Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Aside from the fact it sounds like some sort of cocktail you might indulge in on a yoga retreat! This small word conjures up thoughts of refreshing, recovering, unburdening your mind and/or body.
When used in a training or athletic arena, a deload week (or two for that matter) typically refers to a 7-14 day period when training is lighter and sometimes less frequent, than a regular schedule or training cycle.
It is and does exactly what it says on the packet, it deloads your mind, body, neuromuscular system and in turn joints, muscles tendons and ligaments. We take holidays and mini breaks through the year, right? You wouldn’t work 7 days per week; 365 days per year and neither should your body.
A deload is perfect if you have hit a training plateau, feel sore and beaten up all the time or stuck in a rut, with your training. It allows your psyche and your body to rest and recover and could see you back at training stronger and better than before.
I personally schedule in at least 2 deloads per year, regardless of how I am feeling.
So why include a deload week? Training puts mental and physical stress on the body. Since our bodies cannot distinguish between these stressors it really is a double dose of the bad stuff we are feeding ourselves. Without a well-designed training programme that includes lighter periods of training, the body is likely to give up at some point and we will either become injured or ill. This will set you back way longer than taking a deload.
If you have a coach then they will indicate when and how you should deload If, however you are designing your own programme, some of the following maybe signs that you need a deload week.
Decreasing mental focus
Programme hopping (loosing focus on your own goals)
There are a few different ways to Deload:
Taking the weights down a notch, but keeping the reps and sets the same. Mentally not an easy option if you are used to lifting heavy and/or working till failure! Many suggest a 40-60% of your 1 RM is a good target.
A complete break from weight or strength training, changing things up and doing some classes or body weight resistance training. Try Pilates, yoga, surfing, rock climbing, gymnastics, something new. Although hard to physically regulate, mentally this method can be fantastic.
If you are just too attached to the weight on the bar, then fair enough, keep it there, but drop your reps. Maybe even as low as 1-2, do not be tempted to increase the sets though, as total volume will be too similar to regular training and you wont really be deloading.
These options maybe great for a 7 day period but for the remaining 7 days I fully recommend a complete break from the training maximally. Walk; relax do yoga or Pilates, anything outside of the normal place and routine.
After a 7-14 day deload you should return to your training excited for the next chapter and its challenges, hungry for progress and progression.
If you are not, did you even deload?