The term ‘deload’ has quite a few meanings within sport and exercise communities, and those who have heard of them will have a slightly different understanding of what they are. My aim here is to simplify the meaning of the term, explain why training deloads are important and, finally, leave you with the knowledge of how best to use it all to your own or your clients benefit.
Let’s start with the term ‘deload’. You may have also heard this expression in phrases such as a ‘deload week’ or ‘deload session’ in relation to weight training. The meaning of this should be simple – to reduce the total training volume (weight lifted or placed upon the body) across a period of time, in order to allow optimal recovery, optimal training results and to reduce the risk of overtraining, which may lead to various types of injury.
A lot of people would probably be able to outline that for you but here are a few common mistakes that I see people make regularly:
- In order to deload they take time off training completely and stop all forms of activity;
- Take a week or so out of their programming to train with higher rep ranges and therefore lower weights – placing lower stress on the body (in theory);
- Take time between programmes to train freely and end up half-arsing workouts in which they have no real plan for and require minimal effort.
Now, let me explain why these 3 points are not your best course of action before I give you the best solution to this issue.
Point 1 initially may sound like a good idea however, many people will end up falling out of routine and struggling to find themselves when restarting their training.
Point 2 is the most common that I see and is actually providing the opposite outcome to what we are trying to achieve here. The use of higher rep ranges increases total volume (unless the weight used is significantly less; usually rendering a less than optimal workout), which goes against the exact aim of this in the first place, and places more metabolic stress on our bodies.
Point 3 above should be easy to see through, it very often ends in wasted workouts, which provide little to no stimulus for the body to adapt and improve on and may even risk injury if minimal effort is put in.
Now for the good stuff…
The ideal way to properly use a deload is to find a way to reduce overall volume without wasting time and effort and putting your hard work at risk. Here’s the answer you’ve been waiting for: simply stick to your training programme and every 3rd set of sessions, remove one third of your sets across the whole workout.
Yes, it’s really that simple. Keep the same session plan but take the total volume down by a third. This for example may end up with you doing 3 sets of your first section instead of 4, then doing two sets for your second and third sections in the workout instead of three. As a minimum, try to keep the weights the same but you may also use this as a chance to increase the intensity of the workout and adding weight to the bar/dumbbells as you know you have less overall sets to do.
Most of the good training programmes I have read or designed myself run on a 4 or 6 week basis. In this case, on the 3rd week just apply this principal to each of the workouts in the plan. If you have a programme which has two repeated workouts within the same week then use this principal only every 3rd round of them.
This method allows you to routinely take sessions which are lower in volume and doesn’t allow you to make any of the above mentioned mistakes, allowing you to grow stronger, bigger, more athletic and healthy.
Try it out, let me know how you get on, it could just be the answer to a longer training life for many of us.
Thanks for reading!