Reaching your fitness, strength & physique goals involves a great number of factors. You must train with great intensity in the weight room, progressively moving more weight for more repetitions, until you grow your strength and size to meet the ever-increasing demands. You must spend time on cardiovascular training, not only to maintain heart and cardiovascular health, but to keep your heart rate elevated on a regular basis so as to keep your body fat levels low. You must apply that same kind of focus inside the gym to what you do outside of the gym as well. Nutrition plays a greater role in your physique progress than what you do in the gym, according to experts. You consume a diet rich in protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. You take your vitamins, enjoy the many benefits of supplements, consume lots of fiber to keep your digestion smooth, and of course, enjoy at least a gallon of water each day to ensure all of your systems are functioning properly. You have all of your bases covered, right?
Wise lifters and fitness enthusiasts will note that one key factor is overlooked: Recovery. And while most who enjoy exercise know that getting enough sleep each night is an essential part of the muscle growth process, most believe that it stops there. What they’re often overlooking is the highly useful recovery processes that can arrive as a result of DELOADING, or the process of cutting back your workload and training demands in an effort to give your CNS (central nervous system) adequate resources and time to fully recover. Just because you’re taking your rest days and enjoying plenty of sleep nightly (and perhaps with the occasional nap), you may be unaware of the slow creep which occurs as your central nervous system slowly wears down over time. Most people will get sick or injured from time to time, thus giving their system that needed break, whether they need it or not. However, planning this deloading process and implementing it carefully across several spectrums can help you to make the most possible gains in the shortest amount of time – with a few breaks along the way! Let’s look at a few ways deloading can be an effective process for you.
Schedule some training breaks
First off, you are going to want to plan some breaks. In other words, you will be purposely taking time away from the gym in an effort to give your body (and mind) a complete break. Your joints, tendons, muscles, and CNS do wear down over time, and a wonderful thing known as super-compensation can occur when you take a break, allowing your entire body to recover. This is done in two manners. The first is just taking a bit of time off from the gym – usually a week. The other method, known as deloading, involves cutting back your daily gym workload in an effort to maintain the muscle and strength which you currently have, while at the same time giving your body a chance to rebuild its resources.
Ready to take some time off?
Most people’s lives don’e revolve around the gym. They take vacations, attend social functions, and just plain have lazy days. They’ll miss training at the gym now and then, and it’s no big deal. However, many of us serious enthusiasts train through everything and anything, never missing a day, much less a week, of training. This leads to long term exhaustion. Stick with skipping a week at the gym 1 to 3 times per year. You don’t want to start missing a week of training progress every week, but a few days off of training every few months is likely to give your body the rest it’s been asking for! You can also scale back your time off, opting for missing 4 to 6 days a week, instead of the full week.
Deloading in the gym: Volume
If you’re a seriously intense trainer in the gym, then the best way to describe the process of deloading might be to “just train like everyone else”. Deloading involves cutting back your intensity in a number of ways, in order to give your nervous system a break from continuously training to failure all of the time. You can cut back your training intensity, or your training volume… or you can cut back both! If you’re cutting back volume, then the key will be to train using about 50 percent of your usual sets for one week. If you’re using to using 20 sets for chest day, then you’ll cut back to 10 sets. The following week, you’ll return to 65% of your training volume, or 13 sets for chest. Week three, you’ll be back to about 80% of your training volume, or 16 sets. Finally, by week 4, you’ll be raring to return to full volume, at which point you can head back to 20 sets at 100% volume.
Deloading in the gym: Intensity
The other method of deloading your workouts in the gym involves cutting back the intensity of what you normally use through weight reduction. Pretend you lift 200 pounds for reps on the bench press (although we all know you’re stronger than that, right?) Week 1 of deloading will involve using 80% of your standard weight for repetitions, or 160 pounds. Week 2 will use 85%, or 170 pounds. Week 3 will use 90%, or 180 pounds. By week 4, once again, you’ll be itching to bump up your intensity and train at full strength again. However, the joints, tendons, nervous system and fast-twitch muscle fibers of your body will have enjoyed that 3 week break from training at max intensity, and will grow as a result!
Rest as hard as you train! It’s a foreign concept to some, but the most successful athletes realize that they grow when they rest, and not when they’re training. Cutting back your training volume or weight used – or just plain taking a week off – can be great tools at your disposal to make sure you are giving your body plenty of resources for recovery. Good luck!