Deload – Part II

I thought I’d list out a few commonly used 4 week blocks showing how they incorporate a deload or unloading week.   If you missed Part I of the series yesterday you can check it out here. 

The Deload – Part I

USA Weightlifting recommends a 4 week performance cycle that deloads in week 3 prior to a performance week.  This is one of their commonly used 4 week blocks.    

Week 1 – Base % Example: 70% 4×5
Week 2 – (+5%) Volume Ex: 75% 5×5
Week 3 – (-5%) Recovery Ex: 65% 4×4
Week 4 – (+10%) Performance Ex: 80% 6×3

Coach Kenn in his Tier System uses several different variations and lists them out in his book.  The first is a linear loading scheme with a peak in week 3 followed by a deload in week 4. 

Week 1 – (-10%) Example: 70%
Week 2 – (-5%) Ex: 75%
Week 3 – (Top %) Ex: 80%
Week 4 – (-15%) Ex: 65%

Another one of Coach Kenn’s examples follows the USA Weightlifting format in that week 3 becomes a deload prior to a performance week. 

Week 1 – (-15%) Example: 70%
Week 2 – (-7.5%) Ex: 77.5%
Week 3 – (-20 %) Ex: 65%
Week 4 – (-Top%) Ex: 85%

The following is taken from Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program.  In this program Jim uses a 4 week block comparable to the first example of Coach Kenn’s linear loading.  The first three weeks are somewhat of a max effort followed by a deload on week 4. 

Week 1 – 85% x 5+
Week 2 – 90% x 3+
Week 3 – 95% x 1+
Week 4 – 60% x 5

Several years ago when I was reading a lot about Westside training, Louie Simmons used to have his powerlifters perform 3 weeks of Max Effort work followed by 1-2 weeks of a deload in which they commonly performed 4×20 on the DB Bench Press. 

I generally follow the concept that the body adapts to an exercise after 3 weeks.  After that 3 weeks we have to change the stimulus in some way to cause further adaptation. 

“To adapt is not to adapt.”  – Louie Simmons

During our in-season blocks I often only utilize 3 week blocks with deloads happening on week 3.  I would rather undertrain than overtrain during the season.  I think 2 weeks followed by a deload is appropriate for our situation due to the demands of the baseball season.  Our conference dictates that we travel West 1 and 2 time zones during the season.  This doesn’t make recovery and restoration easy when players  are on the road for 4 days straight.  They usually don’t return back from games until 4 and 5 A.M.  on a Monday morning in which they have to go to class, have practices, etc.  This happens almost every other weekend and sometimes two or three weeks in a row. 

One of in-season cycles might go like this:

Week 1: Base % Example: 70%
Week 2: Load (+5%) 75%
Week 3: Deload (-7.5%) 67.5%

Week 4: Base % 72.5%
Week 5: Load (+5%) 77.5%
Week 6: Deload (-7.5%) 70%

Regardless of what scenario is used, deload weeks are an important aspect of any training.  There are a multitude of variations that one can use and each has advantages and disadvantages.  Coaches have to formulate one that is unique for their current situation and goals.


The Deload – Part I

It is the last week of fall practice for the baseball team and consequently this is a deload week for us at the same time. 
We will begin our main off-season training program next week.  It’s my favorite time of the year for obvious reasons. 

With it being a deload I thought I’d share a few comments on the stresses of training and how to keep them in check. 

Training is a major stressor on the body.  Exercise itself can be a good stressor but intense, dedicated training can be damaging to the body.  This is one of the reasons its important to have recovery and rest built into a program.  Everyone wants to program in the “good stuff” as far as training goes but we must remember that the body needs time to re-build and repair itself.  Continually breaking down the body causes proper adaptation to cease.  In turn this causes the body to break down and can become susceptible to sicknesses, and injury.  If you want to know more about the human body’s reaction to stressors pick up Why Zebras Don’t Get UlcersIt’s a great book and one that actually keeps you interested about things you probably aren’t interested in like gluccocorticoids and such.  Awesome read though. 

An interesting note is that Zach Galifianakis’ stunt double actually wrote the book.    

The Author!
Not the author!!!

The body doesn’t differentiate stressors.  It can’t tell that the accumulated fatigue on the body is from training, or only sleeping for 2 hours a night because you have a new member of the family.  One thing that has stuck with me was something Buddy Morris has talked about.  He stated that the stress response for training is greater than that of a broken bone.  Stress is either realized as local or general and a broken bone becomes a local stressor where as training takes on a large general response. 

