Trap Bar Deadlifts: The Best of Two Kings – by Ben Coker

Often around the gym you will hear guys sneering at someone who is performing a trap bar deadlift.

‘Its not a real deadlift’, ‘Its just an easy deadlift’ or ‘be a man and use a straight bar’ are common comments thrown around gyms born simply out of ignorance.

Here’s my viewpoint on trap bar deadlifts…I love them. I think its a fantastic exercise. They are a staple in my training and should be viewed as much a mass and strength builder as squats and regular deadlifts.

There seems to be plenty of mass and strength here...

Now before people start losing the plot here, I want to make a few things clear. I DO love squats and regular deadlifts. They are great mass and strength builders and should be stables in any serious strength/hypertrophy programme. Also the specifics of squatting and deadlifting are important for many athletes such as powerlifters, Olympic lifters and strongmen and so they need to be practiced most definitely by such athletes.

The point I am highlighting is that most athletes don’t. The trap bar deadlift offers them the benefits of both the squat and the regular deadlift in one exercise but without any of the negative aspects of the two conventional lifts.

The trap bar deadlift puts the lower body in the same basic position as in a squat. When performing trap bar deadlifts you step inside the bar as opposed to having the bar in front of your shins (in a regular deadlift) or on your back (if you were squatting).

This puts the load more in line with you centre of gravity. This reduces the strain or sheer force on the lower back when compared to a regular deadlift. This is an important point for people who want protect their low back as much as possible especially those coming back from injury or with chronic low back issues, or simply athletes whose spines take a beating as it is in their sport without adding even more in training.

If we were squatting the bar would be up on the shoulders yet in trap bar deadlifts despite being in the squat position the load is not resting on your spine but actually disrupted across the shoulder girdle. As a result there is less compressive force through the spine and thus less stress on body/CNS when compared to if we were performing regular squats.

Trap bar deadlifts also allow you to completely control the entire eccentric phase of the lift as a result of the line of pull being more in line with your centre of gravity. The eccentric phase is a crucial component of a rep in terms of producing hypertrophy and the trap bar deadlift allows you to maximise its benefits.

In a regular deadlift due to the positioning of the knees and the path of the bar a complete controlled eccentric is not possible. The bar either travels horizontally away from you and your centre of gravity to get around the knees putting your body in a suboptimal position which can obviously result in injury or the weight is simply dropped back to the floor.

As mentioned earlier this is not a message to say stop deadlifting and squatting. Hell no! Indeed the extra strain they put on you (if used sensibly) works wonders on hormone responses to training and muscular development. Its also key for athletes that needs to perform regular deadlifts and squats in competition to use them in training! But even here the trap bar deadlifts can be used to increase frequency of leg training and to spare the low back. If you are an athlete or weekend warrior looking to build mass and strength and save you low back wherever possible the trap bar deadlift is for you.

Wrap up

The trap bar deadlift offers the  benefits of squat leg development and the benefits of deadlifting upper back, trapezius and forearm development. Not only this, they also reduces stress on the body (recovery is quicker and there is less stress on immune system) and the potential for injury is reduced.

Any athlete (or regular trainer) looking to spare their low back in training to allow optimal performance in competition should seriously consider trap bar deadlifts as their leg exercise of choice.

5 reasons for the success of my hypertrophy phase – by Ben Coker

Well the beloved bulking phase has passed for me and I am now 2 weeks into a mild trim. Looking back on the months since Christmas in which I put on 11kg, I reflected on the things that contributed to my success. My previous articles on the mistakes of bulking 1 and 2 went a long way in keeping me on the road to success but this article explains 5 more personal reasons.

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1) I set quantifiable, challenging but realistic goals.

For me I had two post-its on my wall; one saying 150kg for 10reps = 170kg and the other 114.3 kg / 18stone, both surrounded by inspiring quotes I hold close.

The first refers to benching 150kg for 10 reps which should equate to a 1rm of 170kg + by the end of my bulk. The second refers to the body wight I wanted to achieve by the end of my bulk.

