How To Continuously Get Stronger For Years & Years - Deloading
As of writing I filmed a Facebook live video this week (if you’re not over there - get on board!) on an area of training that is almost always overlooked. Mostly by novices and stubborn 'gym-bros' who want to look stronger and leaner yesterday.
This was definitely me a few years ago and until I truly learned this concept for myself, my gym progress would never have improved.
That concept is this; you cannot get stronger every single session.
To think that you can go into the gym and do this would be amazing. But unfortunately we all know that to be untrue. Otherwise we’d all have 500 kg deadlifts and be literally twice our size and strength in a matter of months.
It’s important to remember that you need to incorporate a lower taper day into your training plan. This is more commonly known as a ‘deload’ in the fitness industry, and I’ll explain how to do it in just a moment.
It’s quite simple really. There’s only so much stress your body can take before its ability to adapt to training becomes compromised. By temporarily deceasing volume (sets and reps) or total load on the bar or dumbbell, we can effectively dissipate fatigue in order to continuously get bigger and stronger.
Not only this, we prepare ourselves for the next phase of our training, as undoubtedly training volume, intensity or frequency will increase in order for us to become stronger and bigger.
Remember, in our training career in order to progress, the total volume will have to increase as you get better. This is known as the principle of progressive overload. As much as curling a pen over and over would be great for gains – we know this to not be the case. You need to lift a weight that is going to challenge you, e.g. 1-15 reps, for more and more weight.
As volume increases, fitness will go down and fatigue will rise. Performance decreases and we may stall on a certain exercise.
It’s at this stage you can either be the stubborn lifter who wants to push on, cause you know “No Pain No Gain.” Or, be the the guy that read this post and realised you need to deload before fitness and performance plummets any further.
Ultimately as we deload, we allow ourselves to recover, and thus, enable ourselves to lift more weight in subsequent sessions.
How to deload
In my experience, there are two super effective ways to deload your training.
1) Drop the load by 10%
If you are unable to complete your target sets and reps on an exercise for two sessions in a row, reduce the weight by 10% on that lift whilst still using the same sets and reps. This should make the lift feel ‘easy’ whilst allowing for effective recovery.
The next session you are scheduled to do that same exercise, return to the load you ‘failed’ on and attempt it again.
It will look something like this:
The trainee failed to complete all the reps and sets on weeks 2 and 3. Therefore week 4 weight is decreased by 10%. This was of course completed without a problem, and thus week 5 the trainee went back to their failed weight, and will pick up their training from where they left off.
2) Drop a set or reps
The way this works is that every 4-6 weeks you will either drop a set or 2 from the exercise or reduce total reps by 2 per set.
So if you had 5 sets of 5 reps on the squat, you would drop down to 3 sets of 5 reps, or, 5 sets of 3 reps in the next 4-6 weeks but continue to use the same weight you have been using. You keep pushing with the weight you have been using, but with less overall volume to allow for recovery.
This method is more relevant to those that have been lifting a longer time. See how you feel on the day and judge whether you feel you need to drop a couple of sets or a couple of reps.
Or if you are really feeling it, drop a set and a couple of reps per set.
A Third option
There is a third method - drop weight by 20-40% and keep sets and reps the same. However I'm not a fan.
When you decrease weight by 20-40% it can sometimes feel like you are having a ‘week off’ from the gym which is not how you should think of a deload week. It’s simply a time to reduce fatigue in order to progress with future gains.
By all means use the 20-40% method if you feel it will work for you – just remember that at these low loads you should be practicing speed and technique as much as possible. Because you have the luxury of a massively reduced weight to play around with, relative to your heavier weight.
Other things to consider
If you fail a weight, but on that same day you only got 3 hours sleep, drank 8 coffees to keep awake, partied all weekend and ate little to no fruits and vegetables, you may have other things to review in your life and need to decide whether your lifestyle played a part in the failed lift.
You should also consider a change in lifestyle if you want to take looking strong and lean seriously!
You don' t have to deload every single exercise. It's mainly used for compound movements like the squat, bench and deadlift, as these are the exercises that fatigue us the most. Feel free to use the same weight you've been using or bicep curls, unless you feel a deload is necessary for them.
Also I mentioned this above, but I’ll mention it again – a deload week is not an excuse to skip the gym and have a week off to go lay on the couch and watch Captain America: Civil War!
This should pretty much cover how to effectively keep progressing your strength gains for years to come. So get out there and become stronger and leaner!
For more progressive tips and advice head over to: