In strength training, Crossfit, Powerlifting, etc, it’s very important to have a good periodization, to avoid injuries, overtraining or stagnation.
This article is all about deload weeks, should you use them, and if so, how to effectively do them.
We are going to talk to you about deloading in training. Deloading consists of reducing the intensity of training for a short period of time to allow the body to recover from intense and repeated training with heavy loads.
What is a deload week?
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about your training or your work: if you give 100% all the time, you’ll end up burning out. So it’s all the more important for your health and your performance level that you know how to balance effort and rest.
Your workout is also synonymous with “stress” for your body. Indeed, during a high-intensity session, the stress hormone called “cortisol” is released. But don’t worry! This process is completely normal. It would be problematic if you were under constant stress and never vented.
That’s why it’s important to give yourself enough time to recover. After an intensive session, the relaxation phase gives way to the body’s adaptation to the efforts it has made. This way you can increase your performance in the next training session and make progress thanks to the principle of overcompensation.
But what if you don’t see an increase in performance despite regular training and recovery phases? This may be a sign that you need a longer recovery phase or an active recovery phase. This is where the deload week comes in! This is a method designed to boost performance; it consists of a time-limited reduction in training intensity.
In this deload phase, you remain active but you still give your body a break. As a rule, you can maintain your usual training program while reducing its intensity. For example, you lift lighter weights or do fewer reps than you normally would. This can be done for an entire week. After the deload, you return to your old training intensity. As a result, you fully regenerate, then return to your workout routine with fully recharged batteries.
Pause or deload?
You may already be familiar with this situation: you have a new training plan that you can use to increase the weights or the number of reps over time. Everything works perfectly and you’re happy with your progress. But after a while, you notice that you’re not making any progress. Your performance stagnates. If this is you, read on.
The first approach to test is usually a deload week. You reduce your training effort and can overcome a weak performance. A period of one week is usually recommended, as one session is not enough for complete regeneration.
But, you might be in a different scenario. Do you find that you have less and less strength during your training? Do you feel tired, weak and unmotivated? Are you feeling sore more often than usual and your immune system is weakening? All of these things can indicate that you are overtraining. At this point, it is recommended that you take a break from training for a week or two to recharge your batteries. The length of your break is individual and depends on how you feel. Listen to your body.
The benefits of the deload week
Let’s get one thing straight: you don’t have to worry about losing muscle or strength after your deload week! One week is not enough time for your muscles to break down. Also, your strength will not be lost so quickly. On the contrary, you may get stronger.
Your body finally takes the time to recover. Your central nervous system is recovering and you now have the perfect opportunity to pay more attention to your technique instead of chasing weights.
Here’s how a deload week typically helps:
- Your central nervous system recovers
- You avoid burnout in training
- You prevent possible injuries
- You ensure a better flow of the exercises
- You give your psyche a break
- You stay active while enjoying a lower training intensity
- Your body is fully regenerated
- You do not stagnate in your training and you increase your performance
But, a deload week doesn’t mean you just sit at home on the couch and binge eat. You continue to be active. Only the intensity of the training is slightly reduced. To help you recover, eat a balanced diet and make sure you get enough protein. Try our Recovery Aminos as a supplement and provide your muscles with important amino acids after training.
When to perform a deload week?
It depends mainly on your level:
Very important for beginners, deloads allow the body to get used to the new training and to recover completely. Since it is a totally new stimulus for the muscles and nervous system, beginners need more deloads than more experienced practitioners.
Even if you feel like you don’t need a deload week, it’s a good idea to do one once every 12 weeks. As mentioned above, this will help you avoid injuries that will ruin the results of previous years. Don’t think you’re invincible and don’t overlook the benefits of a week of deload in the long run.
If you’re a practitioner with 8-10 years of strength training behind you, you know your body better than anyone. You can see that your recovery is not as good as it used to be, that you lack motivation, focus, etc. In this case, one or two weeks of training will help you to recover. In this case, one or two weeks of deloading is necessary, every 4-6 months.
