T Nation

Sleep or training

Christ Shugart was talking about people using the “time” excuse to not work out, and this got me to thinking. I’m a college student with three jobs, and especially when things get hectic at school, I lay off of working out. I know this impedes my progress, but the choice is between sleep and weights (two hours of sleep for one hour of training, because I can just roll out of bed and go straight to class if I don’t work out). So which is better? If I end up only getting 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night, does working out just tear my body down further (what I was operating under before), or is it “better than nothing,” and still useful? Chris, if you have any thoughts on this I’d be most appreciative.

Since when are we referring to Chris as “Christ?” I mean, honestly, he writes some damn good articles and has great advice, but isn’t referring to him as the Messiah taking adoration a little far? Just kidding-keep up the good work, CHRIS.

First off, I think you’re putting Shugs on a bit of a pedestal there, calling him Christ and all… But on to your real question. You can operate on 5-6 hours a night if you get at least a couple nights of 8 or more in a week. Pretty much what I do all the time. I definitely think you should keep at least a maintenance routine going, as it doesn’t take all that much time, and will actually help to keep your mind more alert (as well as keep the self-esteem up). A couple days a week of a full-body routine should help to keep your gains and not cut into your schedule too much.

Yeah, I’m a little tough on most college students who “don’t have time to train”, mainly because they slip and tell me how great some new Play Station game is or how they get wasted 3 times per week etc. Hmmm, no time to train, huh? But with 3 jobs and school, you may be a legit case.

What’s your training like now? I think you could make great progress with a 3 day per week program, or maybe a revolving program of full body workouts- train, three days off, train, three days off etc.

Giving up sleep will catch up with you, but surely you have some room in your schedule to train and sleep. Do you have a day you could play catch-up and get 12 hours of sleep? Sunday morning maybe? I would lean towards sleeping more and training less, just really make those training session worth it, no sissy stuff, no wasted movements (i.e. tibia raises), but full body, compound sessions.

If you decide to train with limited sleep recovery time, I would highly reccomend supplementing with ZMA. It does wonders for my quality of sleep and muscle recovery. Make sure you make some time in your hectic schedule for some high protein meals/shakes.

I spend alot of time dealing with human performance issues, specifically fatigue and decreased alertness. You stated that you can get 5-6 hours a night. Six is what the scientific community considers to be the bare minimum before severe sleep debt significantly impairs performance. Of course, it is recommended that you get approximately 7-8. You MAY began to really feel it when you get five or less. It is my opinion that you are OK if you get at least six. Personally, I get between 4.5 and 5.5 (I know, I don’t practice what I preach)and work out twice a day. I sometimes have to “power through” a workout but generally feel VERY satisfied with my progress. However, when I sleep in on the weekends (7-9 hours), my workouts are much better. So, in short, get at least six and sleep-in when you can. Train to capacity!

Nephorm, Get consistant sleep. This must be your priority. More important than training. Sleeping only a few hours a night then trying to play catch-up on the weekend inevitably leads to illness. It may work in the short term for exams or long work hours for instance during the holiday season. But in the long term, gains will stall. Lack of sleep combined with the college life style, parties, late nights, poor nutrition/hydration, working three jobs. etc…other facets of your life will suffer. School work, training, attention span, etc… all will be reduced in quality. Fatigue during the day for several days could not only lead to immune system breakdown, it could be down right dangerous if your work requires crisp attention or driving long distances. Find out exactly the ideal amount of sleep you need and stick with it. Maybe it is only 5 hours. Maybe thats all you require. Some need more. It will be an individual number. Try using a high quality mineral before bed for deeper quality sleep.

As far as training, you can get a great workout in a short amount of time if you combine movements. For example:

Stretch - 10 minutes

A1 Snatch Grip Deadlift x 20 3-0-3 tempo

60 sec. RI

A2 Heel Raise x 10-10-20 1-0-1 tempo

Repeat for two cycles. Takes a little over 10 minutes.

If time is your problem, start deleting the useless activities you do throughout the day. Reading the paper, reading Sports Illustrated, watching t.v. for three hours, checking e-mail four times a day, Play Station, B.S.'ing on the phone, etc…You’ll be amazed as to how much time you’ll “find”.

