And now for the most neglected aspect of weight training… NOT training.
It’s a simple concept very few people seem to grasp or actually give a damn about to any degree. Yet, it’s a concept that will ensure you actually reach your goals, progress consistently, and prevent injuries.
When I say it like that, you’d think this would be something at the top of everyone’s list of training components… but it never is. In many cases, it’s not even on that list at all.
You see, I don’t care who you are, how genetically gifted you think you are, how “hardcore” you are trying to be, or how you just don’t feel any of this stuff applies to you.
The honest truth is that it always does… probably more so than you’ll ever realize.
In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that the aspects of NOT training (rest/recovery, scheduled breaks, deloading, taking time off, etc.) are JUST as important as all of the aspects of training that always get all of the attention.
I know, that’s a pretty bold statement which will probably take some explaining to understand (or just believe). So, let the explaining begin…
Scheduled Training Breaks
Scheduled training breaks are exactly what they sound like. They are…
Planned breaks you purposely take from training for the purpose of giving your entire body (muscles, nervous system, joints, etc.) and mind (training gets mentally draining on everyone after a while) an extra large dose of rest/recovery and to allow for super-compensation to occur (which is basically when all of your body’s improvements occur). This then puts you in a fresh and ideal state for the upcoming period of training.
There are mainly 2 different types of training breaks, and both have their place depending on the situation.
- Taking Time Off. This is what most people think of when they hear “training break.” You know, just take a full week off completely from all forms of weight training or possibly all forms of exercise in general.
- Deloading/Easy Weeks/Back Off Weeks. In this case you don’t take any time off, you just somehow reduce the work (or the amount of work) being done so that your workouts are “easier” for a certain period of time.
As usual, there are pros and cons to each, a recommended frequency, and a specific way to make them work best. All of which I’m going to explain right now.
Taking Time Off
This type of training break really doesn’t need much explaining. You just simply stop training. In most cases, you’d take 1 full week off from weight training (or all of forms of exercise, in which case you just stop working out altogether).
Of the 2 different types of training breaks, this one might offer the largest benefits. You really can’t beat an entire week off from training when it comes to giving your body/mind time to rest, recover and recharge.
The downside however is what you come back to. Specifically, the “oh-my-god-I-can’t-even-move” type soreness. Kinda like the muscle soreness you experienced when you first started weight training. Not fun at all.
Not to mention, while some people actually come back stronger after a full week off, some people find that they get set back a bit too far when they return, and they have to spend the next few weeks working to get back to where they were at before the break (while at the same time fighting the sometimes extreme soreness I just mentioned and attempting to get back into the groove of certain exercises).
Like I said… pros and cons.
How Often Should I Take Time Off From Working Out?
For the reasons mentioned above, I don’t recommend taking a training break like this TOO often.
I’m definitely not against doing it, but I just think the people who recommend that the average person should take a full week off from weight training every 4-8 weeks (or whatever) are out of their mind. For the majority of the population, it’s just unnecessary at best and counterproductive at worst.
Instead, taking 1 or 2 weeks off per year is more what I’d recommend (and personally do myself). There are exceptions of course (someone who is older and more beat up physically might need to do it more often), but in most cases, this is my recommendation.
So whether you make it an every 6-8 month thing, or just during a vacation or trip you take once or twice a year, or only when it feels like it’s needed… feel free to take a full week off from working out. As long as your diet stays even remotely sane during that time period, your muscle, strength and leanness will remain just fine.
I personally like taking my full week off at the end of the year during Christmas week. School sort of programmed that concept of “Christmas break” deep into my soul, so it just feels right to me. Plus I’m way too busy playing with toys and eating tree-shaped cookies to train anyway, so it works out perfectly.
Another Useful Option
Before moving on to deloading, there’s actually one other modified version of the “take-a-week-off” type of training break that I want to mention, because I happen to like it a lot.
You see, one way I’ve found of lessening those “cons” I mentioned a minute ago while still getting some of the same “pros” is simply by taking time off… but NOT taking a FULL week off. Instead, maybe just take half of the week off.
So for example, if you’re using a 4 day upper/lower program (like The Muscle Building Workout Routine), you’d do just 2 of the workouts for the week and take the other 2 off. I’ve found this to work quite well.
Deloading (aka Easy Weeks/Back Off Weeks)
In the case of a “deload,” rather than taking actual time off from training, you just take some of the “load” off from training (hence the name de-loading). Meaning, you continue to train, but you somehow back off and make your workouts easier for you in some way for a predetermined amount of time.
