Training first thing in the morning is never really to be ideal, especially for heavy lifting. In a perfect world you’d be up for a few hours so that you give your body temperature a chance to get elevated and get the fluid moving that has settled in your discs overnight.

big-powerlifter

As you all know we don’t live in a perfect world though and a lot of people (including myself) have to train first thing in the morning or they’ll never get their workouts done. If that describes you here is some advice & tips that i have learned through my own experience & a mentor that could help you out.

First of all you really need to be awake for an hour before squatting or deadlifting heavy. Have you ever tried lifting ANY heavy weight half asleep? Let’s assume you’re going to train at 6am. You get up at five, brush your teeth, go to the bathroom and take a hot shower.
Now i know your going to say”whats the point? I’m going to get sweaty & take a shower afterwards” A hot shower is a must before heavy early morning sessions. It will help warm your body & aid in blood flowing around your body, along with generally waking you up resulting in a It will a better, safer workout.

 To Eat or Not to Eat 

With only an hour to spare eating is a toss up as you need to give it time to digest. If you must eat then eggs or a lean protein shake will do. However if you feasted and replenished your glycogen stores with a decent amount of carbs the night before you should be fine with no food. But don’t train completely fasted.
You should always have a coffee or even a pre-workout – everyone likes a coffee to wake up the brain. If you want an extra kick start during a fat loss diet you can even have both. After you finish your coffee have ten grams of branched chain amino acids (BCAA). This will prevent any potential muscle loss during the workout.

By the time you brush your teeth, shower, make coffee and drive/walk to the gym you should be closing in on an hour by now. If not you will be by the time you get half way through your warm up.

Safety Considerations

For early morning training I’d recommend an extra long warm up. Jump rope or even walk on the treadmill or ride a stationary bike for 3-5 minutes just to get some blood flowing then progress into your dynamic warm up.

When it comes to training I like do some ab & lower back work to help loosen up the core & prepare it for the loads ahead.
Something you can consider doing if you are injury prone and training at the crack of dawn is on a deadliest or squat day its recommended doing glute hams or some type of bodyweight leg curl variation before squatting. This idea came from world renowned strength coach & powerlifter Louie Simmons years ago.

So you might do a couple sets of weighted crunches, good mornings followed by some Kettlebell swings and THEN squat. Your quads and hamstrings might be pre-fatigued from the previous two exercises.If you are it will necessitate a reduction in weight. Since you are trying to stay safe that’s a good thing. And remember that it’s all relative.
If you would normally squat 100kg for ten but that goes down to 90kg for ten because you’re doing them third instead of first all that matters is that you get that 90kg up. If you increase that to 105kg it would be the same as increasing the 110kg, when done first, to 125kg. You’ll adapt and get used to it over time.

Post Workout Nutrition

After training I’d go with some protein powder or eggs and fruit or a jar of sweet potato baby food. It’s not essential that you have the fastest acting carbs or protein right after training. It doesn’t matter. You just want something to stop the catabolic (muscle loss) effects of training and to prevent any possible immune system suppression. Increased protein synthesis or anabolism (muscle building) at this time aren’t huge concerns; it’s just supplement company marketing hype.

 

eggs

 

So you can go with straight whey, a blend or even hemp protein. It won’t make any difference.

As far as carbs and glycogen replenishment go that’s over hyped as well. Some fruit or sweet potato baby food will be fine.As long as you feast at night on clean carbs you’ll have all the fuel you need for your workout the next morning. Glycogen replenishment is a long process and doesn’t happen immediately in two hours after you train.

I wouldn’t have starchy carbs in the morning because of the detrimental effects they have on energy levels and mental focus. Personally i have always found that after i have a bowl of porridge i become really tired & drained. A few hours after your post workout meal you could have another similar meal and continue to do so until your night time feast.

 Summary

To recap, if you’re training first thing in the morning:
1) You should be awake for an hour before your workout starts.
2) A hot shower is a must
3) A hot beverage like black coffee or green tea is also a must
4) Eating is not necessary
5) Taking ten grams of BCAA before your workout is
6) Do an extra long warm up
7) Consider placing big lifts later in your routine for safety purposes
8) Have some protein and fruit after
9) Continue with similar meals throughout the day
10) Feast at night

Follow this advise and i am sure you’ll be on the successful track for a hard & productive session