What is a De-Load?
Over the last month or so, during almost every workout I’ve done, I have hit PR’s (personal records) with my lifting meaning I am lifting a weight I have never lifted before, or lifting a weight for more repetitions than I have ever lifted it for.
This is pretty exciting stuff if you’re a weight training nerd like me! As exciting as that was, my body was starting to feel a little beat up from all the heavy lifting, so last week I decided to de-load (and it was actually planned in my training to take a de-load week last week so it worked out perfectly).
So what is a de-load exactly? It can actually mean many different things including, but not limited to the following:
1. 4-7 days completely out of the gym.
2. 4-7 days of only foam rolling, mobility, and light cardio.
3. 4-7 days of doing similar workouts but with decreased volume and load (i.e. if I had been doing 4 sets of 4 reps on squats with 205, then I would do 2 sets of 4 squats with 155).
4. Any combination of the above.
Many people have their own idea of what a de-load means and in my opinion, as long as you are giving your body a break, and an opportunity to truly recover, if it works for you…go for it!
Why Should I De-Load?
De-loading regularly allows your body to properly recover and allows you to make progress long-term. It’s just not possible to go hard and heavy day in and day out and make consistent progress. As some point, you must give your body a break and allow it to repair itself.
Of course, if your nutrition, sleep, stress management, and supplements are all spot-on 100% of the time, then you might be able to get away with fewer or shorter de-loads. But seriously… how often does that happen? How often are we 100% on point with all of the things we need to do outside of the gym, that help us train hard IN the gym? I know I rarely am and it’s my job!!
You see, the body can only handle so much stress at one time before something gives and your body forces you to slow down either by getting sick or hurt. De-loading occasionally reduces the amount of stress your body is under and gives it an opportunity to rest and recover. Think of it like recharging your batteries. You need “juice” in your batteries in order to function, so occasionally they need to re-charge. Your body needs regular breaks, whether it’s from a calorie deficit, several weeks of heavy weight training, or a super intense cardio regimen, you must occasionally pull back on the reins a bit to give your body a chance to rest and to continue making long-term progress.
How Often Should You De-Load?
There are definitely differing thoughts and opinions about how often a person should de-load (or if they should do it at all). Some people like taking planned de-loads; for example every 4, 6, 8, or 10 weeks or more (although personally I think 10 weeks is probably too long to wait if you are really pushing yourself in the gym) while others like go by how they feel or their performance in the gym. The following are common indicators that it’s time for a de-load:
- Experiencing more muscle soreness than normal and/or taking longer for the soreness to subside than normal.
- Lack of motivation to lift/train.
- Major change in appetite (usually a decrease).
- Decrease in leanness despite not changing nutrition program/exercise regimen.
- Decrease in overall strength/performance in the gym or in other workouts (keep in mind that 1 bad workout doesn’t mean it’s time for a de-load but several workouts in a row where you are forced to decrease the weight you are using or decrease the number of reps you can do, then it’s probably time).
- Bouts of mild depression, fatigue, and or malaise.
While the above list contains many common indicators that it’s time for a de-load, it’s not exhaustive. And in my opinion, unless you know your body really well, it’s probably best to plan a de-load every 5-8 weeks and not rely on “feeling” or waiting until you are completely destroyed to give yourself a break. In my experience, if you give yourself a break while you still have a little left in the tank, you will recover much more quickly. If you wait until it’s too late, it can take several weeks, or longer, until you are full recovered.
REMEMBER: You are only as good as your ability to recover!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my post and learned a little something. I know people have different opinions on de-loading and I would love to read yours below in the comments section! Thanks for reading!