Over the last 10 weeks at CrossFit VSC we have been working through a strength program and we are almost at the end of it. Next week is testing week, but before we get there we are taking a de-load week. What exactly is a de-load week you ask?
Well in short it is a break from high intensity lifting that allows our body to rest and recover. To go into more depth I refer to the article 'Get Bigger By Doing Less' by Bryan Krahn.
'Get Bigger By Doing Less' by Bryan Krahn
On just about every weekday, T Nation posts a new article showing you the latest and best ways to get bigger, stronger, leaner, and, to use a purely scientific phrase, cock-diesel jacked.
But there's another way to send your strength, size, and conditioning levels through the roof. It won't cost you a dime, and best of all, it requires only as much effort as it takes to back away from your normal training routine for a week.
The trouble is this: nobody does it. At least it appears that way. Every coach in the world insists that you do it, and every gym rat in the world will agree with him, but nobody bothers to take a back-off week.
A back-off week, or deload, is a planned reduction in exercise volume or intensity. In collegiate strength-training circles, it's referred to as the unloading week, and is often inserted between phases or periods. Quoting from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning: "The purpose of this unloading week is to prepare the body for the increased demand of the next phase or period," and to mitigate the risk of overtraining.
But it's not just an ivory-tower concept. You can't go all-out all the time, no matter if you're a guy who squats 800 pounds in a Metal Pro suit or the type who grinds out endless sets of concentration curls while wearing a vinyl weight-lifting belt you bought at Sears. At some point, you just have to take your foot off the accelerator and allow your body to coast for a few days.
Why? Four reasons:
1. Going hard all the time never, ever, works
If you try to go hard every single workout, week after week and month after month, you'll end up with a mix of serious and half-assed workouts, and if you don't get hurt, you'll probably burn out completely at some point.
By the end of any given training year, you'll discover you would've been better off taking planned breaks, rather than letting your body and brain decide when you're ready to push toward a peak and when you're not.
2. Your muscles and joints need a break
Not every part of your body recovers at the same pace. You can restore energy substrates in your muscles faster than you can remodel tissue that's been damaged from serious training. Muscles repair themselves faster than connective tissues. And connective tissues might be ready for a serious workout before your central nervous system has fully recovered.
3. Sometimes you get stronger by not training
With full recovery comes supercompensation. With supercompensation come greater gains in size and strength and higher levels of fitness and conditioning. This is why swimmers and runners taper before major competitions in which they hope to break records, and why a lot of serious lifters will describe how they hit PRs right after a deloading phase.
A review published in the NSCA's Strength and Conditioning Journalcompiled this amazing list of benefits that research has attributed to tapering:
• Up to 20% increases in strength and power
• Increases in muscle cross-sectional area of 10 to 25%
• Lower levels of stress hormones
• Higher levels of Testosterone
• Better moods during the day, and better sleep at night
4. Training is a marathon, not a sprint
Finally, unloading is just plain healthy, no matter what your age. Along with pampering the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, a phase of relatively easy training is also good for the immune system. Train too hard for too long, and you'll not only feel tired and unmotivated, but you'll also increase your risk of catching a cold or flu.
Since a nasty case of the stomach flu can torpedo any program, in the long run you'll rack up more workouts, and better workouts, by giving your body a break from time to time.
Published on the T-Nation website on the 06/17/09. (https://www.t-nation.com/training/get-bigger-by-doing-less)