These notes were glaring at me every time I sat in my room, there was no escape. I had held myself accountable. Looking back those notes where instrumental in me smashing both targets.

I feel that simply entering a bulk phase with the notion of ‘I want to be bigger and or stronger’ will undoubtedly lead to poor or sub optimal results. Have a fixed finish point and make it visible to you everyday as a reminder to yourself; are you doing everything you can to reach your best?

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2) I built my calories up slowly but ultimately if I wasn’t eating when I felt I shouldn’t have then I was stunting my growth.

A recent article about leaving something in the toolbox applies here. When starting a bulk dont go over crazy on the food. Trust me simply by giving your body as little as 500kcal extra a day from its maintenance or dieted levels it has been on between bulking phases is enough to make the body  put on muscle at impressive rates.

BUT here’s the twist. This rate of growth slows as you put on weight so you have to keep increasing your calories over the hypertrophy period to get that surplus of calories above your RMR!

And boy did they the calories have to go up!  Two thirds of the way through my bulk I plateaued. I wasn’t eating enough, but surely 6000kcal a day was enough?

‘Obviously not you idiot’ I told myself.

I went and revised my list on the mistakes of bulking and all boxes were checked barring the fact I wasn’t eating when I felt I shouldn’t!

So up went the calories to 7000kcal and even 8000kcal on some days. What happened? From being stuck at around 110-112kg bodyweight I flew up to 114kg then continue up until 116kg.

So build up those calories conservatively but keep building them up! Don’t fear fat gain as long as your building muscle as fast as humanly possible. There will be another time for you to ‘unveil’ your sculpture later…

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3) I walked everywhere

This one is so important especially when you get REAL heavy but also if you put on a decent level of mass in a relatively short period of time. Last weeks article also touched on it.

By walking everywhere everyday you body doesn’t notice the effects of the extra mass gradually being put on. You feel lighter on your feet, and your cardio-respiratory systems are much better adapt to cope with the larger mass.

Honesty call, I love being big but even to me an out of breath mass monster don’t look (or feel) too good! Everyone should be able to walk briskly for at least an hour whilst still holding a conversation. And I’m glad to say that despite impressive gains in muscle mass I don’t feel ‘burdened’ with the extra weight.

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4) Adapt to setbacks: I got outside the bodybuilding world and fell in love with a sled

At one point my knee was playing up a bit and so I sought different ways to hit my legs. Pulling a sled caused no pain in my knee and so there was the answer.

If I’m stuck with this I thought then I may as well load the thing up to the max and put a lot of work through my legs. 4 weeks of puke inducing sled training and my legs grew by an inch.

A slap in the face reminder that different is good sometimes, even for a bodybuilder. Any bodybuilder would settle for an inch on their legs but for me the benefits went further. Since quitting rugby some time ago I had not run for years. Despite my strength I was now slower and struggled to sprint under my new weight.

The sled training got me right back on track; my legs were not only bigger now but their power had also been increased. I was now functional again despite being kilos heavier and I loved it! I also enjoyed the sensation of high intensity cardio believe it or not. It made me feel healthier and that’s priceless when piling on size.

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5) Deadlift, Deadlift, Deadlift.

I have had issues with my low back for a while and have spent a long time rehabbing and tentatively dabbling in deadlifting again in the process of recovery. But by this bulk phase I was ready to hit them in ernest. I knew deadlifts were the missing link to gorilla muscle, and gorilla muscle was what I wanted.

Gorilla muscle: built by deadlifts.

So I deadlifted and deadlifted a lot. Not always super heavy but I made a point to work hard on form and intensity. Some days I did heavy singles, some days sets of 5 and some days I even did super volume on them like 10×10 or sets of 30reps at 1.5 x bodyweight.

The results of fanatical deadlifting?. My low back and core is now a whole lot stronger and my discs far more protected. A movement that had crippled me even to think of, I now loved. My legs ballooned. My back got super thick. Oh and finally all my other lifts sored up and as a result all their relevant muscle groups grew in a crazy fashion.

