“Deloading” is a concept used to enhance recovery after a period of harder training. During a deload period of training, you would use lighter weights, dial back the intensity, and reduce total volume. They are a critical reset, especially if you are someone who pushes hard in the gym. Without them, you are more likely to burnout, feel fatigued, sleep badly, and get injured.
Will I lose my fitness?
NO! One of the common misconceptions of lower intensity work is that is does not get you any fitter. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You NEED lower intensity, lighter, and shorter workouts sometimes. They can’t be all the time, but they are necessary as part of the process. This is because you only get stronger/fitter if you can recover from the work you are doing. Exercising doesn’t make you any fitter if you don’t recover. You see during exercise we break down muscle tissue and challenge our body’s systems (cardiovascular and respiratory primarily). When you’re resting, you build those muscles and systems back up stronger and more efficient than they were before. Taking a week to keep moving, practicing quality movement, and recovery every once in a while will actually ENHANCE your fitness.
What does a deload week look like?
Say each you’ve been doing 5 sets of 5 back squats building in weight each week for 4 weeks. On the 5th week, you might deload.
Week 1: 5×5 @ 100#
Week 2: 5×5 @ 110#
Week 3: 5×5 @ 120#
Week 4: 5×5 @ 130
Week 5 – Deload: 3 x 3 @ 90# @ 22X1 tempo.
Now this is a very basic example and is only 1 part of the week, but it shows how you would reduce volume & load for strength work. As for your conditioning workouts you would want to dial back the intensity. There are few ways to do that
- Add in holds to your workout.
- Example: AMRAP 12 = 10 cal bike, 30 sec wall sit, 15 push ups, 1:00 plank hold
- Nasal breathing only: Nasal breathing will limit your intensity and also improve you breathing skills.
- Add strict movements to your conditioning. Strict pull ups, high pulls, presses.
- Simply hold yourself accountable and move sustainably.
Another approach I really love using is taking an extra rest day during a deload week. If I normally exercise 5x/week, I might only do 3-4x/week on a deload week.
How to know if you need a deload
There are some telltale signs that you are in need or a deload.
- You feel fatigued all the time. Maybe you need an extra energy drink before your workout or maybe you just wake up tired after a great nights sleep.
- You all of sudden are struggling to sleep.
- You’ve hit a plateau (weight loss/gain OR with lifting more weight).
- Everything hurts. New aches and pains are popping up too often.
- Hunger is off (either suppressed or enhanced)
- Weights that used to feel good are NOT feeling good.
As a general rule of thumb, deloads are helpful every 4-8 weeks depending on the intensity of your workouts. In our group classes, we build our strength work appropriately, but you might need a deload early or later than the person next to you! If you ever feel like you are drained or any of the above signs are happening to you, it’s time to dial it back and recover. I guarantee you’ll be stronger for it!