Deload is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the strength and conditioning community. You may have heard people say that they "are deloading this week." Or they, "have deloaded in 12 weeks," or that, "deloading doesn't work."
So what is deloading? Well, first it's important to note that there are many definitions of deloading, but it typically means doing one of the following:
Sometimes you might just foam roll and do some mobility on your deload week. Many people have their own idea of what a deload means, and as long as you are giving your body a break and an opportunity to truly recover, if it works for you, go for it!
Deloading regularly allows your body to properly recover and allows you to make progress long-term. It’s just not possible to go hard and heavy day in and day out and make consistent progress without some sort of break.
At some point, you must take time and allow your body to repair itself. Of course, if your nutrition, sleep, stress management, and supplements are all spot-on 100% of the time, then you may be able to get away with fewer or shorter deloads. But since that doesn't happen very often, you will probably need deloads every six to eight weeks like the rest of us mere mortals?
You see, the body can only handle so much stress at any given time before something gives and your body forces you to slow down by getting sick or getting hurt. Deloading occasionally reduces the amount of stress your body is under and gives it an opportunity to rest and recover.
Think of it like recharging your batteries. You need “juice” in your batteries in order to function, so occasionally they need to re-charge. Your body is no different. It needs regular breaks, whether it's from a break from a calorie deficit, several weeks of heavy weight training, or a super intense cardio regimen, you must occasionally pull back on the reins a bit to give your body let your body recharge.
There are definitely differing thoughts and opinions about how often a person should deload (or if they should deload at all). Some people like taking planned deloads; for example every 4, 6, 8, or 10 weeks or more, while others like go by how they feel or their performance in the gym. Keep in mind, the harder you train and the more advanced you are, the more often you should deload because you are capable of putting your body under more stress.
If you're not sure whether to deload or not, below are common indicators that it’s probably time for a deload:
Keep in mind that the list above is not exhaustive. And unless you know your body really well, it's probably best to plan a deload every 5 to 8 weeks and not to wait until you are completely destroyed to give yourself a break.
In my experience, if you give yourself a break while you still have a little left in the tank, you will recover much more quickly. If you wait until it’s too late, it can take several weeks, or longer, until you are fully recovered.
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