Article written by Jay Stadtfeld for LiftBigEatBig.com
At some point in your training career, you’re going to notice that you feel particularly beat up after weeks of consistent heavy training. This usually insinuates a decrease in both intensity and volume; something that we call a “deload”, where both mind and body are given a break from heavy training. This will allow your mind to be fresh to attack with vigor, and for your CNS (Central Nervous System) to be fully prepped to handle heavier, hopefully increasingly, loads.
There really is no set “time” one should deload, as we’re all a bunch of unique snowflakes and should learn by doing. Many programs have them built in, but for some newer athletes, they may occur before you even have a moment to hit your stride and see what you’re worth.
A few signs you may need to deload are:
· Constant, nagging injuries.
o These may not be large injuries (torn tendons or the like), but more joint aches that, no matter the amount of mobility you do, won’t go away.
o No matter the amount of caffeine you intake, nor the sleep you get seems to get you ready for anything, let alone training.
o You seem to get pissed off at the most mundane things. Someone asked you to toss them a pen, and you act like WWIII is going to erupt.
§ This and the injuries are the tell all signs I need to deload.
· Lack of Motivation
o This is self-explanatory, but it also goes for not only training, but sex life, too. And let’s face it. If you don’t feel like gettin’ down, something is probably wrong.
Typically, the signs are going to arrive in couplets, triplets, or even quadruplets. I wouldn’t rely solely on one factor, just because I experience one of these any given day. Testosterone is an evil minion at times, regardless of what anyone says. That said, a general, consistent feeling of “my shit feels fucked up” will be a pretty good sign.
Knowing how to approach a deload week once you figured out you need one can be a process. Especially because people like to over-think things (myself included at times). I’ve experimented with many different approaches, including a “to the book” deload where I plugged weights in and just did the bare knuckles approach. But, I’ve also experimented with other ideas, such as a week off totally.
The best two approaches I’ve found are:
1. Take a couple doubles or even a triple at 70% for whatever lift would be on that day.
a. I also lessen the load on any accessory work, either not doing it, or doing bodyweight stuff to stay fresh.
b. Working up to 70% or so allows you to maintain a semi-heavy load, without ruining your recovery that’s supposed to be happening. While, a decrease in load on accessory work allows you to work some kinks out through taking the joints through a full range and pumping some blood into the regions that may need it. A few good accessory moves are listed below this.
i. Band Pull-Aparts
ii. Face Pulls
iii. Un-weighted Lunges
iv. Back Extensions
v. Reverse Hyper-Extension
2. The second method of deloading I’ve found that works well isn’t as good as the first, but still pretty decent, and that is to simply not touch a barbell. Find some dumbbells and use those for your lifts. A reduction in weight is necessary; however the sets and reps don’t necessarily need to be lessened to find desirable results.
a. This will do the same as the accessory work I detailed in option number one, this time without the barbell. It will increase blood flow to various parts of your body where it’s necessary in effort to recover.
I prefer option one because it allows you to maintain biomechanics necessary for the big lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift), whereas number two (heh, number two) will not.
The big idea is that it’s important to remember that deloads are there to help you recover. If you aren’t meeting that one, simple goal, then perhaps you need to look into your programming and figure it out. Hopefully this gave you some ideas on how to approach a “not so heavy” week. After all, 500 pounds is heavy, but is a lot heavier when your CNS is fried and you’re beat to hell.