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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

When Is the Best Time to Work Out? (Science-Backed Answer)

When Is the Best Time to Work Out? (Science-Backed Answer)

Since you already know you need to be active, the next question is when is the best time to work out?

This article will look to answer that question in regards to the best time of day to workout and if training at specific times is better than others.

What Are the Benefits That Come from Working Out?

If you’ve been committed to the same workout routine for a while, you may forget why you were even doing it in the first place. Looking good is usually at the top of everyone’s list, and that’s still a valid reason. But here’s a quick refresher on just SOME of the many benefits that come from keeping your body active:

  • Improved lean muscle mass
  • Decreased body fat
  • Stronger bones
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Better insulin sensitivity
  • Natural hormone production such as testosterone and human growth hormone that contribute to anti-aging
  • Stress relief
  • Improved creativity
  • Better sleep each night
  • Combats depression

Honestly, this list could go on for a while, but you can see how beneficial even just a few of these things can be to your overall health and wellness. So with this in mind, let’s take a look at the question of when is the best time to work out.

Is It Best to Workout in the Morning or Night?

If you’re a morning person, this can be an easy decision as you are probably already working out first thing. If you’re not a morning person, you may want to start considering it. Working out in the morning is not just a good way to get you up and running for the day, but it can have some benefits for the very end of the day. When you get active first thing, your circadian rhythm becomes better engaged. This is your biological clock and it can be thrown off pretty easily.

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If you stay up too late at night, you don’t give it a chance to run properly. Working out in the morning helps to set things in motion, which means it will wind down right when you’re needing to go to sleep. This is beneficial because it will improve the quality, and quantity of your sleep. Falling asleep will be easier as will staying asleep.

Research from Johns Hopkins found that morning workouts improved slow-wave sleep, which is the deep restorative sleep you need to recover and rejuvenate your body.[1] The morning workout also raises your body temperature which is a signal to the body that it’s time to wake up. The rise in core temperature that comes from exercise will help wake you up and increase alertness.

If you can only workout at night, you may want to keep things less intense. Whereas working out first thing can wake you up and jumpstart your energy, the same thing can happen at night making falling asleep difficult. We’ll get more into this in a bit.

What Is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?

So working out in the morning looks pretty beneficial, but when exactly is the best time? If you’re looking for weight loss and calories burning, the research shows that there is no best time of day to workout.[2] If you’re looking to feel better and more energized, the morning is still going to be best. Not only that, but exercising in the morning makes it more likely that you are going to stick with it and be consistent.

You also need to look at what type of exercising you are doing to find the ideal time. If it’s regular cardio such as running or walking, you should be good to go first thing when you wake up. If you are engaging in more high-intensity exercise such as strength training, HIIT training, circuit or boot camps, you may want to wait for a bit after you wake up.

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Depending on your schedule, this may or not be possible. If it is, you can wait an hour or two after a light breakfast to participate in a more engaging workout. You may also want to do some low-intensity cardio first thing in the morning and save the high-intensity stuff for lunchtime or after work.

So the best time of day to workout will depend on your goals. If you want to lose body fat, earlier in the morning will be best and it will keep your metabolism burning throughout the day. If your goals are primarily strength and muscle-based, you could wait until the late afternoon. This is the time of day when your hormone levels are higher – specifically testosterone – and this is when strength levels can peak.

Whichever time you can commit to, it’s important to stay consistent with it as research shows this will lead to better performance, improve oxygen consumption, and lower exhaustion rates.[3]

Is It Better to Exercise on an Empty Stomach?

You may not be a big breakfast eater or even feel like eating that much before a workout. If your morning workout is less-intense, you should be fine working out on an empty stomach. You need to remember that you still will have muscle energy in the form of glycogen stored in your liver and muscles from the carbohydrates you ate the night before. Don’t go longer than 20-30 minutes though, and make sure you have a replenishing meal within 30-60 minutes once you are done.

If you are engaged in something more intense early in the morning, you want to have something light and easily digestible 30-60 minutes beforehand. This can be something like a banana and protein shake. Remember to drink 8 oz of water about 15 minutes before you exercise, and continue to sip water throughout the duration of your workout.

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The main thing that is important is to focus on post-workout nutrition to replenish and repair the body. You don’t need to eat the moment you finish a workout but, you want to take advantage of the post-workout window to restore muscle glycogen and start repairing muscle. This is all part of recovery, and what you do at the end of one workout helps to prepare you for the next. So as long as you get in some decent nutrition within 2 hours of a workout, you should be all set.

Combining protein and carbohydrates with this meal is an ideal way to jump-start recovery. A good rule of thumb is eating 30 grams of carbohydrates and 15 grams of protein for every hour of intense exercise.[4]

Is It Bad to Exercise Before Bed?