The deadlift is the king at building the whole body as the whole body is used. This hypertrophy phases owes a lot of its success to the fact that in it I could for the first time deadlift pain free.  I took full advantage and the scales and measurements went through the roof as a result.

GVT for Legs, Back and Shoulders – by Ben Coker

Are your back, leg and shoulder workouts leaving you lost on how to keep inducing hypertrophy? Are any of these body parts lagging behind? Or do you simply like a gruelling challenge of manliness? Enter German Volume Training.

German volume training offers a demanding workout in the simplest format. One exercise, 10 sets of 10 reps. This type of training provides a shock to the system to help break hypertrophy plateaus (through the sheer volume of mechanical stress and your body’s huge hormonal response) and offers a testing but refreshingly simple break from training monotony.
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Sure people might already know this BUT how many actually practice it?
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Here are some GVT training sessions for back, legs and shoulders that I use. They test your metal and officially declare you insane but they certainly let you know what your really made of. This type of training session should not be performed frequently as they can drain your body and CNS like nothing else, leaving you over trained. Used wisely though these sessions will inject impressive ‘boosts’ in your hypertrophy.

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In order of sanity:


10×10 Wide Grip Upright Row

This will provide you with the sensation of a thousand knives piercing your your shoulder girdle! But quite simply this volume will leave your shoulders and upper back looking like the Himalayas and will do wonders to your V taper.

Keep the rest low, 1min max and push through the burn. Don’t be a wimp as to be honest these are tame compared to the rest. (A note of caution, if you suffer from shoulder impingement this may not be a suitable choice due to the orientation of the shoulder joint in this movement).
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10×10 Wide Grip Pull Ups (no swinging or kips)

If you can do 10×10 wide pull ups its an impressive feat. Heavy boys don’t use your bodyweight as an excuse! Become a master of body weight pull ups and get lats that block out the sun. Be warned after set 3-4 life becomes hell. Dig deep and drag your ass up. After all, how badly do you want a Dorian Yates looking back??

Rest on these should be no more than 3 minutes but if rest on the last few sets is longer its no big deal in the grand scheme. Just don’t abuse the rest and take like 10 minutes between sets!
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10×10 Back Squat

Performed with 2 minutes rest and done arse to grass 10×10 squats will have your legs like jelly, your vision blurry and your stomach uneasy! Again about midway through set 4 the world looks and feels a little bit different! On the good side they will make your legs resemble those of a tyrannosaur! Or Branch Warren…

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10×10 Barbell Deadlift  

When I tried these I said aloud to myself ‘You’ve officially lost the plot, this is your craziest idea yet’ and I still agree. These are by far the hardest GVT session I can think off and extremely taxing on the entire body. After set 3 it feels like its job done, time to do some rows… not today! Only 3 times that extra to go! I can’t really do justice to the endeavour, it’s simply gruelling on the highest level.

Be sure to know good form in the later sets and I advise a spotter for motivation and to monitor your form in case it breaks down!

I used this workout before a went a way on a week and a half holiday and boy I needed every day as rest and continued grazing! My entire body was in seizure…and it felt amazing! This will put serious mass and crazy thickness on your legs, back, shoulders and forearms given ample nutrition and recovery.

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Wrap up
If you are lost on how to keep inducing hypertrophy, you have lagging lags, back and or shoulders or you simply want a gruelling challenge of manliness give these GVT ball busters a go. Remember don’t use these every session as it can be too demanding for your body (barring maybe the upright rows) and you will lack the part specific benefits of other movements. I like to throw one in every few weeks to keep me mentally stimulated and physically growing.
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A final not on what weight to use for your 10 sets.  It up to you. If your a softy your gonna use a comfortable weight and rest lots. If your more like me then you’ll go as heavy as you can go and rest as little as you can physically manage.

