How To Deload For Elite Performance

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Once I started studying the importance of fatigue management, I realized how important it is to include deload weeks into a workout schedule.

We all need to take a deload week, and everyone needs them for different reasons. Unfortunately, most of us wait until a plateau before making these adjustments in our workout programs. Without a scheduled deload week, we are forcing ourselves to take a week off altogether in order to repair muscle damage accumulated by training too hard for too long.

When I started training at 14 I went through the motions and never had enough knowledge and was tricked into doing excessive OVERREACHING!

Non functional overreaching is not sustainable for long-term training and limits muscle performance while eventually causing a fast track to burnout.

Have you ever felt like you had a killer workout? But the truth is, all you did was exhaust yourself before you had a chance to create proper muscle stimuli.

I know I have!

What is non functional overreaching? Honestly, we have all gotten roped into non functional overreaching at one point or another. And there is no need to feel dumb about it because it happened to me.

Non functional overreaching is when you overwork your body and mind with reps, sets, and just a bunch of unnecessary volume! A perfect example is Beachbody On-demand, Pelton, and any other workout plans that toss multiple different types of training into your workouts.

The fact is, non functional overreaching will make you feel tired, leaving you to think you had a killer workout.

But really, exhausting your body well before hitting the targetted muscles. Affects adaptation since you are too tired to perform the exercises properly.

When in fact, you need to train with specificity in mind. Train for your goals, and give your body the proper rest time between sets so you can work your target muscle to enhance muscle performance.

I was famous for Junk Volume, and I promoted it. How dumb do I feel now?

Pushing myself to unknown limits felt great! But at the end of the day, what was the point? It slowed down adaptation for double the work.

What Is A Deload Week? 

Deload week is a fancy word for Recovery week!

There are different ways to deload, but the most common version is when you cut everything down 50 percent for an entire week.

  • Lift half the load
  • Perform half the amount of sets
  • Do half the amount of reps

Deloads will help your mind and body relax without taking time off from the gym! 

In the 21st century, stress and anxiety are at their highest, and when we are lifting weights, we are adding more stress to our bodies. But don’t worry!!!


When you calculate the stress between regular exercise and stress from our everyday lives. It’s obvious that adding a deload week should be something we implement in our routines.

Let me ask you this.

Have you ever lost motivation? Then after having a short break you come back more determined and competitive than ever? 

Signs That You Need A Deload Week

Progressive Overload Decreased

Every workout plan should include a way to apply progressive overload. The overload principle could be as simple as adding 2 lbs to the bar every week. 

Other ways to overload your muscles could be 

  • increase sets
  • increase reps 
  • increase load 
  • increase or decrease concentric and dicentric reps

Increasing any of the above too fast will result in burnout and a pre-mature plateau.

The ideal strategy includes slowly increasing overload to the targetted muscles until they stop responding.  

For example,

Last week, you did five sets of ten reps of chest press with a Reps In Reserve of 3. And the next week seems to be a struggle to get the same five sets of ten reps. On top of it, you are reaching 0 reps in reserve before you finish your last set. 

Here is an early indicator that a deload week is just what you need.

The same goes for everyone who uses load increase as their overload principle. 

If you find yourself struggling to add more weight to the bar, chances are a deload week is needed.

  1. Hit A Plateau

Even when following the best programs, eventually plateauing will happen. There is just no way around it!

Most of us get so GUNG HO that we miss the most important way to apply overload. Slowly elevate your minimum volume stimulus and work towards your max rep volume. 

Doing this will create longer-lasting muscle tissue and help regulate your plateaus. Going too hard too fast by lifting heavier weights that are too close to your 1 Rep Max will force your body into a pre-mature deload week. Instead of taking a deload week every 4-6 weeks, you would have to include one every 2-3 weeks. All this does is take away from weeks of training that could be going towards increasing performance.

  1. Stressed

When scheduling your deload week, you must consider multiple things. Muscle Damage is the number one reason for a deload week. But whether you have stress on your muscles or are stressed mentally, deload weeks can help with recovery.

Stress is stress! 

And stress is caused by daily tasks, lifting weights, or intense practices which still take a toll on us. 

However, our body becomes adaptive to stress.

When correctly applying the loading principles, we can handle more and more stress only for so long before the load becomes too much.

Recovering properly between workouts and practices helps muscles become prone to stress, and this is how you can adapt to added stress levels. Therefore, the next time we work out, we can apply even more.

This rule applies to everyday stress as well. 

