To deload or not to deload? That is the question. Men’s Fitness defines a deload as “a period of time in which you take things easier in the gym by lifting lighter weights or reducing your training volume.”
The topic of deloading has been and will continue to be of debate in the fitness world. While some think deloading is a waste of time, or unnecessary, there are many reasons why you may want to take a week to switch up your routine and let your body experience some different types of training. And honestly, what’s the harm? According to Men’s Fitness, even if your body doesn’t absolutely need to deload, it’s a good idea.
The typical timeline formula for a deload has not changed much: “Three weeks hard, one week deload is my standard go-to-recommendation,” according to trainer Jason Ferruggia.
However, there are many different ways to go about the actual process of picking out workouts that work well for you during your deload. The reality is that everyone is different, and everyone’s bodies recover and react differently, so the best thing to do at first may be to try different options. One recommendation from Ferruggia is to cut the intensity of weight by 20% to 40% and keep the same reps.
Still others prefer to cut heavy lifting entirely or take an entire week off. By testing a few different methods it will help predict what your body best reacts to. The amount of time off also is dependent on your intensity and purpose for working out in the first place.
Of course, if you really don’t want to make your strength training program longer by adding a full week of deload, there are also other ways to maximize recovery focusing on what you do outside of the gym, while maintaining your routines. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, proper recovery and avoiding overtraining comes down to the number of days you exercise, the amount of sleep you get, and making sure that you get “enough calories and protein to support your goal.”
We rounded out five exercises to do during your deload week, that will allow your body to rest, but not take you too far out of your routine. The exercises are a great way to maintain muscle, while placing less strain on your body, by utilizing less weight. The routine can be tailored to your personal needs through the amount of weight that you use for each exercise.
Remember that during a deload it is normal to cut intensity of weight by 20% to 40%. Another key is to use your deload week to focus on your form and perfect some of the exercises that are building blocks to your strength routines.
1. German Volume Dumbbell Bench Press
Aim for: 10 reps; 10 sets; 60 seconds of rest
Form is key with this exercise. When done properly, it can be a great exercise to maintain muscle while on a rest week. The goal of the German Volume Training is to complete 10 sets of 10 reps with the same weight for each exercise, according to Bodybuilding.com. Usually, you would want to complete this with around 60% of your max. Following deloading guidelines, a lighter weight is key to this exercise — try 40% of your max.
2. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Aim for: 10 reps; 3 sets; 120 seconds of rest
A military press is a great way to take the strain off your legs, and focus on your shoulders. Make sure your back is touching the bench and that you exhale as you press the dumbbells overhead. According to Bodybuilding.com, the military press is one of the basics for building strong delts. By adding this to your deload week, and working through this exercise with lighter weight than you normally would, it allows you to focus on perfecting the movement, and targeting specific muscle groups.
3. One Arm Dumbbell Row
Aim for: 10 reps (each arm); 3 sets; 120 seconds of rest
Once again the key to this exercise is form. According to Muscle & Strength, the key is to keep your head and eyes up and forward, pull back your shoulder blades, keep your elbow tucked in, and focus on using your back muscles rather than your forearm. Utilizing this exercise during deload will allow you to once again focus on the movement, rather than just trying to pull up big weight.
4. Dumbbell Curls
Aim for: 10 reps (each arm); 3 sets; 90 seconds of rest
Once again, use this opportunity to grab the smaller dumbbells but focus completely on your form, keeping your back straight and not swinging your arms. Curls are the building blocks to strength and they can continue to be a focus even during deload.
5. Dumbbell Tri Extensions
Aim for: 8 reps; 3 sets; 90 seconds of rest
These can be done either lying down or standing up. Focusing on form is key, and this according to Bodybuilding.com, is an exercise that can cause injury if too much weight is used. This exercise targets triceps and allows you to utilize your deload to focus on specific areas that may get overlooked or need some extra work.