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Each day we walk into the gym, our main goal should always be to get better in one aspect or another. We put so much effort into our exercise selection, weight selection, rest periods, and even our preparation outside of the gym. However, one thing that may often be overlooked is our ability to properly recover from our training sessions in order to continue to see progress over the weeks, months, and years. In order to do this, it is very important that we schedule proper deload weeks or deload sessions.
Deloading is the process of incorporating a lighter training week or training session in order to let the body recover. This is also a great time to address any technical issues or make any form adjustments that may be needed. As we add up the days and weeks of hard training, our bodies accumulate fatigue, which when escalated to a certain point can cause plateaus, injury, or even sickness. Obviously, this is something that we want to avoid, and can be avoided by staying in-tune with our program and our bodies.
When considering the best time to perform a deload, there are a few tell tale signs.
If you’re feeling fatigued and beat up: This is the ultimate sign that you need to deload. If you are more sore than normal, or you are continuously mentally fatigued, take a light week to ease your mind and refresh your body.
If you have hit a plateau: Often times, when we feel like we are unable to continue progressing, it’s due to the fact that your body & mind just need a break. Mentally, it’s hard for us to take a break because we feel as though we will lose progress. In reality, that break is going to propel us one step forward.
If life is crazy and stress is accumulating: Our bodies do not know the difference between physical or mental stress. All stress has the same affect on how our body functions, and if we continue to let it add up, it will lead to the same outcome as the buildup of physical fatigue.
When it comes to performing a deload, there are multiple ways that they can be approached. There is no right or wrong way, it just comes down to what you feel works best for you and your goals.
Reduce the load: This method consists of decreasing the amount of weight that you have been using over the past weeks while roughly keeping the same exercises, sets, and reps. When doing this, using around 60-70% of the load that you previously used.
Reduce the volume: This consists of using the same weights as you have been over the previous weeks, but reducing the number of sets and reps. This may be best suited for someone who is preparing for a competition or event, but can still be beneficial for anyone.
Change your exercise selection: This one can be a little tricky because you don’t want to add in a new exercise that may introduce increased fatigue and soreness. However, if you have been perform heavy, hard movements for weeks on end, getting away from those movements for a week may not be a bad idea. An example of this would be replacing a barbell squat with a goblet squat, or a barbell bench press with a dumbbell bench press.
Take the week completely off: This is something that I don’t recommend that often, but it can be very beneficial depending on how you’re feeling. If you feel as though you are on the verge of a cold, or are very stressed and fatigued, sometimes it’s best to take the week off, go for a couple of short walks, read, or even meditate.