The concept of a deload week or recovery week may seem foreign to the hardcore fitness enthusiasts. There is a new overtraining craze in the fitness community and it could actually be costing you strength and lean muscle gains.
One popular Instagram Bodybuilding meme reads “Rest Day? Where is my rest muscle and how do I train it?”
Its easy to get carried away thinking you’re the next Arnold and should never take a day off. The truth however, is that incorporating a deload week or recovery week into your workout routine may be exactly what you need. A deload week or recovery week can rekindle your motivation and gain some serious progress towards your fitness goals.
I love working out more than anybody and go through stages of training just about every single day for an entire month. I also go through times where i feel burned out and lack motivation. I have found one of the best ways to combat overtraining and lack of motivation is a deload week or recovery week.
Both deloading and recovering for a week have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Its up to you to figure out which one works best for you and your current situation.
What is a Deload Week?
Simply put, a deload week is where you take it easy and cut back the intensity of your training sessions. You will train less frequently and your training sessions won’t be as long or intense.
Deload weeks are great to incorporate after long stretches of intense training. When you find yourself overtrained and lacking motivation, it may be time for a deload week.
So how does one go about a deload week? My rule of thumb is that I will workout at 50% intensity and duration. If i’m training 6 times a week for 90 minutes per session, my deload week will consist of 3 workouts at about 45 minutes.
Another rule I follow during a deload week is that I won’t lift until 100 percent maximum failure. I will keep my rep ranges in the 8-12 range and use about 50 percent of my 1 rep max. The whole concept of a deload week is you are letting your body rest and recover without losing momentum. So you don’t want to overdo it.
Many people have asked me, “why not just take an entire week off instead of a deload week?” If you find yourself really overtraining, you will find it beneficial to take an entire week off, but my personal opinion is that going from 6-7 training sessions a week to the entire week off is dangerous for momentum.
I would rather keep my momentum by still going to the gym a few days per week on my deload week. I usually find myself eager to start training at maximum intensity towards the end of the deload week anyway.
If you set up your deload week properly, you should feel recovered and motivated by the end of the week. There are certain situations where recovery weeks are more beneficial.
What is a Recovery Week?
Are you planning on taking an entire week off from the gym?! How is that going to help you build lean muscle mass and improve your physique? Surprisingly enough, many of the top fitness models and bodybuilders utilize the concept of a recovery week.
A recovery week means that you are taking an entire week off from physical activity. No weight lifting, no cardio, and no taxing activities on your body.
This is best utilized after a long stretch of intense training or competition. Many bodybuilders and physique athletes will take a week off following a competition.
The average fitness enthusiast may find it beneficial to take a week off after following a hardcore 2 or 3 month weight training program.
Lifting weights and training to build muscle and burn fat is very taxing on your body. You may find that you hit a plateau very easily if you don’t take time off from the gym every few months. Are you overtraining your muscles?
Recovery weeks are great for people who are competing professionally and endure hardcore training for months on end. They can also be great for beginners whose body needs the extra time to adjust to the new forms of physical stress being placed on it. Lastly, they are great to plan during a vacation and just need some time off to enjoy life!
Which One Should You Choose?
My personal preference is a deload week over a recovery week because I am an advocate on momentum and tend to freak out a little if I don’t train for 7 straight days. I find that if I spend too long away from the gym, it will be hard to regain that momentum. Keep in mind, I’ve been training professionally for years, so my body is used to the punishment I throw at it in the gym.
If you are a beginner and find that your body is really sore 8-12 weeks into your workout routine, you may benefit more from a full recovery week.
I personally know a few pro bodybuilders and fitness models that like to incorporate an entire week off following a competition. One of the best strategies for recovery weeks I’ve found is to take a vacation while you recover. It helps take your mind off the gym and live a little. I actually tried a recovery week while I was on a vacation to Barbados and I absolutely loved it! I came back to the gym feeling motivated and refreshed.
If you’re new to recovery and deload weeks, I recommend that you attempt a full recovery week first to see how you feel. As you gain more experience lifting on a consistent basis, you can step things up and do a deload week.
Which one have you found works best for you, a deload week or recovery week?