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Deloads: Are They Worth It?


What are deloads and how important are they?

A deload is a planned period of time in which training load and intensity is reduced. By definition, a deload is “ a microcycle (one week) composed of lower volume, load and relative effort sessions. The purpose of a deload is to reduce fatigue while preserving adaptations caused in the weeks prior” (Renaissance Periodisation).

In building muscle, the body must be repeatedly challenged beyond its present state over time (Schoenfeld, 2016). However, persistently overtaxing the body's resources with excessive training and insufficient recovery ultimately leads to an overtrained rate. This causes a reduction in anabolic factors (building of muscle). In addition, a continuous break down in the muscle and persistent damage creates central fatigue where progress starts to plateau. Research suggests that rather than taking time off from training, lifters can enhance muscular adaptations via a deloading period whereby training intensity, training volume or both are reduced systematically. When properly executed, a deload should promote restoration and rejuvenation in a manner that facilitates continued progress.

Sadly, research has not yet attempted to quantify the extent of reductions in either volume or intensity to best promote hypertrophic gains and a lot of research conducted on deloads are based on untrained individuals, rather than advanced lifters.

Deload durations and methods are very dependent on the individual, however following a set periodisation of acclimatisation, accumulation, overreaching and deload programming should include a deload every 4-8 weeks ideally. I personally deload every 6th week of a training programme, which not only enhances my recovery and strength but enables me to train harder in the weeks leading up.

I personally complete a deload (and have my clients do the same) through halving weights and 2 sets of everything, however you can also halve the weights, do the same amount of sets and halve the reps!

Don’t wait until your body feels dead to take a deload - at this point you have likely overtrained and lost the potential of complete rejuvenation. In addition, as you enter a new mesocycle, you *may* be vulnerable to extra soreness/DOMS. This is why its important to programme them in. Despite this, taking a week off while you’re on holiday etc is not the end of the world.

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