This will again depend on the type of exercise. If it’s a lower intensity, there shouldn’t be a problem and this may help in getting you to sleep.

Some good forms of exercise before bed would include walking, cycling, and even yoga. If a workout is too intense close to bedtime, your body will have trouble winding down. Your endorphin levels will be spiked and this makes your body awake and alert. It can take an hour or two until these endorphins are washed out. Any intense workouts need to be a few hours before bed or you risk difficulty falling and staying asleep.

A good way to wind down the day can also involve some stretching to help in muscle recovery, relax the body and improve sleep quality. This can be a good time to do any foam rolling or treat any deep tissue issues that you may have.

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Bottom Line

When answering the question about the best time to work out, you need to look at a few factors.

Your goals will be the first thing you want to consider and then what your schedule allows. For general fitness and cardiovascular exercise, it does look like earlier in the day will be more beneficial. It also allows you to not have to worry about eating first thing and could lead to more body fat burning.

If your goals are more strength and muscle-based, waiting until later in the afternoon may serve you better. This is of course not written in stone, and the most important thing is to find the time of day that you are most likely able to commit and stay consistent with. This is ultimately what drives success and results.

Featured photo credit: Autumn Goodman via unsplash.com

Reference

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Adnan Munye

Personal Trainer and Fitness Expert

15 Fitness Goals That Will Help You Live a Healthier Life This Year 13 Most Common Muscle Building Mistakes to Avoid How to Lose Water Weight Fast And Naturally When Is the Best Time to Work Out? (Science-Backed Answer) What to Eat After a Workout (Revealed by Professional Trainer)

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come with myriads of benefits, such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness, which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

Benefits of Static Stretches

Static stretches come with tons of benefits that can help you make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

Improved Flexibility

If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1]

Although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

Prevent Injuries

If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and again that performing the right stretches pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

Think of it this way:

When you stretch, you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time, and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

Increased Blood Flow to the Joints

Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation, and removal of metabolites.

For static stretching, though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

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However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5]

Improvement in Recovery

If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling sore muscles for days.

Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibers back to their tip-top condition.

Research has shown that practicing static stretches after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released, and this encourages reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

  • Improved relaxation
  • Increased movement efficiency
  • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
  • Reduction in muscle tension
  • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
  • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
  • Relief from cramping

15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

1. Neck Stretch

    While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head, and place the other arm out to your side. Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing, and repeat for the opposite side.

    Many people tend to hold stress and tension in their neck and shoulders. If you find this is the case, this is one of the best static stretches to use for a muscle release in this area.

    2. Chest Stretch

      Stand upright, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks. While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

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      3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

      Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

        Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat, and extend one arm out in front to shoulder height. Grab the extended arm with your other arm, and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight. Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

        4. Triceps Static Stretch

          Lift your arms overhead, with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow. Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

          Many know this stretch from gym class, but it really is one of the best static stretches for the arms.

          5. Biceps Stretch

          Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch

            Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you. While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders, and chest. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

            6. Wrist Stretch

            11 Best Tennis Elbow Exercises For Pain Free Mobility [PDF]

              While standing up straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Grab your right fingers with your left hand, and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite arm.

              7. Side Stretch

                Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side. Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite side.

                The muscles down your side body are notoriously difficult to stretch out. This is one of the best static stretches to try on a consistent basis to get them loosened up.

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                8. Abdominal Static Stretch

                  Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up. While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push your upper body up from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                  9. Reclined Spinal Twist

                  Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan
                    Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor. While keeping the right leg straight, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side, and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.

                    Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground, and you should feel the stretch around your back. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                    10. Knees to Chest

                    Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                      Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent. Hold your shins, and pull your knees toward your chest. This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. If you’re looking to loosen up your back muscles, this is one of the static stretches you can do daily.

                      11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                      How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                        Stand upright in a standard lunge position, and place your two hands on your hips. Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                        12. Figure 4 Stretch

                        How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                          Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent. Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.

                          13. Standing Quad Stretch

                            Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture. With your left hand, grab a pole, wall, or anything durable for balance. With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.

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                            Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other side. This is one of the best static stretches for the quads.

                            14. Hamstring Stretch

                              Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent. Reach forward with your right hand, and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.

                              Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the left leg. If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead, but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                              15. Calf Stretch

                                Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you. Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.

                                Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg, if you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                When Should You Do Static Stretches?

                                Static stretching is great when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up routines before an explosive workout session.

                                This is because static stretches have a cool-down effect on each muscle group and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out, but do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body prepare better for the work ahead.

                                The Bottom Line

                                Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running. You need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training, and that’s the whole point of static stretches.

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                                Starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine, and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                More Tips on Stretching

                                Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

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