So, let’s paint the picture, you have been running a program block for a while now.
It could be a hypertrophy or strength block (typically higher stress weeks), and you are just racking up the volume (lots of reps). The first several weeks are going great, but then you start to feel a decrease in progress. You feel the scary word “fatigue” setting in… Yet, everything has stayed the same. You’re on top of your eating, sleep, heck you even got in enough time to watch Stranger Things and don’t feel bad about it. Side note: Real men cry at the end of stranger things.
Okay, back on point.
So, what do you do? Do you keep pushing? Or is it time for you to throw in a “De-Load” week into your training?
Tell me the meaning of De-Load
I’m sure a lot of you have heard of “De-Load” weeks in your training. I know when I was training a De-Load meant 1 of two things…
- I was taking the week off and not lifting
- I was reducing the intensity to my training to around 50-60%1RM and going very light.
The question is, can we still train heavy while letting our bodies recover? My answer is YES.
Over the last couple of years, I was introduced to what we call a “Low-Stress week”. I was introduced to this by Alan Thrall while he was programming for me. I believe (don’t hold me at gunpoint to this) This method originated from Mike T of RTS
You see… Stress = volume and volume is what fatigues you and breaks the muscle down.
Low Stress Example
4×10 = 40 reps = high volume compared to 3×4 reps = low volume but usually a higher intensity (meaning you can go heavier)
A low stress week is when your training stress is below the threshold for recovery. Basically, we are doing less training so we can recover. You may also include some different movements during a LS week.
Throw in some rotational work, powerlifters can throw in some overhead work, single leg work etc… (not a ton, but some is okay)
So, what this would look like after doing lots of volume and high stress training would be something like this… *Note I use RPE to gauge stress you can find more about my thoughts on RPE vs % HERE.
Comp Lifts: 4@7 4@8 4@9
Supplemental Lifts (variation of comp lifts): 5@7 5@8 5@9
Accessory work: 7@7 7@8 7@9
These are not concrete but as long as you’re lowering the volume while keeping a high intensity, you’re on the right track.
I personally have noticed with myself and the athletes I coach that 1 week is too long to take off of training and we lose a slight edge. When you are a top-level athlete, or someone who values progress greatly losing a slight edge can be a big deal.
This will let us still train heavy and get our training in, without losing the edge and keep us in the gym. To me this is an obvious WIN.
When To Go Low Stress
The next question is when should I put in a “Low-Stress” week into my program? To be honest, I don’t have a clear and cut answer because everyone is different and responds to programming differently. I’ve had clients go 8 weeks without needing one, on the flip side I’ve needed one after 4 weeks. It all depends on a multitude of factors.
Typically, as mentioned above, after a block of high stress it would be a good time to throw one in if you notice your performance is starting to dip slightly, the only way to know this is by tracking your progress and seeing how your working sets are trending. What I’m trying to say is just because you are a little tired, doesn’t mean you should throw a LS week in (which is why having a good coach helps).
Is LS the same as peaking?
Low stress is used almost as a transition week between blocks, or just to give you some recovery time before you start the next block of training. Peaking is when you are about to compete and the preparation just prior to the execution of the competition.
This typically is going to be the heaviest, and hardest training phase of training. Weights will be close to maximal during the phase, and volume will decrease substantially. More on this topic by Bryce Krawczyk from Calgary Barbell click “Peaking & Tapering”
Low Stress: Do You Get It?
To Conclude: I hope this video helped you guys understanding LS weeks and how to involved them in your program. I have found they have worked far better than just taking a week off, or lowering my intensity super low between blocks. It has also allowed myself and others to still train heavy, not lose our edge, and get recovery in. Like I said before to me it’s a win win situation. Make sure to check out the video above and try these out in your training!