View Full Version : Article on Best Time to Exercise

Donald Lee
12-14-2009, 10:45 PM
Is there a best or safest time to train with weights, if so when? (http://www.megaupload.com/?d=OL1HK5TJ)

Here are many of the important excerpts:

According to Dr Steve Ingham, EIS physiologist, the best time of the day to train is between 5pm and 7pm. This is when your body is at its physical peak. Training at that time of day is when you are likely to get the greatest positive increase in performance level.The main reason for this is that at other times of the day, your body is less prepared for physical exertion. In the morning, your core temperatures (and environmental temperature) are close to their lowest point. Your muscular skeletal structures are also colder, as your joints aren't in a ready state for heavy lifting or stretching first thing this can increase the risk of injury.

Train when you play. When one considers that the morning/afternoon performance variation may amount to as much as 3-7 percent (1), it becomes very clear that failure to consider this fluctuation in high-intensity performance has the potential to drastically affect achievement of goals.

His work is supported by Prof Stuart McGill University of Washington, Ontario in his book Low Back Disorders where he warns against doing weight training early in the morning. He points out that after rising, hydrostatic stresses of just walking around and using the muscles during the day compress your spine and the fluid is squeezed out, decreasing the anular tensions in the disc. So, when you wake up the extra height in the discs are analogous to a full water balloon ready to burst and if you bend, you build up much higher stresses in the disc. In fact, the stresses are three times higher than when you perform the same bend two or three hours later.

A number of researchers have investigated time-dependent changes in physiological variables, and they appear to have far-reaching implications for athletes/players. They refer to them as ‘Circadian rhythms’ noting the variations that recur every 24 hours. They found, under strict control of possible variables, that the majority of components of sports performance, e.g. flexibility, muscle strength, short term high power output, vary with time of day in a sinusoidal manner and peak in the early evening close to the daily maximum in body temperature. They also found that higher work-rates are selected spontaneously in the early evening.(3)

So it seems as far as most physiological variables are concerned, late afternoon to early evening is prime time for a workout. ‘In the morning, virtually all bodily functions are at their worst, body temperature is low—meaning your muscles, ligaments, joints and tendons will feel stiff—lung function is poor,the nervous system sluggish,’ All this means the same level of exertion is likely to feel much harder at this time of day than later on

It is the influence of circadian rhythms on body temperature that seems to yield the most control over the quality of a workout. When body temperature is at its highest, your workouts will likely be more productive; when your body/core temperature is low, chances are your exercise session may be less than optimal.
It is well known that body temperature is at its lowest about one to three hours before most of us wake up in the morning, in contrast to late afternoon when body temperature reaches its peak.

According to motor learning and performance theory, there exists an inverse relationship between the level of skill required in any given task and optimal arousal levels (7). The available data suggest that for most individuals fine motor tasks and balance skills may be better learned and mastered in the morning (8). Simple reaction time (either auditory or visual) is a major component of performance. Reaction time peaks in the early evening at the same time as the maximum in body temperature. For every 1 deg. rise in body temperature, nerve conduction velocity increases by 2.4 in/sec (Winget et al, 1985).

Research shows that people learn new motor skills more readily in the morning than in the evening. (so accuracy may be worse in the early evening) In one study, subjects improved most in a newly learned task at 9am. Short-term memory and fine motor control (the ability to do precise or fiddly tasks) are also superior in the morning compared to later in the day – which may play a part in overall performance. This shows the importance of defining demand accuracy without speed, such as archery, shooting, darts, snooker, putting etc. Whereas fencers tend to perform best in the middle of the day, perhaps because their sport depends on mental skills, which peak about that time.

Donald Lee
12-14-2009, 10:51 PM
Continued . . . .:

Circadian rhythms seem especially prone to a “postlunch dip” (Reilly. 1990). This phenomenon describes, a transient decline in alertness and performance occurring early in the afternoon. Some aspects of performance deteriorate at this time without a corresponding decrease in body temperature and even if no food is ingested at lunchtime. (Winget et al, 1985).

Wright et al (1969) found that the circadian variation in stiffness (resistance to motion) of the knee joint is similar to that of body temperature, with lowest levels of stiffness recorded in the early evening. Flexibility is greatest from late afternoon until midnight and lowest from 6am-10am (10) Similarly, rectal temperature in humans reaches a high at around 6pm and a low at around 6am (11). Thus, it is generally more productive to perform developmental stretching in the late afternoon or early evening. Increased body temperature at these times creates greater tissue pliability and permits much better range of motion with far less discomfort, particularly when restrictions are due to fascial tension.

There is reliable evidence to suggest that power is optimal from late afternoon onwards (12). Nerve conduction velocities and reaction time peak with body temperature (13), while standing broad jump and vertical jump peak at around 6pm (14). Muscular strength, is maximal from late afternoon onwards. There is a strong relationship between this rhythm and the rhythm of core temperature, although it is relevant to note that a reduction in strength occurs during a Post Lunch Dip. (15).. Back and leg strength peaks in the late afternoon/early evening (16)
The further implications of this information for the exercise specialist are that in order to optimize power and strength early in the morning, far greater time and attention must be devoted to warm-up. It should also be noted that performance in fine motor tasks and balance is better in the morning when arousal levels are lower (15).

