There are countless quality guides on the best way to do a certain exercise, training programs, how to calculate your necessary caloric intake to lose weight, what to eat and how to eat but one issue that is not so discussed is how to deload also known as the “deload week”.
What Is A Deload?
A deload is a planned reduction is training variables like workout intensity, frequency, volume or simply taking a time off training.
There are countless deloading techniques out there and frankly, I don’t know one person in existence to know them all but for the sake of simplicity and practicality, please don’t make the simple deloading technique, a rocket science project.
Is Deloading An Art?
In all seriousness, deloading is an easy manner once you understand it, why you should do it and you just need to pick one deloading technique you might want to try and simply: try it.
There’s a misconception circulating in this area with people saying there is a right and a wrong way to do a deload but I want to tell you that there isn’t a right and wrong way to do it.
A deload is a deload and nothing more… just take it and that’s all, get back on track with training.
BUT there’s some things you need to know before taking a deload… keep reading
Why You Should Deload?
The simple answer to this question is that using deloading as a “recovery period” for your body, will only do good things for you because in all seriousness, nobody can train at 100% all the time, year after year without getting tired, injuried or simply feeling like they don’t have any will to go to the gym.
There are many benefits a deload week can give you but I’ll write down the most important ones:
- Your body is better prepared for the next training sessions
- Your CNS (central nervous system) has time to recuperate from constant “torque”
- Reduce the risk of overtraining
- Helps with the repair of tissues like ligaments, tendons, joints, etc.
- Potentially helps you get over a plateau
The only way you can keep progressing all the time is by getting stronger.
And how you get stronger?
The answer is: by recovering from exercise and supercompensate.
Professional trainers like Mark Rippetoe, Zatsiorsky, Kilgore and others explained this in detail.
First you need to provide a training stimulus to your body by exercising, continue with removing that same stimulus by resting and let your body adapt by supercompensating.
The “Deload Week”?
Many training programs come with the usual training blocks and also deloading periods and a good example would be this upper/lower split routine for muscle mass.
While deloading is beneficial if done properly, no matter the protocol, my own recommendation regarding the usage of a deload week would be to just go by the feel.
As I said in my book The no bs flexible formula to six pack abs, being flexible with your training and diet is the optimal thing you can do because you and only you are the person that knows his body the best.
You should listen to your body because the adjustments he wants you to make are as close to optimal as you can get and no basic recommendation that comes with a rigid program can be as good as what your body tells you.
A good strategy to use when you want to start a deloading phase is to watch your progress in gym.
If your weights stall for too long (a few weeks), despite the training program and caloric intake being in check, it can mean that you need a deload week.
Don’t try to keep grinding the weights if your body tells you that you simply can’t progress anymore without a “break”.
Other signs that can show you that a deload week is required:
- You always feel fatigued, tired and under-recovered
- You feel pain in certain areas of your body and they don’t go off
- You trained for a long time without a “break”
The Main Issue – How To Deload?
As I’ve said in the beginning, deloading isn’t an exact science or rocket science.
I can’t stress enough not to overcomplicate this matter and just do it (like nike’s logo).
Common Deloading Techniques:
Reduce the volume of your workout – for example, instead of doing 5 sets x 5 reps, you will only do 2 sets of 5 reps with the same weight
Reduce intensity of the workout – for example, if you do 5 sets x 5 reps, benching with 250 lbs, in the deloading week, you can take 40-60% off that weight and do the same sets and reps (don’t try to do more sets or reps)
Reduce both volume and intensity – just combine the first two techniques
Take a whole week off training – this should only be used if you trained for at least 4-6 weeks consistently and you feel worn out
Using back off weeks – this is a nice strategy which I often use and it goes like this: the first deload week will start by resetting the weights back to somewhere around 80% of what you did last time and continuing until you get over 100%.
- Week 1: Deload by keeping the volume the same for all exercises but cut intensity to 80%
- Week 2: Repeat what you did in week 1 but get the intensity to 90%
- Week 3: The same as week 1 and 2 but try to get the intensity to 105%
This is just an example and you can use various %.
Volume Or Intensity Deloading?
Well, to tell you the truth, there is no better or worse deloading technique.
I’ll keep my statement: just do it!
Believe me, there are just too many people out there that train day in and out with maximum volume and intensity and wonder why they don’t make any progress.
Getting Rid Of Muscle Loss Fears
Most research studies I’ve seen don’t really show any muscle mass loss in a time span of 6-14 days of pause from training, and sometimes, you can even come back stronger or leaner than before the deload.
Think about it: why would you want to train constantly when you see that you are hitting the wall and plateau for a long time?
Isn’t taking a deload week more appropriate if that will help you progress further?