TL;DR – Every 4th week (maybe 6th if you’re just starting) slash your volume by half and lower your intensity to 55% of your 1RM for a full week. This will get rid of the built of fatigue.
The explanation here is pretty straightforward: throughout weeks of working out with heavy weights, your body is getting tired and accumulating fatigue. If you’re working out on any meaningful program and pushing yourself adequately then you should be gassed by the 4th week. When this occurs, you should have what is called a “deload” planned.
A deload is when you take a week of your normal workout schedule and essentially take the pressure off. This is done by severely limiting your intensity, in my case to about 55% of my 1RM, and cutting the volume in half (volume and intensity talked about here). I’ll give an example of my 3rd week for squats vs. the deload I take.
- Squat Main Sets: 225×5, 255×3, 275×1+ (last set is as many reps as possible, or AMRAP)
- Squat Volume sets: 5 sets of 145×10
- Chin-ups: 5 sets of 10
- Front Squats: 5 sets of 125×10
- Leg Curls: 5 sets of 60×10
- Leg Press: 5 Sets of 200×10
All of that added up to about 30,000lbs moved for the session, which means I had 30,000lbs of volume. Now let’s look at week 4.
- Squat Main Sets: 115×5, 145×5, 175×5 (not AMRAP)
- Squat volume sets: 2 Sets of 145×10
- Chin-ups: 2 sets of 10
- Front Squat: 2 sets of 125×10
- Leg Curls: 2 sets of 60×10
- Leg Press: 2 sets of 200×10
This session adds up to roughly 12,750lbs moved for the session. This is going to have two impacts, one mental and one physical.
- Physically speaking, my body is going to have time to repair this week. That knot in my calf from hitting PR’s on squat and deadlift last week? This is when I take care of that. The built up sluggishness from my muscles being constantly tired? Also gone. All this things are increased benefit for me due to also being on a cut.
- Mentally, this week is going to be boring. I’m going to lose my damn mind sitting around at home, building up energy, only to go into the gym and do almost nothing with it. By next Monday I’m not only going to be physically rested, but mentally I’m going to want to go in and dominate the lift because of how much energy I have balled up from doing next to nothing the week before. It sounds strange, but when you get used to pushing yourself and crushing old records, taking an entire week off doing that while still being in the gym feels like a frustrating joke. You will go back in there with every ounce of drive to knock the next lift out of the park.
There’s a lot more to talk about in regards to deloads and the nifty ways you can incorporate them, but it goes beyond the scope of this page. If you’re interested, check out this article. It’s 8600 words, estimated at 15-30 minute read time (for reference, this one is just barely hitting 500 now).