That means NO training to failure, NO attempts at progression, and NO really hard work, period. This time should be relatively easy and comfortable. If it’s not… then you’re doing it wrong.
There are many different ways to deload properly and plenty of different protocols that can all work quite well, but in terms of what I prefer myself and recommend most often, this predetermined amount of time will be a 1-3 week period.
And the 3 most common ways of backing off and making your workouts easier during this time is by either significantly reducing your training volume, intensity or both for 1 week, and then spending the next 2 weeks or so gradually bringing it back up to what it originally was.
Let me break that down for you…
How To Deload Volume:
- When deloading your volume, your goal is to maintain all of the weights you lift on every exercise WHILE you reduce the total number of sets (and/or reps) being done each workout for an entire week by about 40-50% of what it usually is. (Examples: If a workout normally has 20 sets total, maybe you do 10-12 sets total. If you normally do 4 sets of an exercise, maybe you do just 2. If you normally do 3 sets of 8 reps, maybe do 2 sets of 5 reps.)
- The following week, you’d start bringing volume back up to about 60-70% of what it originally was.
- The week after that, you’d bring volume back up to about 80-90% of what it originally was.
- And the week after that, you’re back up to 100% of your original prescribed volume and ready to start a fresh new cycle of consistent progression.
Also note that this is just one way of doing it, and that some people can get this protocol done in 3 weeks instead of 4. So maybe 50% in week one, then about 75% in week 2, and then 100% in week 3, thus eliminating one of the “ramp up” weeks. For others, that extra week of building up is beneficial or sometimes just flat out necessary.
The only way to know what’s best for you is to try it both ways and see.
In either case, the concept is the same. You spend 1 full week at a greatly reduced level of volume, and then use the next 1-2 weeks to gradually ramp that volume back up to what it originally was (or will now become). At that point, everything is back to its normal level and you’re ready to start pushing for progression again.
How To Deload Intensity:
- When deloading your intensity, you would maintain the total amount of volume being done WHILE you reduce the amount of weight you lift on every exercise to about 80-85% of what it usually is for an entire week. (Example: If you normally bench press 200lbs for 3×6-8, you’d now bench press 160-170lbs for 3×6-8.)
- The following week, you’d start bringing intensity back up to about 85-90% of what it originally was.
- The week after that, you’d bring intensity back up to about 90-95% of what it originally was.
- And the week after that, you’re back up to 100% of your original intensity (aka the weight you were lifting on each exercise) and you’re ready to start a fresh new cycle of consistent progression.
Again note that this is just one way of doing it, and that some people can get this protocol done in 3 weeks instead of 4. So maybe 80% in week one, then about 90% in week 2, and then 100% in week 3, thus eliminating one of the “ramp up” weeks. For others, that extra week of building up is beneficial or sometimes just flat out necessary.
The only way to know what’s best for you is to try it both ways and see.
In either case, the concept is the same. You spend 1 full week at a greatly reduced level of intensity, and then use the next 1-2 weeks to gradually ramp that intensity back up to what it originally was. At that point, everything is back to its normal level and you’re ready to start pushing for progression again.
How To Deload Both:
- When deloading both volume AND intensity together, just do some combination of the above protocols. (Example: If you normally bench press 200lbs for 3 sets of 8 reps, you’d maybe do something like 165lbs for 2 sets of 8 reps).
- You’d then spend the next couple of weeks bringing volume and intensity back up to their original levels as outlined above, and then start working your ass off for progression again.
Another option for doing both, by the way, is to deload intensity on certain exercises (like primary compound movements), and deload volume on others (like secondary isolation movements). Just another method to keep in mind.
Which Is Better: Deloading Volume, Intensity or Both?
I’m not really sure if one deload method is truly “better” than another. The truth is that they all work and I think personal preferences and individual differences factor in a great deal in determining which way you should do it.
Which means, the best answer here is the one that everyone hates the most: try them all and see which works best for you. The next time you deload, reduce volume. The time after that, intensity. The time after that, both. Pay attention to how it goes each time and figure out which one is most ideal for you.
If I had to make one general note though, it’s that deloading intensity gives your joints (and for me at least, my mind) MUCH more of a break than deloading volume by itself.
How Often Should I Deload?
Once again, the best answer here is that it depends on you, your goal and the specifics of your weight training routine.
