A contrast week
Bodybuilders often change components that are not in their scheduled split to avoid repetitive patterns and promote recovery. Rather than de-loading or stopping all activity, workouts are performed that are different to standard sessions to reduce or even stop the movement patterns that are typically associated with weekly training.
Activities for a contrast week might include bodyweight training, cycling, swimming or sprinting. Closed kinetic chain bodyweight exercises such as lunges, squats, push-ups and pull-ups, among others, are often underused but are invaluable if you want to take a break from your normal weekly weight lifting programme.
Options are used based on activities that won’t fatigue the body in the same manner as previously-performed workouts. Although all activities draw from your energy resources in the end you can make use of other energy systems to stay active and recuperate from accumulated stress.
Example of a bodyweight workout
This bodyweight workout can assist with fat-burning and building strength while you recuperate from your normal weekly training. Increase your repetitions as you get stronger.
- Bodyweight squats – 10 reps
- Bodyweight lunges – 10 reps
- Plank – hold for 60 seconds
- Push-ups – 10 reps
- Jumping jacks – 10 reps
Who will benefit the most from a de-load?
- Athletes who have overextended themselves and who are plagued by recurring injuries or pain.
- Seasoned strength athletes who need a break from training with heavy loads while still maintaining strength and performance.
- Bodybuilders who have just competed in a show will greatly benefit from a traditional de-load.
Sometimes it pays to incorporate a frequent de-load or contrast week in your training schedule, but another effective way to lighten the load is to take it easy when your body needs it the most.
Advanced lifters know when to blitz and when to cruise in their workouts because they have learned to listen to their bodies. With auto-regulation you find out how you feel and take action in an appropriate manner, like pushing yourself to the limit when you feel strong, doing a light bodyweight session when you feel semi-weak or skipping the weights completely when you feel like death warmed up.
You cannot train all-out all the time. You need a break from the daily rigours of intense weight training. The world won’t end if you take a break or lighten your loads. Not only will you not lose any muscle or strength during your de-load but you will likely return to the gym reinvigorated and stronger than ever, ready to step up your intensity and destroy the weights.