Recommendations for Unloading

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Continuing on my last blog post on continuously low volume  training, I wanted to follow up with some discussion on unloading. It’s very common to have programmed periods of unloading to allow athletes to recover from prior periods of heavy training stimulus to allow athletes to super-compensate. In practical purpose, what should happen physiologically in an unloading period is very similar to what should happen in an effective taper: fatigue should be minimized, adaptations should occur and be manifested in increased performance and capacity. It’s easy to reduce fatigue….just rest. The tricky part is producing a reduction in fatigue without a loss of fitness in these periods. The methods used in an effective unloading period should follow similar guidelines to taper periods. Here are some general guidelines for unloading based on research and practical experience:

  • INTENSITY: Don’t reduce intensity at all. If anything intensity can be increased if testing is performed. This is very straight forward and there are few exceptions to this rule.
  • VOLUME: Reduce volume by 20-40%. Note that this is for ALL training – the general strength circuits, tempo, etc…not just the heavy hitter stimuli. The only area where I would not recommend significantly reducing volume is on warmups. Also, note that it’s quite easy to achieve a 20-40% reduction in training volume by adding an additional rest day or two in to the week. If you normally train 6 days a week and take one day off, taking an additional two days off while maintaining the training volume on the other four days would easily get you to a 30+% reduction in training volume. You can reduce volume in a variety of ways though….cutting out training days, doing less work on a given day for a specific training stimulus, removing a training stimulus that was in the loading period, etc. Make sure you’re taking them all in to account.
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