If you’ve never heard of a ‘Deload Week’, then it’s no surprise you’re not making as much progress in your strength training as you want to! You’ll find that doing a Deload Week every couple of months is the best way to improve your overall strength, health, and physical conditioning.
What is a Deload Week?
A ‘Deload Week’ is similar to a rest week, but instead of taking an entire week off training, you simply reduce the intensity of your workouts. This means you reduce the amount of weight you use, although you can also reduce the overall volume of your training (less volume = less sets and reps).
Benefits of Deloading
Why should you deload? When trying to get stronger we should always be kicking ass and pushing past failure, right? Wrong!
There are four significant benefits to taking an occasional deload week:
- It gives your body the chance to recover. Minor injuries are very common among serious gym-goers, and yet many will push through and hit that workout hard despite the injury. With a deload week, you can give your body a chance to heal without totally bailing on your workouts.
- It lets your central nervous system recover. If you’re lifting HARD and HEAVY every time you’re at the gym, your central nervous system is taking a hammering, and will eventually become overloaded from all that exertion. We have trained to the point of CNS damage, and take our word for it, random BURNING HOT pins and needles all over a muscle group is NOT fun. Taking a week to deload helps your CNS get back on track.
- It stops you from getting weaker. Overtraining can lead to chronic fatigue, which we usually notice when we struggle to complete the same number of reps we did easily just weeks ago. If you’ve been overtraining, a deload week will stop you from slipping back. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hit a personal best following a deload week!
- It can help you break through plateaus. If your muscles become accustomed to the same routine, your progress will eventually slow or even stop altogether. This may be due to central nervous system fatigue, injury or even lack of motivation. After a deload week, you’ll hit the weights feeling fresh and invigorated, and your body will be ready to smash through that pesky strength plateau.
Deloading is all about giving your body the rest it needs so that you can bounce back stronger!
How to Deload
Here are few ways to deload:
- Reducing weight — If you’re doing low-rep, high-weight training, you usually lift between 80 and 90% of 1RM. With a deload week, drop that weight to 40-60% of 1RM (1 rep max.), and do the same number of reps and sets.
- Reducing volume –– Instead of cutting weight, cut the number of reps and sets that you do. If you usually do 3 sets of 12 squats with 180 pounds, drop down to 1 set of 12 squats, or even 1 set of 6 to 8 squats. It doesn’t reduce the load, just minimises the strain on your body.
- Dropping exercises –– If you’re making good progress on MOST exercises but falling behind in a few movements, drop the ones you’re good at and focus on the troublesome movements. You can improve your form and keep making progress in the trouble exercises while still taking your deload week.
- Change exercises –– Switch from barbells to dumbbells and kettlebells for your deload week, and reduce the weight. The exercises are similar enough to your standard movements that your progress won’t slip, but you’ll recruit new secondary muscles thanks to the varied angle.