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We punish ourselves daily, sometimes multiple times in a day to reach higher heights on our way to goals we once may have deemed unobtainable. Realizing these goals are obtainable we tend to harp on the grueling regimen of heavier lifting, longer metcons, or a more strict diet, sometimes forgetting the most crucial ingredient… A deload.

Simply put, a deload is a break. It is a time to let the body recoup and rejuvenate. Since first being observed by Hans Seyle in 1936 to even more current times, it is well understood that stress and recovery work in 3 stages:

 

  1. Stress the body using stimulus (exercise)
  2. Remove the stimulus
  3. The body will adapt to the stimulus and handle it better on reoccurrence.

 

The problem – people often neglect step number 2, only to then leave step 3 struggling to play catch up. It should be understood that training does not build muscle, in fact it is 100% catabolic (breaking down). This catabolic state is not just to muscle, but connective tissue as well. Big time spoiler here is that connective tissue doesn’t recover as readily as muscle, making a deload even more essential to the health of your ligaments and tendons. Without proper recovery you are setting yourself up for aches and pains to your joints and/or ligaments. Even though your muscles may seem up to par, your ligaments and tendons may not be, making inflammation almost a ‘for-sure’. This inflammation can often come in the form of a new onset, or can often play the role in aggravating an old injury.

 

Intense training taxes the central nervous system heavily, leaving you fatigued and beat down. If we decide to train through this time of fatigue with the same intended intensity, this is where we find injuries. Understanding neural fatigue is easier than you may think. Tim Noakes wrote a great paper titled “The race against time” where he pieces together a lot of gaps people tend to leave unaddressed. What helped me understand neural fatigue was discarding all the fancy talk and putting it in Layman’s terms:

 

Your muscles just follow orders, while your brain makes sure things stay in order. The brain patrols around on high alert during extreme efforts monitoring your capacity of work, and will lay down the law when capacity is met… Making sure you don’t over extend and move in to actual exhaustion.

 

It is here Noakes says that the brain pulls the plug on everything, commencing the onset of neural fatigue. We have to understand that the body can and will do amazing things, but everyone has a “governor” or a ceiling. With correct training and recovery we can gradually elevate the ceiling and extend the governor, but we have to respect the current settings we have.

All in all you can see that recovery works on a couple different levels, all of which need to be addressed and respected. It is said that the central nervous systems can recover in 12-24 hours, but that is 100% relative from person to person, and workload to workload. Muscular recovery is also relative depending on volume, intensity, nutrition, and ironically who you talk with. A bodybuilder may suggest 2-3 days for a specific muscle group, whereas a crossfitter may argue 1-3 days depending the workout. This is where listening to your body and mental cues make the world of difference.

 

Every person is different, so every form of recovery and its regularity will be different. A deload week is most generically taken every 4th week of training, and is dedicated to active recovery. Active recovery is removing a significant amount of stimulus while still maintaining activity. This doesn’t mean you can’t lift weights, it just means you keep the weights around 50-60% of your 1 rep max. In my opinion the best form of active recovery is something low impact while still elevating the heart rate. Rowing 2000 meters, swim 1600 meters, yoga (regular or hot), a deep tissue massage, or some mobility work compliments of Kelly Starrett (mobilitywod.com) serve as tools to use during these 7 days to help the mind get fresh and the body reset its ceiling.

 

Nutrition is a no brainier during your weeks of intense training, but what about active recovery on a deload week? Just as important. While being equally as important, the same rule applies – Eat for fuel. Keeping that phrase in mind at all times should serve as a reminder that while your work capacity has decreased, you still need to feed yourself for adequate work. Don’t think for one second that just because your work load has decreased you do not need to eat and hydrate – you do! While the body is actively repairing and setting a higher threshold it needs a source of energy, so make sure you are still eating quality food, and for a reason. This week of recoup isn’t a reason for you to sit down and smash on Oreos while watching ‘Maury’ all day, but don’t be afraid to enjoy the foods you eat. Eat clean and train dirty… but sometimes eat cupcakes (compliments of @beckyfit_).

