Deload Week – A Recovery Tool For Increased Strength and Muscle Building

This week is a deload week for a few of our groups at PhysXtreme Athletic Performance, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to go over exactly what a deload week is and why it’s such an important recovery tool for long term training progress if your goals are increased strength and muscle building.


The Deload Week – A Recovery Tool For Increased Strength and Muscle Building


What a Deload Week Is NOT


overtraining 300x225 Deload Week   A Recovery Tool For Increased Strength and Muscle Building

Shoulda taken a deload week last week!



Purpose of Deloading

The purpose of deloading is to allow sufficient recovery for long-term training progress. Without it, overtraining can occur.

Symptoms of Overtaining

- Chronic fatigue unaffected by normal sleep

- Insomnia

- Lasting muscle soreness

- Increased resting heartrate

- Decreased strength

- Sudden drop in performance

- Decreased overall work capacity

- Loss of motivation

- Mood swings

- Depression

- Decreased muscle size

- Decreased immunity as evidenced by increased frequency and severity of colds and sore throats

- Pain in muscles and joints

- Injuries

- Headaches

- Decreased appetite

The goal of increased strength and muscle building is achieved when the body successfully adapts to progressive overload over a period of time. However, adaptation cannot continue linearly forever, which is why when most people train, they initially make progress no matter what they do, but after a period they have to modify their training to continue making gains.

When planning a training program, each training goal (increased strength, hypertrophy, power, etc…) is given time blocks within the program. An often neglected element of any training program is recovery, and it should be programmed into the overall strength training program.

These training blocks are usually broken down further into weeks. Regardless of the goal, after 3-5 weeks of progressively heavier load and volume increases, the body simply won’t adapt anymore, unless of course you’re Charlie Sheen, Chuck Norris or you measure your Testosterone levels in gram amounts… (but that’s an entirely different story).

In fact, for most, continued efforts to overload the body results in decreased strength, size, and in worst case scenarios leads to injury.

For this reason, a programmed deload week is crucial for long term progress. The deload week gives your body a break from heavier loads and gives you a chance to iron out wrinkles in your technique by practicing with submax weights, and generally take care of your beaten body.

Structured Deload For Optimum Recovery

A stuctured deload week often includes the following:

- main lifts are reduced to 60-70% 1RM

- volume is reduced to 40% of week 1 (out of a 3-5 week cycle)

so a 5×5@80% week 1 would result in a deload week of 3×5@60-70%

- supplemental lifts are kept if they are technique dependent, but dropped if

they’re only there to add volume

- a different type of structured deload involves removing the main lifts altogether (which are the lifts that impose the most stress on the CNS), and simply focus on single-limb work such as one-leg squats, one-leg deadlifts, and other higher proprioceptive movements

- “greasing the groove” is always important in a deload week where main lifts are kept to improve technical mastery

Additional Deload Week Work

- Soft-tissue work with foam roller/lacrosse ball

- Stretching

- Activation exercises for lazy muscle groups

- Mobility exercises

- Video analysis of technique (video taken during training weeks)

When To Deload

After any 3-5 week period of progressive overload. But if you’ve spent more time socializing with the girl in the 80′s leotard than sweating blood under the bar, you likely don’t need a deload, though you might just get lucky!

A deload week is NOT an excuse to sit on your ass all week.  The “couch deload” does NOT have the same recovery benefits as a structured deload week.

But if you’ve been getting after it for a while at the gym without any breaks, good for you, but give yourself a deload week and you’ll be back the following week, bigger, stronger, faster, and ready to become a serious badass!

Deload now…

Thank me later!

If you have any comments, I’d love to hear them in the comments section below!

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