‘Deload week’ explained

The perceived idea that you generally need to constantly lift heavier, has it’s advantages, but also does including a deload week into your regime.

Setting goals for your lifts is very motivating and once you hit those goals, you should set new ones. I’m a big fan of taking a step back though and reaffirming things like tempo and form by doing a lighter week – this is called a deload week.

During my deload week, I generally vary my eccentric, concentric, isometric tempos and the intensity I’m exerting myself to, by using a lighter weight of about 50% of my 1RM. I find this allows my ligaments and tendons to have a rest period from the heavy loading and also a greater chance to grow to accommodate the new muscle i’ve introduced to my joints, from my heavier weeks. With the growth of your muscles, means your ligaments and tendons need to grow too, but they don’t grow as fast, as they’re not as fibrous as muscle fibre.

Another thing I enjoy from my deload week is being able to test the performance of the new strength I’ve gained – this often leads me to the conceptual thoughts about what lifestyle activities I may now be capable of, outside of the gym – after all, we are all training for a greater quality of life right?

Importance of unilateral training

Single-limb ‘Unilateral’ training is a big driver of a strong and balanced physique

What is unilateral training?

This term means to perform an exercise that works one limb independently or are more targeted towards one limb. Examples of unilateral exercises are; single cable lat pull, single stiff-leg deadlift, single arm bench rows etc. Being different from bilateral training, the exertion may not be as high on the body, but the benefits are worth it.

Benefits of unilateral training?

• Allowing the body to even out any strength or size imbalances
• Correcting postural differences, which can sometimes be made worse through bilateral training
• Strengthening stabilising muscles by forcing the joint to recruit more muscle fibre

I myself have some strength differences within my body and so I frequently ensure I encompass unilateral exercises into my routine.

Do you do unilateral exercises and what are your thoughts on the aid of progressing your exercises along?

Improve your strength

Strength is an important component of success in most athletics events, and therefore should be an essential part of most training programs. The time spent in training for strength should be proportional to the requirement for these components in your event, and your deficiencies in this area.

Strength is the maximal force you can apply against a load, and power is proportional to the speed at which you can apply this maximal force. Training to improve in this area can include lifting weights, throwing heavier implements, running against a resistance, and plyometrics (depth jumping and bounding).

Improvements in strength follow the overload principle. That is, to increase muscle strength the muscles need to be stressed with a load greater than normal. The muscles are thus stimulated to adapt to the increased load.

The exercises chosen should be specific to the muscle groups used and the actions performed in your event. Variation is also important to maximize the gains in strength. Varying intensity (amount of rest, weight lifted) and volume (repetitions, sets, sessions per week), provides greater stimulus for strength gains than simply following a set program and progressively increasing the amount of weight lifted. Weight training three times a week, with at least one day between sessions is generally adequate. Rest days between sessions are necessary for recovery and the adaptation to take place.

Not everyone wants to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and nor do they have to be. Strength training is suitable for most events, males and females. With the help of an expert, a program specific for your needs can be designed by varying such things as the exercises, repetitions, sets, weight lifted and number of sessions per week.

Simple principles for your next workout

There are many ways to increase the effectiveness of your training session.

Here are a few things to consider when planning for your next training session.

Rest Periods

60 second rest in between sets prevents the body from shuttling away the lactate acid being built up as a by product of energy production and expenditure. Lactate acid has been identified as an significant precursor in muscle hypertrophy through Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF1).
90 second rest periods increase your bodies Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels and is attributed to Myofibril hypertrophy.
3 minutes and above should be used when completing reps with a weight above 80% of your 1RM, it also raises your bodies testosterone levels and is typically assocaited with sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
Total Workload

Total workload is a combination of sets, reps and resistance e.g. 5 sets of 5 reps at 5 Kg would be a total of 125 Kg workload.
These variables can easily be manipulated to suit your type of training and meet your goals.

Plan for success through periodisation

Planning to go about your new health and fitness journey, can be a hard task, if you’re unsure where to start… Periodisation programming will give you the pathway to achieve any goals you might have!

First, you must ensure that you have stability within your joints. Often people are inhibited by facia tissue and unsure about what range of motion should be achieved whilst exercising. Calisthenics is a good place to start getting the joints moving and muscle used to the change in workload, but other times, some weights maybe needed.

My experience with myself and my many clients may not be compelling enough to make you spend time giving stability training serious thought. Truly effective training comes through understanding that some important concepts and skills be established.

The following is the recommended progression from spinal expert Dr. Stuart McGill.

Good Motor Patterns: Highly coordinated and efficient movement skills
Stability: Building stability of both joints and whole body
Endurance: Strength coaches have long used “anatomical adaptation” or general physical preparation as a means to lay a foundation for higher intensity strength work
Strength: Not just to see how much you can lift, but teaching the body how to coordinate, connect, and utilize the natural chains in the body
Power and Agility: Performance specific training methods

How does this play out in the real world? The truth is they are all interconnected, it just depends on which point you are emphasizing. Understanding how we use training variables for these goals is very important.

We can see these ideas in practical ways. In squatting patterns we can introduce or help “groove” the pattern by using a kettlebell goblet squat. We can add more stress to the movement by loading a front squat. Finally we can introduce instability with a shoulder sandbag squat (try to minimally use a load 50% of your front squat weight).

With even more complex drills like thrusters, we have a lot of options. Just by using kettlebells instead of dumbbells or dumbbells instead of kettlebells (use the opposite of what you have been) you are going to feel a great new level of instability. We can move in a more unstable manner by going from a drop lunge up to an overhead press. This adds instability via different body position. Finally, we can add instability through a new plane of motion and unstable implement with a lateral lunge to rotational sandbag press