What if I told you that doing much less in the gym could be the golden ticket to faster muscle growth? You will soon find out it is, and if you feel bad after reading this don’t worry as it took me 14 years to understand the importance of a proper deload week!
My Overtraining Story
I have always had a really obsessive personality, and come from the mindset that “more is always better.”
I think it came from the fact that when I used to train for basketball, I would practice shooting 4-5 hours a day at 10 years old! That is probably why I could consistently hit 15+ out of every 25 three pointers in practice.
When it comes to bodybuilding, I've adapted a similar work ethic and have tried some pretty crazy overtraining bodybuilding experiments.
One a few occasions I've attempted to train a muscle group every single day for 30 days straight. The results have been mixed. It worked well on my calves, but after that initial growth - I began to see diminishing returns because my muscles were over sensitized to the stimulus.
When you over train a muscle group you quickly learn that your body is a machine and will adapt to whatever stress you put on it.
After a while however if you are training a muscle everyday, you get to the point of diminishing returns because your muscle is so adapted to the current stimulus you need to do something even crazier.
When you are training everyday as hard as you can already, what more can you do?
This is when serious injury or overtraining can occur. Recently I've been getting smarter with my training and have been incorporating the power of a proper deload week.
I believe that a deload week once every 3 months is now essential to a good workout program and has a ton of performance related benefits that will instantly speed up your muscle gains! In fact all the Superhuman program members are encouraged to take a de-load week after finishing any of the 12 week programs.
Many take a de-load week after even 1 month of training, and if your goal is 100% strength related I actually recommend it. Nonetheless there are some serious performance boosting benefits to a deload week.
3 Deload week performance boosting benefits
#1 Increased strength and muscle growth
When you go back to your normal training after desensitizing the muscle again you will be able to reach a higher level of intensity, and your body will instantly adapt and grow from the increased training intensity and volume you can place your muscles under when they are 100% healthy.
Another cool benefit is that you will typically get stronger on your compound lifts like squats, bench, overhead press and deadlift after going hard for 3 weeks, and then taking a 1 week deload. I almost always come back on that 1st workout after my deload week 5-10 lbs stronger, which is an awesome feeling.
#2 Bigger pumps
Overtraining leads to low muscle glycogen. This means your pumps suffer and this prevents you from maximizing metabolic stress during your workouts as well!
The best muscle building workouts you will ever have are going to happen directly after a deload week. Your patience will be rewarded with bigger muscle pumps which will mean bigger muscle gains.
#3 Increased motivation
Nothing is better than coming back after a deload week and being more motivated than ever. During my deload week I like to think about “how light” the weights feel and visualize myself hitting new PR’s the next training week.
So let’s talk about what your deload week should look like…
If you love training like myself I recommend that you keep your normal training volume as in sets and reps about the same, but the big difference is that you will drop the weight in half. Let’s say that you normally do working sets at 80-90% of your 1 rep max for sets in the 6-12 rep range.
During a deload week I will lift at about 40% of my 1 rep max and will obviously not train anywhere close till failure. The point of a deload week is don’t over stimulate, just get a light pump and focus on your form.
This is the best time ever to just stop and think about your form and the mechanics on every lift. Use this as a valuable tool to not only go back to your normal training fully recovered and with more strength and intensity, but also with better form which will result in more hypertrophy.