At some point in your training career, you’re going to notice that you feel particularly beat up after weeks of consistent heavy training. This usually insinuates a decrease in both intensity and volume; something that we call a “deload”, where both mind and body are given a break from heavy training. This will allow your mind to be fresh to attack with vigor, and for your CNS (Central Nervous System) to be fully prepped to handle heavier, hopefully increasingly, loads.
There really is no set “time” one should deload, as we’re all a bunch of unique snowflakes and should learn by doing. Many programs have them built in, but for some newer athletes, they may occur before you even have a moment to hit your stride and see what you’re worth.
A few signs you may need to deload are:
Typically, the signs are going to arrive in couplets, triplets, or even quadruplets. I wouldn’t rely solely on one factor, just because I experience one of these any given day. Testosterone is an evil minion at times, regardless of what anyone says. That said, a general, consistent feeling of “my shit feels fucked up” will be a pretty good sign.
Knowing how to approach a deload week once you figured out you need one can be a process. Especially because people like to over-think things (myself included at times). I’ve experimented with many different approaches, including a “to the book” deload where I plugged weights in and just did the bare knuckles approach. But, I’ve also experimented with other ideas, such as a week off totally.
The best two approaches I’ve found are:
I prefer option one because it allows you to maintain biomechanics necessary for the big lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift), whereas number two (heh, number two) will not.
The big idea is that it’s important to remember that deloads are there to help you recover. If you aren’t meeting that one, simple goal, then perhaps you need to look into your programming and figure it out. Hopefully this gave you some ideas on how to approach a “not so heavy” week. After all, 500 pounds is heavy, but is a lot heavier when your CNS is fried and you’re beat to hell.