Rest and Improve: Part 2: Deloading for Crossfitters

Rest and Improve: Part 2: Deloading for Crossfitters

In Part 1 we discussed supercompensation and how it relates to being a fitness machine.  This time we’ll talk about something called “deload” or” backoff” weeks.  This is something I’ve been using since I first learned about it from Jack Reape in this article back in 2005.

To recap on Part 1, we want to use planned resting to our advantage in order to improve our performance and decrease our risk of getting injured.  Take a look at the diagram below.

Now, the squiggled line represents and athlete’s performance (The higher the line, the better the performance).  See how each cycle has multiple training sessions (represented by dips on the line).  Each session ends up bringing the athlete’s performance lower and lower towards the end of the cycle due to a lack of recovery time before the next training session.  However, at the very end of each cycle performance increases dramatically back above their baseline due to the recovery time.  Over each cycle our athlete gets progressively better.

This is where a planned deload comes into place.  In the diagram above, if each cycle represented a 4 week training cycle the deload would be the last week of the 4 week cycle.  The deload is meant to be a time where the body recovers and supercompensation occurs.  It isn’t complete recovery, although sometimes taking a full week off from training is definitely warranted and can work wonders for strength, mental health, injury prevention and rehabilitation.

So how can we work this into our crossfit routine?

Well it can be done in a number of ways, every 4th week you could:

  • Train fewer days per week, or substitute training days for  stretching and foam rolling days.
  • Shorten training sessions.
  • Make met-con work less stressful by shortening the time, increasing rest periods, lightening weights or eliminating met-con work altogether.
  • Replace met-con work with skill work or straight sets.
  • Lighten the weights or decrease the difficulty of strength work
  • Replace max effort work with speed work, or eliminate max effort work altogether
  • Take off completely

You could use any combination or all of the above ideas.

Deloading is also great to allow the body to heal and recover.  It allows nagging injuries to heal so they don’t become something more serious.  For someone who is always dealing with shoulder pain some modifications on your deload week could be to:

  • Avoid all overhead pressing, kipping and snatch work
  • Replace pressing movements with rowing movements
  • Add extra scap stability and rotator cuff exercises into your program

A deload week for someone with knee issues:

  • Avoid squatting, lunges and pistols
  • Replace quad dominant exercises like squats and lunges with hip dominant movements like deadlifts and single leg deadlifts.
  • Replace full squat olympic lift variations with power variations

A deload week for someone with lower back issues.

  • Avoid deadlifting and squatting movements
  • Replace deadlifts and squats with lunges and other single leg lower body exercise variations that give a strong training effect without stressing the lumbar spine as much.
  • Add extra core stability exercises into your program

Right now I’m training 5 days per week.  I have some issues with my shoulders and knees from time to time.  Right now my deload looks like this:

  • Training 3 days per week instead of 5, and replacing those 2 days with extra mobility and foam rolling work.
  • Eliminating all overhead pressing and Bench Pressing
  • No Max Effort Deadlifting or Squatting – to keep my lower back and knees fresh and injury free
  • Replace full olympic lifting variations with power variations
  • Replace pressing movements with Recline Ring Rows

My body heals as I improve.

A deload is also excellent because it gives your mind a rest from training.  I’ll even skip a training day to go for a bike ride or something that’s fun and refreshing.  This can help remind you how much fun exercise really is.  At the start of a deload week I’m usually feeling pretty run down, tired and don’t feel like training from the difficult 3 weeks prior.  By the end of the deload I’m starting to feel energized and hungry to train again.

Your deload should also reflect what’s going on in your life.  If you’re extra stressed, not sleeping and eating well, your training program and deload should reflect this.  Your body doesn’t always understand the difference between stress from training hard and stress from work/relationships/poor sleep and nutrition.  Don’t push back when your body is tired.  Let it rest.  Otherwise your body may retaliate against you with an injury.

Give it a go guys and let me know what you think.  Do you have anything you enjoy doing during a deload?

Deload = Bigger Deadlift,

Dan

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