Saturday, January 14, 2012

Deloads and Weeks Off

A topic that brings a lot of controversy is whether or not taking time off from the gym is helpful or not. Opinions range from the viewpoint that you should never take any time off no matter what to taking a week off every 8-12 weeks is optimal. I believe the best approach is using a combination of scheduled deloads and periodic weeks off.


Most weight lifters have heard of deloads before but are uninformed on how to properly do them. A deload is basically a one week period to give your body a break. During this period, you reduce your training volume and intensity. A deload is critical for lifters to prevent themselves from burning out and to continually make progress long term.

There is no set in stone way to perform a deload. The layout is entirely up to you. You just need to make sure that you are backing off from what you usually do. My recomondation is to do 60% of the weights you did the previous week for the same amount of reps. For example, if you squatted 225 for 8 reps the previous week, do 135 for the same amount of sets of 8 reps. Do this for every exercise for each of your work outs for one week. You are going to feel like it is a waste of a work out and you may even be embarrassed by lifting such light weights. You need to accept the fact that this is a necessary step to continually make progress moving forward.

When to Deload

Recommendations on when to deload vary. Some people say you should take one every month whereas some say every 2-3 months and others say do it when you feel you need one. I believe every 8 weeks is a good amount of time. It's a bad idea to wait until you think you need one because by then it's usually too late. The point of a deload is to prevent yourself from burning out. If you wait until you feel you need it, then you are already burnt out and a one week deload might not be enough. It's better to force yourself to take them sooner rather than later. It might feel like a waste of time but the truth is that your muscles and strength won't disappear from lifting lighter for one week. In fact, just the opposite may happen and you will set yourself up to make better gains long term.

Week Off

Unlike a deload, a week off is a one week period where you don't step foot inside the gym. However, the purpose of a week off is the same as a deload. That is, it's a period of time to give your body a break in order to prevent your body from getting burnt out and to enable yourself to continue making progress in the future. A week off is a mental break as well. Whereas during a deload you are still in the gym, a week off is a good time to think about something else for a change.

How Often to Take a Week Off

If you are properly deloading often enough then you shouldn't need to take too many weeks off. I would take two full weeks off per year roughly six months apart from each other. The week off should replace your deload week for that cycle so you wouldn't be doing both. Try to schedule the week off during a time when it would be difficult to work out anyway. During vacations or during finals would be a good time.


Basically, all weight lifters should deload as well as take complete weeks off from the gym. You may feel like this is a waste of time but it's not. One week of light work outs is not going to cause you to lose muscle and your body will appreciate the break. Your body isn't meant to train hardcore day in and day out for years. The intense lifting will catch up to you eventually if you don't take preventive measure to protect yourself. It's much better to take little breaks along the way than be forced to take an extended break when something bad happens in the future. After all, we are in this for the long haul.


docmansound said...

Great article! Love the blog!

OoFaP said...

Thanks! I appreciate it

The Dude said...

Currently I'm running a 5/3/1 program that has a deload week every 4th week. I'm kinda feeling like that is to much and will try deloading every 6 or 8 weeks.

Before I did 5/3/1, I did Bill Starr's 5x5 and Starting Strength. I really liked the 5x5 training and saw some nice gains from it. I am not seeing as big of gains with the 5/3/1 so I'm not going to run another cycle of it. I know you are a big fan of PHAT. Have you done any of the 5/3/1 or 5x5? And would you recommend doing PHAT?

OoFaP said...

I'm actually doing 5/3/1 right now and love it. I make strength gains every workout. If it's not working then switch but I would just deload every 4th week like it says. You could also try PHAT and do 5x5 on the power movements. I did that last year and it worked well.


if you do 225 for 8 and then deload to 135 for 8, the next week do you go straight back to 225 or do you go up like 10 lbs each week

OoFaP said...

Go back to where you were before the deload. Unless you are talking about the 5/3/1 routine specifically?

docmansound said...

I'm doing a deload week now because I suffered a mild groin strain doing leg press. At first I was really upset about the injury because I am trying to bring up lower body, but I'm lucky it was mild and I am trying to turn it into something positive by doing a forced deload (I'm bulking and making new PRs every workout for the last month).

You might consider an article about how to deal with injuries. As hard as it will be, I decided I won't squat or leg press until the pain is 100% gone because I know if I re-injure it then it will be even longer before I can focus on legs again...

OoFaP said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I will do an article on injuries soon. I didn't even think of that as a topic since I luckily never had to deal with anything too bad.

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