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  1. #1
    Mod Squad VoxExMachina's Avatar
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    De-Load, the Overlooked Technique

    Introduction:

    There are countless posts on the best way to train biceps, the optimum split for getting huge, how to bench press properly, or any of a million other questions on how to become bigger, leaner, or break through plateaus.

    But one technique that helps achieve all of these goals is very seldom discussed: De-Loading. A de-load is a planned reduction in volume or intensity (usually for one week, or one cycle of your training split), whose purpose is to allow the body to dissipate accumulated fatigue, allow you to fully recover, and prepare you for further gains. Also, remember that weight training does not just tax your muscles. It also puts stress on your joints, ligaments, connective tissues, and central nervous system.


    Why should you De-Load:
    • To allow your joints, tendons, ligaments, and other supporting tissues to repair.
    • To allow your central nervous system (CNS) to recover
    • To give yourself a mental break from the intensity of heavy lifting
    • To reduce the risk of under-recovery (overtraining)
    • To prepare you for greater gains
    Experienced lifters know that you can't go 100% all out in the gym all the time. Your body can't take it, and you can't keep up that mental intensity forever. If you try to, you often wind up getting injured, start just "going through the motions" in your workouts, stall out in your progression, and perhaps even give up completely.

    If you de-load at regular intervals, you will find that over time you will make better progress, reduce your injuries, and keep yourself in the game mentally.


    When to De-Load:

    This depends on your experience & intensity level, your age & recovery ability, the program you are following, and many other factors. If you are new to lifting, you lack the ability to overtax your CNS, muscles, and connective tissues as much as a very experienced lifter, so you may only need to deload once every couple of months. If you are older and have a reduced ability to recover from weight training, then you may need to deload as often as every couple of weeks. In general, you need to set your frequency of deloading according to how hard you train and how quickly you recover. Somewhere in the range of every 4-8 weeks will work well for most people.

    Signs that a de-load may be in order:
    • You feel tired, persistently fatigued, have a decreased desire to train, or other symptoms of under-recovery (overtraining).
    • Your weight progression is stalling and you can't seem to increase most lifts
    • You are experiencing aches, sprains, tendinitis, etc.
    • You train regularly
    Note that last point again: If you train regularly, then you should de-load regularly as well. In fact, a regularly scheduled de-load should come before you start exhibiting any of these symptoms.


    How to De-Load:

    A de-load is a planned reduction in either volume or intensity, usually a week long (or one training cycle of your split). How you do it is up to you. The main thing is to back off your total effort to about 50-60% of what you would do during a normal training week. A few examples of how to train during a de-load week:
    • Do your normal routine and normal volume (sets & reps) but reduce the weight you use to about 50-60% of what you normally work out with for each exercise.
    • Use the same weight as you normally would, but drop your number of total volume (sets x reps) to 50-60% of your normal volume. (Note that you should stick to an 8+ rep scheme here.)
    • Train muscle groups that normally don't get a lot of attention
    • Use light weight and focus on refining your form and technique
    • Decrease your lifting and increase your cardio

    ... or any combination of the above. The main thing is to make sure that at the end of the workout you still have a decent amount of "gas in the tank". Personally, I prefer to de-load by dropping my weights to 50-60% of what I normally use, stick with the same volume, and focus on refining my form, technique, and mind-muscle connection.

    If you want, you can even just take a week off entirely. If you know you are going to be on vacation, for example, just plan your training around it so that you can use that time as a de-load period. You'll be training smart and not feel the need to try to find some way to work out when the rest of your family is relaxing.


    Summary:

    The goal of a de-load is to allow you to become stronger, faster, and bigger, by incorporating a planned "active recovery" phase into your normal workout program. If you do it correctly, you should be able to make more gains that you would without de-loading, reduce your risk of injury, give yourself a mental break, preemptively address hidden recovery issues.

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  2. #2
    Just like that!!! brighamw's Avatar
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    ^Good stuff
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  3. #3
    Registered User NIguy's Avatar
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    Yep, deloading can be very valuable.
    Good post
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  4. #4
    I'll Rest When I'm Dead ironwill2008's Avatar
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    I completely agree with this post.

    I've been training this way for 17 years now, kids. No injuries. No setbacks.
    No brain, no gain.

