Training

How to Deload Like a Pro

It may be the best-kept secret in bodybuilding: In order to gain strength, every now and then you need to take it easy.

How to Deload Like a Pro

If you're a guy who continually pushes hard, then the reality is that you’re going to eventually blow your training wad—no matter how invincible you think you are. To avoid full-body fatigue and crappy days in the gym, you need to start practicing deloading. Andrew Triana, a strongman coach and co-owner of the fitness community the Performance Vibe (theperformancevibe.com), suggests implementing a deload week in between programs (or just in general) to allow your body to recover and prepare for the months of hard work ahead. Below, Triana outlines what a deload is and how to program it into your regimen.

WHAT IT IS

“A deload is a reduced workload, for a day up to a week, which allows your body to recover from months of hard training while still getting work in,” Triana says. “We like to think of deloading as transitioning between programs. It’s more of a shift in training that paints a bigger picture of your goals to come.”

HOW IT WORKS

After months of intense training, your body is fatigued. A deload allows you to still tax your muscles while letting your central nervous system—your body’s control center—recover. It’s smart to deload before you start a new program or whenever you completely change your training goals.

Deload Gauge

According to Triana, you know you need to deload when...

1. Light weight feels heavy: “A sure sign that you need to take a deload is when weight that once felt like cake now feels much harder,” Triana says.

2. You burn out quickly: If you’re using a relatively easy load but your muscles feel fatigued after two to three sets, then it may be time to back off.

3. You don’t want to hit the gym: “A lot of guys, especially FLEX readers, love to train,” Triana says. “So if chest day comes along and you’re feeling like, ‘Screw this,’ then that’s a sign that you should probably take your foot off the gas.”

HOW TO DELOAD LIKE A PRO

There are two methods of deloading, or transitioning, that Triana likes to use at the Performance Vibe. One is called “Wearing Old Clothes.” The other: “Clean Linens.” Read on for a breakdown of both and decide which will work better for you.

WEARING OLD CLOTHES

As the name implies, this method has you select pieces of your previous pro- gram and train those at a lesser intensity. Triana suggests choosing parts that you want to improve on or that will help with your next competition (if applicable). “Train those pieces at an intensity that makes you feel better,” he says, “while keeping the goals of the next training program in mind.” 

THE PROTOCOL: Pick a few compound movements—like the deadlift, bench press, or military press—and adhere to the following set and rep scheme. “This is a client favorite,” Triana notes.

  • WEIGHT %: 50-60%
  • SETS: 20
  • REPS: 1
  • REST: 20 sec.

CLEAN LINES

This method is all about starting fresh. If you want to totally overhaul your training goals—for example, if you were training for a bodybuilding com- petition, and now you want to train for a powerlifting meet—this is the path for you. In between training programs, take a week to, well, do whatever you want—provided you do something. “Something is always, always better than nothing,” Triana says. “If you want to pump out biceps curls and chest yes or run for miles, knock yourself out. Just don’t go overboard.”

THE PROTOCOL: As stated above, you can train whatever you like, assuming it’s not too much. Triana suggests following this plan:

  • BREATHING, MOBILITY, AND MYOFASCIAL RELEASE: Stretch and foam-roll for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • BALANCE AND UNILATERAL WORK: Perform high-rep sets for moves like single-leg Romanian deadlifts and single-leg box jumps for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep the rest minimal between sets, and focus on movement quality.
  • LOW-INTENSITY WORK: Do some light cardio. Keep your heart rate between 100 and 120 beats per minute for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • SPEED-EXPLOSIVE WORK: Perform moves like box jumps, broad jumps, and med ball slams. Keep it light, fast, and explosive. Don’t exceed 10 minutes of work.
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