early morning bodybuilding workouts

by Jason Stallworth

October 11, 2019

What time of the day do you workout? Have you ever considered early morning workouts?

In this post, I’m going to tell you why I’ve been training in the early mornings for practically my entire adult life! After reading this, you may indeed change your workout schedule.

I’m also going to give you a complete guide to working out in the mornings.

Here’s what you’ll learn…

  • Morning VS evening workouts
  • Awesome Benefits of early morning workouts
  • Why you may be stronger in the morning
  • How you may gain more muscle by working out in the mornings
  • When to go to bed and wake up
  • What to do the night before
  • Tips on getting morning motivation

Early Morning VS Evening Workouts

Let’s tackle the first debate that’s going on in your mind right now. Because many claim there’s no way they can be as strong in the early morning.

I listed ‘early morning vs. evening‘ because most people work out in the evenings. It’s obvious because every gym in the world is the most crowded at that time.

That’s a convenient schedule for bodybuilders and weightlifters than have a 9-5 job. They just go lift weights after work.

Of course, there are other times during the day you can go to. Like mid-day or at night. So this is really ‘early morning workouts VS. any other time.’

So, early morning workouts…you probably have these concerns:

  • How the heck am I supposed to workout at 5 AM??? (this is the biggest question…lol!)
  • Won’t I be weaker in the morning than in the evening?
  • I’m just not a morning person! …I’m going to MAKE you one!
  • What do I eat that early before my workout?
  • What time do I have to go to bed?
  • I’d love to train in the morning but I just don’t feel like I’ll get a good workout.

Don’t worry, I’m going to address all of these concerns. The rest of this post is going to be my personal guide to early morning workouts.

Benefits of Early Morning Workouts

heavy incline dumbbell press

First, let’s go over the high-level benefits of training in the morning. And if you’re a serious bodybuilder or an avid weightlifter, these benefits are really going to resonate with you.

  • The gym typically has substantially fewer people at 5 AM than 5 PM
  • Because of the above, you’ll have access to more equipment at this time – no waiting on someone to get off the bench press!
  • You get your most important task of the day DONE FIRST – your workout
  • Working out in the early morning will set the tone for your entire day
  • Potential for faster, greater muscle gains
  • Mentally stimulating

Are You Stronger in the Morning or Evening?

This is a HUGE (no pun intended!) debate in the bodybuilding and strength training community. And if you Google the phrase ‘are you strong in the morning or night’ you will indeed find more articles that support evening workouts for strength.

Here are a couple of articles favoring evening/night workouts over morning workouts, and these are from reputable sources:

However, I disagree.

Now, I’m not telling you what’s right or wrong. I’m simply sharing my personal experience.

I’ve gone through periods of time where I trained in the evenings. And I never noticed any differences in my strength working out in the mornings VS. evenings.

Jason Stallworth 405 bench
**This is me hitting a PR on bench press a few years ago – this happened around 5:15 AM!

The caveat to this is if you’re not used to waking up early and working out, you will be weaker at first. So expect that. It’s going to take a week or so to get used to this schedule.

Your strength in the mornings largely depends on the amount of quality rest you get the night before, and also what you eat the evening before. I’ll get into that later.

Morning Muscle Gains

We talked about strength, but what about packing on muscle size and making gains with early morning workouts?

Muscle gains are largely dependent upon your workout intensity. And workout intensity requires both physical and mental energy.

You may discover that you actually have more energy in the mornings once you get up and get going. I will share some tips on how to tap into this energy. Matt Danielsson talks about this and other relative benefits in his article Morning Training! on Bodybuilding.com.

You can harness this energy to train harder, more intense, and train longer if you’re going for volume. And in the morning, your mind is fresh and clear, so you can focus on every single rep! This is important for making gains.

**If you train in the evenings, you may not have that same level of energy.

This could be due to the stressful workday or the many things that can come up during the day that can mess with your psyche.

And this type of stress can raise your cortisol levels, which will definitely have a negative impact on your workout.

Your New Wake Up, and Bedtime for Early Morning Bodybuilding

dumbbells

Let’s use a nice round number and say you want to be at the gym on your first set by 5 AM. My advice is to wake up at 4:15 AM.
If you live close to your gym, then 4:30 AM may work.

  • Wake Up Time: Between 4:15 AM and 4:30 AM

Your bedtime will vary between 9 PM and 10 PM. There’s not really a one-size-fits-all sleep time for everyone. But a good range to experiment with is between 6-8 hours.

  • Bedtime: Between 8:30 PM and 10:00 PM

Now, here’s a crucial factor for muscle gains and being rested enough to train hard the next morning: you need quality sleep. I talk more about this in my post called 7 Reasons You’re Not Making Gains (read tip 4).