    You can't out-train bad nutrition.

    "The fitness and nutrition world is a breeding ground for obsessive-compulsive behavior. The irony is that many of the things people worry about have no impact on results either way, and therefore aren't worth an ounce of concern."--Alan Aragon

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  5. #5
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    Thumbs up

    Excellent post as usual.
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  6. #6
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  7. #7
    Registered User AntM1564's Avatar
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    I've never deloaded before. Instead I have taken a week off ever 10-15 weeks depending on how I'm feeling, plateaus, etc. Would a deload be better than a complete week off?
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  8. #8
    Mod Squad VoxExMachina's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by AntM1564 View Post
    I've never deloaded before. Instead I have taken a week off ever 10-15 weeks depending on how I'm feeling, plateaus, etc. Would a deload be better than a complete week off?
    Both are a de-load.

    I don't think there is necessarily a big advantage either way. Doing an "workout" de-load is nice since it keeps you in the gym and lets you feel like you are actually doing something. You can also use that time to refine your technique, etc. It also gets some blood moving in the muscles. But there is nothing wrong with just getting out of the gym and living life.

    75% of the time I'll deload in the gym. The other 25% I'll just take a week off, usually on vacation or something.
    Last edited by VoxExMachina; 01-03-2010 at 12:14 PM.
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  9. #9
    Registered User AntM1564's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by VoxExMachina View Post
    Both are a de-load.

    I don't think there is necessarily a big advantage either way. Doing an "workout" de-load is nice since it keeps you in the gym and lets you feel like you are actually doing something. You can also use that time to refine your technique, etc. It also gets some blood moving in the muscles. But there is nothing wrong with just getting out of the gym and living life.

    75% of the time I'll deload in the gym. The other 25% I'll just take a week off, usually on vacation or something.
    Makes sense to me, thanks you. I'll be in school when my next de load comes so depending on how much work I have and what not I might just do the in the gym de load. I hate being out of the gym during that week.

    EDIT- should exercises such as deads and squats be avoided since they are taxing on the CNS and one is trying to make their CNS recovery or is the lighter weight fine with those lifts?
    Last edited by AntM1564; 01-03-2010 at 12:19 PM.
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  10. #10
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    I could of used this thread awhile ago when i didn't know what de loading was but still a great thread
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  11. #11
    Registered User wladimirov's Avatar
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    very good!! should be made a sticky
    One can't move without one's body.
    One can't seduce without one's body.
    One's body is never the other's.
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  12. #12
    Mod Squad VoxExMachina's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by AntM1564 View Post
    EDIT- should exercises such as deads and squats be avoided since they are taxing on the CNS and one is trying to make their CNS recovery or is the lighter weight fine with those lifts?
    As long as you drop the weight, you can continue to do these. They are not taxing if you are dropping to a weight that is "easy" for you. It somewhat depends on how much you feel you need the recovery. If your lower back, for example, has been hammered by your regular routine and you feel you need to give it an extra break, lay off the squats and deads. My personal recommendation would be to probably drop the deads, but that's just me.

    Some people prefer to avoid the major compounds entirely, and go with more isolation work.

    Remember: during de-load your goal is recovery. No one-rep maxes, no going to failure, etc.
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  13. #13
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    Originally Posted by wladimirov View Post
    very good!! should be made a sticky
    Agreed.

    Vox is BB.com's sticky king.
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  14. #14
    The BACKMAN DJAuto's Avatar
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    Normally, de-loading is defined as a period during which you decrease volume. Intensity should remain constant in many cases.

    A week off is a week off.
    Bodybuilding is 60% training and 50% diet. Yes that adds up to 110%, because that's what you should be giving it. Change the inside, and the physique will follow.
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  15. #15
    Mod Squad VoxExMachina's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by DJAuto View Post
    Normally, de-loading is defined as a period during which you decrease volume. Intensity should remain constant in many cases.

    A week off is a week off.
    That's one way to do it. But strictly speaking a de-load is a period where you decrease your total workload....a week off entirely applies.
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  16. #16
    Semper Fidelis Uncle Ben's Avatar
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    Another informative thread by Vox. VoxExMachine for mod, perhaps?

