morning training - JMax Fitness

How to Succeed at Early Morning Training

Time is a cruel mistress.
Sometimes it drags by, leaving you staring at the second hand willing the seconds to pass. Sometimes it flies past, leaving you bobbing on a wake of mounting stress and to-do lists.


Very few people have too MUCH time. For most, time is a scarce commodity, and it can be the make or break factor with progress in our strength and physique pursuits. Morning training is a pretty simple solution to a very common problem. It’s a way to ensure a good level of consistency and comparability. What’s more, very few commitments ask for your morning and if they do, they’re rare. In comparison, your evening can sometimes be up for debate. 5pm has come and gone, 7pm is a distant memory and the pile of papers is building, not diminishing – your squat session just got cancelled. Sound familiar?

It’s common to cringe at the idea of heavy training in the early hours. When its top competitor is a few extra hours shut-eye it’s easy to let your intentions slip and put off training for that day. That may be permissible if morning training is something you just “fancy trying.” But if it’s a question of either training at that time, or not training at all, choosing a pillow over a barbell isn’t an option. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of morning training first (in case you still need convincing!)

The Benefits of Training in the Morning

1) Comparability

The primary benefit of training in the morning is comparability.

If you wake and train at the same time each morning, you create a very ritualized environment. This will ultimately lead to a very successful training regime.

In a standard week where you may train at a varied time each day, it can be hard to place why you had a good or bad session that day. Was it the meal you ate? The song you were listening to? What about the pre-workout? It could be any or all of the listed factors and you’ll never know for sure. When you’re doing things in identical circumstances each and every session, it can be easy to pinpoint the things that enhance and the things that detract from a session. Ultimately, this allows you to optimize and refine over time, arriving at a rewarding and effective training routine.

2) Efficiency

If you’ve ever had to wait in the queue for the bench press, you’ll be (painfully) aware of how inefficient most people are with their time in the gym.

The well known principle of Parkinson’s law states that a task will expand to fill the time allotted to it. The weight room can be a great example of this.

With the whole evening to complete their sessions, the majority of trainees will spend an extra 30-45 minutes in the gym than required. When you have an allotted amount of time before you need to be elsewhere, you’re forced to look for ways to optimize your training routine.

3) Social benefits

Sure, you many no longer be able to chat to your buddies by the water fountain.

But if you’re getting your training in before 8am, your evenings just freed up! Unless every one of your friends is also a keen gym-goer, you’ll likely appreciate the new found ability to be able to socialize with them in the evenings, instead of spending your time sweating in a squat rack.

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Disadvantages of Morning Training

1) Early mornings mean earlier bed times

If you’re planning to wake early, you won’t be able to sustain this for any length of time without still ensuring you’re hitting 7 hours or more sleep per night.

The inevitable problem here is that you’ll also need to hit the sack earlier. I’ve addressed this problem below. But if you have commitments that occasionally extend late into the night, this is something worth considering.

2) Potential for an increased injury risk

This is not the case for everyone but typically, first thing in the morning, we’re less prepared for physical activity.

It can take a while for our core temperature to rise. Even with copious amounts of caffeine and death metal, we can be a little less coordinated than normal.

Again, I’ve provided some strategies to mitigate this below but something to be borne in mind.

3) A higher RPE

Almost everyone I have worked with has reported a higher RPE (rating of perceived exertion) when training earlier in the morning.

Personally, I have found this to decrease over time. But certainly, for the first few months, training sessions that were fairly mundane on a normal day can feel very challenging when done first thing in the morning.

So, a blend of pros and cons. Morning training may not be for you and it isn’t for everyone. I believe that while there are some disadvantages, they are easily managed and more than outweighed by the benefits. I’ve been training first thing in the morning for many years at this point and have never regretted the change. Below, I’ve collated 5 tips on how to mitigate the disadvantages listed above and integrate morning training successfully.

First and foremost, you should set aside 1 month at least of lighter, easier training. Expect the worst. You’re not going set PBs in your first morning session. It’s a good time to make your training deliberately easier than normal. Start light and don’t expect a lot from your sessions at first – success in that regard will come with time. For now, success is showing up and doing SOMETHING. Soon, you’ll be setting lifetime PBs before friends and colleagues have even hit snooze. Personally, I used my transition to morning training to rework my technique on the main powerlifts (back squat, bench press, and deadlift). This is a process that specifies light loads. It meant that, no matter how much my ego fought me, I couldn’t lift heavy loads or expect PRs in a session. I would recommend using loads in the 60-75% rep range, 25 reps per movement, and only 1 or 2 compound movements per session.

