In my block periodization article, I briefly touched on deloads and tapers. Today I will go into more detail on that topic. In the early stages of working out, trainees can typically progress in a linear fashion for a lengthy period of time; however, that will not be possible forever. If a trainee attempts to continually increase volume, with no breaks, fatigue will continue to build until it impedes performance as shown here:
The solution to this is to implement a deload or taper. These serve more-or-less the same function but there are differences.
Deloads are simply periods of training (one week in most cases) where volume and intensity are intentionally decreased. This allows the body to recover so that you can continue to increase overload, thus increasing "gainz". Unfortunately, when many people stall, their reaction is to think they need to add more weight and more sets, making the problem worse. I was guilty of this in the past as well.
An additional benefit of deloading is reducing the likelihood of injury. When exercising, bones and connective tissues are put under load as well as muscle. When fatigued, we increase our risk of injury. Deloads allow the body to recover, reducing the risk of injury.
NOTE: Remember, the point is to recover. The weights should feel fairly easy.
Let's assume you're following a double progression model. (The progression scheme shown below is example 1 from my progression article.)
(sets x reps x weight)
Session 1: 3x8x200
Session 2: 3x7x205
Session 3: 3x6x210
Session 4: 3x8x205
A good way to implement a deload would be to drop one set, decrease the load by 10-15 percent from the week prior, and use the bottom of the rep range, which would look like this:
Deload week: 2x6x180
Tapers are very similar to deloads and have the same basic goal; however, tapering is geared towards "peaking" for a max attempt or a powerlifting competition and takes place over multiple weeks (usually 1-4 weeks).
This example is for a powerlifting competition.
Two weeks out from the competition, add days where you are training all three main lifts, in competition order, if you aren't already. Use the 1-3 rep range with percentages you would normally use for 4-6 reps, 75-85%. Continue to perform accessory lifts but cut the number of sets by half. One week from contest day, work your way up to your contest opening weights for singles. Repeat this for week 2 of the taper; however, remove the second to last training session and the competition will take the place of your last session.
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