Do you even De-load?
*This post inspired by SC Vital Fitness (go check out their page) http://www.scvitalfitness.co.uk
Deload weeks are an interesting topic because how to plan one in will differ from person to person, but for the majority of people that work hard and handle weights at 85%+ of their 1RM they are an essential part of training.
A de-load will help your body recuperate and allow the R/A (recovery/adaptation) of SRA (Stimulus/Recovery/Adaptation) to occur which will let you progress further and for longer. If you were to keep increasing the volume or intensity eventually your body would give out, or more appropriately your CNS would become too fatigued to continue.
The question is how would you plan one?
You can schedule in a download every 4th, 8th or 12th week for example. Those numbers are not set in stone, but you need to have a decent amount of progression and stimulus to induce an adaptive response, if you’re de-loading too often you won’t get enough stimulus to adapt or progress.
Programming a de-load isn’t too hard, if we use every 4th week as the example for ease of numbers you will be able to see the theory behind their structure.
A basic program that hits each body part every 7 days (optimally every 3-5 days is better) based around the larger compound movements.
Goal: Increase triples (3RM).
Day 1 – Squat + 2 Assistance Exercises – Example: RDL/Calf Raise
Day 2 – Bench Press + 2 Assistance Exercises – Example: Bent Over Row/Skull Crusher
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Deadlift + 2 Assistance Exercises – Example: Front Squat/Hamstring Curl
Day 5 – Shoulder Press + 2 Assistance Exercises – Example: Pull Up/Barbell Curl
Day 6 – Off
Day 7 – Off
Main Lift 8×3, assistance lifts at either 4×6, 5×5 or 3×8.
Week 1 – 8×3 @ 85%
Week 2 – 8×3 @ 87.5%
Week 3 – 8×3 @ 90%
Now there are a couple of options for the de-load, you can reduce the intensity or the volume, here are examples of both.
1 – Week 4 – 8×3 @ 65% – Reducing Intensity while keep up volume
2 – Week 4 – 4×3 @ 85% – Reducing Volume while keeping up intensity
Both of these options are popular but which of the two would be better?
Either choice would work well but the second option of reducing the volume would allow you to start a new 3 week cycle of training with more confidence, it would also keep your bodies CNS more switched on and ready for the heavy weights you might day.
The second cycle might look like this:
Week 5 – 8×3 @ 87.5%
Week 6 – 8×3 @ 90%
Week 7 – 8×3 @ 92.5% – PB
De-load Week 8 – 4×3 @ 85%
The timed de-load will help keep the body primed for the last block of training, now at this stage your strength should have increase and considering you’re still workout off your previous 1RM the percentages might seem high but they are achievable.
Week 9 – 8×3 @ 90%
Week 10 – 8×3 @ 92.5%
Week 11 – 8×3 @ 95%
Week 12 – Rest Week or De-load leading in to new 1RM testing.
This is a very basic example and depending on the experience and training age of the lifter you can have some people who only need to de-load once every 12 to potentially 16 weeks, but a program of that length would have a lot of detail and various cycles of intensity in it, this is something more suited to athletes.
While a de-load is important you must also make sure that there is adequate nutrition and a good amount of sleep in any program too. The silent killer of progress is poor nutrition and a lack of sleep, if you have a solid program with these two things then you will make some great progress.
How many calories should you be eating on a program like this?
Considering it’s a strength based program 300-500 calories above maintenance is optimal, you can achieve a rough estimate of this number by taking your total weight in LBS and multiplying it by 17-19. You won’t need to add 3-500 calories on to that number, that number should be pretty close to where you need to be.
Use this info to help your own programming and go and make the progress you desire.