 

Outside of a deload being important, I’m writing on it because I was smacked in the face with neural fatigue recently. I reached a point of being tired, lacking any and all interest in lifting weights or moving quickly, and I was sore and achy. I had done well about planning a deload in recent months, but found myself caught up in personal goal. I was full steam ahead with the intention to blow right past my ceiling, only to realize there was a wall there. A “deload week” isn’t meant to replace the weekly rest you take, it is meant to be a week taken to be solely dedicated to rest and recovery.

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Overhead-Press-1

Strict Press

 

Some short and sweet key points to consider when executing the strict press. Remember it starts from the ground up. If you’re as solid as a bag of jello from the chest down, does you no good to perform a strict press overhead.

-Feet under the hips. You can engage the hips by acting as if you are spreading the ground with your feet.

-Quads and glutes engaged to help keep a stable lumbar curve.

-Midsection tight and organized, bracing as if you are about to be punched in the stomach.

-Do not press the bar around your face. Instead, tuck the head back slightly as the bar travels straight up.

-Lockout the weight overhead by pressing the weight to the ceiling, elbows locked, and shoulders active (often this is evident when your armpits are facing forward).

-Finish the movement with the head slightly in front of the bar. Keep in mind this isn’t meant to be your best turtle impression. The goal is for the body to be completely inline from the wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet. If this midline position is met, your head will naturally reside just in front of the bar. Forcing your head forward by over accentuating the position (or better known as turtle peaking) leaves you more susceptible to injury by now deviating from a stable midline position. Added stress while under load is an injury waiting to happen.

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1-fishoil

Fish oil and all its glory

Our over the counter supplement to omega 3 fatty acid, it comes in many forms under an umbrella of brands. When choosing fish oil some things need to be taken into consideration like brand reputability and purity. Understand there are many companies trying to capitalize on this oily gem, so purity is what needs to be questioned, making sure its free of mercury and harmful metals.

 

Why are we supplementing omega 3’s? To offset the imbalance of omega 6’s roaming our body thanks to the amount of harmful things we take in, and just byproducts in general secondary to the inner workings of our body’s chemical rundown. These toxins we take in promote heavy oxidization and free radicals that can/and will damage the very things we work to improve or in some cases to aid in prevention. Our bodies are in search of a 1:1 ratio (6’s to 3’s). Some studies support a staggering statistic that the average male walks around with a 30:1 ratio, that is flat out absurd. When choosing a supplement we’d like to seek out as high a concentration of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The brand I use offers 950mg EPA/DHA per 1360mg pill, not too shabby. Lately I have been gravitating towards Barlean’s fish oil for not only the concentration, but the flavors are so on point that I can treat them like a dessert while I am dieting. In the end there’s no scientific based “daily dose”, but 1-3 grams seems to be openly accepted. It’s well understood that keeping a good ratio staves off heart attacks and strokes, but also benefits eyesight and inflammatory issues like arthritis. They are also finding that taking fish oil on a daily basis increases insulin sensitivity. This can be a “wonder supplement” for the resistance training gym goer, as well as your type 2 diabetics that are learning how to control their sugar through diet and exercise. Manipulating your insulin sensitivity is something I will touch on in another post in regards to muscle gain or fat loss. Until then, soak in all the wonderful stats on fish oil, including that some studies make claims of boosting brainpower, but I’ll leave that up to you to read on.

 

Check out this in depth article on fish oil compliments of Mark’s Daily Apple:

 

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fish-oil-health-benefits/#axzz1w42XJ393

 

Point is, the stuff is awesome.

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The message of Barbell Republic is simple:

It is the people’s strength that matters. Getting back to the basics and core fundamentals of athletics helps any person(s) spearhead progress at whatever avenue of fitness they choose to take on. We believe this starts with a clear understanding that strength can and will translate to every direction you choose. While other aspects need not be neglected, pushing and pulling heavy weight will supply a return on investment that one can only dream of. We believe the barbell offers that very core and fundamental approach to strength and conditioning. Strength takes a lifetime to achieve, so in essence, the sky is the limit.

We Are Strong.

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