Yes, it’s time to back off a bit. Deload weeks are an essential part of our programs. We typically run 12-week training blocks during which we progressively overload the body by increasing loads, reps and intensity. During this time, both the central nervous system (CNS) and musculoskeletal system are increasingly stressed. At some point the stress becomes too much to recover from efficiently and your progress plateaus. If the overload continues you could even begin to see retrograde performance, but that’s at the extreme end.
A simple way to combat plateaus, retrograde performance and injuries is deloading. This is programmed rest during a certain time in a training block.
Many of you will feel like you don’t need to back off because you’re still feeling good or you just want to keep pushing. That’s the trick – scheduling active rest before you plateau or get to a point of feeling too beat up. That then allows us to ramp the volume up a good notch the week after.
You’re not going to lose fitness in a week either. Remember, you’re still training during a deload week. So if you’re in this for long term health and fitness, a week of less activity is nothing. The deload allows tissues to repair, the nervous system to recover, and the hormonal systems to regulate. If that doesn’t happen you end up having to take a week or two of complete rest and that’s where you end up slipping backwards. Worse yet, when an athlete is forced to take complete rest due to insufficient deloading, they typically push a bit harder on coming back to “catch up” and that puts them into a boom-bust cycle. That looks like hitting training hard (boom), breaking down too much so having to rest completely (bust), coming back to boom, bust again, and so on.
So don’t be tempted to do more work this week. Use the extra time on technique work, mobility, and skills practice. We still keep the intensity high too, but just take your overall volume (sets x reps) down. So you’ll still be getting a good workout in. Trust in the system 😉
Deloading is not just for training either. Read about why deloading phases are good for life too.