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.

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