Late Afternoon Is The Best Time For Weight Training

body clock workoutFergus Walsh from BBC News reported today that new research into chronotherapy, which is the science of how the natural body clock affects various medical conditions, has revealed that our muscles are naturally strongest in the late afternoon.

If you pushing yourself to work harder, want to beat your personal bests, or entering a weight lifting competition, try to lift in the late afternoon.

It is interesting to note that professional bodybuilders who are cutting fat in the run up to competitions do their lifting in the afternoon – they seem to have discovered that this is the best time for them too.

Jay Cutler lifts some time after his third meal of the day, which I assume is afternoon. Victor Martinez does a big weight training session at around 6pm. Branch Warren seems to lift earlier in the day, after meal 2 (before lunch time?). Maybe he is losing out, or maybe he just gets up earlier than the others.

Research on the circadian rhythm has been ongoing for many years. We already know that heart attacks are more likely to happen in the morning and asthma is usually worse at night.

muscle power on bbc
Fergus Walsh demonstrating the body clock and MUSCLE time in the afternoon

David Ray, Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology at the University of Manchester, has said that 20 per cent of all proteins are controlled by the circadian clock.

Some scientists are concerned that our 24 hour lifestyles with constant access to mobile phones and the Internet is causing major health problems.

In one generation we have dramatically changed our lifestyles and sleep patterns.

When most middle-age people were growing up there was no Internet, no late night television. Some radio broadcast into the night.

This is not ground breaking news today. In 2012 the WSJ published an article that explained how to “Pack More in a Day By Matching Tasks To the Body’s Energy”.

They reported that muscle strength peaks between 2 pm and 6 pm, with a variance of up to six percent – this could in theory see you add 6 kg to a morning best lift of 100 kg.

Also, lung function is best at around 5 pm, with capacity increasing by 17.6 percent between 12pm and 5 pm.

In the evening muscles and joints become more flexible, with some people being 20 percent more flexible in the evening.

Personally, I have always preferred exercise, especially running and martial arts, in the evening. I did try to run in the mornings a few years ago without success – my body just did not want to respond to my desire to move!

Workout after work

Based on this information, the best time to workout would be at around 5pm. Doing a cardio warmup / fitness session and following it with some weight training at around 6pm would seem to be ideal, according to our current understanding of the natural body clock.

Of course, everybody is different, so you may find that your best time for exercise is some time before or after this. Try exercising at different times and test your fitness and strength to find your best window for exercise.


Shelagh investigates her body clock, by Shelagh Fogarty. Monday 12 May 2014, 16:32. BBC.

The Peak Time for Everything – Wall Street Journal. Updated Sept. 26, 2012 3:35 a.m. ET

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