Dave, I have been lifting hardcore for many years and have a pro total. How often should I deload?

- Mr. Hardcore Lifter

Dear Mr. Hardcore,

Here are a couple of things you should know:

1. If your program is solid you won't need a deload except before a meet. This is assuming you mean taking a light session in place of a heavy one.

2. This brings up the next point; if you are hardcore then you should be competing two to three times per year. Each time you will have a one week deload before the meet and another light week after. This is six weeks a year of deloading. Now if you factor in those days you have to back off due to muscle pulls and training partners who don't show up, you can add in another four weeks minimum.

This is 10 weeks over 70 days, not counting your normal days off right?

Keep in mind I didn't add in any vacations so it could be more.

Maybe you just need to get in better shape.

OK. I'm kind of joking. KIND OF...

Personally I would rather see four to six light weeks after a meet with no squats, pulls or barbell benches than programmed deloads.

Training for meets will beat lifters up. This is a fact. In my mind there's no way a few "light" days every few weeks is going to keep anyone from breaking down. In my own experience it just makes the next heavier workout even harder to do. Four to six weeks after a meet gives the body plenty of time to rest and recover from the trauma of the training and meet. Yes, you will get weaker in this time and it will take six to eight weeks to get your strength back up to begin another meet cycle, BUT you'll be healthy and ready instead of always beat up.

You can also just wait for the next major injury to happen - this can give you up to four to eight weeks off of a main lift (if surgery is required). This is how I did it. Maybe that's not the best idea...

Last note: If you really are Hardcore and have a Pro total, you know when you can push it and when you can't. Many times you can't trust how you feel until after you warm-up and start your work sets. What feels like a crappy day often ends up your best and what feels great warming up turns out to feel like a ton of bricks when you get to the work sets. You can and will learn how to make these calls the longer you train.

Here is an answer I provided a few years back that might help:

Dynamic Work

Because of the SPP of the sport it is best to keep the movements the same. These include the dead lift, bench press and squat. Since the movement stays the same, the loading patterns need to change. This is where you see all the different dynamic training cycles. We have two manuals detailing these for the squat, deadlift and bench press. Using many different cycles is very important for constant progress.

Average Cycle Length: 3-4 weeks
Deload: after one or two cycles

Max Effort Work

Because of the increased intensity (the load) needed to use this method the cycles are more limited. The GPP and experience of the lifter also limits the number of weeks one can use the same movement. The point is this movement may need to change every one to three weeks. There are several articles addressing the max effort work available at EFS.

Average Cycle Length: 1-3 weeks
Deload: every 3 to 6 weeks

Supplemental Work "Main"

These are the main movements you use to drive your lifts. These are different for everyone but could include 4-board presses, GHR, shoulder presses and so on. These will be the movement that you feel and know have a direct relationship with your three main lifts. It is very important to train the hell out of these movements so longer cycles can and should be used with higher rep ranges. These movements might cycle for 8-12 weeks. Remember that these are movements that you know can directly influence your main lifts. Choose these wisely!

Most lifters will keep these main movements in during the entire meet training phase. The key is to change the load, sets and reps in a direct attempt to make these lifts as strong as you can.

Average Cycle Length: 5-8 weeks
Deload: every 8 to 10 weeks

Supplemental "Hypertrophy" Work

These are the movements and methods that are used to build mass (if needed). These can change every session and to tear the body down as much as you can. This work should not be part of a pre-contest phase. Recovery is more important than mass at this time.

Average Cycle Length: N/A
Deload: every 6-8 weeks

Accessory Work "Prehab"

This is the crap you have to do to keep from getting beat up. This could be external rotator work, lower back work and so on. Usually higher reps are used with lower intensities so movement change doesn't have to happen that often. These shouldn't be too taxing. Remember that these movements are for prehab and are not supplemental work. So, you don’t have to have the same kind of RPE for these movements as you would for your max effort, dynamic or supplemental work.

Average Cycle Length: 8-12 weeks
Deload: every 8-12 weeks

Accessory "Stretching"

If needed, these movements will not change. But always be learning new ones if need be. I highly recommend the Parisi Warm-up Method DVD and the book Core Performance by Mark Verstegen to help you choose movements.

Average Cycle Length: N/A
Deload: N/A

As you can see everything changes at its own rate, but you also need to look at the interrelationships that are going on to determine what changes may need to take place. I ripped this off of the top of my head and with my two kids tearing into everything, so take the numbers for what they are (estimates). They will be different for everyone because we all have different recovery needs and training backgrounds.

Some abilities may be deloaded while others are being pounded. This should be the way most of the year goes. Before a meet or when worn down; a full blown deload should take place. A full blown deload will involve deloading all abilities.

This process will change based upon what sport you are involved in because of different types of skill based training.

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