What is a deload?
A deload week is a phase in a strength program at which you train at a low intensity so the body can recover from the stressful high demands of intense training. This is done by reducing the volume of your training, not making it too easy but still getting that bang for your buck in a deload phase.
But is taking a deload week going to reduce your performance?
The answer is "hell no!"
Having a well-structured program is vital, regardless if you’re playing sports or simply have an individualised program tailored to your needs. Make sure you incorporate a deload week, as it’s just as important as any other phase in strength.
Deloading allows you to taper back your training after an intense 5–8 week block as your body cannot sustain high intensity over a long period of time and eventually the central nervous system (CNS) will fatigue, increasing the likelihood of injuries and decreasing your performance.
Factor in a deload week. You will feel refreshed, stronger and faster.
Here are a few reasons why deloading is important
- Your central nervous system breaks down, leading to poor performance and increasing the chance of injury.
- Your muscles and joints need to recover. Joints take longer to recover and if not looked after, it may cause damage later.
- Prevents the dreaded plateau
How do you know when it’s time to deload?
- Typically, when the body isn’t performing well or energy levels are low.
- If pains, cramps or muscle tightness is prevalent.
- Feeling fatigued, heavy or demotivated.
Now, a lot of the time for team sports or individual athletes, a deload phase has already been scheduled in place so athletes can peak at the right time.
So for example, 6-week block athletes will have 5-8 training sessions scheduled in a week with a structured program. Week 7 will then see athletes taper back to recover and reload so they can return back stronger, faster and more powerful.
How to program a deload week
There are many ways you can program a deload week.
- Take the entire week off. Step away from the gym go play team sports, spend time with family and have a go at other hobbies
- Take a minimum of 2-4 days and return back to the gym. May be upper body into low-intensity conditioning or full-body circuit. Just to get the body moving again.
- Keep the same routine and hit the gym. Keeping session between 30-50% intensity/volume.
In program format
Week 1–6 normal lower body and upper body:
- Back squats: 3x12
- Bench press: 3x12
- Deadlift: 3x8
- Push press:3x10
- Increase volume/weight as the weeks go to provide a changing stimulus
A deload week:
- Cut weight by 30-50% of the previous 1-6-week block.
I prefer to change to supplementary exercises when deloading to lessen the stress on main lifts.
Supplementary examples include:
- Bulgarian Split squats: 3x6
- DB flat bench press: 3x8
- Sumo deadlifts: 3x4
- DB Push press 3x5
Benefits noticed after a deload week?
You will see a change in energy levels, feeling refreshed and stronger. Having that 1 week off or training at low intensity, gives your body a recovery period where it can keep up with training demands, giving you more out of your upcoming sessions. The body will feel brand new with muscle and joints more flexible and free but also feeling strong in the sense of lifting heavier with no ache or pains and possibly having more range of motion. Energy systems will be primed and ready to hit the ground running.
So next time you are feeling flat, sore or are ready to hit your PB out of the park, remember to factor in a deload into the mix and watch your results go through the roof.