Studies tend to show that taking a short time away from the gym doesn’t have any significant impact on muscle mass or strength, meaning that you can factor them into your schedule every couple of months as required.
However, some of us don’t like taking periods of time off which is understandable given the HUGE benefits to overall wellbeing and mental clarity. A way to ensure you don’t miss any days while also avoiding burnout is to deload.
But what is deloading and when should you consider it? A deload is a period of time, generally lasting around a week, during which you take a break from your normal training routine; giving your muscles, joints and nervous system the opportunity to recuperate from weeks of hard training.
There are a few different ways to deload but all essentially focus on a reduction of output, which you can achieve through either less volume or less weight. Personally, I like to focus on lower weights, which I use to help improve form and mind-muscle connection. I generally to stick with the same pattern / routine that I’ve been running in the weeks previous but pushing up into the 15 rep range with around a 30% reduction in weight.
I don’t like to plan deloads in advance, instead listening to my body and looking for hints in terms of plateaus and increased recovery time to signal when it’s time to step back slightly. Another reason for doing this is to make sure you don’t miss out on any sessions when your body and mind feel 100% but you’ve decided in advance to take it easy; potentially losing out on PRs and all kinds of gains!
Obviously, you can reduce the need for rest through optimising your nutrition, supplementation and sleep but most natural lifters will eventually find aches, pains and plateaus creeping up sooner or later. When they do, it’s time for you to deload to reload.
Do you factor periods of deloading into your training plans? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.