A de-load during a training program is a programmed period of time where a trainee will reduce training volume so as to increase recovery. Typically it would be used when the client is starting to dip into an overreaching period.
For example, client is in the fourth week of their training program and they notice that their training drive is gone, load is starting to regress, and they don’t feel that they are recovering.
A good plan of attack is to tell the client to either de-load, or remove approximately 40-60% of their volume in sets, or to take the week off. This doesn’t mean no activity. This means activity other than lifting heavy weights, such as swimming, walking, yoga, etc. This is also a great time to beast mode recovery, get massages, soft tissue treatment, sauna, etc.
Typically the week after this de-load, the client will come back stronger and hopefully will set personal bests. Extending the phase another week or two can be done, but my personal preference is to then switch to a new phase post de-load.
It’s a common recommendation to de-load every third workout. I have found this to vary among clients, and we will typically perform this somewhere between 3-5 weeks, if necessary. A multitude of factors can influence this, such as biological sex, nutrition, supplementation, training age, chronological age, level of strength, level of conditioning, and others.
De-loading is primarily used in heavy strength training such as maximal strength, relative/absolute strength, power, and sometimes during functional hypertrophy routines. At Muscle Nerds we will not typically use de-loading during hypertrophy or strength endurance phases as we find it’s not necessary.