In our Strength and Conditioning Rookie Camp! We help show how to allow for stress over a linear. Rather than overloading stress levels, which results in a fast track to fatigue and plateauing making it more difficult to recover. Increasing stress levels too much too fast is a formula for burnout. 

Burnout will force you to take longer recovery breaks, taking away from potential gains.

  1. Sleep Quality

Measuring the quality of sleep cycles can be done in multiple ways. Easy enough, a FitBit or Apple watch can give you a rough idea of how you slept the previous night. 

The most common indicator of poor sleep due to stress is when you are stuck in bed counting sheep.

For me, it would be the opposite. 

The second my head hits the pillow, I am out like a light. Some might believe this is unreal. But at the same time, it probably means one of two things. 

I am not getting enough sleep, or I could be pushing my body to limits and needing to take a deload or step back from daily stresses.

Trying to get quality deep sleep is critical for all sorts of recovery, especially weight lifting. Athletes should be getting upwards of 8-10 hours of sleep everynight.

  1. Workout Plan Calls For A Deload Week

When following a workout program like our Strength & Conditioning Rookie Camp, we incorporate deload weeks depending on your fitness level. For someone newer to weight lifting, you can go through the entire program without a deload week. Compared to someone who has been lifting weights for numerous years. 

Whatever program you are following, whether you found it online or designed it yourself. You include deload weeks at the proper times and not too late after you have already burnt your body out.

Our bodies will get stronger and be more pronto building muscle when we are in a recovery state. Deload weeks are becoming more popular every day, so try not to shy away from that part of a workout program. 

How To Deload

Depending on where you learned about deloads weeks, there are many different strategies to follow.

The most common way to deload is simply by reducing your load by 50 percent from your current workouts.

Another way to include a deload week is by keeping the same load you have been using, but slicing the number of sets and reps in half of what you were doing the previous week. 

Both of these strategies are best suited for someone following a structure training program while using the appropriate rep range for muscle growth.

Either of those deload weeks is very effective, depending on your workout frequency during the week. You can combine both of these strategies.

Why Are Deload Weeks Important?

I find when I don’t incorporate proper deload weeks into my workouts. I fall away from my regularly scheduled workouts and diet. By timing deload weeks properly they will help,

  • Decrease accumulated fatigue and allow the body to recover from the previous week’s hard training
  • They prepare the body for the increased demands of the upcoming phases of your workout plan
  • They limit the risk of overtraining and injury
  • Give you a psychological break from the stress that comes with weight lifting

When coming off a deload week you should feel mentally and physically refreshed, feeling stronger and prepared to tackle the next phase of your program.

How Often To Deload

Everyone is different when it comes to hitting the reset button.

And if you are a beginner to weight lifting, your bodies response is different compared to someone who has been lifting for years.

As a beginner, you can lift heavier and trigger more fast-twitch fibers and see some serious gains in the first couple of months. However, if you have been lifting for a couple of years or more. Your training has to be more exact to see even the smallest gains. Focusing on all rep ranges of Hypertrophy Training is the best way to trigger your slower and faster twitch muscle fibers.

A rookie Lifter can easily get away with limiting their deloads every two months following intense training.

For the more experienced lifter, deloading periods typically should be every 4-6 weeks.

After six weeks of intense training, our muscles will stop responding the way we want them to. Try not to go any longer than this period without including a deload week.

Now for the fitness addicts that have been lifting weight for years. 

Not sure about you, but I find that I can follow any program for up to three or four weeks before I find myself mentally exhausted from the exercises.

At this point, I tend to become more inconsistent in my workouts, and my diet starts to slip. 

Try to keep everything fresh and ready for action by including a deload week and cycling through your workout program.


For more recovery strategies check out my article, Carbs Are King!

Avoid becoming mixed up with the whirlwind of junk volume. 

We all have the minimum volume to trigger muscle growth and a maximum adaption amount of volume our body can handle to get the best out of our gains. 

Pushing too heavy, or too fast, will cause excessive muscle fatigue in our bodies. Resulting in a pre-mature muscle plateau and an early deload week. 

If we continue to train too hard, deload weeks will have to happen more often in order to see gains. If that is the case, we will be taking away from possible productive training weeks, wasting energy and resources that can be promoting more muscle growth. 

Train smart and slowly work up to a maximum adaptive volume of reps so you can experience long-lasting muscle growth. 

The more experienced you are with weight lifting will determine how often you should deload. On average, we should be having a deload week every 4-6 weeks.

Including regular deload weeks will help reduce the risk of injury, and joint pain, and keep your muscle growth on track. 

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