Have you ever wondered if you could spread out your workout over the day? Maybe you didn’t have time to get your whole session in. Or maybe you would like to do a 60 minute workout, but you can only find 30 minutes at a time? Or is it that you get too tired after 10 or 15 minutes and are thinking about doing another 10 minutes later in the day?
As so often, the answer depends on your goal. So, depending on what you hope to achieve with your exercise program, you may be able to spread it over the day or you may be better off doing it all in a single installment. Let me explain…
If you want to build muscle, in general, it’s better to do the workout in one go. The muscle grows by being worked to fatigue, i.e. until muscle fibers tear. As a result, the body repairs and replaces damaged muscle fibers, increasing their number and making them thicker so the muscle becomes stronger and bigger. If you interrupt your workout before the muscle is fully fatigued, you won’t get the results you’re after. You may be able to do more reps or more exercises, but that won’t necessarily result in more fatigue of the muscle.
You can of course split up muscle groups. Let’s say you work chest in the morning and legs in the evening. But I still think you get more bang for your buck by doing it in one session. In particular with the big compound exercises such as deadlifts, squats, pullups, etc. you involve so many other muscles in your body as well. It’s much more efficient then to exhaust the muscles that have already been used as secondary muscles in a previous exercise.
However, there are instances where spreading out an exercise may be more suitable to your goal. For example, I am currently working on my pull-ups. When you start out doing pull-ups, you may only be able to do the negative of the movement (i.e. the part where you lower your body back down). And probably after 2 you may be already exhausted. So having a 5 minute break (or 1 hour or 5 hours) and then doing another 2 is much more beneficial than stopping after the first 2 and moving on to the next exercise. This way of training is beneficial for a lot of calisthenic movements. Where the exercise itself is complex and requires a lot of whole body strength and technique. And better technique leads to faster muscle gains.
Having said all this – personally, I think you should do what works for you and your goals. As long as you keep moving and you enjoy it, do it in whatever way suits you the most. I am convinced something is better than nothing. I don’t mean overtraining – that’s a whole other topic and of course should be avoided! The body can only repair itself at rest, without rest you won’t see the results you’re after.
Here’s a few fun suggestions for bodyweight exercises you can do at home: prisoner workouts! You can read up on several variations here. These contain both concepts described above – i.e. doing them all at once in as little time as possible or spreading them out over the day. I am sure you can find some inspiration and tips there, and find out what’s done behind bars – the vertical kind. Please let me know if this was helpful at all and let me know how you’re going with your workout routine.