Okay, so look. As strange as it might sound. It’s not always about pumpin’ your guns in the weight room. You need a little bit of a break every now and then, and if you’re asking “Should you do a deload” in your head? Then the likely answer is yes. This is important in providing your body the kind of physical and mental recovery that it needs to keep you going.
So, what is a deload anyways? And, why do they matter? How often should you do them? All those questions, and more, we’ll be answering down below. Continue reading to learn more!
What is a Deload?
Our first challenge is trying to figure out what the heck a deload is. Some of you may already know this, some might not. Either way, we’re going to do a quick refresher for all the newbies out there.
Have you ever felt like you’ve reached some kind of plateau? It might feel like nothing is working, in fact, it doesn’t matter how hard you’re working or how often. You just get stuck. Well, there’s a ton of reasons as to why this could be happening to you, but the lack of a deload schedule is likely one of them.
Sometimes it isn’t even just about the physical constraints, it could easily be mentally as well. Working out for hours every week, on and on and on… It gets tiring. It’s as tiring mentally as it is physically. And okay, maybe your body isn’t feeling like throwing the towel just yet, but it’s still a good idea to pre-up any potential risk by recovering.
That’s what a deload is when you get down to it. It’s just recovery. For most people, these deloads can last up to a week. Now, a common misconception about deloading, is how much you pull back.
We’re not talking about sitting on your ass for an entire week. No, most people just cut back on their reps or weights, some might enforce shorter workout sessions, etc. They do whatever works for them, and whatever will allow their body to get back on its feet.
Even the simplest of deload sessions can lead to massive gains. Why? Well, we’re going to need to delve a little deeper into the science to answer that.
Why is Recovery Important?
Look, it’s hard to get out of that mindset. I understand that. Once you get going, any sense of falling backward just makes it seem like you’re cutting corners.
However, there’s more to recovery than that. As stated by the VeryWellFit blog, recovery is necessary for repairing, rebuilding, and strengthening muscles. If you don’t get enough rest? Then you can’t expect to get the results that you want. Your body becomes too focused on keeping itself together and doesn’t have time to help you build the muscles that you’re looking for.
This kind of recklessness can lead to something called overtraining syndrome. The name pretty much speaks for itself, but this kind of syndrome is more prevalent than you’d think. Athletes of all types might experience symptoms of overtraining when they’re training for competitions or events.
In the most basic terms. Things get overloaded. Overtraining can lead to harmful symptoms. Symptoms that will only worsen your condition. These can include things like demotivation, depression, difficulty sleeping, increased vulnerability to injuries, muscle and/or joint pain, and so much more.
This is why it is so important, that we let our bodies deload. We need to give it time to heal, and in doing so, we prevent even worse things from happening.
How to Deload?
Seems like a simple enough question, right? Well, yes and no. There are a couple of different ways that you can deload. It’s just a matter of picking the one that you believe will suit your needs. Some methods might recommend that you cut back on workout time, others might tell you to decrease the amounts of sets and/or repetitions, etc. Whatever way you end up doing it, just make sure that it’s enough to give your body a good semi-cooldown period. Here’s a more detailed breakdown.
1. Reducing Weight
The methods of deloading a lot more straightforward than you think. As mentioned, you don’t necessarily cut yourself from the gym (that will do a lot more harm than good.) You can just cut back on a couple of things. Like this first option, for example. It’s all about cutting back on how much you’re lifting.
Don’t grab the heaviest weight you can carry, this isn’t the time to be pushing your boundaries. You’ve got to chill for a bit and grab a lighter weight. Nothing puny of course, just something that won’t strain you like usual.
2. Reducing your Reps and Sets
This is a lot similar to the previous, except, it’s all about cutting back on how much you’re doing. Lift the same weights, sure. Just make sure that you’re not performing as many repetitions and sets as you usually do.
A short disclaimer, this kind of deloading might not work as good as the previous. Some end up going a little overboard with their chill time and find themselves struggling to get back the next week. Try to listen to what your body is telling you, it’ll help.
3. Change the way you’re Working Out
This is a lot harder to do for people who are just starting out. I mean, it’s hard enough picking out the exercises that work for you, but having to change them every now and then? That’s a hassle. This can be amended easily if you’re following one of those workout guides. They’re usually made to fit this purpose.
