Woman looking exhausted next to a kettlebell

Photo: Jacob Lund (Shutterstock)

Even among professional athletes, nobody trains at 100% performance every week. There are times to rest and relax, often for a week or more, and you and I can apply this principle to our routines as well.

What is a discharge?

There is a lot of disagreement about this! For some people, a Deload is a complete break from training, like a vacation. You take all week off, and that’s all.

For others, a Deload is less intensive than your usual work. You may do as many sets and reps as possible, but the weights aren’t that heavy. On the flip side, a deload can reduce volume so you do fewer reps and sets, but the weights can be just as heavy as usual.

The type of Deload you should use depends on the type of work you have done up to that point, the reason for the Deload, and your (or your trainer’s) training philosophy.

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When should I unload?

There are several ways that weight lifters (and recreational athletes like you and me) can use a Deload. Here are the main ones:

  • To prepare for a competition. To do your best, you have to Reduce fatigue without rusting. Peaking usually involves reducing volume (fewer reps and sets) while holding the weights heavy.
  • To introduce new lifts or destinations. You are more likely to experience pain doing something new and intense. It is therefore often useful to introduce new exercises or new types of training during a week of lighter training (in this context this is sometimes called a “pivot week”). )
  • For recovery after a hard training block. Some programs have a built-in Deload week; In other cases, after completing one program, you can take an extra week to complete before starting the next.
  • As part of a long-term plan to manage fatigue. Even if your training wasn’t particularly hard, you should occasionally take Deload weeks to make sure you don’t get unnecessarily tired.
  • In response to perceived stress. Some programs do not include planned weeks of rest and it is up to the trainee to decide when to take a break.

How do I know if I’m doing it right?

If you’re working with a coach, ask them about their big plans for you. The Deloads (or lack thereof) should be part of the puzzle and have a reason to be programmed as they are.

If you are running programs that you found on the internet or in books, take a moment to think about how each of them tackle Deloads. Some may contain Deloads and some may not. Programming for yourself can take inspiration from other programs, but you should also use some common sense and ask yourself how you are feeling.

Deloads are a common tool for fatigue management, but not the only tool. For example, your program may adjust the volume from week to week so that you feel fresh. If so, you may not need a Deload at all. While you are preparing for a competition, a deload is a very common way to reduce fatigue and maintain good performance, but that doesn’t mean you always have to deload before a competition. (For example, it is common practice to “train through” a low priority competition.)

A Deload is really just a training tool, so make sure you tailor your selection of Deloads to suit your body’s needs.