Get back to me if you want more time efficient workouts.

Chris and everyone, thanks for the replies. Right now I’m just on a basic 3x12, 4 day a week schedule, and I’ll be doing a 1-6 workout soon. My problem generally isn’t during this part of the semester (the beginning), but rather once tests start, since they roll. I end up studying late into the night, so I can’t get up in the morning to work out (and believe me, at a college gym, especially during the spring semester, you’ll be waiting a good ten-twenty minutes to get from one exercise to another if you don’t work out early). I suppose the only good solution for this is more forward planning, studying ahead of time, and yes, cutting out unnecessary activities at night so that I can get to bed earlier. I’ll be honest with all of you… my training and dietary habits have been shabby at best, with only spurts of real focus. Time to weed out the excuses from the legitimate gripes, and make solutions. I have a lot of goals for this semester, and looking good for the summer is one of them. I’ll work in a three (or so) day routine during exams if necessary, to keep me going. It’s way to easy to slack off for a long time if you don’t go to the gym at all. Thanks again, everyone!

Something the others failed to mention is working out in your dorm room or your house. Now don’t think I’m telling you to go buy a power rack and a free weight set. You CAN go buy a bag full of sand, a pair of dumbells, a sled, or other various “strongman” implements. Roll out of bed, pick up your sand bag and clean and press it. Go out into the hall and bearhug something heavy and walk up and down the hall. Farmers walk, standing presses with dumbells, plate raises, some type of curl or tricep. You could probably also come up with something for squats and deads. It isn’t a very optimal routine training for looks, but getting a quick 20 minute or 30 minute workout in will still yield results.

CHRIST Shugart…I like that. :smiley: LOL.

Anyhow...I fondly remember being in college and getting no sleep. I was fortunate that I didn't have 3 jobs, but I was a TA and was in different cities every day for job interview (this was when the job market was hot, and I was a hot commodity with pretty cool majors) plus full-time course load.

I'd say sleep would be very very important if you want to stay sane. You can go without sleep for about 4-5 days, but you'd eventually have to catch up. I used to not sleep for 4 days out of a week and sleep for 15 hrs/day from Fri-Sun.

If it's only for finals or mid-term, then I'd not worry too much about it since once midterms/finals are over, you should be able to train. And remember, good bod is important, but so are good grades. Unfortunately, employers/grad school admissions offices get to see your GPA and resume before they look at your bod. JMHO.

BigC - great idea! I have a weight set for breaks, but my dorm room is too small for me to take it with me. Doing that kind of training seems like a good alternative when time is really pinched. Another option might be relying on the old Charles Atlas routines (yeah, I did those a long time ago).
TJ - I’m a TA, RA, and have a part time job programming. I’ll probably start doing dips, unweighted squats, and maybe some type of “strongman” excercises like BigC talked about.

I feel for you, but if you can finagle some time, this is a good situation for HIT full body workouts. Here’s a simple program. Once or twice a week do: Breathing Squats-1 X 20 reps. Immediatly followed by Pullovers-1 X2 0 reps. Then do Bench Press-2 or 3 X 10 and Barbell Rows-2 or 3 X 10. Look after your diet(as per Shugart and all great religious leaders :slight_smile: and you should do well. Hope this helps.

I agree with Chris, compound exercises may be where it is at for you. You too might conside full body, low rep - 2 set, heavy weight, workouts if bulk is your goal. I would say at your age you could go 10 days between workouts. Then it would be a question of proper nutrition between workouts and a very high impact feeding just after working out.

If you already have a weight set at home go buy a straight bar which is a little longer than a ez curl bar. It fits Olympic plates. There is a lot of exercises you could do with just that and it wouldn’t take up much space at all.

Assuming you have a little spare change lying around from your three jobs, you might try eating more. I’ve found that to a certain extent, food and sleep are inversely proportional. I.e. the more you get of one the less you need of the other. (Of course, this is only true up to a point!)

Isn’t 10 days in between workouts a little excessive? I don’t have great genetics, nor do I think I have a 'uge amount of T coursing through my veins. Thanks for the input, though.