Lifting the same keeps you the same. To get to new levels of strength and muscle mass, you have to improve. Yet adding weight to the bar forever is not an option. After 6-12 weeks of hard work and progressive overload you need a deload phase.
The deload phase is simply a period when you lift lighter weights on purpose to allow the body to recover from the accumulated physical and mental fatigue. A proper deload is a step back that should ultimately lead to two steps forward. The body is not a machine, and as a natural bodybuilder, you don’t have the recovery capabilities of steroid users.
The skeletal muscle has a very good blood supply and recuperates at a relatively faster rate than the connective tissues of the joints. A small muscle pull may recover in a few days, but a tendon or ligament tear of the same magnitude will need a lot more time due to the poor circulation in the area. For the same reason, the muscles get stronger faster than the connective tissues. That’s why you should have a deload phase even if you don’t feel like you need it. Your joints will thank you in the long run.
Many bodybuilders fail to understand that simple concept and suffer from regress and injuries.
You will have to put your ego aside and lift light weights for a week or two.
This is how a linear progression followed by a deload phase looks like:
Week 1: 135lbs x 10
Week 2: 140lbs x 10
Week 3: 145lbs x 9
Week 4: 150lbs 8
Week 5: 155lbs x 5 (some joint discomfort)
Week 6: 160lbs x 3 (feels heavy)
Deload and begin a new mini-cycle
Week 7: 145lbs x 10
Week 8: 150lbs x 10
Week 9: 155lbs x 8
Week 10: 160lbs x5 – personal record
In a nutshell: Start with a light weight. Build up to a weight that’s challenging. Make a step back, reduce the weight, and then start a new cycle with a load higher than the initial one. You can learn more about training cycles in this post.