What is deloading?
It’s when you still train, but lift lighter weights than normal. This still works your muscles but gives them a bit of time to recover so you can come back bigger and stronger. The most common deload approach is to reduce the volume of training you would normally do for one week by approximately 50-60%. But you should still keep the same intensity you normally train with, so reps, tempo and rest will all stay at the same level to ensure your muscles continue to get enough stimulation to provoke a response.
Why should I deload?
Without a deload you may well end up overtraining and risking injury and fatigue, both physical and mental. It’s one of the main reasons many people fail to build the body they want.
By factoring a deload week into your training plan you get a number of benefits, including muscle fibre recovery and growth, heightened testosterone release and improvements in your central nervous system. Deloading doesn’t just allow for optimised recovery, it actually allows you to progress faster. The change of emphasis to training with lower volume means you target different muscle fibres, and also allow your body to replenish vitamins and minerals you may be deficient in after intensive training.
But I feel fine. Can’t I just keep training hard?
Even if you’re still feeling fit and strong you may be at risk of overtraining, causing a reduction in testosterone levels that will make good gains less likely. Also, you need to give your mind a rest – if you get bored with training you’ll soon lose all motivation. It’s easy to view a deload week as time wasted by not training hard. But it’s not a backward step; it’s a leap forward in terms of progress and health that’ll improve your longevity in the gym and in life.
Can’t I just take a week off?
No. Having a week off means there is zero muscle stimulation, which means no progress. You need to keep your muscles firing to keep them growing, and a week out of the gym means you’ll be in a weaker position once you get back into the habit.
How do I deload?
I believe the best approach is to schedule in a deload week after three weeks of training with high volume. What you do depends on your training programme, because what is a deload for one person may be too much or too little for others. But I have five golden rules I always stick to (see box, right).
Should I eat less then?
As with every other week the correct nutritional intake is essential. Depending on your goals, you can reduce fats and carbohydrates accordingly to compensate for the lower volume. But protein intake should remain high, about 3-4g per kg of lean body mass per day. A high-quality multivitamin would also help replenish any deficiencies.
Deload the right way
- Reduce volume (the number of sets you perform of each move) by 50%
- Reduce weight by approximately 25%
- Keep rest periods to 30-45 seconds
- Don’t train to failure, because this may suppress your body’s ability to recover
- Use a tempo of at least 2010 to keep the muscles under tension sufficiently