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Midweek Deload Days

Volume and intensity are undeniably important elements of high level training.

More of both is better. To a point.

If an athlete is doing nothing (or not enough), any increase in volume or intensity will result in improvement. The problem however, lies in the athlete who continues to layer more and more volume and intensity. Adding and never subtracting. Efficiency of training is not about adding more good stuff, it’s about taking away the bad stuff.

And so, we see high performing athletes adding more and more volume and intensity, and pretty soon the law of diminishing returns determines that more will not be better. In fact, once they approach the cliff of overtraining, more becomes worse – training becomes overtraining. We discuss flirting with this line in ‘Why you need to overtrain to be your best’.

So we need strategies to ensure that we’re maximising volume and intensity without spending all our time beyond the line of overtraining.

In ‘A Programming Template to Increase Training Volume While Minimising Overtraining‘ we discuss the concept of assigning each session type a value based on its effect on your neuromuscular system. We also introduce the idea of a Neuromuscular Fatigue Rating (NMF Rating): “…a rating of 1-4 is effective in categorising almost every session type. A NMF score of one is attributed to a session with low neuromuscular fatigue, while four indicates the highest level of neuromuscular fatigue… Using this rating system, we can plan waves of training, with a wave beginning with a high NMF load and reducing as the wave progresses. The session types with the highest NMF ratings are usually also those which you will elicit the greatest benefit from completing fresh – so this system works well.”

For example, a long slow aerobic row may have a low neuromuscular fatigue rating of one, while a high volume heavy barbell session would be a four.

So for athletes training with high volume and high intensity, a mid week (or whatever the length of your normal micro training cycle) deload day can be a smart strategy to still elicit the benefits of training while minimising the negatives. This is not a rest day. That’s not to say that a rest day isn’t important (it is). Your deload day should still see you train, but reduce the intensity (volume/weight/rate of perceived exertion etc) to allow recovery while still experiencing the benefits of training.

By adding together the NMF ratings of the sessions you complete every day, you can determine an accurate representation of the effect of that day’s training on your neuromuscular system. Putting a session with a low rating in the middle of your week is the ideal use of this system, and would look something like this:

Here are some practical guidelines for planning what to include and what to omit in your midweek deload day training:

Include:

  • Fast, light conditioning sessions.
  • Continuous cardiovascular/aerobic sessions.
  • Lower intensity barbell and bodyweight skill work.
  • Upper body strength work.
  • Gymnastics.
  • Swimming.
  • Low volume sprint, agility and plyometric work.

Omit:

  • Heavy or moderately weighted barbell conditioning sessions.
  • High volume bodyweight stamina sessions.
  • Heavy Olympic lifting.
  • Heavy (max effort) power lifting – particularly lower body. Dynamic effort speed work is ok.

For a lot of people, the natural rhythms and interruptions of life negate the need for deload days (as they occur without design). These people are not approaching the line of overtraining, and as such, mid week deload days aren’t necessary. YOU CAN’T DELOAD WHAT YOU HAVEN’T LOADED. For those athletes committed to improvement however, their single minded commitment can be both their biggest strength and their biggest risk.

This is a practical template that can be applied to training to ensure that the point of diminished returns is pushed as far to the right of the curve as possible. It allows higher volume of training while minimising the negative effects of this training.

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