Have you ever hit a plateau at the gym?
Everyday we go to the gym, we train as hard as we can in order to train even harder the next day. However, many of us reach the point where we physically can't train any harder the next day, we can't add any more weight to the bar or push for an extra five seconds.
When hitting a wall or plateau like this, there are many things that we commonly try as a remedy; changing diet, tweaking workout routine, and even testing out some supplements.
We do all this to try and break through the wall, but unfortunately we fail time and time again.
One of the tools that is commonly glossed over or not considered is a Deload week. This is commonly overlooked because of the misunderstanding of the concept of “doing less to do more.''
What is a Deload Week?
A deload week is a lessening, or completely stopping, your training for a week long period. Taking a planned week to relax or chill out, lowering your workout intensity and volume and giving your body a little extra time to recover from the previous high intensity workouts.
Deload weeks can be done in several different ways. The most common is reducing intensity or volume of your workout. This means continuing with your regular workout schedule, but lowering the weight and increasing the repetition count. This way is the easiest because you do not have to change much, but can achieve some sort of deload while sticking to what you are comfortable with.
Another way to deload and stay in your comfort zone is to reduce the volume of your workout. This means sticking with your weight but reducing the amount of sets you do during the workout.
A form of deloading that can be less comfortable is changing your workout completely. For example, if you are commonly a heavy lifter, trying a new type or form of exercise that is out of the realm; circuit training, yoga, spin class or running are all examples of something that may be less comfortable for this person. A week of this can give you the recovery needed to push past the dreaded plateau.
The final way to deload is to completely stop going to the gym for a week and concentrate on recovery. This time can be used to recover in ways that you could not before. Use this time to get a massage, go to the cinema, read a book and just clear your mind of working out or going to the gym. This can give you a new lease on life and you can return to the gym with a new excitement to train and break down that wall in front of you.
When Should I take a deload week?
When it comes to the right time to take a deload week, will depend on how you feel it works for you. If you are a person who feels it is very beneficial and you gain a lot from a deload week, you should do it more regularly than someone who finds they did not get much from the deload week.
A big factor in deciding your deload timeline is determined by your frequency of training. For someone who trains two times a week, adding a deload week every 4-6 months a year will be beneficial. If you train 3-4 times a week, deload every 3-4 months to progress strength gains. If you train 4-5 times a week you can add a deload week every 1.5-2 months. The final timeline is the 4/1 method, whereby if you train 5 to 7 times a week you will train for 4 weeks and take 1 week off as a deload week.
The importance of recovery is key to the success of your journey to achieve your goals. Without proper recovery daily, you can not give everything to achieve these goals. Even more important, you must take a week to decompress and find a new lease on your journey. It can be very easy to plateau or become stale, deload weeks are a real thing that can help prevent the problems that may occur.