For example, someone training for strength who’s squatting and deadlifting at a higher frequency and a higher intensity and doing singles and triples and hardly ever going above 5 reps per set will need to deload more often than someone training more in the realm of hypertrophy (less frequency, less intensity, etc.) or some other less taxing goal.
Not to mention, it can vary from person to person depending on genetics, age, training experience level and strength levels.
For example, a 40 year old would need to deload more often than a 20 year old. Someone with terrible genetics would need to deload more often than a genetic freak. Someone advanced who is lifting VERY significant amounts of weight would need to deload more often than someone who hasn’t been training as long and isn’t really all that strong.
For this reason, you’ll typically see deloading frequency recommendations fall as frequently as every 3 weeks to as infrequently as a couple of times per year depending on the specifics. But, generally speaking…
I’d recommend deloading every 6-12 weeks (or more frequently if you feel you need it). That ends up being about 4-8 times per year on average.
When Should I Deload?
Many intelligent workout routines program deloading (and sometimes full weeks off as well) right into the design of the routine so it’s done on a very specific and required schedule.
In my opinion, this is both good and bad.
It’s good because it forces people to deload regularly and most people are just too dumb and stubborn to ever deload on their own accord (been there myself). On the other hand, it means everyone deloads at the exact same time, and not everyone needs it at the exact same time.
I find this to be the case more often with muscle building routines rather than strength/performance oriented routines, but it can really be true with any type of program or goal.
What I mean is, someone might have truly needed to deload at week 6, while someone else could have made it to week 10 or week 12 before truly needing to. While it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to deload too soon (much better than doing it too late), it still causes that second person to basically pause their progression unnecessarily right when everything is going perfectly and take a break sooner than they really needed to.
For all of these reasons, I usually prefer to go by feel. So if at week 6 I’m feeling physically or mentally in need of a break (progression stalls, my body hurts, I’m losing motivation, etc.), I’ll deload at week 6.
But if I’m feeling great, progressing well, killing it in the gym and can hardly wait for the next workout, I’ll just keep on going and not even consider stopping. In that case, I might go another 6 weeks before actually deloading.
This is how I do it and would typically recommend it be done. The only potential downside is that it’s then up to each person to be smart enough to actually deload when they need it and not keep trying to grind it out and basically run themselves into the ground. So um… don’t be a dumbass. If 12 weeks of hard consistent training have passed and you haven’t deloaded, take a very serious look at your progress and how you’re feeling (physically and mentally) in general. Chances are it’s time.
Should Everyone Deload or Take Time Off From Working Out?
Yes, pretty much everyone actively trying to build muscle, increase strength, improve performance or really just push/challenge their body to improve in any capacity certainly should.
However, there are 4 possible exceptions that come to mind…
- Beginners (and maybe early intermediates).
Most people won’t really need or benefit from any sort of true training break during their first entire year of weight training, sometimes slightly longer. This becomes much more of a requirement when you reach mid-intermediate levels and beyond. This is partially because you’re just so fresh and new to weight training as a beginner (meaning your body is less beat up and fatigued), and because the weights you’re lifting aren’t really all that heavy at this point. However, the stronger you get, the harder you have to work, the more advanced the training methods become, the higher the volume gets, the longer you’ve been doing it all, and so on… the more of a regular requirement deloading and/or taking time off from working out becomes.
- People who aren’t trying or working hard enough in the first place.
The people who just go through the motions, don’t care at all about progressive overload, are wasting their time with pointless “toning workouts” (hi ladies!) and are essentially having an “easy week” every week do not really have a need for any sort of training break. What they really need to do is stop training like an idiot.
- People who have reached their goal and only want to “maintain.”
At this point, you’d really just need to be in a constant state of semi-reduced volume/frequency. This is because the volume/frequency required to just “maintain” is much less than what’s required to build or improve. So in a case like this, you’d just drop your volume down a little and/or cut back frequency a bit, and just stay there permanently. There’s no real need to regularly deload at that point unless you actually felt the need to do so.
- People whose primary goal at the time is fat loss (and maintaining muscle).
As I’ve explained in detail before (Burn Fat NOT Muscle), recovery is at its worst when losing fat. A caloric deficit is obviously super fantastic (and required) for fat loss, but it basically sucks for everything training related (recovery, work capacity, volume tolerance, etc.). This means you should automatically reduce your volume and/or frequency to some extent to compensate for this drop in recovery and prevent it from becoming a problem. What kind of problem, you ask? A strength loss/muscle loss kind of problem which occurs all too often when training isn’t set up correctly. What this means is that during fat loss, volume/frequency should already be somewhat reduced, thus greatly lessening or even eliminating the need for deloading or taking any time off. Not to mention, deloading intensity while in a caloric deficit is quite possibly the worst idea ever. More on that below.
