The funny thing about deloading is that it is highly recommended by most everyone, but no one seems to take their advice. Most professional bodybuilders understand how it works and why it works and they do it. Should you be deloading?
What is Deloading?
Deloading is the process by which an athlete reduces the amount of work that they do for a short period of time. As an example, I like to go by the 3 to 1 rule – go hard for 3 weeks and then reduce the workload for 1 week. Continue this cycle and you will start to see massive gains. Remember that muscles grow while you rest, not while you work out.
For beginner bodybuilders with less than two years of training under their belts, they can pretty much ignore this post, but knowing the systems and methods makes us all more intelligent athletes in the long run. Beginning bodybuilders can normally continue their training unobstructed for a couple of years without the need for deloading. After two years, if you start to plateau, this is a method that should be used.
Even intermediate level bodybuilders do not need to follow the 3 to 1 rule. They can typically go 12 weeks on and 1 week of deloading all the way until they reach the 3 to 1 level. For intermediate bodybuilders, they should begin at a 12 to 1 level, then go to 10 to 1, then 8 – 1, 6 – 1, 4 -1 and finally 3 – 1. This is a method that has been proved to have worked with many an athlete.
As far as what the workload should be on deload week, I would suggest a reduction of 30-40% of training volume during the deload week. If you are performing 20 sets during back day, switch it to 12 sets (40% of 20). For the more intense compound lifts like bench presses, dead lifts, squats, military presses, etc., I would suggest doing 2 sets of 5 reps.
Another option for the big lifts is to remove them for your workout during deload week. Some bodybuilders will not go that far as they feel outside of their comfort zone missing squats for a full week, but your central nervous system could use the break, so that is not entirely a bad idea. Deload week offers your central nervous system a well needed break.
As far as older lifters go (myself included), people over the age of 35 should really think about taking a week off every 12 weeks. Some would suggest a shorter span of something like 8 weeks before taking a break for a week. This ends up being a great time to catch up on some light cardio work, so take the time to go hiking, walking, swimming, etc., but do not lift.