of that substrate over the course of the rest of the day. So, when you are burning large amounts of fat during a fasted cardio session, you are going to burn fat at a much slower rate over the rest of the day after the session. Conversely, if you ate an apple to ingest carbs before your workout as a fuel source, then the rest of the day you would be burning carbs at a slower rate than during your training.

In addition to the substrate explanation, after completing your fasted training session, you are now going to be consuming your food for the day and if that amount is equal to what you would be having the day of a fed session, then it would have the same net result. So even though you are burning more fat acutely during your fasted session, it seems to have the same overall effect. The most important factor for fat loss still remains to be the overall caloric amount over a given day.

Should you do fasted cardio?

Ya know, sometimes I don’t feel like waking up an extra 30 minutes earlier to make breakfast. That’s a perfectly valid reason to do fasted cardio. Maybe it makes you feel better. Maybe you are completely comfortable with your appetite that training fasted doesn’t bother you. Hey go for it! It’s awesome that you’re moving in the first place! However, it is not better for fat loss compared to those who eat breakfast. So, per usual, do what you enjoy and can stick to and with patience and consistently, you’ll see awesome results, breakfast or not!

 

Buy a Program Today!

Want to level up your fitness? Check out the workout programs we offer! All profits go towards raising money to cover the expense of teachers’ classroom supplies.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.mdpi.com/2411-5142/2/4/43/htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21411835
Morning Workouts: Stop Hitting Snooze and Start Exercising!

Morning Workouts: Stop Hitting Snooze and Start Exercising!

My alarm goes off at 5:18am every weekday morning. Why 5:18am?

5:15 am just seems too early.
The two extra minutes before 5:20am are crucial to make sure I am dressed and out the door to the gym by 5:35 am.
I love starting my day with movement!

​If you would have told me a few years ago that I’d voluntarily wake up that early almost every morning, I would have laughed. But now, I cannot imagine my days starting any other way. By beginning my mornings with movement, I not only have extra time after class/work/clinical to do other things, but I find myself more energized throughout the day and relying less on caffeine. Plus, I cannot make up excuses to skip the gym or a run if I have already smashed a workout.

The goal of this article is to help you transition to early morning workouts so that you can continue to train effectively and not feel burnt out. Find out the benefits of early mornings and discover some tips on how to reap them.

Benefits of Morning Workouts

I already mentioned some of my favorite perks of working out in the morning, but it turns out that it is not just an anecdote. Studies show that exercising in the morning helps regulate your circadian rhythm, or general sleep-wake cycle, through melatonin release regulation. Those that exercise late at night may actually blunt melatonin release, and thus make it more difficult to get a restful night’s sleep.

Morning exercise also helps to improve circulation and BDNF (“brain fertilizer”) production earlier in the day, resulting in improved cognition and concentration throughout the rest of the day. Oftentimes a morning bout of exercise sets the tone for a more active day and participants end up with higher step counts if they wait until the afternoon to exercise, especially if they are prone to skipping those workouts.

Now as a disclaimer, there are limited reputable research studies that specifically explore the differences between morning and afternoon/evening workouts. Many studies include morning exercise, but subjects are compared to controls that did not exercise at all. Other studies were simply too small to generalize to everyone.

On the other hand, there is a vast amount of research supporting exercise, no matter what type of workout, for people of all ages and with varying other health considerations. These benefits include long term lowering of resting heart rate and blood pressure, weight control, insulin/blood glucose regulation (especially important for those diagnosed with diabetes), stress management, and psychological benefits.

Some people have no choice but to workout later in the day because of their work schedule. Some simply like working out at night because their gym is less crowded then. Others don’t stomach food well in the morning, but don’t want to train fasted. That’s okay, whatever works for you!

For everyone that is interested in how to transition into the AM, the rest of the article I will be sharing some helpful tips!

How to Gradually Transition to Morning Workouts

Successfully working out in the morning does not happen overnight. If you drastically change your morning routine, you will most likely end up stressed and exhausted, which is the opposite of what morning workouts can do for you.

Early to bed, early to rise

You will not have an effective morning workout if you do not get a good night’s sleep. Everyone has a slightly different threshold for how much sleep they need, but aim to get at least 7-8 hours of rest. That means counting back those hours from when your alarm is set to ring and being asleep by then, not just getting ready for bed.

Take a look at your nighttime routine – what sets you up for sleep? Do you have an extensive routine you like to complete, or can you simply brush your teeth and hop into bed? How long does it typically take for you to fall asleep? These are all factors that you need to think about so that you can plan your evening accordingly. Budget at least a half hour before your new designated bedtime so that you can be asleep by that time.

