Deloading: Back Off to Get Bigger, Part 2

By Skyler Zarndt MS, ATC, CSCS

Don't Be the Small Guy...Deload!
Don’t Be the Small Guy…Deload!

Yesterday we discussed the science behind taking a deload week during our training in hopes of making better progress.  If you missed it, check it out here:

For a quick overview, we NEED rest and recovery built into our training programs in order to maximize potential.  We can’t always be training at 100% and expect to never break down.  The body just doesn’t work like that.  Plan intelligent recovery periods into your training every 4th or 5th week.  Your body will thank you.

So let’s discuss HOW and WHEN we should deload.

When planning a deload period (usually about 1 week long, every 4th or 5th week if training permits), it should be understood that you usually don’t need to take the whole week OFF.  In fact, that strategy may be a little counterproductive for the average gym-goer.  If you are an athlete and you just got done with a full season, then of course, take LOTS of time off.  Your body needs the recovery.  But for the rest of us, the deload week is simply a time where we back off of our usual program.  We still train.  But the difference is the VOLUME of our training.

For example, a very simple idea for most people is to cut the TOTAL VOLUME IN HALF.  So if your current training program has some rep schemes like this:

3 x 6 @ 65%/75%/85%

Then a simple way to adjust the volume is by cutting the reps down 50-60%…so your NEW rep scheme would be:

3 x 3 @ 65%/75%/85%

Obviously these are simplified examples, but It’s a super simple, yet effective method, for letting the body recharge.  The workouts shouldn’t feel difficult.  You should actually feel ENERGIZED after you’re done!  Here are some other HOWS for the deload week:

  • Cut Volume (sets x reps x weight) by 50-60%
  • Lower Intensity during lifts (rep scheme remains steady, amount of weight lifted decreases)
  • Don’t lower Volume and Intensity simultaneously…choose one!
  • Do something DIFFERENT!
    • Take a class, go for a hike, ride your bike outside, work in the yard, but be sure to stay active!

And WHEN should we deload?  We briefly touched on this earlier, but if you’re working hard on a consistent basis, and you HONESTLY feel you’ve EARNED the deload week, then it’s probably okay to take time every 4-5 weeks.  You can go longer (6-10 weeks) if your workouts aren’t that intense.  I would recommend that you listen to your body.  If you feel rundown, if you lack motivation, or if you start to notice a decrease in performance, TAKE A BREAK!!!

In summary, the body needs a break every once in a while.  If you plan on crushing new personal bests every day, you’re going to break down eventually.  Although I commend the intensity and the desire to always go balls-to-the-wall, for long term success, you NEED a break.



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