Q: When is the best time to weight train, and when is the best time to do energy-system training such as sprints?
A: You know instinctively that the best time to train is whenever you feel most energetic and can fit it into your schedule. Individual differences regarding the best time of day to train are due to the fact that all people have slightly different circadian rhythms, or chronobiology. Bill Pearl trains at 3 a.m., and so did Boyer Coe in the late ’70s and early ’80s. That said, research into the area reveals some noteworthy points.
For muscle building, testosterone is highest in the morning and gradually declines over the course of the day, suggesting that morning may be the best time to lift. For sprint training, competing or working out in the midafternoon and early evening tends to produce faster times. Greater strength and speed later in the day are likely due to the fact that your body temperature increases as the day progresses, leading to enhanced muscle function and flexibility.
Studies done in the ’60s and ’70s in Germany and the former Soviet Union have shown that maximal strength levels reach their peak values three and 11 hours after awakening. In other words, if you wake up at 7 a.m., you should train at 10 a.m. or at 6 p.m. A variety of causes could explain those strength-enhanced hours, including circadian hormonal fluctuations or neural facilitation.
Another factor in the recommendation to wait a few hours after awakening before weight training is synovial fluid temperature. In laymans terms, synovial fluid is joint lubricant. Apparently, it takes three hours before the joints reach an optimal level of warmth so that the viscosity is optimal.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com. Also, see his ad on the opposite page. IM