Deloading has a couple purposes:
1. To recover and prepare for the next training cycle.
2. To restore excitement about training.
Just taking a week off, doing light weight for lots of reps, doing light weight for few reps and any other scheme I tried just never worked for me. My first week back of a deload was always a slow grind to get back into it. Everything felt heavy and moved slow. My past few deloads have had the exact opposite effect. I’m excited to get back to training, my weights are all moving fast and even the higher percentage weights don’t feel as heavy as they should. Here are the rules I follow for my deload weeks now that have worked great:
1. Move FAST: all my deload training starts with, and sometimes only consist of, explosive movements. This primes the nervous system and gets it back on track.
2. Avoid Fatigue: I stop all my training sessions before fatigue becomes an issue and I take plenty of time between sets and exercises. I want whatever movements I’m doing to be fast and powerful.
3. Find Novelty: Aside from some staples like chins and dips I very rarely use any movements during my deload that I have been using during my training cycles. It may be a variation, but never the exact same exercise.
4. Experiment: I really like using the deload period to experiment with new exercises and exercise variations and see if they’re something I want to add into my training cycle.
5 Play: I do not under any circumstances plan any of my deload training. If I feel like grabbing my suspension trainer and hitting the playground at the local park I do it. If I feel like trying some new squat variation I do it. If I want to go play some basketball I do it. To much structure in your training can make it very monotonous and feel very restricted. Unstructured training/play gets you excited about getting back to the gym and a structured program.
6. Prioritize Restoration: Do some extra foam rolling, light cardio, stretching, and whatever other means you use to improve recovery. In the end this is a recovery week so treat it as such. Just make sure that your recovery is priming you for your next training cycle.
Now I admit that I have it easier than most since I work in a gym. My deload training could consist of up to 4 different “workouts” in a day that last anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Your’s however, does not need to be like mine in order to work. If hit the gym before or after work and only did some stuff that made you feel stronger and excited to be there then got out it would be a great session. What you actually do during your deload isn’t as important as the effect it has. If you get ready to head back into your training and you aren’t excited and ready about training then take some more time.
Now, there are some caveats to this approach. If you are really burned out then using explosive movements probably isn’t a good idea. Also don’t plan on taking just a 1 week deloading period either. The more burned out you are the longer it will take to recover from. If you get nervous about going to the gym, have no motivation, everything feels heavy and you have trouble finding the energy to train with out a massive dose of stims then you need more than a week off. Be smart and don’t push yourself past your ability to recover.