Jumpstart Your Day with the Perfect Workout

Total Gym Morning Jumpstart workout

The Ultimate Morning Workout

As a trainer and group exercise instructor who teaches both morning and evening classes, I have often been asked which is better: to exercise in the morning or to work out in the evening? People also question whether they should eat before or after a workout.

The Best Time to Workout: Morning Grind or Afternoon Burn?

The answer is not straightforward. It depends on your lifestyle, your exercise goals and your own body’s metabolism; that being said, if you had to choose one ideal time of day to exercise, choose the morning. It starts the day on a positive health note and influences the choices you make the rest of the day. As an added benefit, oxygen consumption after your workout is stimulated which boosts the metabolism and allows you to burn more calories for the remainder of the day while you are active or at rest.

Exercise by Choice

Once you’ve decided to make time in the morning to exercise, you must figure out what you want to do and why. Is weight loss your goal? Is strength training or body building what you’d like to focus upon? Do you want to improve your balance and increase core strength?

Studies have shown that high intensity interval training (HIIT) and functional training exercises benefit people the most in the shortest amount of time. Short bursts of intense activity burn lots of calories without taxing the joints. And functional exercises use multiple joints at once, recruiting more muscle fibers and burning more calories. Plus functional exercises may be movements that you use in your sport of choice and in activities of daily living. Activating more muscles also releases specific hormones, which are key in building muscle—it’s a very efficient cycle. If you decide to only use HIIT, there are literally hundreds of combinations you can create to tailor your morning burn into something you enjoy, including dancing, biking, swimming, or pumping iron.

To Eat or Not To Eat: Food for Fuel vs. Running on Empty

Finally, what should you do about fuel for your body? If you’re rolling out of bed and hitting the gym, do you also need to make time for a healthy breakfast?

Research has shown that people can exercise on an empty stomach without harmful effects as long as they hydrate. Doctors recommend hydrating 10 minutes before you start your workout with 8-10 ounces of water. For every pound of body weight lost during exercise, drink 16-20 ounces of water.

If exercising for an hour (or less) on a full stomach makes you nauseous, don’t worry about eating until you’re done. In fact, your body will burn stored fat during exercise while performing fasted cardio. This may be particularly appealing if you want to lose weight. Just remember to eat right after you’re finished exercising. For building muscle, however, try to ingest some calories before working out and then afterwards too. There are many resources for healthy, activity-specific breakfast suggestions online, from thermogenic shakes to protein-packed pancakes.

Exercise with Purpose

Now that you’ve got the time nailed down and the breakfast question answered, it’s time to choose some effective exercises. Since most people don’t have a lot of time in the morning, the following workout suggestions are circuit-type, high intensity exercises to maximize the benefits of exercise in a short period.

Make sure to include a warm-up and don’t forget to stretch at the end. The stretch cool down can be a time to meditate on healthful intentions for the day. Yoga stretches may be used. After all, flexibility and the mind-body connection are an important part of being physically fit.

The shortest workout is Tabata, which is only four minutes long and consists of 20-second bursts of extremely intense work, and 10-second breaks. You can do the same exercise eight times or use a different exercise for each 20-second burst, depending on how creative you’re feeling. You can even extend the sets to fill up 30 minutes or a whole hour, if you have the time. Don’t worry about counting the number of reps of each exercise. Just remember, complete as many reps as you can safely perform in 20 seconds, then take 10 seconds off. There are Tabata timer apps that help keep you on track. Or you can use a stopwatch.

The Total Gym may be used for cardiovascular and plyometric movements and it’s very versatile in creating multi-muscle exercise routines using body weight and gravity to sculpt muscles. But you can put in dance, kickboxing or whatever movements make you happy. Don’t, however, choose exercises that demand a lot of equipment or lengthy set-up, since you only have 10 seconds to change over.


Workout I

Equipment: Total Gym with cables and the Squat Stand attached, and a set of dumbbells

Dynamic stretch warm-up for 3-5 minutes

HIIT (perform these exercises 20 seconds each; go through the set twice):

  • High knees on the Total Gym or on the ground
  • Squats with overhead dumbbell press
  • Twist jumps on Total Gym
  • Pullover crunch with alternating straight leg lift on Total Gym

Static Stretch for 3-5 minutes


Workout II

Equipment: Total Gym with the Wing Attachment and a jump rope

Dynamic stretch warm-up for 3-5 minutes

HIIT (perform these exercises 20 seconds each; go through the set twice):

  • Mountain climber with the glideboard in open position
  • Burpees (aka squat thrusts with hands on glideboard while doing pushup portion)
  • Jump rope
  • Incline sit-ups with hamstring curl

Static stretch for 3-5 minutes


Workout III

Equipment: None

Dynamic stretch warm-up for 3-5 minutes

HIIT (perform these exercises 20 seconds each; go through the set twice):

  • Jumping jacks
  • Squat hops forwards and backwards or in place
  • Push-ups
  • Sit-up to Stand-up (start on the floor and do a sit up, then stand up straight, then squat and sit down; roll back until your shoulders touch the floor; repeat)

Static stretch for 3-5 minutes

Jodai Saremi
Jodai Saremi, DPM, BS , is a freelance writer, AFAA certified trainer, and fitness model. She has written for American Fitness, SPIN fitness, Your Health Connection magazines, and other online publications. Her articles have also been featured in textbooks. She enjoys an active lifestyle and lives in Ventura County, Calif. with her husband and two children.

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