Results showed that anaerobic power and max running speed were significantly lower in the morning compared with the afternoon, with 5 to 7% greater power achieved in the afternoon. In addition, this finding suggests that the best time of day for anaerobic training is in the afternoon or early evening. This is consistent with other research into circadian rhythms which shows heart rate, body temperature and muscular strength are all higher in the afternoon than in the morning.

In an area of associated research, the results of a study of the immune system by Dr Lygeri Dimitriou, of Brunel University shows that there is a morning circadian lowering of Immunoglobulin A (IgA), a protective chemical produced by the immune system (18) and saliva secretory rate. There is also an increase in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. These levels are higher in athletes who train early rather than late in the day, indicating that athletes should avoid early morning training, particularly after an injury or illness or before a big competition. The findings suggest that a person's internal body clock, or circadian rhythms, have an impact on the immune system, added Dimitriou.

Endurance Sports
Performance in endurance sports is influenced by several variables. A small number of studies have shown that endurance training in the afternoon or evening produces better increases in VO2 max (20) and performance on a swim bench seems to reflect the faster times posted in evening swim races (21).

Are you a morning or an evening person?
There is general agreement in the literature that people have distinct natural tendencies towards ‘morningness’ or ‘eveningness’. The reason that people tend to display one or the other of these tendencies is not clearly understood. For instance, an individual who feels at his or her best first thing in the morning will often exercise at that time. Since exercise has the potential to affect human circadian rhythms (22, 30) and bright light is considered to be one of the most potent zeitgebers (time givers) of all (31), it is reasonable to assume that individuals who exercise outside at sunrise are reinforcing this behavioural tendency.

Circadian Rhythm
The circadian rhythm is the most powerful rhythm affecting humans: as well as the sleep/waking cycle, it affects hormone secretions, body temperature, mental alertness and physical performance capacity.


Due to these rhythmic fluctuations, many people experience maximum mental alertness, fastest reaction times and highest core temperature in the late afternoon/early evening period, while the peak in melatonin concentrations in the middle of the night period leads to maximum fatigue/sleepiness and lowest alertness.

Mike ODonnell
12-15-2009, 08:22 AM
I always just felt better/stronger when my workouts were in the PM for me.....was never a morning exercise person (even though all my hockey practices were at 6am....I hated those).

Garrett Smith
12-15-2009, 08:34 AM
Best times to work out:

When you have the time
When your gym is open
When your coach/trainer is available
The time(s) you find you can be the most consistent
When your training partner(s) or team can train

Poliquin stated we adapt to whenever we train the most consistently.

My training schedule based on the above things is currently (roughly):

Tuesday - early AM snatch workout, no partner
Wednesday - evening gymnastics workout, 1 or 2 partners
Thursday - lunchtime, front squat workout, no partner
Friday - lunchtime, shoulder & hips, strengthening & stretching, 1 or 2 partners
Saturday - early AM gymnastics/weighted chins/press workout, 1 partner
Sunday - early AM clean/back squat workout, 1 partner

This makes me super-tactically ready to work out at any time of day. :p

Steven Low
12-15-2009, 10:21 AM
So ideally,

skill work in the morning. Heavy work in the evening.

Donald Lee
12-15-2009, 11:56 AM
I train in the morning, but it does suck that I have to warm up an extra 10-15 min to just get loose. I've injured my back probably about 3 times in the last 1.5 years, but I'd attribute that to flexibility/form issues moreso than training in the morning.

It's a good thing none of us are training for the Olympics, but these things are interesting to note nevertheless. This was one of the most interesting things to me:

For every 1 deg. rise in body temperature, nerve conduction velocity increases by 2.4 in/sec (Winget et al, 1985).

I guess I just need to focus on my general warm-up more than I have been. I usually focus more on warming up my joints and obtaining adequate mobility moreso than warming up my core temperature.

Garrett Smith
12-15-2009, 12:15 PM
Excellent point, Donald. I need to pay more attention to this as well. I already give myself a half hour of "being awake" before I start my joint mobility & dynamic stuff, which leads to a gradual warm-up. However, my couple of minutes of jump rope in there are likely sub-optimal for raising my body temperature to where it needs to be.

Could explain why my morning snatch workouts really suck sometimes.

Mike ODonnell
12-15-2009, 01:31 PM
If I had to train in the AM....I would probably do a hot/cold contrast shower before hand to get the blood going and shock the CNS awake.

Derek Weaver
12-15-2009, 06:26 PM
I may have missed but I know guys like gentilcore and cressey both have noted that for back health it's good to be vertical for 45 minutes to an hour before a morning workout.

Derek Simonds
12-17-2009, 03:07 PM
I am going to definitely look at warming up more this winter. I also train pretty much exclusively in the morning.

Garrett Smith
12-17-2009, 03:29 PM
Not that it matters, but I'm pretty sure Gentilcore agrees with nearly anything Cressey says, NTTAWWT...

Derek Weaver
12-17-2009, 06:15 PM
Yeah, he certainly does. I read a fair amount by both of them, mostly on T-Mag, but I check out their blogs from time to time. There are a few things they are a little different on, but not much.

To be honest, they both make a lot of sense. No fault in that.