Thank you for joining the Huberman Lab Neural Network — a once-a-month newsletter with science and science-related tools for everyday life. This newsletter aims to provide you with actionable information in a condensed form.
In Episode #94, I outline what I call a “foundational fitness protocol” that focuses on one key aspect of physical fitness critical for health and longevity and aesthetic balance each day of the week. It is designed to be modified to meet your individual needs, while still adhering to what the best science tells us we should all do for immediate and long-term health.
I acknowledge there is a range of best practices regarding exercise and optimal training (e.g., listen to Dr. Andy Galpin describe the nine physical adaptations from exercise). I designed this protocol to address all major fitness goals, including strength, hypertrophy, endurance, and cardiovascular training. Below, I describe the protocol, include specific exercise suggestions (modifiable examples), and explain ways to modify this core schedule, should you choose. I also provide tips for integrating a consistent fitness regimen into your week, but with flexibility.
Two key principles for resistance training will help you get the most out of the foundational protocol:
- Use alternative training schedules (“periodization”) to optimize your strength and muscle hypertrophy. Alternate between Schedule A and B monthly:
- Schedule A: ~4-8 repetitions (heavier weights) and 3-4 sets per exercise with 2-4 minutes rest between sets
- Schedule B: ~8-15 repetitions (moderate-lighter weights) and 2-3 sets per exercise with ~90 seconds rest between sets
- Choose two exercises per muscle group. Exercise #1 should focus on bringing the muscle into a shortened or maximally contracted position at the end of the range of motion(e.g., leg curl, seated calf raise, bicep preacher curl, leg extension, chest cable crossover). Exercise #2 should focus on resistance occurring for the muscle group when it is in a lengthened position (e.g., standing calf raises, incline dumbbell curls, deep squats, glute-hamstring raises or straight legged deadlifts, incline press, etc.).
*Keep weight workouts to 50-60 minutes of hard work after a warmup, 75 minutes maximum. This assists effectiveness and recovery. The 75 minutes does include rest between sets and does require not getting stuck waiting for equipment too long, avoiding texting between sets, etc. Warm up, then get it done.
Foundational Fitness Protocol
I have created the following routine to encompass training for all major physical fitness goals over the course of a week. This protocol was also designed to target muscle groups twice per week: one day directly and one other day indirectly.
I start with Day 1 on Sunday and end with Day 7 on Saturday; however, modify the start day to make sense for your schedule.
Protocol Modifications & Notes
While I have included exercise suggestions in the PDF, choose the exercise that you can perform correctly, through a full range of motion and with the proper form. The best exercise you can do for a body part is one that you can perform safely. Also, adjust according to your strengths and weaknesses. I confess I never train my chest, but I do get enough chest training from dips. That’s me. You should train for your needs as they relate to aesthetic and safety needs.
Adjust the above exercise suggestions based on your fitness level or personal goals, while keeping the range of physical goals throughout the week. While the specific days you perform each workout are unimportant, spacing between the days helps to ensure proper recovery. Also, if you miss a day, you can double up on some workouts later in the week. I sometimes swap day 4 and 5 if I need to.
If you decide to adjust workout days, note that many studies have found that cold submersion (i.e., ice baths) will blunt some strength/hypertrophy improvements from that day’s training session. Therefore, refrain from ice baths immediately after resistance training. (It is likely that cold showers do not have this same effect.) If you do ice baths on weight training days, wait 6-8 hours, or do them before training.
During resistance training, lower your heart rate between sets using physiological sighs: take two full inhales through the nose followed by one full exhale through the mouth – trying to release all the air in your lungs.
After a training session, use 3-5 minutes of deliberate slow breathing to “downshift” the nervous system, relax the mind and body and aid muscle recovery.
Holding static stretches is the best way to improve your overall flexibility. Hold each major muscle group in a static stretch for 30-60 seconds and repeat between 3x/week and daily. I do this at night before sleep or while waiting for dinner to cook or (confession!) while on work calls. While holding the stretch, long exhales will further relax muscles and deepen the stretch.
Training Fast vs. Fed
This is up to your personal preference. I like to train fasted and before noon but after drinking caffeine, water and electrolytes, because I don’t feel sluggish during workouts, but if you just ate a meal and time is limited, it’s more important to get in the workout than not to train. Some people prefer to train after eating. It’s very individual. I don’t weight train at night because it keeps me awake. Cardio does not seem to have the same effect on me.
While consistent training is the goal, there are likely real-world obstacles you will face:
- Illness/Cold: Sometimes, with mild cold symptoms, a short, lighter training (decreasing duration and/or intensity of the workout by 50% or more) will help you feel better. However, skipping training and allowing yourself time to recover, if you are truly sick, is better. Once recovered, slowly ramp back up to your training program over 3-7 days.
- Poor Sleep/Stressful Events: Consider skipping your workout if you are under chronic stress unless you think it can help you reset. Focus on getting a good night’s sleep or relaxing, and double up on workouts later in the week.
- Also, try 10-30 minutes of Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) to feel more refreshed. Afterward, you might feel up for the scheduled workout.
- For additional tools for stress, see this episode.
Hopefully, this foundational fitness protocol will provide you with a framework for physical goals that you can modify based on your schedule, fitness level and personal goals.
While supplements are not necessary, many people—including myself—derive tremendous benefits from them. Here are some to keep in mind, given their effects on physical performance and muscle recovery.
- Alpha-GPC: 300mg, 30-60 minutes before key workouts. Alpha-GPC promotes the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory, attention and skeletal muscle contraction. It has been shown to increase power output in athletes.
- L-Tyrosine: 500mg, 30-60 minutes before key workouts. L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that can increase the production of dopamine and related neurotransmitters that positively impact energy, motivation and mood. Thus, L-Tyrosine is a powerful tool for enhancing exercise performance.
- Creatine: 5g daily. Creatine is a molecule that stores high-energy phosphate groups that ultimately lead to the regeneration of ATP, the primary energy carrier in the body. In thousands of studies, creatine has been shown to effectively increase exercise performance.
- Whey Protein: 40g, 30-60 minutes after workout. Whey protein is a well-absorbed source of protein that is useful for post-workout fueling. Research shows that consuming whey protein benefits muscle gain and fat loss, particularly post workout.
New episodes of the Huberman Lab podcast are out each Monday on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and all major podcast platforms. New, short, actionable clips from the Huberman Lab podcast are available on our YouTube Clips Channel. I post additional science and science-based tools on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and TikTok.
Thank you for your interest in science!
Disclaimer: The Huberman Lab podcast is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this podcast or materials linked from this podcast is at the user’s own risk. The content of this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard or delay in obtaining medical advice for any medical condition they may have and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.