At one point in your drinking career you’ve hit that point where one more drink will make you and the toilet besties for the night. You want to keep the party going but your body is quitting on you. The body is such a wuss.
So what do you do?
Chug some water? – Seems like a good plan. Hydrate a little in hopes you can flush some of the alcohol out.
Wait it out? – Alright let your body do its thing so hopefully you can pound one more beer.
Throw caution to the win and take that next shot? – Ah, the bro approach. You show those people you’ll never see again how bad-ass you are.
Having gone through this phase we all know that the first 2 choices are your best bet. Option 3 might result in a “cool” story of you smashing your head off a toilet…for other people.
So how does getting nearing the point of praying to the porcelain god have to do with working out? Everything.
In weightlifting circles, the first 2 options are called deloading. Trying to push through this will only lead to bad things. The best option is to curb the ego and give your body a break.
If you’ve been training for a while you’ll eventually hit a point where your body can’t recover quickly enough. The constant heavy lifting has taxed your nervous system, your muscles and your brain.
Your body aches, the weights seem to be heavier and your motivation is almost gone. The only thing keeping you going is habit.
This is the perfect time for what scientist and bros like to call…the deload week. A whole week of reducing the work you do in the gym to help your body recoup.
ALL ABOUT THAT D
If you are a beginner in the workout world, then you can probably go a year or two without needing a deload week. Your nervous system is still fresh, your muscles are springing back to action quickly and working out is still new so your mind still finds it interesting.
Chances are you are taking vacations anyway. Going away for work, for pleasure or you get sick once in a while. Don’t worry about deload weeks right now.
If you’ve been in the game for two to five years then start paying attention to how your body feels. This takes time to do.
Your body will tell you when you need rest. The weights will seem heavier, your joints ache and you lose motivation. If you want to be proactive then schedule a deload week every other month (6-8 weeks) and still keep an ear to your body by how it responds.
If you are an old salty dog of the weight lifting game, then you should be scheduling a deload week when you feel you need one. At this point in your career you know when it’s time to reel it in.
Weightlifting, running and basically anything that pushes your body adds stress. Like the stress at work, sometimes enough is enough.
The deload week allows your body to catch up to the stress you put on it. Once the body recovers it overcompensates and makes you stronger. In fact, some people, much smarter than myself, put together this fancy graph to illustrate my point.
As you can see the stress adds up, the deload week hits and then the body overcompensates and you get bigger, stronger and faster. Go You!
When deloading there are a few popular methods that circulate around the gym. I’ll rank these in order of effectiveness based on my opinion.
Change up your exercises – Let’s say you go bat shit crazy and decide to deadlift everyday. Well eventually the deadlift is going to be the bane of your existence and you’ll plateau. One option you can do is to switch up exercises to give the deadlifting muscles a break. Maybe hit some hamstring curls or walking lunges for a while.
Drop the weight – The most popular way to deload is to drop the weight to 40-60% of your 1RM. The lighter weight will save your joints and nervous system as long as you don’t go to failure. Remember you are “resting”.
Drop the Volume –The volume is where you really tax your body. Reduce volume by 40% and keep the weight the same. Instead of doing 20 sets per workout, drop it to 12 sets. I’m partial to this mode of deloading.
WILL I LOSE MY GAINZ?
The elephant in the room. Does taking a week of reducing volume or weight cause you to lose all that hard earned muscle and strength?
No, and it’s obvious you didn’t pay attention to my fancy graph earlier. I worked hard on downloading that from Wikipedia too.
In the deload week your body overcompensates for the stress you bestowed upon it in the previous weeks. If you think about it from an evolutionary standpoint, if our bodies didn’t overcompensate and get stronger from the common cold, a cut or lifting weights I doubt the human race would be alive today.
When you get sick, your body overcompensates and develops the antibodies for that particular strain. When you have surgery, your body develops connective tissue the opposite way of the muscle tissue (scar tissue) to strengthen the wound.
If I don’t have the street cred to make you believe this, then please listen to Christian Thibaudeau who is highly respected in the fitness world. In his article on T Nation, he says that it takes a few weeks off to lose strength which is actually the result of losing efficiency in your nervous system. That usually bounces back in a couple weeks of getting back at it.
He also goes into why you feel smaller after a week off. This is just your nervous system being less “turned on” and the inflammation of your muscles reducing.
See the gainz you left with are still there.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HATE DELOADING
If you fall into this category, like me, the deload week seems good in principle but hell on earth in execution. This is the same reason I hate working out when on vacation. I’d rather not workout at all then to lift without the intensity I’m used to. I just feel like it’s a waste of time.
Some people like those workouts, I’m just not one of them.
So what can people like me do to take a break?
Go on Vacation –For some of us, the gym is too ingrained in our daily schedule to skip it and go about our normal day. A vacation is a forced break. Sleep late, eat a little more and rest your body.
Change Up Your Workout – The first week of any new workout is always a feeling out process. You aren’t sure if the weights you suggested are right. Do you have enough time to get everything in? Is it too ambitious with the volume? These are all things you need to hammer out in the first week and chances are your workouts aren’t the greatest. Use this “downtime” to your advantage. Besides you are going to be crushing it next week anyways.
What do you do for a deload week?
What’s the craziest story you have from a night of drinking?