Yo! In part one of the blog, we went through just how important calories are, the role they play in weight loss and weight gain & exactly why there is no such thing as a good or a bad food. You can find part 1 RIGHT HERE.
Part 2 explored why cheat meals are rubbish, the supplements that are actually worth spending money on as well as why you might actually want to reconsider being lean ALL THE TIME. Yep – you read that right. Part 2 is RIGHT HERE.
Part 3 then took you through why fasted cardio is irrelevant & why training one muscle group per workout probably means you’re leaving gains on the table. Check that one out RIGHT HERE.
Part 4? That was all about the right rep ranges, some of the best exercises you should probably consider having in your routine & why brown carbs aren’t necessarily better than white ones – which is why you should eat what you prefer for the most part. That can be read RIGHT HERE.
Then, in part 5, we went through some of the reasons you don’t actually have to do cardio in order to burn fat or get leaner, why making slow progress is absolutely the best progress & also touched on why training volume is arguably the single most important factor when it comes to building and maintaining muscle mass. Read that HERE.
This time around, busting another couple of myths. The idea that deloads are unnecessary & that training to failure all the time is a good idea. It isn’t.
1. Failure is Overrated
Two weeks ago, we talked about volume. I mentioned that beasting yourself every workout isn’t the answer, so, where does failure fit in?
Most guys who set out with the intention of getting ‘big’, decide they need to go to failure almost every single set.
Whilst it is true that failure does cause a lot of muscle damage, and muscle damage is one component of hypertrophy, it certainly isn’t the only one. In fact, we have just established that volume is the primary factor. So, is there even a place for failure at all?
The answer is yes, but it is probably less important than you think.
See, whilst failure may be good for pushing yourself to your limits, and for breaking down muscle fibers so they rebuild and grow, it is also highly demanding.
Not only do you risk injuries from training to failure (think about stretching a rubber band over and over again until it snaps, plus, potentially bad form to go with that), it is also majorly stressful on your central nervous system. If you go to failure often enough, you risk over-reaching and hitting strength plateaus. Your body essentially fights back, and down-regulates other systems, which can lead to you becoming sick, picking up strains, sprains and tweaks.
My golden rule is that in the gym, it is always wise to stop 1 to 3 reps away from failure on your big moves like squats, deadlifts and bench presses. For isolation moves such as; bicep curls, calf raises, pushdowns etc. it is ok to go to failure on your last set.
However, by failure we are talking the point where you could not do another good quality rep, not the point where you’re contorting your face into a million different shapes, vigorously humping the air to finish the rep, and looking like you are trying with all your might not to let out the mother of all farts.
If you get to this point, you probably should have stopped at least 3 reps prior.
1. Deloads Aren’t for Wimps
If you think you don’t need rest weeks, think again.
I mentioned deloads earlier, so let’s chat about them here.
A deload lasts anywhere from a couple of workouts, to a couple of weeks, and is essentially a planned period of lighter activity.
Just to be clear, it isn’t a complete break from the weights- it is a reduction in intensity, frequency and ultimately - volume - to allow your body to recover.
So many people are afraid of deloading because they are scared they will lose their gains and muscle will disappear. I can assure you, this won’t happen.
As much as we like to think we are pretty hardcore 24/7, our bodies like downtime. Actually, you’re far better off planning in your downtime with training, rather than waiting until you get too beat up and tired to have an effective workout and either getting sick or injured.
The frequency at which you deload, and how you deload, is dependent on a few factors.
The more experienced you are, the more often deloads are needed. This is because you’ll be stronger, and handling heavier weights, creating more stress for your body.
The same thing goes for powerlifters over bodybuilders. While both train hard, powerlifters are going to be lifting closer to their 1-rep max more often, and this is draining on the CNS, which necessitates more frequent deloads.
At the end of the day, when you deload is kind of up to you, but, be smart about it. If you have a bad workout, that is one thing- if you start having them more frequently, or you feel injuries coming on, it’s probably time to wise up and take a deload.
For most people, that means once every 4 to 8 weeks.
The way I like my clients to deload is to take a week (this can be as little as 3 days though, and as long as 2 weeks if, for instance, you’ve just competed in a powerlifting meet), and lower your total volume by around 30-50%.
This can be done by lowering your weights, reducing your sets and reps, or a combination.
In fact, let’s use the example from earlier. If your normal weekly squat workouts were-
Session 1 - 5 sets of 3 at 125kg
Session 2 - 3 sets of 8 at 95kg
Then for your deload, you might do -
Session 1 - 3 sets of 2 at 100kg
Session 2 - 2 sets of 6 reps at 60kg
Will this make you lose muscle mass and strength?
Hell no. You are still practicing your lifts, but you’re allowing your body some much-needed recovery, which will absolutely, 100% guaranteed make you stronger in the long-run.
While we want volume to consistently increase over time, think about incorporating your deload volume into that equation, so from one block to another, inclusive of a deload week, total training volume should be increasing. Do not think of a deload as a huge reduction in volume from one week to the next, as ultimately, it will allow you to get through even more in time.
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