- “Deload weeks” are planned into many serious athletes’ training programs and mean significantly reducing the intensity of workouts.
- They are designed to allow the body to recover and then perform at optimum capacity again.
- Formal deload weeks aren’t necessary for the average fitness fan, but it is important to listen to your body and give it time to recover.
- Exercise is ultimately a stressor on the body, and sometimes you need to break for your mind even if your body feels ready to go.
- Read more Working It Out here.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
I’ve heard people say it’s important to do a “deload” week from time to time and take a break from my workout program. But is this really necessary? Do I need to stop working out if I don’t want to? Help!
The deload week is a term you hear “fitness people” throw around, but as someone who works out for health and fun, you have to wonder whether we need to worry about it.
Fear not, I consulted the experts to explain everything we need to know.
A ‘deload’ involves significantly reducing your training
“A deload can be described as a period of time where the prescribed load and intensity of your training is significantly reduced to enable you to recover from an accumulation of stimulus for a positive training effect,” explained Laura Hoggins, a personal trainer and director at London’s Foundry gym.
This means taking it easy with your training, reducing the weights you use, how many sets or reps you do, the intensity of a session, or how many days a week you work out.
Laura Hoggins is a London-based strength coach.
“A considered training program should apply the principles of progressive overload and allow for periods of lower intensity and reduced volume to make sustainable progress towards your goals,” Hoggins said, adding that our bodies weren’t designed to be pushed to the limit week in, week out.
There are different ways to deload
If you’re a professional athlete, your coach may program a deload period of a week or a few days into your training plan, and this is something regular fitness fans can do too.
“Sometimes having it at a particular date to work towards, you can work harder knowing you have a bit of time ‘off’ coming up,” Hoggins said.
Alternatively, you can do what’s known as an “auto-regulated” deload, which is where you’ve listened to your body and decided you need a break.
“There may be times in your training that a session feels more tough than usual, maybe at a certain time in a woman’s menstrual cycle, or a period of life stress, or poor recovery/sleep,” Hoggins said. “You can decide to take it a little easier, refill your battery, and go back to your usual training when you feel ready.”
A deload can mean a whole week off from training, but it could also mean focusing on lower intensity work, mobility, accessory work, and corrective exercise, Courtney Fearon, a personal trainer and fitness consultant, told Insider.
If you’re not training intensively, you probably don’t need a formal deload
If that all sounds a bit much, don’t worry. The average person probably doesn’t need to stress too much about deloading.
“Whether or not you need a deload week is in direct correlation with how much and how frequently you’re loading your muscles,” Connor Minney, co-founder of Grndhouse, told Insider. “If you’re lifting really heavy barbells and machines in the gym 5-7 times per week over a series of months like a bodybuilder or CrossFitter, then you’ll benefit from taking a week off to let your muscles de-stress, and you’d find you come back stronger the following week.”
Connor Minney is the co-founder of strength-training platform Grndhouse.
He continued: “However if you have a workout routine that is predominantly dumbbells or another form of resistance training then a deload day once or twice a week is more than enough to keep your central nervous system happy.”
According to Fearon, deloading works best for elite athletes, serious and experienced exercisers, and those who have recurring injuries.
“Those newer to training can still benefit from deloads and rest weeks but will generally be able to train for longer blocks of time before needing that break,” he said.
Taking breaks to prevent overtraining is important
Even if you don’t take a formal deload week, taking breaks and managing your training is important, because overtraining will not only hinder your progress but also leave you prone to injury.
“It is important we look out for signs of overtraining and poor recovery,” Hoggins said. “Markers include finding normally comfortable training much harder than usual, prolonged muscle soreness, and/or low energy.”
Check in with yourself before you push yourself too hard.
“It all bottles down though to how you’re feeling,” Minney said. “Are you aching, demotivated, and struggling through your workouts? Take a break, you’re probably overtraining. Recovery is just as important in the process of improvement, and a stressed body can hold you back from your goals.”
Training breaks benefit your mind as well as body
According to Fearon, undulating your training in some way helps avoid plateaus, burnout, and injuries, but also loss of motivation. Exercise is ultimately a stressor that adds to the daily strain on our bodies.
“There is only so much stress we can manage, and during periods of time where our total stress is increased, we may have to take action to reduce stress in other areas to pursue optimal health and wellness,” Hoggins said.
And that can mean deloading or taking things down a notch movement-wise.
Courtney Fearon is a personal trainer in London.
“Take note of overall stress as you may need an all-round deload even if the training doesn’t feel like you do,” Fearon said. “The nervous system is more sensitive and in tune than our muscular skeletal system, so often even when we think and feel ready to keep smashing out those workouts our bodies are in need of rest.”
Fearon uses the analogy: “No matter how good you are at inhaling, you are going to have to exhale at some point if you want to go again.”
Learn to listen to your body and look after it.
Wishing you well,
As a senior lifestyle reporter at Insider and a self-described fitness fanatic with an Association for Nutrition certified nutrition course under her belt, Rachel Hosie is immersed in the wellness scene and here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you’re struggling to find the motivation to go for a run, confused about light versus heavy weights, or unsure whether you should be worried about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to give you the no-nonsense answers and advice you need, with strictly no fad diets in sight.
Rachel has a wealth of experience covering fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and she has the hottest experts at her fingertips. She regularly speaks to some of the world’s most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches, ensuring she’s always up to date with the latest science-backed facts you need to know to live your happiest and healthiest life.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.