If you train in the afternoon, you have a 50% less chance of getting hurt ...
If you train at night, you will get 2x as strong ...
We heard all the rumors, but what are the facts?
What really is the best time of day to train???
The results of multiple studies have shown that the optimal time to train is in the early evening (approximately 6PM). It is at this time where muscle gain, fat loss, testosterone to cortisol ratios, and power production are the highest.
If you are interested in reading more about the studies, click on any of the links below.
The Data vs "Life"
Unfortunately for most of us, the data does not match real life.
What if your job / school does not allow you to train at 6PM?
What if your gym is packed at 6PM?
What if your job requires manual labor and by 6PM you are shot?
What if you are an early morning person?
What if you are a person who performs best late at night?
So what really is the best time of the day to train?
The real answer is the best time of the day that works for you - physically, emotionally, and socially.
Personally, I prefer to train first thing in the morning.
Not only am I more pumped up in the morning, but I also believe it provides the following benefits:
- The gym is less crowded
- Crowded gyms double workout length
- It is cooler
- This is huge when training outside in the summer
- It helps remove any stress or anxiety before going to work
- If I knock out 30+ pull-ups, I could care less if someone cuts me off on Route 1.
- It minimizes the chances of "life" getting in the way
- The only excuse for missing a morning workout is not getting up on time.
If you can't get out of bed and life allows you to train later in the day, don't even think about training in the morning.
Early Evening (6PM to 8:30PM)
When I was in college, I used to train in the early evening.
All my friends were there and it was a great time to socialize.
Unfortunately, all my friends were there and it was a great time to socialize.
I would be in the gym for over 2 hours and not get anything done.
Not to mention, I would get really frustrated trying to get into a squat rack while some guy was doing curls or having someone "steal" my weights while I was in the middle of a circuit.
Late Evening (After 8:30PM)
In my world, this is the second best time to train (if you cannot make it first thing in the morning).
Not only has the early evening crowd left, but you have had time to decompress after a stressful day of work / school.
(Being pumped up for a lift is good. Being stressed is bad. You don't want to be thinking about how annoying your boss is while you are performing a PR for deadlift.)
There are only a few risks to training very late at night.
- "Life" happens and gets in your way of getting to the gym
- You are so pumped from your training session that you can't get to sleep
- This happens to me now, even when I am not training. I come home from coaching my athletes in the evening group and I end up sitting in bed all night thinking about how they killed the lift.
If you take anything from this post, make it these two things:
- Find a time of day that works best for you
- Train consistently at that time
If you do decide to train early in the morning, refrain from squatting heavy at the very beginning of your workout.
As the great Eric Cressey says:
"Because we’ve decompressed overnight, our spines are “superhydrated” when we first wake up in the morning; this places more stress on the ligaments and discs and less on the supporting musculature. As a little frame of reference, full flexion reduces buttressing strength against shear by 23-43% depending on the time of day – meaning that your spine might be 20% safer later in the day even if exercise selection is held constant. Give the spine a bit of time to “dehydrate” and you’ll be much better off."
At Advanced Training, we will not perform heavy squats early in the morning, unless we perform some stabilization / core activation work first.