The best way to unload

Why torture yourself with boredom of an easy week after a new personal record? Cut the volume, not the intensity, and by the beginning of the next training phase you will be stronger than ever!

Author: John Paul Catanzaro

A time-tested way to become stronger in the gym is to systematically approach the "peak of the form", which can be a new one-time maximum (1PM) or the maximum number of trainings. The training period can take from a few weeks to a couple of months, but having reached the top, for example, setting a new personal record in 5, you usually lose momentum before starting a new training program.

This transitional period is known as "unloading", "easy week" or "recovery week", and it usually lasts about a week. At this time, you continue to train, but with a working weight of not more than 60 percent of 1PM, depending on the type of training program.

For example, the training plan for bench presses may look like this:

  • Peak Week in Bench Press: 3 approach for 5 reps, the main approach with the weight of 125 kg, a new personal record in the set of 5 reps.

In theory, it makes sense to arrange a week of unloading at the end of the cycle to prepare, and to be more exact, to recover from the next training program, but I have always been against this concept. You go to the light weights at the end of the training cycle, then start with a light weight the next program. The new program already assumes the presence of a phase of unloading. So use this!

Based on personal experience I can say that the best choice is remodeling training, and not unloading. After reaching the peak of the power indicators, you need to reduce the load, it's true. But you need to reduce the volume, not the intensity. Here's how to do it.

Progressive overload, regressive sets

The concept is simple: start with more approaches and less stress, and then gradually increase your weight and reduce your approaches. At each workout or after one hang on the bar more pancakes and do one less in each exercise. Here's how the plan might look for our hypothetical bench press:

  • Start of the program: 6 working approaches for 5 reps in bench press, 115 kg.

When the number of approaches is 2 times less than the one from which you started, it's time to start a new training cycle.

This approach to planning the training process is very effective. It maintains a high level of efficiency, while reducing stress for the body and minimizing the risk of injury.

But even with all the advantages that this methodology gives, some lifters think that reducing the workouts at the end of the cycle will result in the volume of the load being insufficient for progress. They are mistaken.

The fact is that the training volume in this short program of reaching the peak of the form is higher than it seems. First, although the number of working approaches is gradually decreasing, the number of warm-up sets increases as the weight becomes heavier. You will need more warm-up approaches to prepare the nervous system and skeletal muscles for heavy exercise. As a result, the duration of the training will also increase.

Very often lifters extend the last approach or in some other way add extra volume on days with the most heavy workouts. A separate approach to the point of rejection does not seem a serious additive, but it significantly increases muscle tension and helps you to achieve a serious training load by the end of the workout. It is not surprising that some feel the need for a full-fledged week after such work beyond the bounds of the reasonable!

I suggest a better option: treat the peak of the form with respect. Keep to the planned number of repetitions, work with heavy weights and forget that the volume of the load decreases. Enjoy a new personal record, do not add extra approaches after you've given one hundred percent. And then, instead of being sour during an easy week with a small volume and low intensity, immediately go to a new training cycle.

The peak shape or cliff over the abyss?

I must say that in this concept there are pitfalls. If your exit plan for the peak shape is initially too aggressive, you are dooming yourself to failure. The process of progressive build-up of working scales to peak values ​​should occupy 3-4 weeks, or even more. If you reached the summit ahead of schedule, then you started off the bat! It is necessary to deserve the right to raise a lot of weight, having gained the necessary amount of qualitative load.

The key point is that you need to start with the correct weight, not too heavy, and not too easy, and then systematically progress at each workout until you reach the maximum. When this happens, start again with a new set of exercises. So you continue to send signals to the muscles that you need to get stronger, and not give them a two-week vacation, during which they will become weaker.

This technique brought the result to experienced representatives of power sports for many years. Make it work for yourself, and do not waste precious hours that you spend in the gym!


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