Most online training programs are programmed for the evening lifter. The 9-to-5 worker who trains in the evening hours after a long day at the office.
You know the programs where all the meals lead up to training later in the day?
What about those of you who work different shifts or only have time in the morning to train? Whether it’s family, work, or other obligations that influence your gym time, you need a different plan of action. One that has you training first thing in the morning and the pre- and post-workout meals to go with it.
Below is the framework for morning lifters. Take the guesswork out of your training and eating to reap more muscle for being an early riser.
Rules for Morning Workouts
Here are just a few rules for morning workouts. Some will be familiar while others may take some getting used to.
1. The Dynamic Warm Up is a Must
This isn’t your granddaddy’s warm up of slow pedaling on a bike or walking on the treadmill. You don’t have all the time in the world in the morning so you need to get down to business. Dynamic warm ups consist of activating certain areas of the body for the work ahead. Push ups, bodyweight squats, and burpees are just a few examples. Do them. They will prepare your body more effectively than a slow stroll on the treadmill.
2. Start with Abs
Your spine is cold first thing in the morning. Less fluid, less pliability, and less activation mean more risk for injury. The dynamic warm up will take care of some of this, but let’s take it a step further. Get specific. Start each morning workout with some abdominal work. This will wake up and warm up that spine for the heavier lifting to come.
3. Make the Most of Warm Up Sets
Now that you are ready to take on your weight workout, don’t just start throwing some light weights around like you normally would to warm up. When performing progressive warm up sets, be sure that each set and rep is executed perfectly. You want to continue to increase blood flow to the muscle and now’s not the time to become careless.
4. Err on the side of Higher Reps
Lifting heavy for strength is a great goal, but if you’re in this for the long haul, use some caution and go a bit higher on reps for most of your sets. Lifting moderate weight for moderate reps will do more for reshaping your physique than ultra-heavy lifting. Stay moderate and you will build more muscle. Your joints will thank you for it too.
5. To Adapt, Be Patient
Starting a morning lifting plan takes some getting used to. At first you may find you struggle to stay strong throughout the each workout, but over time your body will adapt and play catch-up in little time. Be patient, gut through your sessions, and you will soon progress easier than before.
The Morning Workout Routine
Start this program each morning with the dynamic warm up below. Perform the warm up deliberately – don’t just go through the motions. Perform each workout once per week such as Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Take Wednesday and the weekends off.
Do 2-4 rounds with a minute rest between each round before every workout.
|Lunges||10 (each leg)|
|1. Incline Bench Barbell Press||2x12||3x4-6||90 sec|
|2. Flat Bench Dumbbell Press||--||3x4-6||90 sec|
|3. Medium or Wide-Grip Pull-Up (add weight if necessary)||2x12||3x4-6||90 sec|
|4. Barbell or Two-Arm Dumbbell Row||--||3x4-8||90 sec|
|5. Standing Barbell Military Press||1x12||3x4-8||90 sec|
|6. Dumbbell Upright Row||--||3x4-8||90 sec|
|7. Hanging Leg Raise||--||3x10-15||30 sec|
|8. Floor Crunch||--||3x10-15||30 sec|
|1. Barbell Curl||1x12||3x4-6||90 sec|
|2. Close-Grip Bench Press||1x12||3x4-6||90 sec|
|3. Leg Press||2x12||3x6-8||90 sec|
|4. Barbell Squat||--||3x6-8||90 sec|
|5. Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift||1x12||3x6-8||90 sec|
|6. Seated Calf Raise||1x12||3x6-8||90 sec|
|7. Incline Sit Up||--||3x10-15||30 sec|
|1. Incline Bench Dumbbell Press||2x12||3x8-12||60 sec|
|2. Flat Bench Barbell or Machine Press||--||3x8-12||60 sec|
|3. Inverted Row||1x12||3x8-12||60 sec|
|4. Machine Row or Close-Grip Pulldown||--||3x8-12||60 sec|
|5. Seated Dumbbell Side Lateral||1x12||3x8-12||60 sec|
|6. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press||--||3x8-12||60 sec|
|7. Incline Crunch||--||3x15-20||30 sec|
|8. Hanging Knee-Ups||--||3x15-20||30 sec|
|1. Incline Bench Dumbbell Curl||1x12||4x8-12||60 sec|
|2. Lying Two-Arm Dumbbell Nosebreaker||1x12||4x8-12||60 sec|
|3. Bulgarian Split Squat||2x12||3x8-12||60 sec|
|4. Barbell Squat or Leg Press||--||3x8-12||60 sec|
|5. Lying or Seated Leg Curl||1x12||3x8-12||60 sec|
|6. Standing Calf Raise||1x12||3x8-12||60 sec|
|7. Hanging Leg Raise||--||3x15-20||30 sec|
Rules for Morning Nutrition
You may also need to adjust your morning eating. Depending on when exactly you train in the morning, you will need some sort of eating plan (specifically pre- and post-workout meals).
1. Get Over Your Mental Block
First and foremost, you have to get over the notion that you have to have some huge, perfectly designed meal before every workout. The larger and more complex the meal, the more blood pools to your digestive system and not to where you want it – your muscle tissue.
2. You need Less Than you Think
With the above said, you actually don’t need a ton of food early in the morning – especially prior to training. Again, you just need a little so your stomach doesn’t horde a bunch of blood volume, leaving you with a bloated midsection, a sluggish workout, and no pump. A little goes a long way. Your muscles and liver, along with a small meal, will provide enough energy to get you through an effective workout.
3. Stay Lean and Light
So what do you eat? Keep it light and simple. Nothing too heavy or hard to digest. Easily digestible proteins and carbs are your best bet. Remember, you don’t have a ton of time to sit and wait for your food to settle. You need to get up, go to the gym, and get in a kick-butt workout. You could try 1 scoop of whey protein with a small piece of fruit.
4. Decide How Much You Need
Normally, those who get out of bed and head straight to the gym will only need some fast-digesting protein and possibly a healthy fat. Others who have a small window of time between waking and working out can get away with a small amount of a complex carb along with a protein source. You can decide which category you fall into. You can have a fast breakfast after you hit the gym.
5. Be Patient
As stated earlier, adapting to a morning routine takes time and consistency. Over time your digestive system will adapt and learn to process your food along with your metabolism. Just keep a relatively consistent schedule and then you will start to see some real progress.
Morning Meal Plan Suggestions
Pre-Workout (upon rising)
- 1 scoop quality whey protein
- Small piece of fruit
Post-Workout (immediately after training)
- 1 scoop of whey protein
- 8-12 ounces of sports drink
- ½ to 1 cup of oats mixed with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter, cinnamon, and water
- 3 whole eggs scrambled
- 1 cup Greek yogurt