Building muscle and achieving your fitness goals calls for consistency and commitment, so taking a break seems counterintuitive. Yet, that is what a deload week offers, and it is recommended that you include it in your training program.
Looking online for information regarding a deload may give you conflicting results, but that should not discourage you. This article thoroughly examines what a deload week is and how to do it properly.
What is a deload week? A deload week is a planned reduction in the intensity and volume of your regular gym training. You can still go to the gym and do your program but with lower weights or lower repetitions.
It is not necessarily a full week away from the gym since this may affect your resumption and even affect your goals. By having a significant reduction in your workouts’ volume and intensity, your body can relax and recharge, enabling you to boost your performance, especially if you have hit a plateau.
The reasoning behind the need for a deload week is based on the law of super-compensation. There are three phases in this law;
- Application of stress
- Recovery phase
- Super compensation phase
The application of the stress phase happens when you are working out. As you are working out lifting weights and other exercises, you are causing damage and fatigue to your muscles. The more training you do, the more stress is applied to the muscles and increases muscle fatigue and damage, which in turn affects your fitness levels. At the end of the phase, you cannot perform as effectively as before the training started.
In the second phase, recovery happens in two forms. There is the rest between the sets, which allows the body to repair the slow and fast-twitch fibers, which help direct energy to the following set. However, that is not enough to grant you the performance you had in the first set.
It is what creates the need for an extended break, which is why there are full rest days in between the days you are working out. If you skip recovery time exerting stress on the same muscle groups, your fitness levels will continue dwindling. The final phase is the super-compensation phase. After recovering, the body has had enough time to repair and restore its damaged tissues in this stage. It rebounds with fitness levels higher than the pre-application stage, which improves your performance. A deload week falls under the recovery stage.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Should You Deload?
- 2 Benefits Of A Deload?
- 3 How Do You Deload?
- 4 When Should You Deload?
- 5 Factors That Influence How Frequent You Should Deload
- 6 How Often Should You Deload?
- 7 Conclusion
- 8 References Used in This Article
Why Should You Deload?
A deload week offers an even more extended recovery period. Considering you do not stop going to the gym altogether, you will get to maintain your discipline and rhythm. The reduction in intensity and the workouts’ volume ensures the muscles do not suffer any more damage. Instead, they allow restoration to happen since you will be lifting lesser weights for a lower number of repetitions and sets.
There is also a lesser risk of you losing the muscle or the strength you have gained. It takes about six weeks to start declining in strength and more than a month for you to lose the previous muscle gains. Some people may not feel the need for deloading nor observe its benefits primarily because they do not train hard enough to hit a plateau or their bodies’ limits.
You have to understand your needs to structure your deload week so that it reflects them appropriately. In case you have some areas to build on, then structure the week around these muscles.
Benefits Of A Deload?
The benefits of deloading are another reason to motivate you to add it to your training program. Here are some of the significant benefits of having a deload week:
- A deload week helps you get over plateau phases. While putting in the hard work does help you improve, the lack of a break places too much stress on the body – eventually, you cannot maintain peak performance, and your progress stagnates regardless of the effort you put in.
- A deload week further helps you avoid injuries brought about by consistent pressure on the joints. Overtraining is one of the main risks of injury since the muscles never get enough time to recover.
- Bodybuilding does have a positive effect on increasing your body’s potential for muscle-building in the long run. Studies indicate that deloading increases the body’s sensitivity to muscle damage, which allows for more significant overgrowth.
- Finally, a deload week has a positive psychological effect. Overtraining also places strain on your mental faculties. Mental fatigue also contributes to plateauing and failing to reach your goals and can even kill your meditation. Deloading allows you to prevent mental burnout and take your mind off the training for a sufficient resting period.
How Do You Deload?
The question then is, how do you do it effectively so that you reap the benefits and not just waste one week. There are four approaches you can employ in a deloading week. Find one which matches your situation and then structure the de-lading through the tips we will discuss further in the article.
1. Reduce The Load You Are Using For Training
You lower your one rep max by 40-60 %, which is about half the weight of your usual load. However, you do not increase the sets or the reps to make up for the reduced weight. It is an excellent option for those seeking to maintain a high level of performance even when the deload is completed.