You won’t necessarily be able to judge correctly the weight on your first attempt. That’s fine, just adjust accordingly next time. That’s if there is a next time…

Mistakes of Bulking Part 1 – by Ben Coker

When the scales aren’t moving, the measurments aren’t getting bigger or the t-shirt tighter you are more than likely doing something wrong in your hypertrophy quest.

 These articles will outline common pitfalls that I have realised to be the key areas that have limited my hyhpertrophy at various points in my life. Now, whenever my growth stagnates, I got back to these points and ensure that i’m hitting all of them. When I am, I have noticed that  i’m always growing!  The first part focuses on food.

1) Not eating enough.

You think you do but you don’t. This is such a massive pitfall for many lifters. You think that meal had about 750 ish kcals so you round it to 800kcal. This mindset leads to massive calorie variances at the end of each day.

Here’s what you need to do: Key a food diary. Write out a meal plan including weights of foods, kcal content across your 7-6 meals. This means you know that at x time you need to eat y food which contains z kcal. And once you’ve eaten a meal you can tick it off. Theres no room for mistakes. Sounds strikingly obvious but most lifters don’t keep a log like this – writing down your meals in advance and marking them off as you go ensures you eat the right amount and the right stuff.

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You're plan doesn't have to extensive, just do it!

 

2) Not keeping your kitchen stocked

You should always have your kitchen stocked with the foods that you need so that when it comes to have the next meal you’ve planned out everything is there for you. Theres no excuses to miss or replace meals or skimp on calories. Buy for the week, or at least a couples of days ahead. When stocks start to reach empty go and top them up. Don’t wait till they are empty!

Allways have a stockpile for at least 2 days ahead...

 

3) Failing to ‘cram the window’.

This is the term I use to describe the 1hr post training window where a lot of growth can be stimulated. This time is like an open window  when your body is screaming for food to refuel and rearm! Take advantage of this and cram some serious calories through that window whilst it’s open. Just as an insight into my understanding of ‘cramming’ I take a 750kcal immediate post training shake then another 1500 to 2000kcal in food in the next 60-90min! (BW 110kg).
 

'Cram that window!'

 

4) Being scared of losing your six pack (or at least what you think is a six pack)

Don’t be the idiot that wastes his time trying to get bigger whilst staying lean. You will fail. Don’t be one of those people  that have been training at a gym for year after year but look exacly the same as the day they joined! If you love your six pack so much you’ll have more than enough commitment to strip the fat away when the new you is ready to be unveiled right? Or are you scared of the lazy person that’s inside of you? Commit to bulking 100% Get great results then commit to shredding up those results. Period.

Lee Priest certainly wasn't scared to commit!

 

5) Not laying your foundation

Keeping this short and sweet, you need to lay a good foundation to grow. Just like you can’t build a house on sand you can’t build muscle in the absence of the micro nutrients and water.

You must be taking good quality omega fish oil tablets (or eating adequate oily fish), a high quality multivitamin and drinking plenty of water each day for optimal growth. The importance and function of omegas and vitamins doesn’t need readdressing, theres plenty of information out there if you look to indicate you need to be taking them for optimal training and health results.

Water is a little less clearly stated in terms of its benefits but they are strikingly obvious. The body comprises approximately 60-70% water. Water flows through the human body, transporting, dissolving, replenishing nutrients and organic matter, while carrying away waste material. Further in the body, it regulates the activities of fluids, tissues, cells, lymph, blood and glandular secretions. Protein synthesis and the training required to induce it therefore are heavily reliant of water. Drink loads!

Be water smart...drink more!

Get Some Form – by Ben Coker

Today I want to talk about 3 exercises that are very often performed wrongly and it irritates me massively to say the least! Especially when you consider the growth these exercises done properly can induce, you’re shortchanging yourself by using sloppy form. Remember practice makes permanent so practice with perfect form! 

