How to Properly Deload

A proper deload is critically important to anyone’s progression and there’s a lot of confusion on how it’s supposed to be done. In this article, we’ll touch on the true meaning of a deload, the proper way to do it and how a proper deload can benefit you and your training.

First off, there are a few ways to approach the deload week. Remember, the main idea behind the deload is to give your body a break. That should be the first thing on your mind when constructing your deload plan. If your deload work is beating you up, or you still feel banged up when you get back to normal training loads, then your deload isn’t effective. A difficult deload defeats the purpose of what it’s supposed to be about. A deload is giving your body an active rest, so that it gets recharged to effectively handle your next block of training. You may have to check your ego at the door, but you have to give your body a break.

There’s absolutely no way in hell you should be doing 15-20 reps for deload work. It might not be max work, but it’s still taxing on your body and your CNS, which defeats the purpose of this. Don’t worry about increasing your volume and don’t think about doing tons of work. That’s a bad idea.

Instead, here’s two different templates to follow:

Pick your max effort (ME) exercise and work up to 60 – 70 percent, doing singles, doubles, triples…or even five-rep sets.
In fact, you could even do 10 if you wanted and if your body felt fine.
Remember, this is a deload. You have to DELOAD.

Another option:

Skip your ME work and simply do assistance work.
If you do this, cut way back on your assistance work.
Instead of five sets, do three.
Drop your normal weight by 10 – 15 percent and do 10 reps.

These are two simple options that can lead to effective deloads.

I often try to focus on things I neglect when I’m training full-speed. For instance, I’ll spend more time warming up and stretching.

Deload Training Tip:

Coupled with your abbreviated workout, spend the rest of your training time warming up and stretching. Use a foam roller or whatever is your favorite stretching device, but be thorough. This is the week to do it.

This is another good way to help your body recover in anticipation of that next intense training cycle.

When it’s time to deload, take the break. When I deload, I feel like I did nothing. Then again, that’s how it should be – that is, after all, the point of a deload week.

Rest, recover and prepare the body for the next block of hard training.

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About the Author

Matt is a tremendous resource for our readers. He brings that hard to find mix of real-world playing and coaching experience. Matt started his collegiate career as a lacrosse player at The University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1994-1996. He later transferred to the University of Arizona where he played football from 1996-1998. After college he played arena football for the Richmond Speed before suffering a career-ending neck injury. After his playing career, Matt coached football at the University of Richmond. He later interned for Buddy Morris at the University of Pittsburgh. After 8 years as a personal trainer, Matt is back in the collegiate ranks as a strength and conditioning coach at the University at Albany. Matt has competed in Powerlifting since 2001. His geared numbers include a 930 squat and a 605 bench. His raw numbers include a 650 squat, 485 bench and a 760 deadlift, all done in the 308lbs class. View Matt’s training log.