2.Reducing The Significant Volume Used
This option allows you to keep the same weight for training, but you half the number of sets you would normally do. It is an ideal option for people engaged in competitive sports or those nearing competition, and they have to keep their peak performance.
3. Change The Exercise You Are Doing
This form of deloading is ideal for recreational lifters and exercisers. You deload by picking different exercises from the one you were previously doing. For example, weeks of heavy lifting should be followed by activities where no barbell is required. Usually, it is swapping weight training to use a bodyweight circuit. You can also engage in swimming and hiking.
4. Doing Individual Lifts
This option works when you are experiencing a plateau in only one kind of exercise or muscle group. For example, if you are struggling with squats, but you are recording gains in your bench-press and rows, it will be counterproductive if you stop everything. Therefore, you keep up the areas you are having gains and go easy on the ones you have plateaued.
5. The Controversial Option, Take A Week Off
I know I stated at the beginning of the article a deload week is not a week off, but it is an option. I like to take a week off the gym. When I tell people I’m taking a deload week, and won’t be going to the gym, I get told that is not what a deload week is. This is why it’s controversial as I’m not following the standard deload week. However, I do still engage in exercise during that week.
Taking a week off from the gym works for me, and I always come back refreshed and raring to go. You need to find what works best for you.
When Should You Deload?
If you are going to take advantage of the break offered by deloading, then you have to know when to deload to avoid messing up your training. Here are indicators to use when you are training regularly to know when to deload.
1. When The Program Recommends It
If you are using a pre-structured program, you need to deload when the program asks you to deload. Many of the professionally, pre-designed programs come with a deload week. Even if you follow all the exercises and the sets and reps, you will lose out on the maximum benefits.
2. When Your Strength Is Declining
If you are using your program and notice you are becoming weaker, it is time to deload. When you are struggling in your lifts, specifically the low rep work, you should know your central nervous system is overstretched. A week of downtime will help you recover.
3. When You Develop Sore Joints
While having the occasional injury and soreness is part of lifting, it is probably an indication of overworked muscles and joints when it is constant. Pain in the elbows, knees, and hips during and after exercises signifies a body in need of a break. After visiting a physiotherapist, you should take a deload break and experience the benefits.
4. After Coming From A Meet
If you have taken part in any competition like powerlifting, CrossFit competition, weightlifting, or even training boot camps, you will need to deload and help your body and mind recover from the training leading up to the competition and the intensity of the competition itself.
Factors That Influence How Frequent You Should Deload
How often you should deload depends on several factors, deloading will not be the same for everyone. The main elements are;
- Calories you take: If you are using a calorific surplus program and aim to bulk, you can have more extended periods of consistent training without deload compared to the people on a calorie deficit diet looking to lose weight.
- Your level of experience: Beginners do not lift lots of heavyweights, and as such, they can go longer periods without deloading. Experienced trainees will have to take frequent deload weeks since they lift heavier weights.
- Age: The older you get, especially above 40, you will need to have more weeks to go slow since your recovery abilities decline with age. On the other hand, young people can get away with extended periods of training without a break since they can recover faster in a smaller period.
- Your lifestyle: If you are leading a lifestyle that is stressful and draining either physically or mentally, you will need to get more deloading weeks since your body needs regular recovery.
How Often Should You Deload?
Professional athletes and trainees who overexert themselves in training will need a deload week after every three weeks of intense training. Older trainers may fall into this category too. The most used frequency is having a deload week every 6-12 weeks, which accommodates a wide range of needs. Finally, people who are new to training or have been training for under a year and do not push to the limits may only have a deload week about 0-3 times a year.
Regardless of your need, you can benefit from a deload week occasionally. It allows your body to recover and restore damaged tissue and muscles, which leads to superior performance the next time you resume. By reducing volume and intensity and matching your diet, you can reap the benefits of an extended break without completely stopping your training.
The bottom line, don’t be scared to take a deload week give it ago and see which option works for you.
References Used in This Article
- The effect of autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise vs. linear periodization on strength improvement in college athletes
- The effects of tapering on strength performance in trained athletes
- Detraining and tapering effects on hormonal responses and strength performance
- What Is A “Deload Week” & Why Is It Important?
- How to Use Deloads to Gain Muscle and Strength Faster