Most LBEB readers lift weights for two reasons: to get BIG & SKRONG. This happens with hurling heavy weights around the room, putting heavy weights on your back, and pushing sh*t overhead. Combine this with eating large servings of mastodon flesh and you have the makings of an Ajax or an Amazon. However, there is one factor missing from this equation that will keep you from reaching your full potential: The Deload.
The deload period of your training is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that most Crossfitters have no concept of deloading, and if they do, they probably hate it. In fact, coaching a relatively relaxed Crossfit session this morning, I heard all sorts of grumbles and groans that the workout wasn’t really worth waking up for since it wasn’t that hard.
The attitude of “If I don’t end up leaving a sweat angel on the floor, it’s a pointless workout” really makes my left eye twitch. Most individuals who follow random workouts abhor the fact that there might be an easy week because they think it will negatively affect their training. It’s not just the masses either, I talked to someone who is going to Regionals (you know who you are) and they expressed the same disdain for deloading.
What exactly is a deload you ask? (from eliteFTS.com)
“A deload is a series of sessions where you focus on all of the following and reduce multiple factors of intensity: Mobility SMR – soft-tissue work Flexibility Active recovery Weaknesses Rehab Strength training form Conditioning Breathing Kinetic stability Skill work”
A deload is NOT simply a rest day or an “active rest” workout, it is a planned in your programming that is designed to allow muscles to recover from stresses put on them from previous weeks. I like the supercompensation model, as outlined in this previous article. When deloading, there are many factors which must be considered and ultimately decreased for the sake of proper recovery, including: sets, reps, weights, and rest periods between sets.
By regularly implementing deload weeks into your 4, 8, 12, or 16 week program, you can continuously hit the weights hard 2-3 days in a row with a rest day in between. The deload week also allows your CNS and brain to recollect itself after hard weeks of training, assuring that you will be able to jump back into the program with renewed vigor: something that Olympic and Powerlifters, as well as Strongman fully understand. Marshall and L-Train will take almost a full week off before their competitions.
The usual program design I use when writing programming consists of two loading weeks, one deload week, and one performance week (all based off percentages of 1RMs). This four week design is known as a “cycle”, and a program can have two, three, or four cycles in it.
It is important to remember that while a deload is of the upmost importance, don’t let the deload period extend for too long or you WILL begin to experience negative adaptations to your training. A week of proper SMR/lacrosse ball work, adequate rest and food intake, as well as analysis of form and technique will ensure that you are able to stick with a program for the long run, rather than bowing out early due to burnout or injuries.