After a intense program or a big event like my recent physique contest it is important to find a way to let your body rest and reset. Intense programs stress our nervous system, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and mental state. But does that mean we should skip the gym for a week or do what some call a “de-load” week. I am in favor of de-load weeks and feel they can help kickstart progress. They not only provide a time for our bodies to make a full recovery, but more importantly our minds. I feel its a good idea to do de-loads every 6 weeks or so especially if you lift very intensely like I do.
I am not a big fan of taking a extended break out of the gym. I tried that once a few years ago when my family and I were on vacation and it was a mess for several reasons. Not only did I get my ass handed to me in the gym when I got back, but it also had me feeling slightly depressed. I lost weight, strength, and my motivation was lacking. It took me a while to really get back in the swing of things. Whereas with de-load weeks you are just toning down intensity and volume. Just holding back versus skipping had me revving to tear up the gym the following week. But that is just me. Find what works best for you.
Here is how I de-load:
*Lower volume: Instead of 20 sets for a particular muscle group I might only do 15. If I typically hit 15 sets I might only do 10-12. I am a higher volume type of guy in general.
*Stop before failure: I still lift fairly heavy, but I stop several reps before failure. I don’t try to hit any PR’s during this time.
*Form over weight: I tend to lift slower and go through the entire range of motion during de-load weeks. This is a time to reset and evaluate lifting form.
*No advanced techniques: Along with stopping before failure I don’t include any drop sets, strip sets, forced reps, negative repetitions, etc.
*Strategy building: I use this “down” time to re-focus and formulate a plan on how to make improvements in my physique, program, and nutrition. Don’t continue doing things that are not working.
*Nutrition: I keep my nutrition consistent during de-load weeks. Unless I am close to a competition I also have ~2 cheat meals a week.
*Cardio: I continue to do cardio during de-load weeks, but I shorten the time and intensity.
-Wittig, ISSA CPT
Kaged Muscle Athlete