0 comments / Posted on by Clint Hartley

Just skip your deload/contrast week… said no smart person ever

It has been a big 3 weeks at Hybrid and there are some very sore and tired bodies walking around.  Our members have been asking a lot of questions regarding how they feel and what they are experiencing during this week.

So I’m here to shed a little light on the subject.

But first, lets start with the basics.

What is a Deload/contrast week and why do we need it?

Put simply, a deload/contrast week is a planned period of recovery in a training program.  This is usually a 7 day period every 3-6 weeks, depending on the training program and if you wish to stay uninjured, is a requirement.
Through a decrease in training volume and more focus on recovery techniques (stretching, massage, active recovery etc) this allows the body, joints and central nervous system to come back to normality and give the green light to increase volume once again.

Symptoms during deload/contrast week?

Assuming you are hitting enough volume/work in your programming before you deload, your body will be carrying the most fatigue at this point in time.

As such there are things to expect once in that state.

I compare the feeling just before and even during deload week to that feeling you have just before getting sick with common cold.

  1. Feeling rundown
  2. Feeling weak
  3. Suppression of appetite
  4. Changes in mood
  5. Bad food cravings
  6. Trouble getting uninterrupted sleep

But, do not fear, these feelings are only temporary, as your stress hormone Cortisol is at its highest at this point.

In my experience, I start to feel the negative effects listed above toward the end of my final heavy training week until about half way through my deload week.

Then, as if magically, my mood, sleep patterns, joint/ body soreness as well as appetite all come back to normality towards the end of my deload week and am ready to restart the training cycle again.

Methods of deload/contrast?

A deload by definition is basically “less work” than your heavy training weeks.  Yes, that’s right, less work, not no work.  This is not an opportunity to become a couch potato and eat junk food.

So in saying that, there are a variety of ways to deload that will not set your training back, but to the contrary, help you perform much better in your next training cycle, by freshening up and working harder on technique or weaker areas.

Reducing Load

In this method, the programming stays the same but all loads are pulled down to 50-60% of the heaviest week to give the body a rest. Allowing you to clean up your reps and work better technique for all sets..

Reducing Sets/Reps

If you enjoy training heavier and are trying to deload, then it is an option to cut the reps/sets down, which will allow the loading to stay much the same. This also gives opportunity to practice main lifts under slightly heavier load to increase technique and confidence under the bar.

For example, instead of doing 5x5 Deadlift @100kg, you’ll do 3x3 reps at 100kg.

Main Lift or Accessories?

In this method, we still keep the loading/sets/reps the same but choose only half of the session to complete.

You can either choose to complete the main lift (building to 1 top set only) or the accessory work. Dropping one of these lowers the overall volume of the session by more than enough to deload, even though the loading is kept heavy.

So using your squat day for example, you may complete just your heavy squats, (building to 1 top set only) or simply complete your Gluteal, hamstring, ab work. Not both.


So there you have it- your deload week in a nutshell.   These lower volume weeks are essential for any athlete wanting to have a long lifting/ athletic career without injury.  These weeks will also increase training results by avoiding burnout in in the long term.

Remember, often the strongest athlete is simply the one that’s been able to train the longest without interruption.



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