Deloading…. The cause of many debates.
But what is it?
Put simply, a deload is purposeful reduction in training load.
This could be via volume, intensity, frequency…. or a combination of them all.
The purpose of this reduction in training load is to decay fatigue.
This will reduce the risk of injury, and return your body to at least baseline performance, and hopefully potentiate an increase.
When I first started powerlifting, I was told deloads were simply not needed. They for the weak.
Train more, sleep more, eat more, slay lions, that’s it….. And unfortunately some coaches still think like this.
Thankfully, over the last 10 years, and especially in the last 5 years, a lot of research and information has been put out there for us to learn from in regards to training and recovery, and whilst there is still A LOT we don’t know, there are a few things we know for sure.
1- Training volume is the greatest factor in growing muscle, but is also the greatest contributing factor to fatigue.
2- Any sort of substantial load (volume or intensity) will build fatigue.
3- A build up of unmanaged fatigue lowers performance.
4- Recovery strategies play a vital role in decaying and managing fatigue.
5- Fatigue decays much faster than sIze and strength.
So with those 5 points in mind, we can get a pretty clear cut notion that programmed deloads should be apart of any athletes programming.
But where do they fit in to you programming? And how long? And how frequent?
Well…. That varies a MASSIVE amount from lifter to lifter but Dr. James Hoffmann from the Renaissance Periodisation team (Dr. James’ Bio), suggests taking a good 2 week break every 6 months at a minimum to refresh your body, and your mind.
That’s generally not all you need though, especially if you’re training hard.
Deloads, in a hard training scenario could be every 2-3 weeks, all the way out to every other month.
They could range from a few days, to a full week…. Falling short of not deloading at all, there is really no right or wrong way to go about it, and the only way to really know is to work out your Minimum Effective dose (MEV), and Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV).
To learn more on MEV and MRV, along with lots of other useful recovery info, check out the RP Website.
In my gym, programs are free for members, even if they aren’t coaching clients, and I do have pre-programmed deloads in for them.
Whilst they might not be 100% optimal, they will be much better off then not taking one at all.
A few simple things that we need to keep in mind when thinking about a deload.
1- That the purpose is to recover.
To recover from the training you have just done, and to be recovered enough to get through the training block you are about to do.
2- The more work they have done, the bigger the deload will probably be.
More work, means more fatigue.
If someone has just finished their 4th training block, they will generally need a bigger deload then if they had just finished their first training block due to accumulative fatigue.
The more fatigue you have, the more fatigue management is needed.
3- Absolute strength matters.
Simply put, more strength means more damage.
This is generally why men need bigger deloads and can train less frequently than women.
4- The height of the lifter matters.
A taller lifter has longer to travel, so all things equal, will do more physical work and damage to their bodies than a shorter lifter.
5- The lifestyle of the lifter matters.
A lifter who gets very little sleep, has poor nutrition, and a labour intensive job will need a bigger deload then someone who gets those things right.
So, lets throw around some arbitrary numbers to see how this could look like in someone’s program.
Sarah is 4’11”, 62kg, has been training for a few years, and has a solid grasp on nutrition, and works in an office, and totals 280kg.
Sarah trains in 5 week blocks.
At the end of her 5 week block she takes a deload of 5% off her working weights and does another 5 week training block.
At the end of her second block, she missed a few reps, takes a 10% drop and goes again.
At the end of her 3rd block, she missed a few reps again, starts feeling a little foggy, so takes a 30% drop for a week and is able to perform as expected.
Nick is a 6′, 110kg guy, works as a builder, lives on pies and coke, has 2 small children and totals 800kg.
At the end of his 5th week he takes 10% off his weights, and starts another block.
At the end of his 2nd block, he is killing it, and against his coaches advise, doesn’t take a deload, and starts another 5 week block…… Just as his child starts teething.
By time week 3 rolls around, Nick is missing lifts left, right and centre. He has exceeded his MRV, and needs to deload now.
We drop to 50% of his training weights for a week, buy him some ear plugs (and some Bonjela for his child) and are making sure he is eating and hydrating properly.
The next week he is able to perform as expected, the problem is he has a comp in 4 weeks that we need to prepare for.
We train hard for the next 2 weeks, reaching 4 doubles at 92% of his 1 rep max.
In the 3rd week we deload for the competition, we hit 83% for 2 doubles.
83%?!?! That seems a little high for a deload, doesn’t it?
Out of context, yes…. It does look high.
But, 3 weeks prior, we had a full week at 50%…. That has decayed all of his accumulated fatigue.
We did some training in the 2 weeks after, but didn’t accumulate a lot of fatigue.
And his deload session was 9% lighter, and only 50% of the volume.
That should be enough to decay the fatigue that was built, and have him recovered and primed for his competition in 7 days time.
Remember, a deload is there to return you to baseline (or above) performance.
This could be as little as 5%, especially if you are a female, short, have a great post training recovery strategy, or use performance enhancing drugs….. Or are just lazy.
Using huge deload drops for no reason means you could be missing out on valuable training to actually help you improve.
Don’t just deload at 60% because someone said to.
Objectively look at your training, how you are feeling, and how well you are recovering, and take the right size deload for YOU!
Until the next one,
Valhalla Strength Brisbane
Head Powerlifting Coach.