Amy Ashmore by Amy Ashmore

Fitness programming is complicated. With so many options, it can be tough to decide where to start and how to customize a client’s program for best results. However, new research suggests that the key to faster results is to align your workouts with your body’s natural rhythms. Here are five easy tips to personalize your clients’ workouts and get faster results.

Tip #1: Align workout modes with biological clocks.

  • Endurance and stamina peak first thing in the morning. Early to mid-morning is the best time for cardiovascular training.
  • Cognition is greatest around midday. Do sport specific and mental training at late morning to early afternoon.
  • Strength is greatest for most people between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Testosterone peaks and size and strength gains are optimized during that time.
  • Speed is also maximized between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Muscle pliability also peaks between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Flexibility is greatest at that time, and stretching is easier and more comfortable.

Tip #2: Align workouts with your chronotype, or natural sleep-wake cycle.

Take the quiz below to determine your chronotype, and pass the quiz along to clients and friends to determine theirs.

  1. You have to do two hours of physically hard work. If you were entirely free to plan your day, in which of the following periods would you choose to do the work?
    1. 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. (4 points)
    2. 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. (3 points)
    3. 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. (2 points)
    4. 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. (1 point)
  2. You have to take a two-hour test. You know it will be mentally exhausting. If you were entirely free to choose, when would you choose to take the test?
    1. 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. (4 points)
    2. 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. (3 points)
    3. 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. (2 points)
    4. 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. (1 point)
  3. A friend has asked you to join him twice per week for a workout. The best time for him is between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. With nothing else in mind other than how you normally feel in the evening, how do you think you would perform?
    1. Very poorly (4 points)
    2. Poorly (3 points)
    3. Well enough (2 points)
    4. Very well (1 point)
  4. We hear about “morning” and “evening” types of people. Which of these types do you consider yourself?
    1. Definitely morning type (6 points)
    2. More a morning than an evening type (4 points)
    3. More an evening than a morning type (2 points)
    4. Definitely an evening type (0 points)

Add your scores together to get your total and compare your score with the table below to identify your chronotype. Your chronotype suggests your best time of day to train where overall fitness and pleasure are your primary goals.

  • Definitely morning type (14–16 points)
  • Moderately morning type (11–13 points)
  • Neither type (9–10 points)
  • Moderately evening type (4–8 points)
  • Definitely evening type (0-3 points)

Tip #3: Stick to a regular schedule.

Urge your clients to choose their workout times according to their chronotype and, as their schedule permits, to stick to a regularly timed workout plan. We know from sports and test taking that people perform best when they practice at the same time of day that they will be competing or taking a test. The same is true for fitness. The body gets accustomed to the routine, and the next tip explains why.

Tip #4: Use anticipatory training.

Your muscles can anticipate an upcoming workout. When you let them know what is coming up, they ready themselves for each workout, and results are enhanced. How do muscles know what is coming?

Inside each one of your 600 muscles, there is a mini biological clock, which pay careful attention to your sleeping, eating and exercise patterns. With the help of your muscle’s biological clocks, your body knows when to anticipate an upcoming workout and makes the necessary changes to the muscle’s molecular structure in anticipation and results like calories burned and strength gained are maximized.

Tip #5: Use intermittent rests similar to intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is the notion that cavemen didn’t eat regularly and they were totally fine and actually thrived. The idea behind intermittent fasting is to fast on two non-consecutive days per week. Borrowing from intermittent fasting is the idea of intermittent rest. Take two non-consecutive days off per week and schedule your most intense sessions prior to a day off for full recovery.

Want to learn more from Amy Ashmore? Check out our Programming for Strength Gains: New Research Exposes Timing as the Key Variable online course.