A deload is a scheduled rest within your training cycle.
A deviation from your normal routine in order to give the body and mind time to recover and adjust.
Typically, a deload is a weeklong endeavor where one will still train, but in a different fashion.
Deloading usually involves lowering the total volume of training for the week. This can be done by either taking an intensity deload (lowering weight used) for example using only 50 -60% of typical weight, or a volume deload, for example going from 4 sets to 2 sets with the same weight. Both of these will lead to a lower total volume of work. However, we may need to take a break from a certain movements. For example, if you have been doing compound barbell movements regularly, instead, do a week of dumbbell movements.
The style of Deloading you use will depend on how you are training, and what works best for you. If you are in a heavy training cycle, and weights are really getting challenging, then taking an intensity deload may be the best thing to do. However, if your routines are lighter weight with higher reps, then cutting volume or sets may be best. This is a great week to incorporate foam rolling and stretching!
Now, you will have individuals out there who will say deloading is a waste. They are not 100% wrong. Not everyone needs it, but they should eventually! Most do not train hard enough, even if they think they are, to require a deload. If someone has been training for years and boasts about never being injured and not needing deloads, then they simply are not training hard enough, or are incorporating deloads and don’t understand it enough to realize it. You should get to the point where every 3rd, 4th, or maybe 5th week you need a deload. Deloads are for the individuals who give it everything they have 4 to 6 times a week.
The style of training will dictate how often you should take a deload; will a bodybuilder need deloads as often as a powerlifter? Absolutely not, simply because the heavier the weight used, the harder it is to recover. However, with any style of training, a deload should be scheduled (for those who train hard), the timing and type of it just may be different.
Here are some great reasons why we should consider the deload:
- A mental break, typically from the intensity of heavy lifting. Giving yourself a break from a movement, the intensity, and the total volume can leave you feeling ready and excited to hit it hard the following week.
- Reduce the risk of overtraining. We should overreach, or over-train on occasion, but it needs to be planned! Severe cases of overtraining can cause irritability, injury, lack of sleep, body fat gain, muscle loss, sickness etc. Applying properly planned deloads will reduce this risk.
- Give your joints, tendons, ligaments and other supporting connective tissues time to recover.Training hard enough and long enough, we will start to acquire aches and pains. Usually in the knees, hips, low back, shoulders, elbows, wrists etc. If you find yourself with these or other nagging aches, it may be time to deload!
- Gives your nervous system time to recover. This is a big one, and incorporates the already mentioned points. The nervous system takes a beating, especially with heavy lifting, which is very draining. Your nervous system has to deal with recovery, and everything else, such as, daily function, daily stress, immune strength etc. If it’s not recovered, you may enter the realm of overtraining, and find yourself getting weaker, sick or irritable.
- Deloading will set you up for even better progress in the following weeks. By giving yourself time mentally to get your head straight about training again, and giving yourself time physically to get rid of aches and pains you will come back stronger.
By earning deloads, and properly adding them into your schedules, you will find yourself making better progress by allowing yourself to recharge, mentally and physically.