On Training Deloads.

Have you been Exercising for long periods with no real planned break? Perhaps you're looking to follow something a little bit more flexible?

If any of this sounds familiar and you've been struggling with your training you may find the following information a breath of fresh air.

Training without any real planned break can often be quite daunting for the experienced athlete. Making strength gains in the weights room can be just as important as having a structure that allows for progression and planned breaks.

This is also known as periodisation.

Lets take a further look at what periodisation is.

On Periodisation.

Periodisation is the process of splitting up your annual training plan into a series of manageable phases or blocks.

Each phase or block typically consists of a specific focus of training performance or key areas of development i.e. Squat / Bench / Deadlifts Vs Quad / Glute / Back development or Fat Loss Vs improved Cardiovascular / Endurance etc.

Periodisation also generally includes appropriate 'overload' and 'deload' periods alongside some form of active recovery within each designated period. i.e.

Microcycle = weekly training block

Mesocycle = monthly training block

Macrocycle = yearly training block

For the new gym goer whom is starting out, periodisation may not directly apply as such. For the experienced athlete, periodisation can very well be the difference in preventing stall or progress of Muscular development, Strength and/or Endurance.

In the constant pursuit of making strength gains, athlete's often follow the practice of altering repetitions or training in a gradual and ascending manner. This is also known as DUP (Daily Undulating Periodisation) where Intensity, Weights and Frequency increase over time. (More on this later).

For most athletes however, following a prescribed fixed repetition scheme may not accommodate to 'fluctuations' in an individual's readiness and physical prowess. Sometimes a training break or 'deload' can help further accommodate and boost an athlete to further impair a training plateau.

On Deloads.

Traditionally a deload in it's most basic form is 'deloading' or cutting back from your current Training Intensity, Weights, Reps, Sets or both. How long any given deload period lasts can generally be as short as 3-4 days or last up to 1-2 weeks (max).

A typical deload involves decreasing your overall training volume over time to allow for enhanced recovery and growth. This typically means you can cut back on both Training intensity, sets and still be results focused.

In most cases, experienced lifters whom regularly take 'breaks' in between training sessions or blocks, are also able to come back stronger!

i.e.

Note: more than 3-4 days off isn't generally recommended as this can inhibit an increase of muscular atrophy aka 'loss of gains' from muscular disuse.

How to Deload?

Most experienced lifters typically work anywhere between 40-60% of their max effort to 60-80% of their typical training intensity.

A deload period can be vital for both your musculoskeletal and nervous (CNS) systems. [1] It can also be a determinant for assisting with overall Fat loss provided we're consuming an adequate macronutrient intake and/or calories are equated.

When we're in a Caloric deficit for an extended amount of time, it is not uncommon to lose some performance biometers in the gym i.e. Strength. This is most certainly the case when on an extended Strength‐based (DUP) or High Volume program (FDUP) for monthly blocks on end.

Much like dieting, Training can simply be accommodated to by increasing/decreasing sets and reps provided overall training volume is met:

Calories: overall determinant of successful weight loss when calories and protein are equated. [2]

Volume: overall determinant of muscular strength gains if resistance training volume is met. [3]

Another alternative would be to incorporate some form of auto-regulation within the DUP model. This is also known as FDUP (Flexible Daily Undulating Periodisation) which also allows the lifter to 'choose' which days their Strength, Hypertrophy or Power sessions fall into. This non-linear approach model can also produce greater strength gains than an inflexible non-linear approach [4].

A typical Deload strategy can work so long as your overall volume stays within an i.e. 60% threshold margin of a typical workout. This is still light enough to allow you to recover mentally, physically but still heavy enough to prevent muscular atrophy provided dietary protein is met.

If you have been operating heavy weights, it may be preferable to cut back the number of sets performed by at least half.

Note: It is generally important to keep breaks in mind for long term, progressive overload training.

Summary

Exercise‐induced inflammation can cause our body to often swell and bloat. Lack of sleep and stress can also hinder our performance in the gym and affect overall body composition.

Implementing a form of auto-regulation can help aid with overall adherence if current training is poor or has been somewhat lacking.

Whilst taking a break from your typical Training regime may seem counter-intuitive, a deload can also help with:

  • Enhanced Recovery

  • Muscular Growth

  • Strength Increase

  • Decrease of Inflammation

  • Decreased Training Intensity

  • Psychological and Physiological break

  • Active Recovery

  • Less Energy expenditure

  • Decreased Cortisol (stress)

  • Increased Testosterone

Note: whilst a 'Deload' can help aid in improved performance, little to no changes in body composition will occur unless dietary intake is tracked or factored alongside a training program.

Take a good 24 ‐ 48 hours off and see if a little rest and relaxation does some good!

References:

1. Mike Samuels. Beast Mode or Wimp Mode: Do You Need a Deload? October 10th, 2016

2. Michael Hull, Dr. Christopher Gardner. Low-fat vs low-carb? Examine on 2018-02-20 11:00:00

3. Dankel SJ, Mouser JG, Mattocks KT, Counts BR, Jessee MB, Buckner SL, Loprinzi PD, Loenneke JP. The widespread misuse of effect sizes. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2016 Oct 19.

4. McNamara JM, Stearne DJ. Flexible nonlinear periodization in a beginner college weight training class. The Journal of strength & conditioning research. 2010 Aug 1;24(8):2012-7.

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