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Deloading

Deloading, a word that is common to a lot of people in strength sports. For some this is a relief from strenuous training and for others it is pointless and prevents them from training with the intensities they prefer. What is deloading though? Deloading is a planned reduction in training volume and/ or intensity with the intention of enhancing the ability to handle further training cycles. This programming technique is seen most frequently with strength and physique sports. Physique sports more frequently have deloading applied to the nutrition side more than the training side, but both still are prevalent. I'm going to talk about deloading with training in mind and not nutrition, because nutrition is boring to me. 


Why would someone need to take a deload you ask? Even if you didn't ask, I'm going to tell you. Fatigue or the avoidance of it is a big reason for deloading and after a certain length of training, one will need to take a break to alleviate muscle soreness, aches, or pains that have been acquired through resistance training. Other reasons for a deload can consist of breaking through a stall progress or preparing for a new training block. What is the frequency of deloading? That's a great question Matt. Deloading is seen to be applied around every six weeks on average with a duration of usually a week. There is a planned and autoregulated approach. The planned approach takes a proactive route that will range from every three to six weeks with either the assumption that the athletes fatigue will build up to a considerable amount within that time frame. If the coach has been working with the athlete for a while then they may have an understanding on how much training their athlete can handle and for how long before applying a deload. Autoregulating is a more reactive approach and will let the athlete go through as much training as they can before either there is muscle soreness, aches, or pain that impacts performance before a deload is applied. Now there isn't a need for soreness or pain to give reason for an autoregulated deload. If an athlete is starting to overreach on prescribed RPEs or things are just simply getting harder than they should be then that is a good reason to dial things back. 


I have used both proactive and reactive approaches for deloading. I have seen success with both. The upside to using a proactive approach is of course the structure around it and being able to control the program more, but for some, you may be cutting progress short for yourself or your athletes. If the athlete or yourself are always below RPE for sessions and you've been following a structured deload approach, I would suggest you either increase your intensity for those sessions or run that progress train on the program for a bit longer until you to that point that things start to become harder then they should be for that period of training. For me I like to take 80% of the previous week's intensity and 60% of the volume to make the deload. The volume is taken from all movements that aren't a single joint exercise just because those aren't going to be the source of much fatigue. You can also reduce training sessions during the deload week, but I personally like to keep my athletes moving as much as I can. 


I'm also going to grace you with the knowledge of how marshmallows came to be. Ancient Egyptians were the first to make marshmallows and they were a treat reserved for gods and royalty. This sweet treat was made from the mallow plant that grows wild in marshes indigenous to the area. The Egyptians squeezed sap from the mallow plant and mixed it with nuts and honey. The marshmallow’s appearance back then is unknown, but during the early to mid 1800s, the marshmallow was taken from using the mallow root to create its fluffy appearance to gelatin that then lead to the ability to mass produce what we’re more familiar with today. 


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