by Mike Tuchscherer, 20 December 2017
Deloading is taking an easy week every third or fourth week, right? Well… That’s a caricature of what effective deloading looks like. In most standard cases, deload training is intended to reduce accumulated fatigue and facilitate adaptation to future training cycles.
Sounds easy enough, but the law of individual differences is enough to make sure this is highly variable.
Have you ever had a training block rolling along effectively, then suddenly your strength falls off by a large margin? It may creep back up in future sessions, but it doesn’t bounce back as if it was simply due to a bad workout. And it may take quite some time before it returns to pre-drop levels.
While I can’t say scientifically what causes this, it’s as if your body has run out of adaptive energy. As a metaphor, that works because if we treat it as if you’ve run out of adaptive energy, you can effectively respond to these periods or even avoid them altogether.
Look in your training log (yes you should be keeping one of those) and note the time between the last deload or transition phase and one of these strength drops. This will help you immensely in gauging the ideal block length for yourself.
Times vary widely. I’ve had lifters who respond to training for 3 weeks. Others for as many as 11 weeks. High training variability will make training lengths longer, but it’s individual whether this is a good or a bad thing.
Once you have an idea of how frequently you should deload, you’ll need to determine what the deload should be like.
Some lifters are very sensitive to training volume and only need a small drop. Others will need more fatigue reduction and will require a larger drop. You’ll have to try some things and see what you respond best to.
We’ve all heard stories of lifters deloading and coming back stronger. This does happen, but not so frequently that you should expect it. In fact, you should expect a modest strength decrease during your deload. Knowing this affects how you time it and construct it.
You’ll want your deload to reduce fatigue, enhance the next block, and maintain strength as much as possible while achieving those first two goals.
Deloads will have a volume reduction, though how much depends on how volume sensitive the athlete is. Deloads will have an RPE reduction, though usually you can tolerate a couple high RPE sets and that helps with the strength maintenance. There is also usually an intensity reduction, but you guessed it, this varies between athletes too.
You’ll need to trial and error a bit. The way you’ll know if your successful is:
1) Fatigue is reduced (measure it)
2) You don’t see sudden strength drops
3) Future training cycles are effective (if they are something that you know to be effective)
4) strength is maintained to an acceptable degree (usually within 5% or so).
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About the Author:
About the Author
Mike Tuchscherer is the owner and head coach at RTS. He has been powerlifting since 2001 and since has traveled all over the world for competitions. In 2009, he was the first man from USA powerlifting to win a gold medal at the World Games – the highest possible achievement in pow
erlifting. He has coached over a dozen competitors at the world championships, a score of national champions, and multiple world record holders.