For someone who first began doing push-ups and crunches in the fourth grade because he thought it would make the girls like him more, I know all about plateaus. If you’re really into fitness or athletic training then you also know about plateaus. Since the day I began working out at home in the fourth grade, becoming a college athlete and now training on my own, I’ve experienced many different forms of plateaus. I’ve had lifting plateaus, cardiovascular plateaus, explosive training plateaus, or not physically looking the way I wanted to look. The human body has its limits, so it is important to understand that you will hit a plateau (your body’s limit) that you will never break. It’s impossible to keep on improving physically.
What if you feel like you haven’t hit your limit? Or you feel like you are in a workout funk? Maybe you constantly feel tired and weak in the gym, or your legs always feel heavy when you go for a run. When you begin feeling that way, chances are you’ve hit a plateau. We hit plateaus for many different reasons, if you’re a person trying to get stronger and increase your mass, then maybe you aren’t eating enough. What if you’re aiming for a new personal best in the mile and you keep hovering around the same time. You start thinking to yourself, I need to increase my workload. But maybe, just maybe you need to do the opposite, you need to lessen your workload for a week, or just stop all activities for a week.
“But.. but..but.. that’s counterproductive, I can’t possibly miss a whole weeks worth of training, it will completely set me back!” Uh no, it will only make you better. Our bodies accumulate wear and tear as we train, yes you are taking your 2-3 days off throughout the week, but you are doing that every week and your workload is either the same or increasing. The wear and tear continues and adds on. Your workouts begin suffering and you have no idea why, you believe you are doing everything properly. Diet? Check. Consistency? Check. But yet you’re still not improving.
When we take a deload week, it gives our bodies the much needed rest it deserves. Our bodies have a whole week to repair itself and get rid of fatigue. I take a deload week from all forms of training every eight weeks. I don’t like to be out the gym for a week, so my deload week consists of going to the gym and going extremely light in everything I do, I’m just there to put my body through the motions. For example instead of working my way up from 135lbs in the bench to 265lbs, I bench 95lbs for three sets of eight reps. Instead of running on the treadmill for my usual two-three miles a day at an eight minute pace, I walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes at a slight incline.
Not only does taking a deload week help physically, but it helps mentally as well. Personally for me training can be a mental grind after a while. After a deload week I’m very excited to hit the gym again. My absolute favorite part of returning from a deload week is improving on all my lifts, either I’m moving more weight, or my reps are a lot easier. My legs don’t feel as heavy and I’m running faster or my pacing feels better. I took a deload week from explosive training last week, so far my legs having felt much lighter the last two days and I can notice a clear improvement in my explosive power. In two weeks time I’ll take a deload week from both weightlifting and running, I usually take a deload week from all forms of training at once, however, I am currently testing out a new method to see how my body reacts. Make sure you take that deload week, rest up, and get ready to break some plateaus 😉.