Lighter weights for bigger gains! How to use deloads correctly.



What is a deload?

A deload is a scheduled session/week/phase in a training program where you lower your overall volume in order to give your body a chance to rest and recover. A form of active recovery, this will give your body a break without you losing any strength or force a set back in your training.

Why we do a deload?

Training although good for us puts a lot of stress on the bodies skeletal, muscular and central nervous systems (bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves) and there will come a point where all of these will need a rest in order to properly recover.

Overtraining is a thing, this is basically where you have pushed your body to the point of exhaustion and this won’t bode we’ll in terms of progress. You may find yourself mentally and physically fatigued and stuck in a rut training wise ( plateaued) to the point where you are seeing no benefits from training and sometimes even negatives, this is where the deload can help you increase your numbers on the bar and help improve fatloss and/or muscular gain.

Or even sometimes we just need a mental break, the intensity has been high in your program from the off and you are starting to dread getting the gym or just not enjoying yourself when your in there, this is another example of when a deload can be useful.

When to do a deload

There are different theories when it comes to deloads:

Scheduled – some people recommend every 4 weeks, this may be more useful to a strength athlete or someone pushing max efforts in the gym on a consistent basis, this form of training can be taxing to joints, ligaments and tendons etc and it is always important to ensure your looking after your body. This can also help improve performance in the gym so don’t be surprised if you hit PRs on your first heavy session/week back.

Unscheduled – used when your feeling the effects of overtraining (fatigued, cranky, struggling to sleep and loss of appetite are just some symptoms) If you get to this point a deload week may be needed and is definitely advised.

How to do a deload

There are a couple of ways to deload and they are all based around overall volume.

1) You may go the route of lowering your weight to 60% of what you are currently lifting. For example if I was squatting 130kg for 5 sets of 5 reps, I would look to drop the weight to around 80 – 85kg and complete your 5 sets of 5 reps.

2) another way to do it is to again lower volume through working sets and reps. So using the example above, if I am squatting 130kg for 5 sets of 5 reps I may want to lower my sets and reps to 3 sets of 3 reps.

They are just 2 examples of how a deload can be laid out for all exercises and it can depend on your situation which way you decide to go about it.

You may only be early on In a program and not really need the deload but it has been scheduled in so carry it out anyway, in this instance you would probably choose option 2.


You may be feeling the effects of overtraining after weeks of intense lifting and option 1 is the way to go for you.


Deloads are a useful tool for anyone, don’t overlook them as being lazy. When used right they can and will help you improve your lifts, your mood and your body image.

Joe Neill
Personal trainer @ No Limits Strength and Conditioning Centre Liverpool
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About Author

I am an ex-professional athlete & personal trainer based in No Limits Strength & Conditioning Gym in Liverpool I have the first-hand experience of first class training and nutrition. I can build a program to suit your goals and needs, teaching you everything you need to make that transformation. A keen interest in Nutrition and exercise has led to me to enrolling on Exercise and Sport Science Degree which allows me to bring advanced and ground breaking methods into practice. Whether you’re interested in muscle gain, fat loss or performance I have proven strategies to produce continual progress with my clients.

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