    Jim Wendler has a good article on deloading too..
    http://www.elitefts.com/documents/deload.htm
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    very good thread been waiting for a thread about de-loading, was going to make one my self but been very busy so thanks for making one, this is the kinda stuff we need more of. (a small amount of) reps for you
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  18. #18
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    Thumbs up

    Originally Posted by Uncle Ben View Post
    Another informative thread by Vox. VoxExMachine for mod, perhaps?

    Jim Wendler has a good article on deloading too..
    http://www.elitefts.com/documents/deload.htm
    Good article.
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  19. #19
    Mod Squad VoxExMachina's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by ironwill2008 View Post

    I completely agree with this post.

    I've been training this way for 17 years now, kids. No injuries. No setbacks.
    ^^ Words from the wise.
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    Milk does a body good. Sir_Malak's Avatar
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    My 1rm's in the main three decend heavily when its time for that week of easy-mode (easy-mode for me could be an entire week off or just very light sets and more isometric exercises etc...) Everything aches during the lifts, I feel like stiff and really just want to be super lazy. After that week im either back at 100% and/or have actually moved up a small notch.

    Time wise it usually happends (dynamic variables are diet/intensity etc..) around every three months.

    My 2 cents.

    Good info OP.
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    Registered User Azgoodazitgetz's Avatar
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    question:

    Should I be deloading on a cut? If so wont I lose more muscle mass than I am losing from my cut?
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    Bulking for Summer Nskrd's Avatar
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    Excellent thread. I usually take a week off every 2 months, not only do I not lose any muscle/strength during that week, but when I do get back to the gym I'm ready to destroy the weights.
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    How does this article fare along the lines of continuous progress ?

    If you are constantly increasing strength week after week do you still need to de-load in the gym ?

    Thanks in advance
    Prasad
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    I'll Rest When I'm Dead ironwill2008's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by reddevl View Post
    How does this article fare along the lines of continuous progress ?

    If you are constantly increasing strength week after week do you still need to de-load in the gym ?

    Thanks in advance
    Prasad
    You can't train all-out all the time. Eventually you'll take a break from training. You can either do it on your schedule, or your body will schedule a break for you. If you leave it up to your body to decide, it will nearly always be a bad thing. Either your progress will have stalled, or worse, you've injured yourself. Be proactive; deload on a regular schedule, whether you think you need it or not.
    No brain, no gain.

    You can't out-train bad nutrition.

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    Mod Squad VoxExMachina's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Azgoodazitgetz View Post
    question:

    Should I be deloading on a cut? If so wont I lose more muscle mass than I am losing from my cut?
    When you are eating at a caloric deficit your recovery is also more limited. Therefore, all other things being a constant (still lifting just as heavy, just as much volume, etc.) you may actually need to de-load on a cut more often.

    If your nutrition is on track, I don't think you will lose an appreciable amount of muscle.
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    Registered User Karaim's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Azgoodazitgetz View Post
    question:

    Should I be deloading on a cut? If so wont I lose more muscle mass than I am losing from my cut?
    Yes. You can eat at maintenance during the deload if you are worried about the additional muscle loss.
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    Mod Squad VoxExMachina's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by reddevl View Post
    How does this article fare along the lines of continuous progress ?

    If you are constantly increasing strength week after week do you still need to de-load in the gym ?
    If you are steadily progressing week after week, it's a good sign that your recovery is keeping up with your training. Also, as I mentioned, beginner level lifters are not able to train with as much intensity and therefore cannot create as much accumulated damage as a more advanced lifter - so it make take awhile to reach the point where you need to de-load.

    However, remember that muscles may repair faster than connective tissues, for example. So a lift might not necessarily decrease even though the wear and tear on joints or tendons may be adding up.

    As IronWill said, if you de-load at regular intervals you'll decrease the chances that there is a hidden injury waiting to happen.
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  28. #28
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    Truth.

    I was stalling on Military Press. I refused to deload, believing that I will one day struggle through and get the 5 reps I want. It was only after numerous attempts that I decided to deload. Soon after, I did get the 5 reps.

    Good thread.
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  29. #29
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    Yet another sticky!

    Nice work.


    Maybe we need to rename the Exercises section 'Working out with Vox'

    -
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    Ussually when I feel stuck at a certain point I just stay away from the gym for a good 2 weeks and come back and hit the iron HAAAARD. It ussually works.
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