Squats

Get some depth. I don’t care who you are or what sport you do squat ass to grass. The most common cop out is but ‘when do you ever have to go that low in a sporting scenario?’ My polite reply is ‘when do you ever see anyone who goes to full depth not be greatly stronger and more powerful at half depth or even stronger and more powerful still at a quarter depth? If you train a movement at its hardest it can only mean your on field strength and power will be greater! For those of you looking for big legs I don’t really need to say much just find me a picture of a top class weightlifter who has small weak legs. For those of you pushing PBs don’t cheat yourself as the truly strong guys your trying to impress ain’t giving you any respect for that calf raise you just called a full squat!

Another thing that grinds me is when people squat by ‘breaking’ at the knees not at the hip. Kick your ass back as if you were about to decent onto a chair (you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings) and then sit between you legs. Do not simple let your legs fold under neither you and let your knees track forward. You’re in a weaker position and you will end up getting injured. Too many supposed ‘coaches’ watch their athletes do this many times daily and fail to correct it. If your unsure of your form use mirrors and a coach that knows what hes doing. If he doesn’t then there are plenty of videos on you tube from Dave Tate and Eric Cressey (to name a few) that you can show the fool.

No quarter squats thanks!

Deadlift 

Here is the real back breaker! If you look like Quasimodo when you deadlift then you’re not ready for that weight, simple. Granted the nature of a PB means that perfect form is not possible as the body is stronger than perfect form will allow but lets not take the piss here. Some lifters are simply ignorant to the fact that they lift with poor form but this excuse is frequently bandied about by those that are so gung ho on getting super strong that they are rush their progress. I see it all the time and both are harboring a ticking time bomb which will cause ‘boom’ time in their spine! Even the worlds best deadlifters can kept a back that is near enough straight at their upper most resistance levels so get hold of a mirror or a truthful training partner, check your form and or ask them to tell you whether you back rounds when you lift. If it does back off the poundage and work on form! Coming from a guy who has had back surgery trust me you don’t want to f*** with your back. If your a newbie just take care of the form and get it right from the start and the pounds will take care of themselves.  If you’re a guy rushing PBs have a reality check, slow down and consolidate that strength. After all Rome wasn’t built in a day neither was Andy Bolton!

Andy Bolton - not built in a day....

Dumbbell rows 

How should I put this… a dumbbell row is well, a row movement. It is NOT a ‘pull the dumbbell in any way, shape or form I can, including mini squats and an additional boost from lumbar spine rotation, to get the weight up’ movement. Your not kidding anyone when you throw a dumbbell around with no control or thought, looking like your gonna snap in half at any second, especially when your back is no wider than a pencil and no thicker than a sheet of A4 paper! Get a weight you can manage, ‘drag it’ up and back to the hip, leading with the elbow moving the weight primarily with the upper back muscles. Period.

‘Drag’ that dumbbell row
Summary 

Remember there is no shame with using a lesser and weight using correct form, and making that form permanent. If this means putting your ego aside, do it as your ego is probably getting you laughed at. The serious lifters in any gym are not fooled by the masquerades put up by the masses. They can cut through the crap and see someone who is getting on their grind, keeping their head down. In fact its those guys that usually make the gains and end up being the ones people want to emulate!

Interview with Adam Bishop – Midland’s Strongest Man 2010

Adam Bishop is an up and coming strongman and powerlifter. Amongst a strong and accomplished sporting history he recently obtained the title of MIDLANDS STRONGEST MAN U105 2010 and came in 5TH in the UK’S STRONGEST MAN U105 2010.


EK: Thanks for joining us today Adam. Can you give our readers a little background on yourself?
Adam: I’m a former professional rugby player (winger), and have been lifting weights for six years. I entered my first Open Strongman Competition in 2010 and came 10th out of 20 despite being the lightest.

EK: That’s pretty impressive. What made you want to get into Strongman?
Adam: I always watched Worlds Strongest Man (WSM) and other strongman competitions on the tv ever since I was young and wanted to have a go at it one day. I started posting on a strongman/powerlifting website called Sugden Barbell and ended up going over to a facility called the Container near Melton Mowbray. I found I was pretty good at a few events and it kinda snowballed from there to be honest.

