Today’s article marks the beginning of a new era in the Challenger Strength Blog Series. From now on, Thursday’s articles will be focused on #AskChallengerStrength. Basically, you guys ask me questions and I will take one question and turn it into a blog post every Thursday. Today’s question is from Gary Wong. Gary is a power lifter and had a few questions regarding deloads and how to effectively incorporate them into a program. So, in light of this, today I will shed light on why deloading is important, how you can properly perform a deload week and alter either your weights, sets, and repetitions, and finally, when you should schedule your deload weeks.
Why The Deload is Important
So, before I explain why deloading is important, I will give a brief run through on what a deload actually is. As I have mentioned time and time again, the central nervous system plays a pivotal role strength training, fitness and athletic performance. After days and weeks of repeated bouts of high intensity activity you can overwork your central nervous system immensely. An overworked nervous system can limit your performance, hamper your energy and lead to possible injury. This type of scenario is especially prevalent when lifting for relative strength and strength gains where you are pushing weights upward of 95% of your one rep max. After several weeks of activity you may begin to call on your CNS and place demands on it that it cannot handle. Here is where the deload week comes in. A deload week is crucial to include in your periodization to allow your CNS to reset, and revamp for optimal future performance.
How To Properly Perform a Deload
Now that you have a better understanding of why a deload week is important to begin with, I can better explain how to use certain deloading strategies. Deloading is crucial because while you are lessening your loads and performing less taxing work on your nervous system you are also not completely shutting yourself down and are still performing your scheduled workout. So, with this being said, how do you deload properly? Well, I like to think of this in two ways. One option is to drop the weight you would normally use to about roughly half and still perform the same number of sets and repetitions that are mapped out in your program. Another option is to use the same weight and cut your repetitions in half. An easy way to determine the best option is to just look at the number of repetitions and sets you are currently performing. A rule of thumb I like to use would be that if your repetitions are under six already, cut the weight in half and perform your regular repetitions. If you are performing a higher number of repetitions you can use the same weight and simply perform half of the repetitions.
When To Schedule a Deload Week
Scheduling a deload week can be both cut and dry, or planned based on more of a performance analysis approach. For example, if a client usually performs 135 pounds with the barbell bench press for 8 repetitions, but on the fifth week of their program they are struggling to do more than 5, it could be a good indication that their CNS is beginning to become overtaxed. So, if you had their deload planned after 6 weeks into their program and whatever type of cycle or phase you had them on, it might be a good idea to make an adjustment and have a deload week a week earlier. However, to be more cut and dry and specific, I usually recommend deload weeks after completion of a phase or cycle, which I recommend to last 3-6 weeks. Even if you are not using linear programming that has you performing specific cycles aimed at strength, hypertrophy, or even muscular endurance and you use more of a conjugate style approach where you attacking different goals every week, I still recommend that training cycles be broken into 3-6 week blocks. Lastly, after a week of deloading you will undoubtedly need to “reboot,” your CNS. So, before your first workout after a deload week perform a CNS intensive exercise prior to your weight training in order to jump-start it. This can include any variation of a jump, sprint or throw.
Please check back in next Tuesday for a new article and post any questions you have and maybe next week you will be able to #AskChallengerStrength. Have a great weekend!
Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.