What, How, and When
In this article, I’m going to go over the basics of what a De-load week is. When should implement de-load weeks? How should they be implemented? So first, what is the de-load week?
A de-load week is essentially a decrease in the training volume and order intensity of a particular type; the more advanced athletes will be De-load weeks more frequently than an amateur athlete. Take me for example; I’ve been training for over ten years, probably closer to 12. I really should be implementing de-load weeks once every 6 to 8 weeks. Someone who is just starting out lifting weights won’t need a de-load for at least eight weeks. Keep in mind de-loads are needed assuming training volume and intensity are adequate.
Technically speaking a de-load should come after a period of overreaching. If you’ve been pushing yourself harder and harder for weeks on end, then a de-load is probably due. Typically a de-load week will be needed if you feel an overall sense of fatigue over long periods of time. If you feel like you are ‘running on fumes.’ Now, don’t interpret this as you need to become sedentary. Rest days and de-load periods SHOULD NOT be sedentary periods (unless you are attempting to gain weight and struggling). This needs to be a time when you reduced your intensity and stress placed on your central nervous system (CNS). You can still workout and do cardio, but not to the degree you normally do.
Replace your HIIT sessions with LISS. And, adjust your weight training to be less demanding on your CNS. Where you normally are performing 4-6 sets of an exercise, reduce to 1-2. Where you are typically performing 12-15 reps, you should reduce to 8-10. I would suggest keeping the weights heavy if you are reducing volume. IF you are normally performing certain exercises at an RPE of 8 or 9, drop to 6. See the table below for an explanation of RPE. So let’s figure out what we are exerting about it he and I have a percent effort on the particular exercise in a particular workout. On your do you want me to switch to 8060 or 70% effort. By doing this, you are still providing stimulus to your muscles, so we don’t need to worry about atrophy. When done correctly, de-loads provide a much-needed increase is a glycogen retention and replenishment. Throughout the day you should feel more energetic and alert. De-loads can go for a duration of 7-14 days on average. This is usually determined by the degree of over-training you just completed. Obviously, an Olympic athlete will de-load for more than seven days after a full season of training. But, for the average gym goer, 7-14 days is average. My current de-load is coming after a stretch of 3 or more months of over training. I will stay in the de-load phase for about 10-12 total days.