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Deload Week: What is it? And How To Do It…

Deload Week: What is it? And How To Do It...

Have you heard of a Deload Week? 

In short, a deload week is where you back off from training or completely rest from your lifting program to allow your body to recover.

In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about a deload week. 

You can expect to learn about the following:

  • What is a deload week
  • Who does a deload week and why
  • When do you need to do a deload week
  • How to do a deload week (6 deload strategies)
  • How often should you do a deload week 
  • Benefits of deloading
  • 4 Bonus deload week recovery tips 

Who is this article aimed at?

If you’re a bodybuilder or weight lifter who trains hard and wants to speed up your recovery and maximise your gains in the gym, then this article has been written for you. 

What is a deload week?

What is a deload week?

If you train hard in the gym, lift heavy weights, and put your CNS (central nervous system) under lots of stress, then every once in a while, it’s essential to let your body recover by either taking a rest from training or backing off on:

  • Training intensity 
  • Training frequency 
  • Training volume 
  • Training load 
  • Avoiding/reducing CNS taxing exercises 

If you don’t listen to your body, you could cause long term damage and potential unrepairable injury. 

Who does a deload week and why?

  • Bodybuilders
  • Powerlifters 
  • Fitness models 
  • Athletes 


Anybody who is pushing their body to limit week in week out. 

When do you need to do a deload week?

If you are experiencing the following issues, then it may be worth considering a deload week:

  • Fatigue 
  • Nausea 
  • Low libido 
  • Acne 
  • Decline in performance 
  • Inflammation 
  • Joint pain 
  • Brain fog 
  • Poor sleep 
  • Bloating 
  • Weight gain 
  • Lack of muscle pumps
  • Poor immune health 

The above are all signs that you likely need to let your body rest, recover, and recharge. 

You can’t blast your body every week for months on end and not expect consequences further down the line. 

The best indicator of needing a reload week is if your performance is suffering… 

Of course, once in a while, it’s normal to have a poor session and you don’t always hit PB’s every workout…

BUT if your performance has suffered over several sessions (3 or more), it’s worth considering a deload week to allow your body to heal. 

How to do a deload week (6 deload strategies)…

How to do a deload week (6 deload strategies)...

There are several ways to let your body heal. Here are six ways to incorporate a deload week into your routine:

#1 Take A Week Off Training

Taking a complete rest from the gym can do wonders for your mind, body, and spirit, not to mention…your strength/muscle gains. Now and then it’s good to take a complete rest from the gym, e.g., Christmas, or when you are extremely burned out. 

#2 Lower Your Training Intensity 

Instead of going “balls to the wall,” why not pull back to 60-70% of your usual effort? This way, you’ll still maintain strength and your hard earned muscle tissue, but at the same time allow your body to repair. 

#3 Reduce Your Training Frequency  

Instead of training four days per week, you could do three days per week. For example, my routine is usually:

  • Monday – rest 
  • Tuesday – pull (1) 
  • Wednesday – rest 
  • Thursday – push (2)
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – legs (3) 
  • Sunday – upper body (4)

I usually train four days per week and hammer my body. This week however my body is in bits, my joints are inflamed (as though they’re on fire!), and I have no drive or motivation to train. I’m coming off the back of an intense ten-week phase of training…

Instead of stopping training altogether, I’ve lowered my training frequency down to 3 days per week. 

Here’s my current deload week:

  • Monday – rest 
  • Tuesday – pull (1) 
  • Wednesday – rest 
  • Thursday – push (2)
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – legs (3) 
  • Sunday – rest

I’ve left out my upper body session on Sunday. 

#4 Lower Your Training Volume 

You could also reduce your sets and reps. For example, instead of doing 8-12 working sets per session…

Drop down to 4-6 sets working sets per session.

You could also reduce your reps.

As I mentioned above, I’m currently doing a deload week, and alongside reducing my sessions (reducing from 4 down to 3) I’m also lowering the number of working sets I do. 

For example, my usual routine is:

  • Monday – rest 
  • Tuesday – pull (1) – 9 working sets*
  • Wednesday – rest 
  • Thursday – push (2) – 6 working sets*
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – legs (3) – 4 working sets*
  • Sunday – upper body (4) – 8 working sets*

*Working set – means taking the set close to failure 

That means I usually do 27 working sets per week

However, this week, I’ve lowered my working sets down to the following:

  • Monday – rest 
  • Tuesday – pull (1) – 5 working sets*
  • Wednesday – rest 
  • Thursday – push (2) – 3 working sets 
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – legs (3) – 2 working sets 
  • Sunday – upper body (4) – 4 working sets 


14 working sets this week

That means I’m doing 13 less intense sets to allow my body to recover but still keep my strength and muscle gains. 

#5 Reduce Training load 

Instead of benching 100kg, you could reduce the weight you lift by 20-50%. Let’s say you do a 50kg bench press; you’ll still get to stimulate the muscle and practice technique without putting severe stress on your body. The weight reduction will depend on how burned out your are feeling. 

#6 Avoid/Reduce CNS Taxing Exercises 

The following exercises, when taken to your limit, will cause CNS fatigue:

  • Deadlifts (standard, sumo, and RDL’s)
  • Bench press
  • Chin-ups
  • Squats 
  • Hack squats 
  • Leg press
  • Dips
  • Military press
  • Bent over rows
  • Barbell/DB shrugs 


Any compound lift that requires an enormous amount of effort to lift. 

Instead of doing the above exercises, you could switch to isolation exercises that ‘stimulate but don’t annihilate’ your muscles in the same way. 

For example, instead of squats for legs, you could do:

  • Leg extensions 
  • Seated leg curls
  • Calf raises
  • Split squats 
  • Lunges

For the upper body, instead of heavy presses and pulls, you could do:

  • Dumbbell fly’s
  • Incline row
  • Tricep pushdowns
  • Side raises
  • DB curls
  • Machine row

The above are just a few examples; there are lots of less taxing exercises you can do.

How often should you do a deload week?

It depends on how you feel. Sometimes I go six months without needing a deload week; other times, I need them every 6-8 weeks. 

The best advice I can give is to listen to your body – it never lies.

8 Benefits of a deload week:

8 Benefits of a deload week:
  1. Improved performance 
  2. Increased sex drive
  3. Better quality sleep 
  4. Strength gains
  5. Muscle mass
  6. Fresh joints 
  7. Better mood 
  8. Mental freshness

4 Bonus deload week recovery tips 

Alongside the above ways to deload, the following will help you to recover and get back to your best:

#1 Improve sleep – I’ve written about many ways to improve your sleep on my fitness blog. Check out these two articles for further reading:

#2 Foam rolling – rolling out tight muscles is a great way to help them heal. Here are 4 of my favourite foam rolling exercises:

Back cracking:

Hamstring single leg foam rolling:

IT Band foam rolling:

Pec foam rolling:

I would also recommend reading this article I wrote – 10 benefits of foam rolling and how to do it.

#3 Sports Massage – If you live in Sheffield and would like a sports massage, please contact my wife, Sally. But if you live further afield, then booking in for some deep tissue work can help you recover on your deload week. 

#4 Mobility and Flexibility Work – why not take a week off to improve your movement and flexibility. Here are 4 of my favourite deload mobility drills:

Jefferson curl:

Spiderman walks:

Banded overheads:

Hip mobility – legs kicks:

I also like to add in more stretches on a deload week. Here are four of my go-to stretches:

Hurdle stretch:

Glute stretch:

Chest stretch:

Hip flexor/thigh stretch:

Thanks for reading,

Nick Screeton - LEP Fitness

Nick ScreetonLEP Fitness