What is a Deload Week and Why is it Important?

Last week was a deload week in our programming... oh... you missed that... it's ok... Ben and I realized when recapping the week, that a lot of our athletes weren't really sure what a deload week was or what that meant or what they should be doing. So... here's some clarification:

Machines are awesome things. They can run for months or even years without down time. And if there is an issue, you can replace the parts and keep on going. Awesome. Humans do NOT work that way. Not Awesome.

Humans are better than machines in there ability to organically heal. We understand the basic concept that if we do something, like cut ourselves, that cut is going to take time to heal and you are probably going to have to modify some activities while it heals.

But when it comes to things like lifting weights, people tend to forget this concept, even though muscle tissue damage needs time to heal. Without that time, you don’t get the muscle adaptation, the progress, the strength, the fitness. You only get the damage.

So what is a deload week?

Think of it as your active recovery week (read this post on active recovery). This is a break from training hard and often. Intense, hard exercise, requires that we recover. It’s just like any injury, wound, illness, or stressor faced by our body. We have to recover before we can get stronger. In fact, you don’t get stronger from the act of lifting weights. You get stronger by recovering from the act of lifting weights. 

Studies show that deloads aren’t just about recovering so you can continue where you left off, but that a deload week can actually improve your fitness and strength to levels greater than where it was before the deload. That’s right: you can lift less weight for less reps (or even do nothing) and come back stronger than before and stronger than you’d have been had you never taken the week off.

Here are some facts/tips about dealoding:

  • Deaload does not mean no weight - You don't have to do nothing. Decrease your weight, set and reps. YOU SHOULD REMAIN ACTIVE!! Don't just sit around... go for a walk, lift light weights (we program this for you at the gym), focus on joint mobility and stay fresh!
  • You will not loose your muscle and progress - Research shows that it takes around three weeks of inactivity for the first signs of muscular atrophy to emerge.

  • You might hit some PR's coming back - During a recent study, athletes either trained for 24 weeks straight or in a “six weeks on, three weeks off, six weeks on, three weeks off, six weeks on” fashion. The second group showed a tiny bit of atrophy during the rest periods but more than made up for it with the response of their muscles upon resuming training. According to the study’s author, “the effects of retraining after short-term cessation on muscle growth are comparable with those observed during the early phase of training.” Now, a week of deloading isn’t the same as three weeks of deloading, but the point is that taking a break can pay off.

  • Make your deload week deliberate - Time off for injury or illness does not count! There really isn't much more to say about that...

  • Lift by feel - You have all probably heard me talk about this by now. Some days are better than others. So are some weeks. Being in-tune to your body and how you feel is very important. If I get my ass handed to me on shift, I know my lifts are going to suffer for it because of lack of sleep and little recovery time. When I feel rested and eat well, by lifts and workout feel better. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!

  • Your joints will thank you - Connective tissue takes longer to adapt and heal than muscle tissue. You muscles may be recovering from your regular training, but your tendons and ligaments are on a different schedule.

  • The older generation needs it more - As much as I hate to say it, if you push yourself like you did when you were a teenager, you will eventually regret it. Take the deload week.

Hopfully this has give you guys the WHY behind deload weeks and their importance. Use them as a recovery tool and a chance to come back rested, stronger and ready to go!