It sounds like an oxy-moron, I get it. How could taking a break from the gym possibly make you stronger or bigger or faster or help you reach your goals more efficiently?
But I promise it can.
This post is designed to help you understand how intentional, planned periods of recovery or a "deload" can help you improve your performance, and help you reach your goals faster.
First: What is a "deload?"
A "deload" is just as stated above: "An intentional, planned period of rest, recovery, or reduced workload."
Professional strength and weight training athletes understand the importance of a Deload in their programming and they are often scheduled in with as much priority as other aspects of training.
Second: Why deload?
Deloading is beneficial (and I would argue necessary) based on how the body recovers and reacts to prolonged exposure to stress. Kind of in the same way our brains benefit from a vacation after several months or years of intense psychological stress, our bodies benefit from a break from intense prolonged training regiments. This intentional break period allows our muscles to recover, and our body to adapt to your training load.
Third: How do I plan a deload into my training?
There are several ways to intentionally plan a deload into your programming.
In terms of spacing, there are many who schedule a deload into their training every 4th week, some who plan at the end of every 2 month training cycle, some who prefer every 6 weeks.
There is not perfect training block spacing for a deload.
I personally find that I benefit most from a deload every 5-6 weeks depending on the intensity of my training.
That being said, a deload can also take many different forms:
*Deloading can be a complete break from the gym and from your training altogether (this would be a great time to also plan a vacation btw.)
*Deloading can also mean taking a break from your regular training activities and engaging in new or different movements and exercises for a period of time.
*Deloading can mean reducing the volume and intensity of the training you are already doing. Often this means reducing your weight to 40-60% of your 1 rep max.
Fourth: What do I do after a deload?
Basically, you go back to what you were doing. If you find that your goals are still the same, you still enjoy the movements and the training as a whole, and you still find yourself motivated with the training then you simply go back to what you were doing.
Fifth: What are signals I may need a deload?
Feeling unmotivated by training that used to excite you.
Feeling extra sleepy or noticing that you are not recovering as quickly or fully as you used to.
Noticing more aches, pains, and general discomfort in your joints or muscles.
Feeling mentally exhausted and fatigued.
Whatever method of deloading you choose, the most important component is listening to your body and what it needs. Don't get caught up in any training/deload strategies or schedules. The best way to plan your deload is to try it, be mindful of how your body is feeling when you are training and listen to signals when it might be time for a deload.
Planned times of recovery are a great and important component of any successful training program and I hope that you are able to incorporate it into your routine so you can see even greater gains.