Rest and down weeks are just as important to the training process as the actual training itself.  Eastern bloc training principles were based on the deloading periods as this is when all supercompensation occurred provided it was done correctly.  This was the chance for the body to recover and adapt to higher level.  Often times, the body was put into a state of overreaching for long periods of time on purpose followed by 4-6 weeks of what was essentially an unloading period at which point supercompensation was at its highest. 

Most coaches probably recommend a deloading week every 3-4 weeks of training.  I think this all depends on the overall plan.   We will only have 6 weeks of hard training left following our fall ball period.  This doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for deloading.  We will utilize a deload prior to our final week of testing to allow for recovery.  You can see the deload has to always come down to the overall training plan. 

I’m a big fan of deloading every 4th week during the off-season and every 3rd week during the in-season.  One thing coaches should always remember is the more advanced the athlete is, the more stress the body incurs.  High level athletes require much more in the way of recovery and restoration than your average 9th grader.  Central nervous system fatigue is always higher the more advanced an athlete.  With kids just starting out in sports performance training they aren’t able to tap into the CNS enough to cause fatigue.  Younger kids could quite possibly train for 6 months in a row without a deload week and still make gains every week. 

One rule of thumb that has always helped me was the 60% rule.  I believe it was Zatsiorsky that suggested this.  I could be wrong on author but on theory remains the same.  During unloading weeks the volume should be approximately 60% of the largest volume of the previous cycle. 

There are several different methods of deloading whether its decreasing volume, intensity, or both.  Each one has a different effect on the recovery of the body.  Generally I prefer to deload both volume and intensity.  However, volume will take the majority of the deload.  We will back down our percentages for a deload week often times but not an extreme amount, maybe 5-15%.  Again this depends on the overall plan, where we are in that plan, needs and goals, etc.

Breakout Assessments

Good stuff here. About to read part two, but my question for you is whether you now perform breakout assessments (Joint ROM testing, muscle strength, etc) as part of your typical evaluation?

This is troubling for me in terms of assessment because we only look at these things currently if we see a problem in the FMS with our athletes.

Thanks for the heads up on this and I hope to get some more food for thought from your second piece.


Thanks for the comment.  When I find deficits, pain, etc. I do go into a deeper evaluation.  I can’t do this with everyone because it would take forever.  Just screening the 35-40 kids I have now with my personal screen takes me over a week to complete.  Understand that I have added quite a bit to the standard FMS screen to look at our personal needs.   To be honest when an athlete doesn’t present a problem with our initial evaluation, then we really have no basis to go much deeper.  Obviously we have exceptions with kids that have been previously injured, or have previously had issues that we will have to keep an eye on. 

An example may be an athlete with pain during some of our shoulder evaluation.  If he has pain then obviously we go deeper to see if we have a solution and/or look to finding the culprit.  On a side note, the book Muscles: Testing and Function, with Posture and Pain by Kendall is the best out there at manual muscle testing methods, evaluation, and treatment of postural imbalances. 

A quick example of the lower body may include problems with the overhead squat, or lunge patterns.  If problems are present here then we delve further into testing the hip flexors as well as ankle complex. 

However, to answer your last question, if we don’t have problems throughout our initial screening, which I feel covers the surface of virtually everything, then we for the most part we don’t delve any deeper.  If an athlete’s movement patterns are solid without deficiency, deficit, or pain, then we move on.  We could test and test and test for days and say the glute medius on the right side is 10% weaker than the left, etc., etc., etc., but at some point we have to get to the actual work of increasing sports performance.  If it isn’t present during their actual movement, then it probably isn’t presenting them with a problem.  I actually believe that more times than not a soundly structured program whether individualized or not will clean up a large part of movement issues.  

I view the shoulder a bit differently especially with baseball players, so that’s why we do a gross screen for the shoulder as well as look at a lot of specific issues.  But we still only go deeper if there presents a need.  I’m not going to test an athlete for a SLAP tear, or internal impingement if they show no reason for the test. 

