Are You Risking Overtraining?

Why should you implement a deload period rather than a rest period?

When it comes time to take a break from the gym, should you rest entirely for a while or should you continue going to the gym with a lighter training load? Before I answer this question, I’ll define a few terms.

A rest period is exactly what it means, it’s a time when you stay away from the gym. It works, but its only downside is that you’re not practicing the movements you’ve been training for weeks prior. The end goal is to get better at training, not avoid it altogether; rather, the goal is to train just enough to maintain your exercise motor patterns, but not too much to hinder recovery.

A deload is a period of training lasting 1 to 2 weeks where your training volume or intensity (or both) decreases by 40%. The reason for implementing a deload week is to manage any potential physical or neurological fatigue built up the weeks prior. If you’ve trained hard for quite some time (4+ weeks), you’ve probably noticed that your muscles feel achey and tight, it’s difficult to get a pump from any exercise, and your ability to contract and feel the target muscle groups drops significantly. These are all signs of overreaching. If you continue to train like this without a proper deload period, you will risk surpassing the overreaching phase and getting into overtraining.

Overtraining is similar to chronic sleep deprivation. Just as it takes the number of days spent in a sleep deprived state to recover, so too does it take the number of weeks spent training past chronic fatigue of reduced training load to recover properly. Knowing this beforehand, it is in your best interest to implement a deload period (1 week of reduced training volume and/or intensity for every 4 weeks of training and 2 weeks of reduced training volume and/or intensity for every 8 weeks of training). A deload allows you reduce the amount of overall time spent recovering, allowing you to return to higher training loads more quickly.

Most people find that implementing a deload period to be unnecessary at first, but realize later on that they’re immensely helpful, if not absolutely necessary. I recommend the deload period (as opposed to the rest period) because deloading allows you to stay in the gym, only to train at lighter loads. This allows you to improve your technique on exercises you were struggling with at heavier loads, thus translating to optimal muscular and neurological adapatations in the following weeks of training. Hope this helped!

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9068095