T Nation

Shift Work

I’m working a shift that looks like this…
days 1 and 2–0700-1900
days 3 and 4–1900-0700
four days off

It seems easy enough to figure out on paper, but in real life it’s not as easy. After twelve straight hours of working I just don’t have it in me to hit the gym. My question is this… If I hit the gym four days in a row super hard and follow with a four day off cycle, is this too much time between workouts to get good results? I prefer a three day split, but it’s a bit hard here. Any ideas from others doing shift work or irregular hours? Thanks for the help.

I have never worked a schedule like this, but have trained that way deliberately before. The trick is to severly overtrain yourself, while keeping you calories (esp carbs) somewhat low during your 4 training days, then overfeed a little bit during your work/rest days. Don’t know about long term, but short term you can actually makes some really impressive gains this way.

By chance are you a firefighter? Sounds like one of their typical schedules. I think it depends on the type of work that you are doing. If it is physical labor and such, then I definitely would prescibe a similar split that you have described. This will also affect your nutrition and your goals. If your goal is to lose fat and get ripped, then you MIGHT consider the reduced carb intake that your other response advocates. However, if your job is laborous, then this is definitely a bad idea as you will eventually overtrain between work and lifting. Also not good for gaining mass and strength. Another idea is to try abbreviated workouts (no longer than 30 min., 20 is better, not including warm-up)at a high intensity (%1RM) two of the four days that you work using compound exercises, taking a day off after the 4th workday, hit the gym using your normal routine two days in a row, take another day off, and repeat. With the three day split that I think you are describing, this will work well if you rotate body parts. That way one week you will hit the part with a short workout focusing on neural faciliation and the next week the part will get a greater focus on hypertrophy and metabolism training. If you find that you REALLY can’t get the motivation to get to the gym on working days, then try the split you talked about (4 on, 4 off). But if your job is demanding, even mentally, then eventually you will overtrain. If you your schedule is going to change soon, then try it. Otherwise give my way a shot. If you do try it, do the first two workouts during the first two days as this is when you should have the most energy and normal sleeping hours. Your recovery won’t be that great the other two working days, so that is what is so great about the off day after your work week. Lastly, try taking a little longer during the warm-up any days that you feel excessively tired, esp. after work. I find that I still get in great workouts if I just give my body a little more time to respond to the call of duty.

It would seem if you did hit the gym super hard four days in a row, you would be overtraining. I work unstable hours also. I prefer to do a three day split or two on one off split. It is difficult but I find time to hit the gym at the proper time for the most part. The hours I hit the gym may jump around from day to night but I do not see much damage to my bodies results from different regiments. Don’t get discouraged Gary but definitely don’t overtrain.

TRt to get 3 workouts in on your off days. Workout day1 of the off day, rest day2, then workout day 3 and 4, then rest on your work day. I would probably do an upper lower split, and alternate days.

If memory serves me, muscles do not begin to atrophy until five days after a workout (this assumes you’re using the bodypart for normal functions). So four days off, while not be optimal, will work fine. I would work my split as such: Day 1 - lower body. Day 2 - upper body. Day 3 - off. Day 4 - full body, 75% volume, i.e. you do 75% of what you would normally do for a leg workout, plus 75% of what you would do for a chest workout (yes, this workout will be longer than 1 hour). Volume refers to number of sets.