The main purpose of ‘de-loading’ is to steer clear of over-training. When you ramp up the training volume and intensity (load) over a longer period of time, you are bound to reach a Central Nervous System (CNS) threshold at some point. Transcending this threshold leads to a state of over-training, which is detrimental to both your recovery and your performance in many ways. We are not going to cover them all in this paragraph, but they include increased susceptibility to colds and other viral infections, declining strength, lowering of motivation, general lethargy and chronic muscle fatigue/soreness. This is not a state that promotes progress in any way and should be avoided, which is easily accomplished by periodizing your loading and de-loading in a conscientious way.
It is a very common misconception, that de-loading means lifting light weights (low intensity) for a longer period of time. De-loading rather refers to the lowering of the total load you have imposed on your CNS over time. As mentioned above, ‘load’ is (simplified) a function of volume (sets * reps) and intensity (resistance):
LOAD = Volume * Intensity
Thus, you can effectively lower the load by downregulating either volume or intensity (or both). The best strategy to adhere to in weightlifting and strength training in general, is to regulate the volume, rather than the intensity, which effectively relieves the load on your CNS, without deconditioning it totally. This strategy will leave your CNS recuperated and ready to fire, which is the reason many people go through a de-load phase conscientiously before attempting new PRs. If you are actually planning to compete, and not just looking to either PR or prepare for another program, we recommend that you purchase our 4-week Competition Prep cycle instead, which is more specific towards peaking.
So do not expect this bout to be all light weights and small talk. You will be operating at medium to high intensity, but under a significantly lower volume. You should, as usual, stick to the program and refrain from adding lots of other training volume, which would defeat the purpose of this de-load cycle. Don’t be an ant – think.
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