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5 Tips to Succeed at Morning Training

1) Allow time.

Don’t expect to step out of bed, get straight under a barbell, and have anything better than an average session.

You need time to wake up properly. I like to try and wake up 60-90 minutes before training, maybe earlier if possible.

I ensure I get plenty of water, some caffeine, and a chance to come to. Typically, I’ll wake up early enough to meditate, run through some mobility drills, and plan my day. I like to be starting my session by 6:45am and train for 1 hour (I start work at 9am). This of course means that on the days I train (Mon-Fri), I’m awake by 5:15am.

The 90 minute window and 5am start is too extreme for some and of course isn’t required. The point here is, allow yourself some time to fully wake up. This will likely take a little longer than you’d expect at first.

2) Set a deadline & have an evening routine.

Early mornings don’t need to mean less sleep.

If you know you need to be up early, be diligent and hit the sack earlier.Some will find this tough at first.

Most 9-5ers fiercely protect their evenings. It does just boil down to something that may need to be done if you want to get your training in. If you need to be asleep earlier than normal, having a routine that you can initiate to help you get to sleep on time will be a great help. General ‘sleep hygiene’ is always a positive habit but more so than ever if you expect to fall asleep on demand. Set an alarm to 1 hour before you need to be asleep. Keep this as a sacred time for stretching, meditation, reading, and packing the bags for tomorrow. For my 5:15am wake up, I try to be in bed by 10pm.

3) Bedside caffeine.

Even if you get a solid 8 hours, you’re probably going to need a bit of a kick-start waking up before your usual alarm.

I like to set my alarm 10 minutes before I’m due to wake up, take some caffeine, and then head back on the pillow. Obviously the world is your oyster here with the source of caffeine to use, and most pre-workouts would serve the purpose. I favor caffeine in a pill form for ease.

4) Eat for purpose.

You don’t want to chow down 1000kcal 30 minutes prior.

You’ll likely already feel sluggish and this won’t help. This is my current regime. I usually try and do my first work-set by 6:45am.


When – 6:15am (in the car)

What – 10g BCAA, 5g Creatine, 3g Beta-alanine; 1 large coffee; 1 bag Skittles

Why – Fast acting carbs and protein with <200kcal


When – 6:30-7:30am

What – Drink 1L water with electrolytes; maybe more Skittles

Why – Likely still dehydrated; salted water to replace lost electrolytes (I tend to sweat more with AM training)


When – 7:30-8:00am

What –  The night before I pre-pack 100g dry oats mixed with 50g whey, 10g cocoa, and 10g Stevia, and a Quest bar. I throw this in a Tupperware and take a small flask of hot water. After my session, I’ll set aside 5 minutes in the car to mix and eat this. Pair with some milky coffee and it makes for a very rewarding routine, especially in the winter months.

Why: carbs and protein – no justification beside being bloody lovely

5) Get warm & amped.  

This starts with a hot shower, raising the body’s core temperature is crucial.

On your way to the gym, crank the music louder than usual. It’s important to have a ritual that allows you to get into the right frame of mind.

Loud music will do this for most as well as serving as a great partner to the caffeine currently surging through your system.

Once in the gym, we need an actual warm up and it needs to be a priority. Start with general movement – 5 minutes on the treadmill or rowing machine. Then:



Remember, this is not when you do your mobility work. Too many people get caught up in the vast array of information available regarding warm ups. They spend more time rolling around on a lacrosse ball than they do actually lifting.  We want to get warm and ready to train, nothing more. If you want to work on soft tissue restrictions, keep it separate from your training.


Morning training is a great habit to cultivate and can really provide some consistency in an otherwise random and hectic schedule. Once you get over the initial frictions, it could be your path to sweet, sweet gains.

About the Author

jonny watson - morning trainingJonny Watson is a coach and co-owner at Propane Fitness. They specialise in distilling approaches down to the minimum effective dose, working with simple, effective principles, no fluff or gimmicks. Using habit based coaching and lifestyle design, they coach clients to the stage, platform and even to just looking good on the poolside.