Although boring, a deload (aka a recovery phase) if done properly, can be pretty beneficial for athletes. And I’ll tell you why.
What’s a deload?
A deload is a period of time where training intensities and volume are reduced, giving the athlete not complete cessation of training, but an adequate rest period. Thus, we are allowing time where the athlete can complete necessary adaptive qualities of the central, peripheral, cardiovascular, metabolic and muscular systems.
Yes, it serves a purpose.
As an athlete accumulates excessive fatigue and overstresses systems, stimulus for adaptation will be reduced. The purpose of a deload is to dissipate accumulated fatigue, not advance the athlete’s level of fitness. Read that again. This isn’t the time to think about gains. If you, or your athlete, keeps this mindset going into a deload week, they will have realistic expectations and (hopefully) stick to the program.
Even though your athlete feels like they can keep training, this may not take into account the other internal systems of the body (rarely does). By continuing to train, the athlete may not make further changes (plateau) or it could even be detrimental (injury/overtraining).
Lastly, proper recovery can help reduce the risk of overtraining or overuse injuries. It’s also important to note that performance improvements can be expected after a proper recovery phase. So don’t be surprised when you or your athlete feels amazing after a short recovery phase (this is the point, anyway).
How to deload.
Deloads will vary by athlete, depending on their goals, previous training, experience level, etc. Thus, there are many ways a recovery phase can be scheduled.
Typically, this will be one week of unloading in order to reduce fatigue and allow for proper adaptations from training. Newer athletes will not need to deload nearly as often as trained athletes because trained athletes are already training at higher volumes/intensities. Those susceptible to injuries will need to deload more often. Some athletes benefit from time off of main lifts and performing variations of main lifts at lighter weights. Some athletes do better at planned deloads (ie: every 4th week, 6th week, etc.), and others do better at listening to their bodies.
For me, I like reducing my training volume between 40-60% depending on how I feel. I also like to plan deloads ahead of time, but still flexible with how my body feels and make adjustments as I go. Whatever you decide, I encourage you to communicate with your coach on how you are feeling so they can incorporate proper recovery periods.
Some other tips: Don’t do nothing at all, don’t start going crazy on your accessory work (this defeats the purpose of rest), don’t eat less (just eat what you normally eat), rest up and don’t deload too often.
Happy training friends!