EK: How do you get access to the specific training implements you need to train for strongman?
Adam: The facility at Melton Mowbray has equipment specially made for me and the guys I train with by Jason Talbot, owner of www.atlasstones.co.uk . He can make any weird implement we need to lift with.  I also personally own a small collection of implements which I train with.

EK: What kind of training split do you use when preparing for strongman events?
Adam: I train 4 times a week in the gym following Westside Barbell principles at the moment, which looks like this:
Monday – Max effort upperbody (log, axle, circus DB etc)
Tuesday – Max effort Lower body (Including Deadlift and squats)
Wednesday – AM Repetition upperbody PM Atlas stone lifting
Thursday – Dynamic effort Lowerbody (including speed squats and speed pulls)
Friday – REST
Saturday – Events training
Sunday – REST
It’s a pretty heavy schedule and I wouldn’t recommend it to others but my body seems to recover well so it works!

EK: That’s definitely intense, you must be having to get in some serious food to fuel all of that? How do you tailor it in the run up to an event?
Adam: Off season its calories calories calories for me as I find it very hard to put on weight otherwise. Obviously as I compete in the u105kg category I need to diet back down to around that weight. In the run up to a competition I’ll keep an eye on what I eat and just pretty much clean up my diet. I’m pretty simple when it comes to food.

EK: It’s nice to see someone who isn’t afraid to eat big! Do you put this together yourself or do you turn to a nutritionist?
Adam: I’m on my own with this really. I mean I have a relatively good understanding of nutrition from my rugby days so don’t seek any help from nutritionists.

EK: That’s good to hear. Moving on to competition day, how do you approach it?
Adam: It depends on the event really. Some events require relative calmness and concentration such as keg throwing or most overhead pressing where a lot of skill and technique is required. In other events, such as deadlifts, stone lifting and car flipping I tend to go a bit ape-sh** and get really worked up about the lift, I mean no sane human being would do that stuff would they!?

EK :  What do you do when something doesn’t quite run to plan?
Adam: I just try and stay calm. In one competition I dropped a railway sleeper on my head. Hardly ideal but you gotta just keep going in order to win.

EK: Ouch that’s got to hurt! What’s your favourite event?
Adam: Probably the Atlas stones with the Deadlift a close 2nd. I think atlas stones are the defining event in strongman, it’s always usually the last and most exciting.

EK: We’re sure everybody wants to know what they are, so could you rattle off your most impressive PBs for us
Adam: On the powerlifting movements I’ve deadlifted 320kg from the floor on a normal bar and pulled 360kg on the silver dollar Deadlift. Squatted 270kg in a belt and knee wraps. On strongman, I’ve pressed a 140kg axle overhead and lifted a 175kg atlas stone onto a platform.

EK: Impressive. What does the future hold for you?
Adam: The short term goal is to defend my Midlands Strongest Man u105 title this year and gain qualification for the UK’s Strongest Man where to be honest, I want to win. I came 5th last year in my first year in the sport, so now I want to take the title and go to the World’s! After achieving this I think I’ll try and gain some weight and look to compete more in the open weight category.

EK: Fantastic stuff. Thanks again for joining us and all the best for the upcoming contests!

Deloading 101 – by Jamie Bolton

The deload. The lazy-man’s excuse to not work hard. The hard grafters way to grow. It’s a delicate balance, but one too often abused in favour of the first option, if it’s used at all. 

I can imagine some of you sitting there thinking, what the **** is he on about and what the hell is a deload?

A deload or back-off week is a planned reduction in training volume and/or intensity. This can be from a few days up to a full week.

Why? Well, let me ask you how much muscle is built whilst training? None. Muscle is built when you recover from training. The longer and harder you push it in the gym without, the more fatigue, aches and pains you start to accumulate. In other words, you under-recover. A deload allows the body to super-compensate and allow you to hit the gym with renewed vigour and new-found strength.

