Ever since I first started implementing deload weeks into my training it skyrocketed my adherence. And I made continued progress. Why is this? Because I felt like it let me sharpen the saw, so to speak.
Squatting, pushing and pulling more and more weight can get hard. Especially if you’re in the intermediate stage of your fitness journey.
What Exactly Is A Deload Week?
A deload week can be classed as a week in your mesocycle (training phase) where you either reduce the volume or you reduce the intensity. Alternatively you can have a whole week off the weights if you like. And you can let your body supercompensate. This means that your body adapts to a training program where progressive resistance has been used.
For instance, you’ve been training for 12 weeks straight. But since week 10 you’ve plateaued on one or two of your lifts. For example the bench press and military press. No matter how hard you train you can’t seem to get any extra reps or add weight. And you feel run down. Fatigue is probably higher than your recovery and you could be slightly overtrained. By reducing the volume (heavy sets and reps) Or intensity (how heavy the weight is) you can adequately let your body recover. Even having a whole week off from the weights can reinvigorate your motivation for training. This paired with the extra recovery and you’ve got a recipe for Personal records.
How Often Should You Deload?
There are lots of ways to deload. some people deload every 4th week and some people deload every 8-12 weeks. And some just intuitively deload. Like when they’re feeling rundown or have an event coming up. Or need to take a break from training for any other reason.
It Takes Some Training Experience To Intuitively Deload
Just Like intuitively eating, takes some time in the trenches of accurately tracking your macros, this is the same for training. You need to have at least a couple of years experience training before I’d say you can accurately predict when you need to deload.
This is because at the beginning you’re new to training and you will feel a bit sore at first. So it makes sense to deload every 8- 12 weeks as a beginner for the first couple of years and then after that you should get a feel for your body.
Deloads Provide Physiological And Psychological Relief From Your Training
Prior to deloading your training can really take it out of you. Training hard isn’t easy. (and anyone who tells you it is is flat out lying) you need to be working relatively close to failure every set. And the further on you get in your training the harder you’re going to have to work to keep making progress.
When you hit plateaus. which basically means stalling out on your lifts and not being able to add reps/weight to the bar. This can sometimes be because you’re fatigued mentally and physically. And having a deload week or just a week off from the gym will make you feel refreshed.
This will leave you craving the iron and visualising those Pr’s. I’m always excited to be back to the gym after a bit of time off. Or even just a week.
Deloads Give Your Muscle’s, Joints & Ligaments A Well Needed Rest
At the end of any hard mesocycle/training phase you can feel extremely worn down. And you may even have slight aches. A deload week will drastically help you with this. You’ll end up coming back to the gym feeling fresh, recovered and ready to lift some weights in uncharted territory. Which in my opinion is the joy to be found in lifting. Seeing yourself getting stronger and levelling up session after session. Achieving your own training evolution so to speak
In the famous book, the 7 habits of highly successful people Stephen covey told us to sharpen the saw and I guarantee you, all the famous strength trainees, Olympians and athletes from a plethora of different sports implement deload weeks into there training program. it’s simply not possible to train all out all of the time. Unless you’re on a cocktail of drugs.
It’s Possible To Come Back To The Gym Even Stronger
Earlier in this article, I mentioned how your body super compensates. This basically means that your body has had a stress to adapt from and eventually recovers and adapts and comes back stronger. One of the reasons for plateauing could be because you’re overtrained. And the fatigue lasts longer than your ability to recover from your training. When fatigue outpaces your ability to recover this is when overtraining occurs. Signs of overtraining are below.
Feel overly stressed.
Have aches and pains that are out of the ordinary.
You’re weaker in your workouts.
You’ve lost motivation for training
These four common signs are common indicators of overtraining.
In my opinion you should at the very most deload every 12 weeks. (Anywhere from 8 -12 weeks is ideal)
If you feel the symptoms above. Ask yourself the questions below before taking a deload.
Been sleeping less than normal?
Been eating enough?
Went longer than 12 weeks without having a deload week?
If you’ve answered no to the first question. Make sure you get anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
This will greatly improve your recovery and your body ability to adapt to stressors at the gym. E.g. weightlifting.
If you’ve answered no to the second question. And you come to the realisation that you’re severely under-eating. Then the next step is to eat enough. Because this will also affect your bodies ability to recover.
If you have fixed the first two problems or you’re already doing pretty well with them then the next question Is to ask yourself If you’ve deloaded recently. E.g. in the last 12 weeks. If you haven’t then take a deload. And there’s a high probability that you’ll feel fresh once the deload is up.
An Example Deload Week
Day 1- Push day
Barbell bench press 3 sets of 40-60% of your hard sets for 8-10 reps
Military press 3 sets of 40-60% of your working sets for 8-10 reps
Push ups 3 sets to a couple of reps before failure
Day 2 – Pull day
Barbell Deadlift 3 sets of 40-60% of working sets for 8-10 reps
Dumbell row 3 sets of 40-60% of working sets for 8-10 reps
3 sets of chin ups 2 reps before failure
Day 3 – Legs
Barbell squats 3 sets of 40-60% of working sets for 8-10 reps
Leg curls 40 – 60% ( or if you don’t do them just use a weight that’s easy enough to do 12 -15 reps with) of working weights to 8-10 reps
Calf raises 3 sets of 40-60% of working sets for 8 -10 reps
This way of deloading is basically reducing the intensity so that you can let your body recover from the heavy training. The lighter weights and bodyweight training will facilitate recovery because the more blood going to a specific muscle the better the recovery will be.
You can just have a week off if you like. And you might be slightly rusty with the movements ( but only ever so slightly) when you come back to training.
This deload week also offers you the chance to work on your form with slightly lighter weights.
The fact is that there are tons of ways of deloading. But if you’re new you don’t have to make it that complex.
The reduced intensity and training for a slight pump outlined above should benefit your recovery and enable you to come back to your strength training workout next week, stronger.
Regarding Your Nutrition, Eat At Your Maintenance Calories
The reasoning behind why I think you should eat at your maintenance calories. Is for two reasons depending if you’re bulking or cutting. Firstly I’ll give my reason for cutting.
When you’re in a fat loss phase. Especially for a lengthy time. A diet break can dramatically improve your adherence to the diet. The way I see it. A deload week can also serve as a diet break. Hit two birds with one stone so to speak. This way you’ll not only reduce the chances of overtraining and fatigue. You’ll also alleviate any dieting angst. And the net result will be that you can go back to your program with heightened motivation. To train and to stick to your diet. I believe this will dramatically improve your chances of long term success.
And if you don’t know what your maintenance calories are. Read the book below to learn all you need to know about nutrition.
Autoregulate Your Deloads
If you’ve gone 12 weeks or more without deloading. And feel fresh enough to keep on training while still making progress. Then Just keep on training until progress stalls and the weight feels really heavy and you’re failing to progress. Alternatively, if you quite often need to go away for work purposes or for other reasons you can just use these breaks as deloads. And only use deloads when you go away. This way you will be hitting two birds with one stone.
- Deloads provide a much-needed relief from training and can dramatically increase your chances of sticking the process out and recovering, resting and recuperating so you can come back stronger the following week.
- There are many different ways to deload such as reducing intensity, reducing volume or even just having a week off the weights. It doesn’t matter that much which one you choose. Just pick one and get to it.
- Either plan your deloads in your macrocycle periodically or just have one when you go on vacation or feel beat up and overly fatigued from your training.
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