Q. What’s the best time of day to train for maximum strength gains?
A: It’s not clear that there is a finite answer for this. To some degree there is a great deal of variation depending on individual predisposition and inclination, which is affected by a lifter’s lifestyle and time constraints. There’s also a great deal of conflicting information and opinion on the issue. I would say that the jury is still out. One thing is certain, however: Your cortisol is spiked for about two hours after you wake up. Training within that elevated cortisol window is a big no-no.
Infinitely more important than the timing of your workout is that you do the following: 1) Be consistent with your lifting schedule, 2) follow an intelligent program and not one based on whatever broscience you picked up from Vinnie in the locker room, and 3) listen to your body. Timing your training to maximize strength gains may be relevant in some way, but it is not a major factor in organizing your training. The likelihood that you would have the scheduling flexibility to shift your training given the demands of your job, family, bills and all the rest of life’s responsibilities is slim. If you have that flexibility, congratulations—you are probably a pro athlete. In that case, hire a coach and do exactly what he or she says. Otherwise, my advice is to train shortly after your regular job ends, when your body is wide awake and you can focus all that work-related stress on crushing the weights.
Editor’s note: Ben White won his first IFBB professional bodybuilding contest, the Tampa Pro, in 2010. He is also a champion powerlifter and frequently competes in the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder contest at the Olympia. His best competition bench press is 711 pounds. He is an MPH athlete, www.MHPStong.com. IM