How Should I Eat While Deloading or Taking Time Off?
Well, for starters, the macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) should pretty much always remain within their ideal ranges… especially protein. As for calories, that depends on your exact goal at the time:
If Your Goal Is Building Muscle and/or Increasing Strength
With these goals, you would already be in a caloric surplus. During the deload weeks, you should definitely ensure that a small surplus remains intact.
Reason being, this is a time when your body is basically rebuilding and recovering more so than ever before, so it’s not uncommon to experience muscle growth WHILE you deload. Making sure the calories needed for it to happen are still being supplied is obviously a pretty good idea.
The same goes for when taking a full week off (or my half week off suggestion).
If Your Goal Is Losing Fat
With this goal, you would already be in a caloric deficit. And, as I mentioned a minute ago, the need for deloading regularly at this time isn’t really there as long as your routine has been adjusted accordingly.
HOWEVER, depending on how much fat you need to lose or how long it’s taking you, you can still definitely reach the point where you feel like some kind of deload or time off is needed. In this case, definitely come out of the deficit and go back up to maintenance level during the entire deloading period or the entire week you’re taking off.
Reason being, reducing intensity (aka the amount of weight you’re lifting) while in a caloric deficit is pretty much a recipe for disaster in terms of losing muscle. Maintaining that intensity is actually THE KEY to preserving lean muscle while body fat is lost, so the last thing you want to do is start purposely lifting less weight at this time (which is why the idea that you should switch to “lighter weight and higher reps” when trying to lose fat is a terrible F’ing idea).
Yes, going from a deficit back up to maintenance means you won’t lose fat during this training break, but it also means you won’t lose muscle either… and that’s WAY more important during this short time frame. Once the deload is over and intensity is back up to normal, resume the deficit and get back to losing fat.
And That’s How, When & Why To Take Breaks From Weight Training
So, that about wraps things up. Taking some form of training break when it’s needed, be it a full week off, half a week off, or a 1-3 week period of deloading intensity, volume or both is really one of the most important aspects of making long term progress, staying healthy, staying motivated, and getting the results you want and the body you desire.
Yet, it’s easily the aspect of working out that the average person ignores the most and always suffers for as a result. My advice? Don’t be that average person.
Don’t let your stubbornness or inability to take a break or train at anything less than 110% be what hurts your progress. I’ve been there and done that myself, and what finally got me to come around is the fact that it ALWAYS ends up being beneficial.
See for yourself.
88 thoughts on “How To Deload: Deloading Week & Taking Time Off From Working Out”
Great advice as always. Thanks
Happy to hear it.
After the week off / easy week, are the following ramp up weeks for rebuilding strength or part of the process of deloading? The reason I ask is that I’ve just returned to the gym after 2 weeks of vacation with only one workout (effectively a double workout cos i did a full lower and upper in an extended session) in the middle of that break and found that my strength this morning is pretty much where I left off before vacation. So I’m wondering whether I’m now just meant to crack on at maximum intensity and volume or operate slightly below that if thats useful for the deload process.
A bit of both, actually.
The idea of significantly reducing intensity/volume and then fully bringing it all back up the next time is usually a bit hard on the body.
With a full week off, it’s usually even harder, not to mention that most people will just need to take a week or two to work back up to where they were before the break.
So yeah, it’s part of the deloading process, and it’s part of getting strength levels back up to normal.
BTW – after this morning I do seem to have lost a bit of strength and also feel I need a week or two to properly get back into swing of things. So what you’re saying applies to most people also applies to me. That first workout back I mentioned in post above appears to have been deceptive.
Sounds about right. 😉
Glad you liked it.
Once again, a great article. This just coincidentally happens to be my deload week. I’m trying for once every month, mostly because of my age and I do get burn out and/or injuries if I go much longer; lack of sleep, etc. I turn down the intensity. It’s about 50% (some of the barbell weight I can’t adjust to 80-85%) and 50% works good for me. It allows me to concentrate on the “squeeze” and good form. Since I’m on a 4-day split, those are (4) 50% intensity days and the other 3 I decided to just take off. Catch up on a little cardio and rest. Thanks again for another well thought-out article and I’ll be sending photos soon!
