Monday, December 20, 2010
The need to deload
Lifting heavy weights is a great feeling, it's actually a healthy addiction I've developed through the years. Now that I'm 35 I finally realize the need to program a deload week every 3 to 4 weeks of training. What is a deload week? It is a part of a structured training program where you lift "light/moderate" weights and reduce volume so you can physically and mentally recuperate from the stress of hard/heavy training week in and week out. The body can take a lot of punishment, and so can the mind- but your joints and CNS need sometime to regroup or injury and mental burnout can take the place of consistent improvement from your training program.
A deload week is not a week off. You should still focus on quality exercises like squats, chin-ups, deadlifts, and presses- just reduce the weight to roughly 50-60% of your training max and focus on quality movement patterns. If Olympic lifts and plyometrics are staples in your program, this would be the week to reduce the volume and number of jumps. Actually, it would be a great week to really focus on your technique and landing properly. As for sprints, just control the volume and limit the intensity to 70-80% of top speed- your legs and CNS can be negatively effected from a lot of volume and 100% "all out" speed work.
The hardest part of a deload week is actually going lighter with a set of front squats or deadlifts. When the testosterone takes over and you're listening to a little Rage Against the Machine, it might be hard to actually stop loading up the plates and be mentally satisfied with the feeling of lifting mediocre weight. I find this incredibly tough when I'm lifting next to those Jersey Shore rejects doing curls in the squat rack (forced reps), while I'm actually squatting in the squat rack. I just want to turn up the Rage, throw on some plates, get a few hard-ass reps, and give em' the "That's how it's done son" look! I frequently have to remind myself, that's not what this training week is about- I'll just come in next week with a vengeance!!!
After a deload week you will come back into the gym stronger, mentally fresh, and ready to lift. For the past 18 months, I have been following Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program, which has a deload week every 4th week of lifting. I wish I would have understood the importance of a deload week earlier in my training years. Since I've started to train smart and hard I have gotten better results and never felt better. I have progressed with weight each cycle of the program and I am ready to dominate every time I walk through the gym doors. I've also started following Jason Ferruggia's advice on NOT training to failure, and the results have been even better.
Give a deload week a try. Add some exercises in that are not usually a part of your program and have a little fun. Just don't be that guy doing tricep kickbacks while standing on a BOSU ball, then you would just be a moron. For more information on deloading- check out Eric Cressey's product, it's a little more technical then the information presented in this post. Train hard! (and smart).