What Is Deloading?
Put simply, a deload is a short, planned reduction in training intensity or volume and taking training more easily in general. Typically, a deload period will last for one week.
To the uneducated athlete, a deload may seem like a waste of time. After all, if you’re not lifting as heavy as you can, are you really even training?
The answer to that is absolutely. By giving your body a minor break, you’ll allowing it to repair itself so that you can get even stronger in the future. A common mistake that people make is to view training in a linear fashion. But training is a series of peaks and troughs. You have to ramp it up when needed but must also scale it back as your body dictates.
Why Should You Deload
Deloading follows the premise of a universally accepted theory called supercompensation. This explains in a straightforward manner how the body responds to stress that is inducing through physical exertion (in other words, training).
This can be broken down into four simple steps:
- Provide stimulus and load stress (training)
- Lighter training/active rest (recovery)
- Rebound response from the low point of greatest fatigue (supercompensation)
- Loss of supercompensation effect (new training stress)
The adaptation that occurs during the recovery period is fairly predictable. Therefore we are able to somewhat adapt the desired response through deloading.
When we deload we are removing stimulus (step 2) in order to assist with our rebound response (step 3). This will result in a greater increase in strength after new training stress has been applied (step 4).
Deloading has additional benefits which are esseintial to our longevity as athletes and bodybuilders including:
Allowing your Central Nervous System (CNS) to fully recover.
To allow yourself a mental break from the stress of heavy lifting.
To allow your joints, tendons, ligaments and other supportive tissues to repair.
When To Deload
Some people like to deload every 1 – 3 months, some like to deload during the final week before they change training programs, others. However as with your training in general, you can also listen to your body for signs of when to deload.
Of course this also depends on your experience, your level of fitness, your age and your ability to recover from training. People who are new to exercise don’t have the same ability to overtax their CNS and joints that an experienced athlete does. And if you are an older athlete you may need to reload more frequently as your ability to recover quickly diminishes.
Generally though, you are noticing any of the following, it may be a sign that you are overtraining and should consider a short deloading period:
- Waking up with aches and pains in your joints
- Progress has stalled
- Feeling constantly fatigued
- Post competition
Ultimately though, you want to perform a deload before any of these symptoms occur. If you’re training regularly you should include a regular period of deloading as well.
How To Deload
There are several different ways to deload, and they are all effective, therefore you will have to experiment and find which method you prefer. You can make your workouts easier by doing less reps or using less weight.
To deload using less volume, you should use weights around 40-50% of that which you normally use. To deload by volume, you will want to cut the amount of reps you are doing by about half. Either of these are an effective way of reducing stress on your body during a deload period.
There is another simple and specific program that you can use if you really want to change things up. This program is based on a reduction of intensity. The weights used are to be 50% of your 1 rep max:
|3 x Military Press||8-10 reps|
|3 x Incline Bench Press||8-10 reps|
|3 x Close Grip Brench Press||8-10 reps|
|3 x Deadlift||8-10 reps|
|3 x Barbell Row||8-10 reps|
|3 x 1 Arm Dumbbell Row||8-10 reps|
|3 x Squat||8-10 reps|
|3 x Front Squat||8-10 reps|
|3 x Leg Press||8-10 reps|
How To Make The Most of Your Deload Peroid
Work On Your Form
By using light weights you are freeing yourself up mentally to assess your form with greater scrutiny, and fix any mistakes. During a deload you should be able to lift with perfect form. Make sure you are working the muscle group that the exercise has been designed for, and that you are breathing throughout your entire lift.
During your deload week, you can also add some light cardio to your workout. This will have the benefit of improving blood circulation and carrying nutrients and oxygen to muscle tissues. This will also improve any soreness in your muscles. By light cardio we are referring to walking, cycling, anything that will not place too much stress on your joints.
Experiment With New Exercises
Working out with lighter weights is the perfect opportunity to learn new exercises that you can integrate into your regular training. Switching your regular exercise with something new is a great way to force new progress with both your muscle and your CNS.
Deloading is a vital componment of rest, recovery, and continued long term progress. It prevents overtraining, injury, and fatigue. If you currently do not deload regularly, you are either training sub-optimally, or you may already be suffering from overtraining without realizing it. So give yourself both a physical and mental break, and preemptively address potential recovery issues.