First thing in the morning might be the perfect time to get your bodybuilding workout on. While you might be bleary eyed and half asleep when you get up, by the time you finish in the weights room you'll feel full of energy and be raring to go. You'll need to make dietary adjustments and have a solid plan in place, of course. Morning workouts can be tough at first, but once you get used to them you'll be set for the day. Not only will you be the early bird that catches the worm, you'll also be the woman who has her workout behind her and the whole day ahead of her!
Most female bodybuilders follow a split routine, in which they train one or two muscle groups each day. This allows you to concentrate on individual body-parts and dedicate more time to those that are lagging behind. Jamie Eason, champion bodybuilder and fitness model, recommends following a five day split. Train your quads and calves on Monday, chest, triceps and abs on Tuesday, back, biceps and calves on Wednesday, hamstrings and glutes on Thursday and shoulders, abs and calves on Friday. The huge bonus to following a split like this and training in the morning is that you shouldn't have to wait for equipment as you would at peak evening time, so you can keep your workout fast-paced.
Your muscles and joints are nicely warmed up from a whole day of moving around when you train in the afternoon of evening. In the morning though, you may not be fully physically and mentally warmed up. In "Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance" author Stuart McGill cautions against performing exercises that require heavy spinal loading, such as squats and deadlifts, within an hour of waking. This is because your spine is more delicate after eight hours of lying down. If you're training within an hour of rising, you may wish to make leg presses, leg curls and extensions or lunges your main leg exercises rather than performing heavy barbell moves.
Nutrition is just as important as training when it comes to bodybuilding; building muscle requires caloric excess. If you wish to eat prior to your workout, have a meal high in protein and carbs one to two hours pre-workout -- a bowl of oatmeal with some scrambled eggs and fruit, or a protein shake accompanied by a piece or two of toast would be ideal. If your preference is not to eat before a workout though and if eating before a morning workout means you could see your breakfast again, you may want to consider training while fasted. Fasted training can help speed up fat loss; you may feel less sluggish without a big meal inside you, says strength coach and powerlifter Nia Shanks. You should experiment and see what works for you though.
Bodybuilding isn't all about lifting weights -- cardio is important too. During the off-season, gaining mass cardio helps to keep body-fat levels in check, while in pre-contest mode, cardio will get you shredded quicker than diet alone. According to Sara Solomon and Natalie Pennington, professional bodybuilders writing for "Oxygen Magazine," fasted cardio in the morning can speed up fat loss. To minimize muscle loss, however, you should have a protein-based meal or shake beforehand and keep the intensity low to moderate. Save your harder cardio for later in the day.
- Bodybuilding.com: Interview: Jamie Eason
- "Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance": Stuart McGill: April 2004
- Nia Shanks: Three Methods of Intermittent Fasting (Updated)
- Oxygen Magazine: Fasted Cardio or Not So Fast? The Skinny on Getting Skinny
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.