TIME TO DE-LOAD AND RELOAD
If you are a serious lifter, there is no doubt that you have been training balls to the wall throughout winter to pack on as much muscle as possible. But I am sure by now; your body is starting to take some serious strain. Your joints are aching and your muscles are begging for a break. While I advocate pushing heavy, there are times that you need to de-load the weights in order to reload your body.
I am not a big fan of taking a week off every month or two to allow my body to recover; so instead, I have a de-loading week. Going ‘light’ may feel like you are being lazy, but I can promise you, this strategy will make you come back even stronger than before. By de-loading every now and again, you will position yourself to handle heavier weights over a longer period and it may re-start muscle growth.
How often should I de-load? Often To
How often you need to de-load depends on your general training intensity, on the number of days you train, on your recovery nutrition and supplementation as well as on the individual. If you give it maximum effort 6 days a week and are not eating and supplementing correctly, chances are that you will reach ‘burnout’ rather fast. Over and above that, each person’s body copes differently with the added stress. My suggestion is to feel it out. If your body is starting to ache and you feel like you need an ice bath after each training session, then you definitely need a de-loading week or two. On average, I would suggest have a de-loading week between each workout phase. This is generally every 6-8 weeks. If you are a powerlifter, then taking a break every 4 weeks may be necessary.
How much weight must I de-load?
On a de-loading week, I like to drop to about 50% of the weight I max-out on with a 6 rep set. So if I curl 50kgs for example, I will then drop to 25kgs but increase my rep range to between 12 and 15. This allows your muscles a bit of breathing room but don’t get me wrong, it is still going to hurt, plus you will get a good pump.
Do I need to de-load even if I am cutting?
There is a myth in the fitness industry that has people believing that they need to substantially drop the amount of weight they push in order to get ripped. While isolating the muscle with machine training (as opposed to free weights) and decreasing weight in order to increase rep range slightly works to define the muscle itself, it does not help in burning the fat around the muscle. That usually comes through diet and cardio. Even if you do drop your weight to increase rep range, you should only be dropping by a maximum of 10-15% in order to get out those extra 4 or 5 reps and this is still going to be pushing your muscle rather hard. So the answer to the question is yes, it is more than likely still necessary to de-load even if you are on a cutting phase.
Even if you think of hard-core machinery, they too need a break every now and again. They can’t run flat-out 24-7 without eventually burning-out or blowing an engine. Your body works in the same way. So de-load every so often and you’ll be able to come back stronger and harder than before.