Obviously, with movement the nervous system plays a vital role.  Gray Cook’s recent material talks a lot about this fact, and Vladimir Janda’s work in this area was paramount.  A reader just sent me an article last night that I will post in the next few days on Janda.  In it the author states this of Janda’s beliefs:

In the simplest terms, it all boils down to the nervous system. The coordination of afferentation, central organization of neural data, and efferentation was paramount to the quality of function. To him, joint function was dependent on muscle function, which was dependent on nervous system function, although each of these factors was at times interdependent. A reader of these words who studied with Janda could easily find fault, because he emphasized so many other aspects that could lead to dysfunction and subsequent pain.

Heart Rate Variability

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a topic that I’ve wanted to jump into for a while now but just haven’t had the time.  Six weeks ago I began using an HRV monitor from monitor plugs into an iPhone or iPod and utilizes a heart rate monitor chest strap.  All that’s required is 55 seconds of breathing and out pops a HRV reading. 

So the question becomes what is heart rate variability? 

The human heart is a bio-electrical pump that beats at an ever changing rate.  This rate is influenced by a myriad of different stimuli.  Everything from training, to sleep habits, to stress, to nutrition influences the heart beat.    Many people assume the heart rate only rises and falls with activity, but in healthy individuals it varies continuously according to internal and external stressors. 

HRV measures the variability between heart beats and more specifically it measures the intervals between the R waves or the in between time of a heart beat.  Behind the science, HRV is used to evaluate the cardiac state and overall functioning state of the autonomic nervous system which is vital to athletic development. 

When you breathe in the sympathetic nervous system kicks in and controls the heart.  When exhaling the vagal nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system are in control.  Breathing in speeds up the HR while exhaling slows the HR down.  Ever wonder why sports psychologists always say take a deep breathe when in a stressful athletic situation.  Makes sense now doesn’t it. 

Maybe a few deep breaths before entering the ring with him!

The following is from the OmegaWave website on HRV.

Relevant to the evaluation of adaptation is assessing the interaction between sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the vegetative nervous system (vegetative homeostasis). A disturbance in the vegetative balance of the cardiovascular system is an early indication of a disturbance in adaptation processes. In athletes, decreased work capacity and performance stagnation result from a disturbance in adaptation to training volumes and intensities. 

HRV becomes important as an evaluation tool to show the body’s adaptability at the moment.  Its use can contain indicators to oncoming sickness, diseases, cardiac issues, and a whole host of health problems as well as nervous system issues such as fatigue, stress, etc.  When the body is fatigued or recovery hasn’t taken place, the adaptability is low.  Creating further stress on the body further inhibits adaptability and over time this process creates over-training, sickness, injuries, exhaustion, poor training results, etc.  When recovery hasn’t taken place the sympathetic nervous system is highly active.  When we are resting, or in the process of recovery, or both, the parasympathetic nervous system dominates. 

The process of sports training is highly dependent on the nervous system for not only regulating recovery, but speed of movement, skill execution and movement patterns.  Ensuring the nervous system is adaptable at that moment should be a primary emphasis in the training of any athlete and will become more so as technology advances.

Creating Templates

A problem that seems to always stump our intern classes is the ability to put training sessions into an organized manner.  With this topic I’m referring to weekly microcycle organization.  I always emphasize putting weekly training sessions into templates.  And I’m not talking about Microsoft Excel here either.  I’m talking about the organization and placement of exercises, and movements within the weekly, and monthly training cycles.

It never fails when interns create blocks of training, something is left out.  Often times they are required to create a program for a hypothetical W. Soccer team.  More times than not, interns will forget to implement some of the most important aspects for any Women’s Soccer player and that is single leg, and posterior chain training.  It’s not always that they don’t know, it’s that they get so tied up putting everything else in the program that they forget or lose track of what they haven’t included.  I always emphasize that if they would create a template first, this would help eliminate the problem of forgetting an important movement or area of the body. 

Several years ago we had an intern who had written a 4 week program for a W. Soccer team.  This was the first week in our internship program and he wrote it to display his level of knowledge so to speak.   I looked at the weeks training and began to break it down labeling each exercise either as upper body, lower body, or total body.  When counted, the weeks exercise breakdown it came to 32 UB / 7 LB / 3 TB.  This included about 15 different arm exercise variations, and around 10 chest exercises among other things.  Remember, this was for a female soccer athlete.  Not exactly the breakdown you’d like to see in the training of any athlete most likely. 


