It seems every day there is a ‘new’ workout routine promising results on any fitness magazine cover or website. You know what I am talking about, those attention-grabbing headlines about building muscle, losing fat, or a quick fix to achieve your fitness goals. There isn’t anything bad about reading the articles like, “Doing these 3 exercises will tone your biceps” (the muscle itself does not tone… but I will save that for a future blog post), or “The 12-week plan to build mass.” Some of the articles may have information or a program that can help you reach your goals. There is an abundance of articles about working out, and pushing yourself to do more work, but there is rarely an article about proper recovery.
It is simple, recovery is not a flashy word like hypertrophy, a term that means building muscle, or shredded, a fat loss term. Recovery can be a forgotten aspect in many programs. Asking people around a gym when their last de-load week was from lifting weight or doing cardio and some will look like they are puzzled by the question. A de-load week doesn’t get the love or mass appreciation as the gym, it is however every bit as important as working out.
You may be wondering, “what in the world is a de-load week?” A de-load week consists of taking a step back, focusing on form because the weight and intensity will be less than a normal week at the gym. Most people will keep their sets and reps the same, but cut the weight in half by 50%. Lifting weights puts a tremendous amount of stress on your muscles, joints and bodily systems. Everyone has a breaking point where the amount of stress on their body gets to a point where it wont be able to keep up. All of the hard work they are dong in the gym can be taken away by an injury. We are all different, but we all have something in common and it is being human. We are not machines and we need rest, specifically in fitness, we need a chance to regather our mental sharpness while also avoiding injury. The most common way to use a de-load week in a program is after four weeks of work, so the fifth week would be a de-load week.
So, what do I do? I take my de-load week every four to six weeks. It depends on the program, the term, “listen to your body” really comes in play here. If I start to notice symptoms of a diminished recovery I may take my de-load week early. At the same time my body may tell me that I feel 100% and I could push my de-load week back by a week.
I always love to see clients make progress, seeing their faces when they are excited to tell me the positive news is what makes this job so rewarding. As coaches we sometimes see the other side as well, the frustration of the client when they are not reaching their goals. As we re-read and obsess over past programming and what we could have done better to help our client, maybe it is something we did not program. Maybe some extra rest after a hardcore program is in order?
Overtraining and overreaching. There is a fine line between the two terms, overreaching can help you reap the benefits, but overtraining will turn would be benefits to negative consequences. Overreaching is when you are pushing the limits of your body and for a limited amount of time you get the benefit of the extra work or intensity. Until you reach overtraining. When you over train you might feel like you have no energy, lose motivation, keep getting sick or constantly sore after every workout. Being sore all the time is a common misconception that you had a great workout. If that is the case there is something wrong with your programming or recovery, perfect time for a de-load week.
Listen to your body and see if it is in need for a de-load week!