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Do You Need a Deload Week?


If you train day in and day out, week after week, month after month, so on and so forth you may notice that you will find yourself hitting a serious plateau or even worse, losing strength and decreasing performance. Oftentimes fatigue will mask your true fitness level and prevent you from making progress, even though you train hard each week.

Plain and simple, a deload is a short planned period of recovery. You take your training slightly lighter, maybe workout a little less, and generally just ease things back. It allows your body to recover by muscles totally repairing, returning hormone levels to normal, and your central nervous system to rest. This is an absolutely essential part of strength training as well as conditioning. A typical deload will last a week.

Overtraining Symptoms

Overtraining can be defined as an exercise program that leads to “an undesired outcome of fatigue and performance decrements.”  Now we also know it may have psychological or mental consequences including:

  • Muscle pain or soreness
  • Weight loss
  • Gastrointestinal disturbance
  • Overuse injuries
  • Loss of self-confidence
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional/motivational changes

Do you Need to Deload?

There isn’t very much scientific evidence yet specifically backing up a deloading week. There is plenty of research pointing to an increase risk of injury when overtraining.  Given the amount of physiological stress placed on soft tissue and the psychological consequences of advanced weight training and highly-athletic sports, allowing a week or two of reduced demands just makes good sense.

There are a few key signs to look out for as an indication of when you should implement a deload:

Getting Weaker

No one wants to get weaker. It’s kind of the opposite of why we train. When your lifts are suffering, particularly on your low rep work, it could indicate you’re starting to overreach and your central nervous system is getting a little bummed. The solution? Have a week of downtime and take a deload.

Sore Joints

You’re going to get the odd injury from time to time and a little soreness is part and parcel of the wonderful world of the iron game. But being in constant pain, having your knees scream at you every time you squat, your elbows not playing ball when pressing, or your hips giving you grief just from walking up the stairs is not good.

You’ll probably need a good dose of foam rolling, stretching and a trip to your physio or sports massage therapist, but combine this with a deload and your body will thank you.

How to Incorporate a Deload Week into your Training?

One simple way is to adopt the three weeks on, one-week-off method. You still take your normal rest days during your training weeks, but when you get to the deload week, you have to deload

Do your normal routine and normal volume (sets & reps) but reduce the weight you use to about 50-60% of what you normally work out with for each exercise.

Use the same weight as you normally would, but drop your number of total volume (sets x reps) to 50-60% of your normal volume. (Note that you should stick to an 8+ rep scheme here.)

Use lighter weight and focus on refining your form and technique

Eating better and working on your nutrition plan will go a long way towards helping you succeed in the future! Since your workouts are lighter it is also a great time to focus on recovery activities such as massage, foam rolling or doing some extra stretching. Yoga is always a great option for recovery as well.

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