Interns with little experience don’t understand the concept of exercise order.  Many times we will see the squat placed on Monday Week 1 as the 1st lift of the day.  Then, in Week 2 we will see it randomly placed on Friday as the 4th exercise of the day.  They’ll have no rhyme or reason for the placement of the exercise.  Each week becomes a jarbled assortment of movements that appear to have been pulled from a hat of exercises and placed in a training program. 

There are several reasons I recommend using templates to organize training. 

1. It allows for equal distribution of movements
2. Creates less confusion with inexperienced coaches
3. Helps to see where the emphasis of the program lies and where pieces may be missing. 
4. Eliminates uneccesary elements

One of the examples that I like to use is Joe DeFranco’s Westside for Skinny Bastards IIIAlthough I don’t think it’s always a great option for athletes it does show a piece meal setup in which a template is laid out and exercises can be input into the program. 

Another great program example is Joe Kenn’s Tier System.  The Tier System is a 3 day / week total body program that again allow coaches to piece meal movements into the program.  The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook by Joe Kenn.

When it comes down to it using templates to create workouts have a lot of value for inexperienced coaches and athletes.   It makes creating training sessions and cycles much easier and allows for the input of all the necessary elements.

Humeral Retroversion – Part V

Our shoulder series continues with Part V today with a little bit about humeral retroversion in the overhead athlete.  If you missed the previous sections you can find them below. 

Shoulder Mobility and the Fist to Fist PART I

Shoulder Series and the Sleeper – Part II

External Impingement – PART III

Internal Impingement of the Shoulder – PART IV

Throwing athletes almost always present themselves with some degree of humeral retroversion.  This is the loss of internal rotation with gains in external rotation in the glenohumeral joint.  There are several different theories as to how exactly this occurs.  Some believe it is soft tissue adaptations, other believe that it develops as changes to the bony anatomy when youth athletes are involved in throwing sports.   The consensus as of late seems that humeral retroversion is more strongly related to adaptive changes in proximal humeral anatomy than to changes in the soft tissues.

Virtually every throwing athlete that you come across will have excessive external rotation on the dominant side with a decreased internal rotation.  When compared with the non-dominant arm we hope to see total rotation equal.  The difference obviously being the throwing arm arc of rotation shifts posteriorly.   

Looking at one of our pitchers numbers from this past year can give us some information. 

External: 142 deg.
Internal: 47 deg.
Total Rotation: 189

External 129 deg.
Internal 61 deg.
Total Rotation: 190

When we look at these numbers we want his total rotation to be equal bi-laterally.  We already know that his right arm ER will shift further back and along with that shift he will lose IR.  Regardless, our goal is to equalize total rotation.  In this example we see that total rotation is virtually equal, which is a good thing.  Theses numbers are a great example of what happens in the throwing athletes shoulder and show what part humeral retroversion plays in these athletes.  In Part VI of this series we are going to begin looking at a case study. 

Humeral Retroversion and Its Relationship to Glenohumeral Rotation in the Shoulder of College Baseball Players

At any rate these adaptive changes usually happen when children are heavily involved in throwing sports at a young age.  It becomes even more significant with athletes who are “overthrown” so to speak.  I’m referring to the superstar 12-year-old that pitches year round on 3 different select teams, a little league team, showcase camps, etc.  This excessive external rotation happens when the growth plates of children are still open and will adapt to the inherent stresses of throwing a fastball.

Osseous adaptation and range of motion at the glenohumeral joint in professional baseball pitchers.

Humeral retroversion isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It’s actually what allows pitchers to pitch really.  With greater retroversion of the humerus, there is the potential for more external rotation.  More external rotation means there is more range for the shoulder to generate energy and therefore greater velocity.  I’ve seen a few different studies that show a correlation between pitchers velocity and degree of external rotation. 

When you watch people who can’t throw, or “throw like a girl,” it’s likely due to the fact that, they never developed that motor pattern as a youngster, or more likely that they didn’t develop the humeral retroversion to allow them to lay their arm back into external rotation.  They essentially are blocked at the 90 degree mark of glenohumeral external rotation when in the cocking phase of a throw. 

Take a look at a comparison of our former and current presidents and you will definitely notice a difference.  President Bush played baseball as a kid.  President Obama has admitted to never really having played the game. 