Before an athletic strength or powerlifting competition
Similarly, it is recommended that before an athletic strength or powerlifting competition, you perform a single lift of the first bar that will be used in competition:
- 10 days before the competition, for the deadlift
- 5 days before the competition, for the squat
- 4 days before the competition, for the bench press.
The rest of the training before the competition must be low intensity in accessory exercises or even non-existent, the goal is to arrive in shape for the competition and not on the kneecaps. Arriving at a competition tired will prevent you from giving everything you have to the three movements. What’s the point of training, only to get tired a few days before the competition and not recover in time? There is no point.
What are potential signs that you need a deload week?
- You feel flat and unresponsive in the gym.
- You aren’t making progress on key lifts (or performance is declining).
- Your recovery is subpar between workouts. If you need an extra day or three to recover before your next training session, it may be time for a deload.
- Or, if the progression between workouts is stagnating or regressing, the need for a deload week will become evident. A typical pattern in this case would be that you are able to do last week’s workout with the same weight you did the previous week. But, when you go to test your 1-rep max on that lift before your next session, it feels significantly heavier.
- You are experiencing sharp pains during or after workouts.
- You are having a difficult time getting motivated for your workouts.
Will A Deload Week Help Me Build Muscle Faster?
Although there isn’t much scientific research on how deload weeks impact muscular growth, a 2013 study from the University of Tokyo offers some indication.
The scientists compared two groups of individuals, one that trained for six weeks on with three weeks off versus those who trained continuously for 24 weeks.
Surprisingly, they discovered that both groups gained virtually the same amount of muscle over the course of 24 weeks.
But, interestingly, the group who took deload weeks experienced rapid growth to catch up with the control group. So this suggests that including rest in your training regimen may enable you to grow towards your objectives faster, while enjoying the benefits of resting weeks.
What does a deload week actually look like?
To reduce the intensity of your training, you can use lighter weights. In this case, the number of sets and reps remains the same. In most cases, it is recommended that you reduce your weights by about 40-60% from your usual routine.
A lower flow
You keep your weights but reduce the flow of the workout. For example, you can do squats with the same weight as before, but do only 2 sets of exercises instead of 4. You can also play with the number of reps and do fewer reps within a set of exercises.
In this variation, you do simpler exercises to take the pressure off. Basic exercises such as squats or deadlifts are very intense and involve a whole chain of muscles. Isolation exercises are a good alternative during deload week. They focus on a specific muscle area and allow your central nervous system to breathe.
Try other types of exercise
You can also try a whole new type of sport as part of an active recovery phase. bodyweight workouts, rowing or jogging in the park – there are no limits to your imagination. It’s a way to stay active while recovering from your workout routine.
How often should I do a deload week?
How often you give yourself a week to deload is up to you. Factors such as your training intensity, performance level, diet, stress, sleep quality and even a caloric deficit will impact your performance. Some athletes need a deload week after 6 weeks, others only after a few months. There are also some training programs that already include regular deload weeks.
Note: listen to your body and don’t ignore its signals! Give yourself a break if you need it. This will allow you to maintain your performance at a high level over the long term.
What About Nutrition During a Deload?
It depends on your goal:
This is a surprising but logical tip. Just as a deload allows your muscles to recover, you need to increase your caloric intake to replenish your energy. After spending several weeks/months in a caloric deficit, you need to bring your calories back up to the point where you are spending as much as you are consuming. Once the deload is over, you will need to start cutting calories again.
Stay in a caloric surplus, but you can decrease your caloric intake slightly while you do the deload.
Will I lose my Strengh during a deload week?
The short answer is no. You should see some strength return after the second workout back after the deload week. If you continue to lose strength over that time period, it’s possible you are experiencing overtraining.
Deload week: our conclusion
A week’s rest can help you get stronger and overcome a performance slump. Regeneration is necessary for your training success. Pay attention to your body’s signals and avoid overtraining. This way, you relieve your central nervous system, prevent injuries, and promote long-term muscle building.