Now before you all start taking it easy in the gym in the name of deloading, there’s one crucial point to remember here. Only deload when you need to

As a rule of thumb, the need and regularity of deloads will increase with training experience and age. The advanced trainee can’t push as hard for as long as the beginner. Nor can the old timer when compared to a young whipper-snapper. The more developed you are, the heavier you’re training loads are (or should be at least), and the greater the toll your training is taking on the body, so the need for recovery is greater.

At this point some coaches will give out prescriptions for deloads. One week in every four is a very common and popular one. For the developed lifter there is some merit to it for sure. For the beginner, this is far too frequent. My biggest argument with this kind of recommendation is that it’s far too standardised to be optimal for every lifter. My training isn’t your training. I might need a deload every four weeks, but your training might warrant a mini-deload every three weeks, or you might be fine with one in every eight!

You want to push every training cycle for as much as its worth. Deloading for the sake of deloading won’t get you anywhere fast.

So how can we tell when to deload? Well, the human body gives us plenty of simple cues, we just have to be clever enough to listen to them.

Cues for Deloading:
1. You’ve stopped progressing (and calorific intake is high). The point in brackets is crucial, you must be in a calorie surplus for this cue to be true.
2. Weights that you were dominating are starting to feel heavier.
3. Decreased motivation to train. And I’m not talking about the, ‘I went out last night’ type of not wanting to train (but this won’t be helping you anyway), but when you are getting to the point of almost fearing training.
4. Need for sleep increases. For this cue, it must be a given that all else is equal, i.e. you are getting as much sleep as you usually do, other general stresses are the same etc.
5. Explosiveness decreases. For me, in particular on lower body days, I tend to throw in a lot of jumps between main sets. When I start to notice a sustained decrease in vertical height over a few sessions, it’s time to back off.
6. Chronic ‘Achyness’. Not just the regular DOMS, but when you start to really ache, even days after a session and usually you would be recovered.
7. Inability to get ‘in the zone’. You do your regular activation movements, even some extra, but you seem to be struggling to get that fire going at the moment.

There are probably a few more of these the veterans among you have noticed over the years but you get the picture. Listen to those nagging cues, whatever they may be, and thank me later.

If you have to ask yourself if any of the above apply, you don’t need to deload. If you need a deload, you should have been reading the above whilst nodding your head, heck chances are you’ve been noticing these things for a while. Any one of the above may occur from time to time; deloading is only required when a few of the above are persistent cues from the body for a good week or so.

Deloaded Training

Deload training doesn’t really need to be a whole heap different to regular training. The ‘keep it simple’ approach is to just decrease intensity (read: weight lifted) by 40% and follow the program otherwise unchanged. If you’re a beginner, then you can get away with decreasing volume by 40% (read: same weight, less sets and reps).

But we can take a different approach also. I like to sometimes use deload periods to try out new exercises, or plain just ‘wing it’ in the gym. The key is to make sure the training is non-fatiguing and sub-maximal. Heck even consider taking a week out of the gym and hit up the park with just bodyweight movements. I’ll often try to ‘plan’ the need for a deload before a holiday, when I’m not sure what the training facilities will be like so I can do one of the above! The key is to keep it a bit easier and recover, you won’t get weaker by taking a week off when you really need it.

How long to deload? It depends, it might be four or five days, it might be a full week or even slightly more; again, listen to the body. When you’re starting to feel somewhat sadistic and crave a heavy squat session again, you’re ready.

Wrap up

We progress by challenging ourselves in our training, but unfortunately we are only human (well most of us are!). We don’t grow when training, we grow when recovering from training. Over time we accumulate more fatigue than can be recovered from between workouts and gradually the body tells us to back-off, but we must listen to it. After a period of reduced intensity/volume, we come back stronger, bigger and more eager to hammer away at our training again. One small step backwards for a many further steps forward.

And that’s it. Deload to recover and start progressing again. But only if your body needs it.

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