They have you doing a couple of exercises for a certain period, and then changes things up to give your body something else to focus on. All the exercise guides do this because it works. It’s just a matter of choosing the right exercise sets.
So, how should I deload?
Picking out a method a lot harder for you than you thought? Try not to overthink it. You don’t always have to follow one or the other anyway. If it takes you having to try out all three methods, then that’s what it takes. Your body won’t have the same needs as someone else’s, so own it. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. It might take a little longer but finding your deload method will be worth the trouble.
How do I know when to deload?
This is a common enough question, and much like the previous, there’s a couple of different ways that we can answer it. First, let’s go over the signs that might begin to pop-up when you’re in need of a deloading. Again, these can range in severity and could be the cause of something altogether, it’s all about trying to figure out what your body is telling you to do. In all honesty, though, it’s better to set up a schedule and follow it (we’ll cover that later), but this will keep you from experiencing the following:
After a Competition
If you performed, trained, participated, etc. in an event that required long hours of working out. This isn’t the time to be asking “should you do a deload.” At this point, it’s a definite yes. It doesn’t matter how slim the training period was, this kind of event can seriously drain you. Now, sometimes it might not feel that way.
In some cases, you might even feel more motivated after a competition. However, you need to fight that urge and just relax. Just keep in mind the kind of stress that you put your body through and try to get some rest.
Not Enough Power
This is another one of those obvious cases. If you feel as if you’re slowly starting to lose your grip on your strength, then it’s time to deload. There’s no point in pushing forward when all its doing is forcing you to take a step right back. Just chill out for a sec. This is when it’s time to let your body do its thing and allow it to repair and rebuild.
Again, another obvious sign, and yet something people seem to enjoy ignoring. If you’re feeling sore in your muscle and your joints, it’s about time you calm down. Now, don’t get me wrong, that kind of burn is good — if you’re doing it correctly. However, if you happen to aggravate a past injury or started the path on another one, then this is the time where you need to just stretch, relax, and give yourself time to heal.
As elaborated on the Fitness Magazine, if you happen to actually pull a muscle, it might take a couple of weeks before you’re able to get up-and-at-em again. Most of us just don’t have that kind of luxury. Which makes it even more important to not overdo it.
How Often Should you Deload?
This one is a little less no-brainer than the previous. However, you’re still not going to be able to get an honest answer out of me. As I’ve been repeating, again and again, different people have different needs. The same goes for how often you deload. You can do it more often or less often, it will depend on yourself, your training, and even the purpose of your training. Here’s a quick break down.
Often — 1 week per month
This kind of schedule is trained more for people who are looking to get results fast. It’ll demand rigorous training for the first three weeks, followed by a brief one-week deload period. Most of the people who take on this kind of deload schedule are the people that do the most intense training. If you’re a beginner? Then you’re unlikely to need this much deload.
Moderate — 1 week per 3 – 4 months
We’re heading into a more easygoing rate here. This is the kind of schedules that professionals take on when they’re looking to prepare for a big event or competition. It will allow them to work their ass off for a couple of months, and then chill out for a week or so before doing it all over again.
Rare — 1 – 3 weeks per year
As big of a deal as deloading is in most circles, there are still people out there who believe that it’s unnecessary. They rely more on the carefully controlled aspects of their diet, exercise routine, sleeping schedule, etc. In this case, they believe that they have all that they need to allow their body to repair and build up muscle. That kind of belief stems from a very manicured lifestyle and is not something most people have the liberty of expressing.
Conclusion — Should you do a deload?
There’s a lot of things going on in your body, and most of it? Well, most of it plays behind the scenes. This makes it very difficult to ascertain what kind of things you need to keep it going. I mean, if training and bodybuilding were that easy, then everyone would be doing it. However, that’s just not the case.
The complex machinations of our body pretty much prohibit things from ever being simple. Still, you shouldn’t make it any more difficult for yourself than it already is. Asking, “Should you do a deload?” is just another way of backing out on something that can really help you.
The concept is easy enough to understand, right? Just relax, let your body heal. Overtraining won’t get you anywhere. In fact, doing so is likely going to just lead to more harm than good. The sooner you can get that through your skull? The better off you’ll be.
It might seem a little fruitless or nonsensical, but you’ll be surprised at what a short-deload week can do for you! Give it a chance, perhaps this is the thing that will knock you out of whatever plateau you had found yourself in.