De-loading: Who Needs It?


Cutting back on training tonnage (AKA De-Loading) is a great way to induce super compensation for an athlete. Specifically, individual sport athletes (Track and Field) or event based athletes (NFL Combine or Powerlifting). Both populations need to super compensate at the right time to optimize performance. However, the trickiest part of de-loading is deciding who needs it and who doesn’t need it…

As with anything involving specificity and individual programming, the best thing to do is keep it simple. For example, it is best use relative strength to determine if an athlete will require de-loading periods during a training cycle. If an athlete can execute large, multi-joint lifts at 110% of body weight or more, it can be said they have intermediate to high levels of relative strength. Therefore, the athlete will have the physical capacity to generate greater amounts of neurological and hormonal stress. In turn, these athletes will require carefully planned periods for recovery (i.e. de-loading).

The opposite can be said for a novice athlete who has little to no experience in the weight room and has below average relative strength. Typically, a novice athlete lifts around 50-90 percent of their body weight and has little to no experience in the weight room. However, there are some athletes that may have several years of training experience, but still have novice level relative strength (These athletes typically come from poorly executed strength and conditioning programs or are just poor athletes). With that being said, it is always best to rely on an athletes relative strength to determine if they will require de-loading periods, not experience in the weight room!

In some cases, a novice level athlete may take 6-12 months of quality training until they will require a de-loading period. For example, a young High School Track and Field athlete may have the elasticity to jump out of the gym, but lacks the ability to effectively develop tension and stabilize good position. In this case, his or her progress in the weight room will have a linear trend upward, but will not require a de-loading period for quite some time.