Everything you Need to Know About Deload Training
If you’re trying to build a lean, toned physique, you need to train hard, and you should be pushing yourself to lift more over time to get stronger.
If you’re doing this, you know that you can’t keep pushing for more and go hard for months on end.
Or you can try, and you’ll likely end up injured or under-recovered (neither of which will help you with your physique enhancing goals).
Enter deload weeks!
If you’re scrolling through the fitness side of social media, you probably occasionally hear the term “deload” or see someone taking a “deload week.”
It’s Coach Ashlyn and Coach Kasey here! We realize that not everyone knows what a deload is or why it’s essential for training, so we’re going to break that down along with how to know when it’s time for a deload.
What is a Deload?
Think of a training deload like your "don't pass go" card in Monopoly.
Sure, it might take you a bit longer to get back around and collect your money, but it also gives you time to become aware of what's around you.
It gives you time to try new things and think of new ideas.
A deload in training is the same thing!
If we skip "go" or a deload, it's only a matter of time before we get tired, worn out, and "broke."
A deload is a planned set of time (from a few days to a couple of weeks) of reduced volume, intensity, or total time off from your training program.
Deloads in training give your body and mind a chance to recover so they can continue to adapt and come back stronger.
Why Should you do a Deload?
We regularly hear people say they don’t need a deload because they feel great and are crushing their workouts.
But there are benefits to taking a deload, including:
- Decreased fatigue
- Flushes and mitigates inflammation
- Relieves stress on joints
- Maintain and re-sensitize the body to the stimulus of training
- Mental reset
- Increased motivation
A deload also provides your body with additional recovery time, so you're refreshed and ready to grow when you return to your regular programming!
You’ll also have extra time to focus on other aspects of your health, like stress reduction and sleep.
You may not realize it now, but once you start your deload, you will see just how much you needed the rest and recovery.
Deloading is living the “less is more” principle.
When you strength train, you’re placing stress on your body.
With adequate rest days and programmed delaod weeks, you can ensure that your stress remains “good stress” and doesn’t push you over the edge.
If you want to continue making progress and getting the most out of your training, deloading is a must!
How to do a Deload
Are you used to doing the same training day in and day out? (Hello, progressive overload!)
Great! Now you can use a deload to try something new. Go to a yoga class, go hiking in the mountains, ride a bike, swim, etc.
Does it seem like you have a never-ending "to-do list" of things around the house?
Great! Use a deload as an opportunity to mark some of those off.
The most important thing to note about a deload is that there is no right or wrong way to do one!
Your body is unique, and what you need to feel your best for a new training block may differ from what someone else’s body needs. Your needs are different than even your training partners.
Some need a mental break from the gym, so they take a whole week off to do something else they enjoy.
Other people will go in twice a week and do one upper and one lower body day. And still, others will go in regularly but focus on lifting lighter.
There are many different ways to approach a deload. What’s important is that you choose whatever feels best for you.
Some evidence shows that training through a deload is beneficial for recovery and blood circulation, but you can still have a successful deload without training.
Types of Deload Training
Now that you’ve decided you need a deload and know how to approach one, it’s time to decide if you want to train during your deload or explore other fitness activities.
If you decide to train during your deload, you should reduce your intensity (weight) by 10-15%, your working sets by 40-50%, and your volume (reps) by 20%.
So if you were training 4 sets of 10 reps at 200 pounds, during your deload, you should do 2 sets of 8 reps at 170-180 pounds.
If you decide to do a non-training deload, you can still move your body daily, and you can try activities such as:
- Yoga or stretching 3-4 times a week
- Road biking
- Playing a sport
Or you can just take some well-deserved rest.
Remember to sleep and eat during your deload!
Just because you aren't training doesn't necessarily mean your body needs less food. You don't "earn" your food through exercise.
When Should you Deload?
To decide whether it’s time for a deload, you should look at your biofeedback and take a mental inventory of how you are feeling.
The biofeedback markers you should pay attention to are:
Are you waking up refreshed each morning?
Are you sleeping through the night?
Are you waking up hungry or sweaty?
Are you living off of caffeine to get through the day?
Do you feel exhausted after every training session?
Are the weights feeling harder?
Are you moving slower?
Are you sore for longer than usual?
Are you more achy than usual?
Are you suffering from more frequent injuries?
Are you waking up at night feeling hungry?
Do you notice that you’re more snacky during the day?
Do you feel like you have to drag yourself to the gym?
Do you feel like you’re just going through the motions?
Are you finding any excuse to skip the gym?
Pay attention to how many of those you said yes to. If you said yes to more than a couple, it’s likely time to deload.
NOTE: This recommendation is based on the assumption that you’ve ruled out other reasons for these symptoms (however, things like extra life stress or a dieting phase can cause these things as well, and you may need to deload more often because of that).
How often you need to deload depends on your level of training experience, age, and lifestyle.
Newbies, younger people, and those living less stressful lives may get away with more time between deloads compared to more advanced trainees, older individuals, and those who live stressful lives.
Additionally, you may need to deload more frequently if you’re in a calorie deficit.
A good rule of thumb is to take a deload every 6-8 weeks within a training cycle.
If you’re relatively new to training, you may be able to go 10-12 weeks before implementing a deload.
Ideally, you should take a deload week before you start experiencing negative symptoms, so make sure to plan one into your training program.
Get Help with your Deload
If you’re looking to learn the basics of nutrition and strength training, check out our 4 Week Fit Foundations, where we’ll teach you all about creating your own strength training program—with deload weeks included!
Does a deload still sound intimidating to you?
Don’t sweat it! KJO Coaching is here to help you out! We have a team of stellar trainers who know how to program for progressive overload and when it’s time for you to deload. And better yet - we’ll write a program for you that’s 100% based on your personal preferences, lifestyle, schedule, and goals!
Our team can teach you to be more confident in the gym and achieve your health and fitness goals.
Interested in working with us? Learn more HERE!
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