Deload Week | The Important Gym Break For Muscle Recovery

What Is A Deload Week?

A question I’m often faced with is ‘what’s a deload?’ usually, the answer is ‘something you should have done a long time ago’’. The purpose of a deload is to drop fatigue accumulated through training which is most certainly underlooked by trainees. A deload traditionally last’s about a week, where training volume is temporarily decreased. As we progress through our training fatigue accumulates linearly to which it eventually decreases one’s fitness (performance).

So if you want to ‘actualize’ your performance gains, you need to drop the fatigue masking it. Some other benefits include but are not limited to the replenishment of muscle glycogen, central nervous system recovery and increased motivation.

By skipping de-loads, a lot of trainees leave potential results on the table by accepting subpar performances. As much as training is important, so is our rest and fatigue management. ‘Deloads’ often seen as a step back are far from it and just may propel you into new ‘gains’ in both size and strength. Irritability, lethargy, decreased motivation, lack of appetite, poor sleep are all common indicators that one is ‘overreaching’ a term used to describe intensive fatigue through training.

Exercise Recovery

Then consider de-loading. Personally, I schedule de-loads every 6th or 8th week depending on how high my training volume or intensity is. I recommend training without deloading to last a minimum of 4 weeks, no more than 8. You could argue that you’re not training with enough volume/ frequency or intensity if you
don’t require one within this time frame.

There are a few ways you can de-load one being just complete time off, however, an ‘active recovery’ period has been shown superior. This means reducing your training volume by 50-65%. For the sake of ease, I suggest halving your current training volume and dropping your intensity. For example, if you train with 2 reps left in the tank, then you’re using an RPE of 8 (10 being failure) then you would simply stop with 4 reps left (RPE of 6) during your de-load. If you perform 100 reps for chest per week, slash it down to 50, 150 for legs, halve it for 75. It really is that simple and as I’ve mentioned, your intensity you lift at which means using lighter
weights than usual.

Muscle Recovery

As for exercise selection, I like to reduce the number of compounds due to the involvement of stabilizing muscles and include more isolation work, for example a bent over row may be substituted with a chest support row, a Romanian deadlift may make way for a leg curl. This is just my preference; the priority is to reduce your total training volume.

As training is adjusted, calories are too for best results. For those within a fat loss phase I suggest taking your calories to maintenance to ‘diet break’ during this week for an increased likelihood of dissipating fatigue. As for those in a calorie surplus, I suggest reducing your rate of gain or spending a week at maintenance to control body fat gain.

Think of ‘deloads’ as a step forward, NOT a step back and watch your performance, health, physique and motivation increase.

Andy Griffiths

Andy Griffiths

Writer and expert

Andy's journey in fitness started during his studies at Leeds Becket University in 2003, working in the university campus gym, he got a taste for a life in fitness. In the past 17 years, he has developed through various roles and has built a detailed experience in developing one-to-one clients, fellow team members and group fitness programmes in mainstream and boutique facilities. Training endurance athletes, martial arts athletes and simply those wanting to build a healthier life, he has built some great experiences and is now in a fantastic position to share what he has learnt with you. Being able to engage beginners into exercise regimes he feels is essential but has the ability and experience to adapt training techniques for those more experienced so everyone learns something new. He strongly feels that if you believe you are capable, you commit to achieving your goals that you will be successful!