What the hell is a deload?
A deload is a short planned recovery phase. You take your workout a little easier, maybe you train a little less and generally make it easier for yourself. A typical delay lasts for a week.
To the uninitiated outsider, deloads seem to be a waste of time or an excuse to sit on the backside for a week, watch TV instead of going to the gym and moving a few heavy pieces of iron.
Not so fast.
What if deloads could be exactly what you need for your training? The secret ingredient to make your workout from good to fantastic. Do you feel excited, demotivated or stuck on a training plateau? Adding a deload will open up the world of good and encourage you to win bigger gymnastics.
How do i charge?
The most common method of unloading is just to reduce your poundages. As a guideline, all of your sets should be done at around 40-60% of your 1RM. That doesn't mean that you are passionate about leather and have to do a lot of repetitions. The loads are light and the repetitions and sets are light. That's the whole idea of a deload – you just have to relax and take it easy.
A less popular option is to keep your weight more or less the same, but greatly reduce your volume. For example, suppose your regular workout routine is five sets of five squats at 275 pounds. With a normal delay, you would probably do your five sets of five weighing between 155 and 175 pounds. With a volume deload, however, you could stay at 275 and do a few single or double strokes, or just do a set of five reps.
This approach works better for some people. Competitive athletes who find performance suffer especially when they do not have a heavy load on their back or in their hands week after week.
An obscure, but equally effective, method of deleting is to change your exercise selection. This is harder to regulate, but it definitely has its advantages. As an example, Dave advises Tate to take four to six weeks after a power lifting meeting where you don't do barbell exercises at all. This may sound a little extreme, but it can be especially useful to do this after a long period of intense training and violent punches or after a competition to give your body a break.
After all, individual lift deloads are a boon when one lift suffers while the others are on the move with great weapons. For example, suppose you don't get past a plateau on your squat, but all the other main and side lifts are increasing week by week and you feel great. Having a week off would be counterproductive. Just take the pressure off your tedious lifter, hit a few simple sentences several times and work on nailing your shape and technique.
When to load
If you are following a pre-built program, load first when prompted, There is no point in following the weight, setting, repetition, and exercise guidelines set by the Juggernaut method, 5/3/1, or any other program if you ignore any advice on unloading.
However, when planning your own workout, there are a few key signs that indicate when you should delay:
Weaken – Nobody wants to get weaker. It's the opposite of why we're training. If your lifts are suffering, especially when you work with low reps, this could indicate that you are going too far and your central nervous system is getting a little messed up. The solution? Have a week of downtime and take a break.
Sore joints – You get a strange injury from time to time, and a little pain is part of the wonderful world of iron playing. But if you're in constant pain, your knees yell at you every time you crouch, if your elbows don't play with the ball when you press them, or if your hips only cause you grief when climbing stairs, that's not a good thing. You will likely need a good dose of foam to unwind, stretch, and a trip to your physical therapist or sports massage therapist, but combine this with a relief and your body will thank you.
After a meeting – We've already touched on this a bit, but if you've just attended a powerlifting, weightlifting or strongman event, or even a CrossFit competition, it's definitely time to change that.
People seriously underestimate how much mental and physical stress you've put on your body in competition. So play smart and take your time. A small personal note here:
I took part in my first powerlifting meeting in summer 2012. The competition was on a Saturday and I had to lose a few pounds to gain weight. That meant saving water and sodium and having practically nothing to eat for a whole day. Combine that with the stress of the three-hour drive to the venue, my nervousness about being my first competition, listening to the calls, meeting other competitors, and so much pressure. After the (fortunately successful) meeting, I was pumped up and went to the gym the next day to do a training session. Three days later I was in bed with the flu.
Coincidence? Could be. But I'm pretty sure that not unloading after the meeting was almost entirely responsible for my illness. Follow my advice, don't try to be a hero – charge up after a meeting.
Can I skip the deload?
In a word – no. It's terrible to have to take things easy. If you take your workout seriously in any way, it is a thousand times more painful to exercise for a week without hitting the iron with all your might and having to take things lightly than the most strenuous Smolov squat exercise. In the long run, however, unloading is undoubtedly the smart thing to do.
This is certainly the case for beginners and advanced. If you are a little more experienced and know what your body is responding to best, you may be able to skip a delay or two, postpone it for a few weeks, or shorten a few days if you know you have fully recovered, but for now, leave it in.