Mike Reinold, Head ATC for the Boston Red-Sox, has talked about being able to see the degree of humeral retroversion in a pitcher.  When supine in a cross arm relaxed position you will notice the throwing arm has greater external rotation than the non-throwing arm.  Mike mentions using this method to actually measure the amount of humeral retroversion an athlete has. 

Throwing arm sits in externally rotated position due to retroversion
Non-throwing arm doesn't

 Retroversion of the Humerus in the Throwing Shoulder of College Baseball Pitchers

The previous study sums up humeral retroversion quite nicely. 

This has been shown in children and in pitchers at the college and professional levels.  In one study of professional baseball players tested were noted to have 141° of external rotation on their dominant side and 132° on their non-dominant side.  Maximum external rotation at the shoulder during pitching has been reported to be as much as 160° to 178°.  Some investigators have postulated that this high level of external rotation is due to changes in the glenohumeral capsule and musculature caused by pitching.  Others have attributed the increased external rotation to overuse. Such overuse has been postulated as resulting in a contracture of the posterior shoulder capsule and stretching of the anterior shoulder capsule, leading to a tendency toward anterior glenohumeral subluxation.  Some have described these changes in the soft tissues about the glenohumeral joint as “relative laxity.”  Essentially, these changes represent an attempt by the shoulder to attain a balance between the flexibility needed to allow for greater external rotation and the stability needed to counter the anterior shear forces across the joint during the process of pitching.

Good Rant from a Reader – The Biggest Loser Cont.

It’s been a busy couple of days.  I’m finishing a couple different blogs on the continuation of the shoulder series asa well as one on why everybody thinks they’re a better strength coach than you. 

In the meantime here is a great repsonse I got from a reader on the post last week about the Biggest Loser. 

New Old Posts

The Biggest Loser!!!

It’s a great rant and I appreciate Nick sending it in.  

Preface: I would like to preface this rant with the statement that any activity is better than sitting down on the couch especially if said sitting involves a TV and if that TV is tuned to the Biggest Loser.

Being in health care I especially appreciate shows that inspire the general public (which is 67% overweight) to do something to improve their health. I do have a huge problem with the way the material is presented as realistic and healthy when this is the furthest from the truth. Nobody, employed or unemployed, has the money, the time, or medical insurance to support the unsustainable “lifestyle” presented on the show.

6 hours of workouts mostly consisting of monotone cardio, hamster-like workouts where the contestants are screamed at and criticized (disguised as encouragement and tough love). The self esteem of these contestants is beyond tanked; this makes the most viable solution to scream in their face when they are maintaining a heart rate a sneeze away from a heart attack. Could you sense the sarcasm? I was laying it on pretty thick.

 There is a reason why people over 300 pounds (let alone 450) don’t run marathons. Most of these people have been overweight for many years. A result of prolonged obesity is trashed knees, shredded hips, an overworked and undernourished cardiovascular system, hormone imbalances, and oxidative stress that rivals any nuclear reactor. The old saying goes that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Bob and Jillian are unhinging these peoples’ jaws like a damn anaconda and forcing them to eat the pachyderm head first by having them run a marathon. If endorphins released during exercise are not enough to mask the pain created by exercise this is an evolutionary signal to stop exercising (not to struggle through the pain and say something hinting of failure for the camera).

 When you weigh 350 pounds diet is the issue 100%. Not 80% or 75%; it is 100%. These people burn more calories sitting in 2 southwest airlines seats than the average 180 pound male could physically burn doing hill sprints in a weighted vest. I will agree that exercise creates more of a caloric gap between intake and burn in these folks, but I just have one question. Is it really worth the risk? Why not clean the gluten, processed foods, dairy, artificial sweeteners, and other dumpster-worthy toxic waste they people are consuming in livestock quantities before we force-feed them more of the processed foods because they sponsor the show and take the “fat burners” made by Jillian? If we taught people that the thing under their nose is a mouth and not a vacuum cleaner and to eat quality over quantity, I would venture to guess these people would shred weight like crazy. If they hit a plateau down the road when they have lost 50-100 pounds and have systemic inflammation under control and when their heart isn’t in v-fib every time they think of a treadmill; throw in some long slow distance walking (in good shoes) or no impact water movements to spare their already arthritic joints to get over that hump.

 Moderation is the key to sustainable living, but moderation is far from entertaining. Has anyone checked the Vegas over/under odds on when they actually kill one of these people?

Venting accomplished,