When I first started seriously training I was like the Ricky Bobby of training. I knew only one speed: fast. Everything was hard, fast, and heavy. Basically, what I wish my sex life was like.
I’d workout for 2 hours a day, lift damn near my max, and come back in the next day to do it all over again. I had read all about the big motherfuckers who went at it day in and day out in the gym, and I was just trying to copy whatever it is they did.
It really didn’t take long for my knees to start hurting, hips to bother me, lower back issues creeping up, and general feeling like an old ass 21 year old.
Seriously, who the fuck likes getting out of bed at 21, NOT hung over, and feel like they can barely move until their stiff joints get all lubricated? Some shit had to change.
Roughly about that time I took a vacation to the beach, and managed to get shit housed for a week straight. Drank a ton of beer, ate enough Whataburger to clog up 5 toilets, and didn’t do a damn thing but sit in a lawn chair on the beach. I didn’t do anything that amounted to physical activity other than carry a cooler.
I came back into the gym the next week and had pretty much accepted that I’d lost all my gains thanks to that beach trip. I was fucked. Back at square one. Except I wasn’t. What I noticed was that I was actually stronger than I was before I left. Not only was I stronger, but my nagging little injuries were nonexistent.
That made me pumped. Being the young, naïve fella I was at the time, I looked into what the hell was going on. I had unknowingly stumbled upon the holy grail of training. Taking time off AND still making gains? Or as some people call it, the deload.
What is a deload?
A deload week is a planned period in which your training volume, intensity, or both is drastically reduced. Usually cut in half. Some people even go as far as to stop training all together and focus on rehabilitative work, or mobility work.
Deload weeks are necessary to allow the body time to recover from the stress it’s been put under via training. Going fast like Ricky Bobby is fun, but after a while it’ll take a toll on your body. That toll usually comes in the form of injuries or burnout, when you’re forced to take a deload month.
Why do you need a deload?
Think about it this way: if you’re training seriously, you’re easily lifting 50,000+ total pounds of volume in a given week. Factor in all the work you do and it’s like you got nailed by a Mack truck. You can’t keep doing that forever, even if you’ve got a steroid regimen that Ronnie Coleman would be proud of.
Spend enough time in the gym, and you’re bound to get hit with nagging injuries, lack of motivation, a fucking plateau that never ends, or the general feeling of being overworked. Most “hardcore” lifters, i.e. the huge old jacked guy at your gym, barely even talk about deload weeks. They’re the red headed step child of training.
Everyone knows that recovery is an essential part of training. You’ve got to factor in recovery time if you hope to be successful and make gains. Deload weeks are essential to allowing for recovery. If you don’t have deload weeks, you don’t recover properly. You don’t recover properly, you’ll get hurt/hit a plateau/burnout at some point.
How often should you deload?
Smart training programs are usually written in 4 week blocks. There’s a 4 week cycle where you’re training for a specific purpose, and that 4 week cycle usually falls under an umbrella of a 12-16 week program that has one main overarching goal.
A smart program factors in a deload after every 4-6 weeks, though some will spread it out as far as every 8-12. The whole purpose is to let your body recover, and reap the benefits of whatever it is the program is designed to do. On top of that, your mind gets a nice break as well, leaving you feeling fresh the next time you get in the gym.
A deload every 4th week also has a benefit other than allowing you to recover: your motivation to train is through the roof.
If you’ve been in the weight room long enough, you know exactly what I mean. When you’re limiting yourself to half the work you normally do, or not getting in there at all, you go balls out right when you get the chance.
What happens when your motivation is at an all-time high AND you’re feeling healthy as a horse? Gainz happen. Lots of motherfuckin’ gainz.