This month, we are going to discuss de-loads, and when do we implement de-loads into our training!
Using a de-load as a part of training periodization has been around for a long time. In the beginning, it was used at the end of block training for Olympic weightlifting athletes. Then, it started being more and more popular in the bodybuilding and physique world.
Firstly, let’s start by explaining what a de-load is!
A de-load is a decrease of one or multiple training stimuli for a set period of time. It can last anywhere from 3 to 14 days. (1) It doesn’t mean absolutely any training, however, sometimes that is exactly what one needs.
Some of the reasons or benefits to a de-load are:
- Decrease inflammation
- Improve detoxification and removal of cellular waste
- Recovery of the nervous system
- Decreasing total volume by performing fewer sets
There are different ways that we can implement into having a de-load week:
Reducing the load and intensity
- This means that you are going to use about 40-50% of your 1 rep max. Using about half of the weight that you would usually. This way of de-loading is the best for individuals that are not competing, but they still want to maintain a higher level of performance after their de-load is finished.
Reducing the volume
- This means that you would use the same working weight, but decrease your working sets up to half of what you would normally perform in a training session. This type of de-loading works best for athletes that compete, or are about to compete. Ensuring that their performance stays high after the de-load week is finished.
How often should you de-load?
This will really depend on a few different factors such as your training style, your goals, your age, and your training level.
Some of the options are:
3 weeks on, 1 week off: This usually means that you would take 1-week de-load after 3 weeks of training. You would give everything you have in the first 3 weeks of training, then dial back 1 week and de-load.
This type of de-loading is very common for performance athletes.
Every 6-8 weeks: This includes a big diversity of lifters, commonly used with the individuals that travel often and can use that week of traveling as a de-load week. It’s also very common with advanced lifters.
There are also individuals that like to de-load every 12-16 weeks or only 2/3 times per year. This is common with beginners and individuals that are not placing enough stress onto their bodies to need a full deload week at a time. Very common with beginners and newbies.
What should you do after a de-load?
Depending on where you are with your training, you can either return back and carry on with the same training program or start with a new training block. If you are enjoying your current workout program, you can return to using the same workout you were doing before you implemented a deload week.
Deload is not only beneficial for your physical health, but it also benefits your nervous system recovery. When we train with repetitive high intensity without adequate rest, our bodies might have a hard time recovering. Depending on the intensity and systematic demands of your training, it can take up to several days for your nervous system to fully recover.
Training also results in a shift from parasympathetic to sympathetic dominance. What a sympathetic state means is that our body is in a stressed state. Hormones like cortisol and catecholamines are elevated, while our digestion is essentially halted as the body is in survival mode. While this is necessary for the performance and some adaptations, it is not a state that we want to be in a majority of the time. As soon as training is over, we want our system to return to a parasympathetic and relaxed state as quickly as possible.
Deloading is a smart tool to utilize to keep you injury-free both physically and mentally.
The three main ways you can deload are by reducing volume, intensity, or completely changing up your routine. How frequently you will deload depends on your goals, training style, training level, and age.
After you’ve completed your deload week, prepare to hit the weights full force to keep the gains coming.
(1) Clark, Micheal, Brian G. Sutton, and Scott Lucett. NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2016. Print.