On a scale from one to ten, how important would you say recovery is? Maybe four or five? Six or seven if you feel generous, right?
But do you know what? Recovery scores an easy ten in the importance category. Without it, no amount of good training or eating well will help you see the results you hope for.
Training is what stimulates your body and leads to breakdown. You leave every workout in a weaker state, and your recovery is what then allows you to go back to normal and see positive adaptations.
Deload weeks are a significant aspect of good recovery. In today’s post, you’ll learn what they are, why they work, and how often you need them. Let’s see.
What Is a Deload Week And Do You Need It?
Stress is cumulative - it builds up over time and can have adverse effects on the body. In the case of fitness, this occurs because the stain we put on the body through training is more than the body’s ability to recover fully in time.
That might not seem like a big deal on a day-to-day basis. Sure, you feel a bit sore and tired, but you recover well enough before each workout. The issue is, each workout adds a few drops to the stress bucket, which eventually spills over. Our muscles, joints, ligaments, and central nervous system become increasingly fatigued, and we eventually reach a point where we can’t train productively and see positive adaptations.
This is where deload weeks come into play. The goal is to schedule some time - usually a week - to do only light training with the goal of active recovery. You’re no longer training to get stronger and bigger, but to give your body a break and allow for your tissues and nervous system to recover.
To achieve this, your two primary options are to reduce the training intensity (the weights you’re lifting) or training volume (the number of sets or reps you’re doing) in half. You can also do both things if you feel particularly beat up.
In doing so, you still get to train, achieve minor muscle pumps, and feel good, but you now allow your body to repair the various tissues and restore their integrity. You also give your nervous system a break.
While taking a week of light training might seem counterproductive, this is an essential aspect of long-term progression. It’s not uncommon for people to get back to the gym stronger, more energetic, and more motivated after a deload week.
How Often You Should Take a Deload Week?
Most guidelines suggest taking a deload week for every six to ten weeks of serious training. Of course, how often you need one will depend on numerous factors, such as:
- How old you are
- What your fitness level is
- How much stress you have to deal with
- How hard and often you’re training
- Your nutrition’s quality
- How much sleep you get per night
This will vary from person to person, and it’s worth experimenting to see what works best for you. The good news is, your body will send you signals when it’s time to take it easy for a while. Common ones include:
- You’re having trouble sleeping, despite feeling exhausted
- Your appetite is down
- You’ve had a string of bad workouts
- Your grip is getting weaker
- You lack the motivation to train
- You feel more tired than usual and are more irritable
Deload Week Conclusion
Recovery is not the most exciting aspect of fitness, but it is a vital one. We can try to ignore it, exchange it for more training, and ignore symptoms of overtraining. But at some point, we will have to take a step back.
Deload weeks are an essential aspect of good recovery because they allow for some of the built-up stress to dissipate, allowing us to get back to the gym fresh, motivated, and strong.
The good news is, you don’t need to be a fitness expert to determine you need a break. Your body is good at telling you these things, but you need to listen.
What’s your experience with deload weeks? Have you taken one before? If not, do you plan to start? Let us know @iconnutrition on Facebook and Instagram.