If you're like 99% of the general population, your life is probably pretty damn busy. When taking on new clients, one of the first questions I ask them is what they do for a living. Why? Nope, not because I'm nosey. Well I might be, but that's not the reason. The reason I ask this is because how a clients training should look is a very independent thing and one of the first things it should be based around is what they do for a living.
Why does it matter?
Here's an example. Take a labourer. Now, a labourer often has to endure some pretty tough days in his proverbial office. 6-8 hours of non stop hauling heavy bags of equipment interrupted by a couple occasions of donning his pinny and becoming the tea bitch. Tough days work huh?
Now take a office based salesman (or woman). A day of sitting down in a nice computer chair with the most physical exertion being getting up to chuck his meal prep chicken and rice in the microwave. Whilst mentally demanding, the office worker physically will be in a rested state for a large part of the day.
Now here's where the differences are:
At the end of a days work, the labourer has spent a good 5+ hours hauling around heavy items. Although these items arent in the form of barbells and dumbbells, they still have the same physiological cost on the bodies muscular system. Ever spent more than 2 hours in the gym training? Me too once, and I nearly died. You can bet your money that having not only burned a tonne of the calories that could have otherwise been used to optimise workout performance, the repetitive lifting done by the labourer will actually negatively impact a workout should they chose to do it after a days work.
At the end of the day for the office worker, whilst maybe being mentally fatigued, physically they're rested, full of unburned calories that have been consumed during the day and generally in a much favourable position to then go ahead and start a workout.
So when's best then?
The optimal time to train is when you are able to perform your best. In the case above, personally I would strongly suggest the labourer chose to fit his workouts in the morning once his body has had a chance to recover, replenish glycogen stores as a result of the meals eaten after his days work and use that fuel to maximise performance, rather than limping in to it at the end of a days work and half arseing it and ultimately leading to slower or even less results.
However, for the office worker I would ask them when they feel their best. Whilst there's argument for training at the end of the day = more food consumed = better workout, If they're an energizer bunny in the morning then I would honestly recommend them train then.
The key thing to note here is that there is no right or wrong answer. Instead looking at workout timing as a better / worse decision.
Structuring your workouts
Now you've got an idea of when you're going to train, the question is what are you going to train. Again this is a very individual question but for the sake of this post, lets take our labourer who's looking to bulk up ahead of his lads holiday to Magaluf (filth). For the sake of this post, lets call him Bob.
If Bob was able to train 3x per week, It would make sense to programme his workouts on the Push/Pull/Legs split. Meaning over 3 training sessions per week, he would be able to place stimulus to all muscle groups within his body. It would make sense for bob to factor these sessions in on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the Push/Pull/Legs order to evenly distribute them over the week and give his body a chance to recover between sessions. Now whilst this may be enough to create growth in someone who's quite new to training, in more experienced trainees, training 3x per week probably isn't going to cut it.
Lets fast forward 3 years, 3 lads holidays and a small dose of chlamydia later, Bob is now in pretty good shape. He wants to to take it to the next level and start training 5x per week. In this case Bob could either use the Push/Pull/Legs split, repeating 2 of the workouts (with a view to bring up the weaker areas), or alternatively he could choose to use the "bro split". The bro split is a more traditional bodybuilding split (chest & tris, back & bi's, legs, shoulders & accessories) that whilst still will get results, is actually less time efficient.
Whatever Bob chooses, it would make sense to factor these workouts in on Monday/Tuesday (rest Wednesday) Thursday/Friday (rest weekend). Alternatively he could take two mid week rest days and train one day over the weekend.
The important thing here is to remember, the magic happens not when you're training, but actually in the days following so factoring in rest is absolutely essential.
It's also worth noting that by chucking in your training whenever (without giving it thought), you can really hinder your ability to perform. And if during a workout you start to hit failure short of weights and reps that you'd normally be able to do had you been fully rested, you're not going to be giving the target muscles the stimulus they need to adapt, grow and get stronger.
Thanks for reading,