The Art of The Deload – More Than Just Training (Part I)

As I write this post I am going to be upfront and honest. I admit that I need to work on “deloading” in more than one area of my life. Part of the reason I’m writing about this subject is because it helps me practice what I preach a lot more. I can’t count the times I have not had a deload when I should have, whether it came to training, work, relationships or life in general.

Years ago I actually had real OTS – overtraining syndrome (and I’m not talking about the “overtraining” you hear so many people whining about when they’re tired and sore for a week) to a point where I couldn’t sleep, had no motivation and felt depressed most of the time. I was in labs getting tested all the time and all they could tell me was that my body shut down from all the stress (physical and mental). It took me months to get back to training on a normal level. All of this was because I had trained non stop and lived life a 100 miles per hour without having any type of deload.

Training, and many things for that matter, is paragon of extremes. If you do too little you’ll be unhealthy and/or won’t reach the performance levels that you have the potential to. Do too much, or the wrong type, and you’ll injur yourself, get sick, frustrated, unmotivated, while also not reaching the desired goals. As is in almost all matters, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.


Does he need a deload?

You may still be asking yourself, what is a deload?

Bear with me while I explain. Making progresss in the gym is a sum of both short and long term “ups and downs”. Looking at it short term, we impose stress on our central nervous system, soft tissue system (muscles, tendons, etc.), endocrine system and a bunch of other systems everytime we go through a training session. Depending on how much we stress our body from that session, it may take it from several minutes to several days before we can put forth a comparable effort (the “up”) and be fully recovered.

Even though it may take a minute, hour or days to recover from a single training session, no one considers the cumulative effect of long term continuous training. This requires more attention in planning the training and paying attention to how the person (athlete) feels and performs.

So basically the deload is a way to take the training down a notch and allow the possibility of the rebound (the “up”, peaking) while keeping the body from getting detrained. 

Here are 3 strategies that I tend to use with myself and my athletes when it come to deloading:

1. The Volume Reduction Week. In this strategy we would reduce the volume of the workouts in week 4 by around 40%. For example if we were on a 5 x 5 program then we would do 3 x 5 on the 4th week. We would still keep the intensity of the lifts high but we’d drop the volume.

2. The Intensity Reduction Week. This would also be called the repetition week. This comes into play when your body needs to get away from heavy weights and you come into the gym only to realize that everything “weighs a ton”. It’s a way to make progress without hitting new PR’s on lifts and drills. We won’t go below 10 reps on these weeks and will sometimes do as much as 30 reps on certain exercises. This will promote blood flow and recovery while often adding some muscle because of an unfamiliar rep scheme for the majority of our athletes/clients.

Deload training

Sometimes you just have to drop the heavy lifting for a week

3. The Active Recovery Week. This is the one I most often need but don’t do enough off! This means getting out of the gym and doing something different and fun. We will go and play basketball a lot of the time but many times it may also be soccer, swimming, tennis (I used to mountain bike quite a bit) doing fun stuff outside on the beach or on the trails. I may get the everyone in for some mobility/flexibility work that they are lacking and work on form for some lifts but nothing much as I also want to rest their minds.

If you want more info and strategies on deloading then you have to check out what I consider the best and most applicable resource out there when it comes to deloading. Eric Cressey’s Art of The Deload is a quick read that well worth the investment and it may be the missing link to getting you to the next level (especially if you’re someone that busts your ass in the gym and don’t seem to progress). Get it here.

Now that I gave you a little insight on deloading in training, look for Part II that will talk about using deloading in other areas of your life.

What strategies do you use for yourself or with your athletes when it comes to deloading? Do you even use it?

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One Response to “The Art of The Deload – More Than Just Training (Part I)”

  1. Luka says:

    Great Post!!!

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