I personally make a point to be in bed by 9:45 PM. I have found that I have plenty of energy and strength in the gym the next morning with 6.5 hours of quality sleep.

You may do better with 7, or 6, or 8. You’ll have to experiment with that to find what works for you, and adjust your bedtime accordingly.

How To Prep For Your Morning Workout the Night Before

When people complain that they’re not a morning person or do not have the energy in the mornings, I immediately question what they’re doing the night before.

If you’re drinking a lot of alcohol or eating an abundance of fatty or sugary foods, then yeah, you’re going to feel like crap when you wake up at 4-something AM.

I would assume since you’re at least semi-serious about your physique and strength that you already know better, so let’s move on to some other important details about what you should do the night before your workout

  • Eat a hefty dinner around 6:00 or 7:00 PM. Make sure this meal is packed with protein, some carbs, and some fats.
  • Eat another protein-based meal (and you can add some fats) about 30 minutes before you go to sleep. Or drink a protein shake.
  • Take ZMA before bed This is a zinc, magnesium, and B6 formula that helps increase testosterone, growth hormone, and improve your sleep (you will have some weird dreams for the first 2 weeks).
  • Relax before bed and don’t do anything to stimulate your mind (no political stuff, news, or social media…instead, read something light or watch something funny on TV).

**My go-to ZMA formula is the original SNAC formula from the creator of ZMA, Victor Conte.

You can pick this up on Amazon here: GET SNAC ZMA

What To Do When You Wake Up

This may come as a shock to you, and I’m not recommended it, but I don’t eat anything before I workout in the morning.

Here’s what I do before my morning workouts

  • Drink a full glass of water
  • Drink pre-workout energy drink (I finish this on the way to the gym)
  • Start sipping my BCAAs when I get tot he gym (I finish this about halfway through my workout).

I understand that this may not work for you! I’ve experimented with eating before my workouts.

For example, I used to drink a scoop of whey protein with water and have a teaspoon of peanut butter. And who knows…I may go back to that at some point.

The most ideal thing to do is what Mike Ohearn does. He wakes up super early and has a full meal about an hour before his workout. Here’s the full video demonstrating this:

So here are 3 things you can do in the morning before you go to the gym (in regards to nutrition):

  1. Just drink water, energy drink, and BCAAs (what I do)
  2. Eat a small meal, like whey protein and peanut butter
  3. Wake up earlier and eat a full meal like Mike Ohearn

Bodybuilding and working out is all about experimenting. You have to try different things to find what works best for you!

Morning Workout Motivation Tips

Okay, so you know you need to go to bed at a decent time. You need quality rest. And you know that you need adequate nutrition the night before.

But now it’s really starting to sink in now that you’re going to be doing something that most people think is crazy…

Waking up at 4-something-AM to go lift weights!

So here are some tips to help you get up and get motivated to attack weights and get a killer workout! Some of these I already covered but they’re worth reiterating:

  • Do not get into anything intense before bed (no politics, no negative social media or news, no arguing with your spouse, etc.)
  • Relax before bed by reading something entertaining, watching something funny on TV, or even doing some Yoga at night
  • Do some Yoga or stretching at night (I know I just mentioned that, but trust me on this…this will blast your muscle gains to the next level, as crazy as that sounds!)
  • Do NOT cloud your mind with crap first-thing in the morning. Don’t worry about social media, checking your bank accounts, work-related stuff, and all the stuff you’re tempted to do when you wake up.
  • Regardless of what meal plan you go with before your workout, make sure you drink a full glass of water upon waking! This will actually give you a natural energy boost, and also hydrate you for your workout.
  • Listen to something positive on the way to the gym! Get your mind and head right!
  • I’m a HUGE fan of drinking BCAAs during your workout.

**I’ve mentioned taking BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) a couple of times here. I’m a personal fan because they work well for increasing your workout volume and capacity, and giving you that muscle energy you need to do more sets and reps.

In fact, if I were forced to only take 1 supplement, this would probably be the it. My go-to BCAA supplement for YEARS has been Scivation Xtend.

The 90-serving container is WAY MORE cost effecient.

GET XTEND ON AMAZON

Are You Going to Wake Up in Time for the Gym?

So, are you going to change your routine and start training in the mornings? I really think you’d fall in love with this schedule!

Yes, it will be a little tough at first. But if you’re consistent, your body will get used to it, quickly.

And yes, people will think you’re crazy for waking up so early to go lift weights. But this is your passion (and they probably think you’re crazy already for building so much muscle, so who cares!!!).

Just follow my tips and checklist that I gave you above. And you want to save this article in your favorites to easily refer back to.

I hope you start lifting weights in the early morning! It will change every for the better!

**If you’re ready to start an intense 12-week program, check out my premium programs below:

Hardcore Muscle Building Program
Lean Muscle Building Program

Train with Passion,

Jason

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