Small Changes

You will not be able to fall asleep or wake up hours earlier with just one try. Let your body adjust your circadian rhythm gradually. Try waking up just 15 minutes earlier at first, and thus, trying to be asleep 15 minutes earlier as well. The first day, just budget that time and enjoy a less hectic morning. The next day, try going on a short walk or doing a yoga flow. Do not shock your system with high intensity exercise until your body is used to an earlier wake-up call. You need energy to complete those workouts safely and most effectively.

Slide your bedtime and wake-up time scale 15 minutes earlier every few days and let your body adjust. There is no set time frame as each individual’s circadian rhythm adjusts at different rates. Listen to your body – is it still tired? Stay at the same timeframe. Feeling energized? Try a more intense workout. Still feel good? Time to slide that scale again!

Fueling Your Morning Workouts

Are you someone that is never hungry in the morning? Don’t force it. However, you need to make sure that you have adequate fuel from the prior day to fuel your morning workout. A machine will not run without any source of power! Check out this article we wrote on fasted cardio vs. fed cardio, it touches on the comparison of the two in more detail.

If you are like me, you are hungry immediately in the morning, no matter what time you wake up. It is best to keep things simple so that you can metabolize and use it for energy quickly. Opt for a bar without a bunch of fiber or a piece of fruit. Do not be afraid to experiment with different foods – what works for someone else may not work for you and vice versa.

Regardless of if you plan to eat before your workout, make sure you are hydrating! Drink a glass or two of water as soon as you wake up and ensure to continue drinking water throughout the day to replenish your stores that you already tapped into.

Helpful Tips

1. Set your clothes out the night before: Make sure you have everything you need to go – workout clothes, socks, shoes, sweats, water bottle, fitness tracker, etc. Will you be driving to the gym? Have your bag packed and your keys and wallet right next to it. Morning jog? Make sure you have your reflective or lighting gear at the ready!​

2. Keep a consistent sleep and wake up time: Your body will never adjust to earlier mornings if you do not keep them consistent. Even on rest days, and yes, weekends too, aim to wake-up on the earlier side. Use that extra time to plan your day, meditate, prep meals, or run errands. On weekends, it is most likely not necessary to wake up at 5:18am, but avoid sleeping in until noon.

3. Set only ONE alarm and keep it across the room from you: And do not even think of hitting “snooze.” By setting multiple alarms in a few minute intervals, you are opening up the possibility of continuing to sleep. Instead, get out of bed right as the alarm goes off! The extra minutes of “sleep” you get by pressing the snooze button or sleeping until a later alarm will not be restful sleep anyways since it is so short and will be continuously interrupted. If you know you will be tempted to “snooze” especially in the beginning of your transition to earlier mornings, place your alarm clock (yes, even if it is your phone) in a spot that forces you to physically get out of bed to turn it off. You are ready to start your day now!

4. Simplify your morning routine: The simpler your morning routine, the less time you will have to budget around after smashing a workout. Have your breakfast and lunch already prepped and packed. Lay out your work clothes. For females, dry shampoo and braids help keep hair looking fresh after a workout without requiring a full shower. If you wear makeup, keep it basic. Plus, that extra oxygen and endorphins running through your blood vessels helps those under-eye bags more than any concealer does!
Try out different workout styles: Cardio may be easier than weightlifting in the morning. You might benefit from group classes with the support of others and encouragement from an instructor. Experiment with what works best for you! Whichever mode you choose, make sure that you can complete it safely. Max deadlifting while stifling a yawn will compromise form and performance. Ensure that your energy levels are adequate to complete your workout. As mentioned earlier, you might need time to adjust to higher intensity workouts in the morning.

Overall, morning workouts are typically no more effective than afternoon or evening workouts in terms of long term benefits. However, if you find yourself skipping later workouts due to afternoon burnout or unexpected obligations, setting an earlier alarm every day can help you become more consistent with your fitness routine and ensure that you are reaping those long term benefits. This switch takes some time and dedication, but we hope that this article provides you with the resources you need to be successful with your new routine.

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Sources

Carlson, L. A., Pobocik, K. M., Lawrence, M. A., Brazeau, D. A., & Koch, A. J. (2019). Influence of Exercise Time of Day on Salivary Melatonin Responses. International Journal of Sports Physiology & Performance, 14(3), 351–353. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2018-0073

Wheeler MJ, Green DJ, Ellis KA, et al Distinct effects of acute exercise and breaks in sitting on working memory and executive function in older adults: a three-arm, randomised cross-over trial to evaluate the effects of exercise with and without breaks in sitting on cognition British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 29 April 2019. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-100168