Yup, I find that deloading is a very individual thing in terms of EXACTLY how to do it and EXACTLY when and how often to do it. The key of course is just that you do it, and then just use trial and error to figure out the specifics of what’s most ideal for you.
In your case, what you describe sounds pretty damn perfect. The 3 weeks hard/1 week easy structure is quite common, and that’s about how it works out when deloading once per month. And like you mentioned, a larger reduction in intensity is likely needed/beneficial as we get older.
Definitely looking forward to those progress pics! The fact that I’m having this kind of conversation with a woman who’s 58 always impresses the crap out of me. 🙂
Great article. I saw you mentioned reducing volume and frequency when trying to lose body fat? I’ve made pretty good progress with fat loss in the past but I always felt like I sacrificed too much muscle/strength in the process. I think a part of this might have to do with poor recovery. This is something I need to look into further. Thanks!
That would definitely be a good idea. I too have gone into “fat loss phases” in the past and come out with great fat loss results but terrible muscle/strength maintenance results. It took me a couple of tries to finally realize what the problems were.
Always near the top of the list: keeping volume and/or frequency at normal “muscle building phase” levels. Too much while in a deficit.
An article about everything that should be done to maintain muscle while losing fat (training and diet wise) is already on my to-do list. It will cover all of this and more.
Sorry – Another question. I must be close to using up my quota !
How often do you recommend (or personally prefer) to alternate between fat loss and muscle building phases ?
Assume these phases are done as you recommend (ie fat loss = 20% less calories than required for maintenance; muscle building = 250-500 surplus calories).
Is there any difference between, say:
(a) being in muscle building phase for 6-8 months (cooler months) and fat loss phase for 2 months prior to summer – you know what I’m getting at 😉 and
(b) doing something more like 6-8 weeks building and 2 weeks loss, and then repeat ?
Obviously in (a) you’ll get fatter than in (b), but is one better than the other for overall annual muscle gains which is my goal ?
Now there’s a complicated one that really needs a full article to answer (and it’s already on my never ending to-do list).
But the quick answer is that the difference is mostly what you just said.
If you’d rather not get as fat, do shorter phases. If you don’t mind getting as fat, longer phases can work just the same.
As long as you’re not getting fatter than say 15% body fat (for men) in either scenario (a good max limit to stop “bulking” at), the end result won’t be that different. It’s MOSTLY about personal preferences. Not completely, but mostly.
I’ll definitely be writing about this subject in much more detail in the future.
The way I see it, one should keep using the same program as long as there is a “progression” from a workout to another. When progression stops, it is time for deloading…
The timing of this article couldn’t have been better because I’m taking a week off from training as we speak. I started to feel the effects of overtraining from the last few months when I went full-throttle with my quest to lower my body fat. I achieved my goals and am currently revamping my routine from mostly cardio to focusing on weight training. So, I figured that this week was a good one to rest, recover and regroup. I’ll come back next week refreshed and reinvigorated about my new routine. Great insightful article and love the site too. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
I definitely know the feeling. Glad to hear the article helped.
Nice one. Going through that “one week off” fase right now.
It´s been four hole months of really heavy weight lifting, where I got impressive results. I went from 184 to 213 pounds with almost no increase in BF!!! (just tweaked my diet and took a lot of whey and BCAAs).
BTW I’m 6’1″, 32 years old and been training since I was 15.
Now my body really needs the rest 😉
I’m starting to have lack of concentration at work, no motivation to go to the gym (and no progression) and constant laziness. Feels like sh…, hehehe.
Thanks for the article and good luck to all.
Thanks for the article. I did a Google search for some help with what deloading is and how one should approach a deloading phase. This had everything I was looking for and was highly informative, especially your explanation of deloading volume vs. intensity.
Deloading is a better idea for me personally than taking a week off entirely. I have taken weeks off in the past and when I came back to the gym everything felt foreign; as if I hadn’t been there in 6 months. Not to mention that I wind up climbing the walls of my house during the week off.
Thanks for the descriptive article.
I am 27 year old female and I have been doing weight training for over an year.
I have to take at least 3 days off every month during my menses.
Do you think taking such breaks can affect my goal.
I take 3 days off every week. Why would 3 days off every month be a problem?
A quick question, you say in the article: “you should definitely ensure that a small surplus remains intact”. I was wondering how much is a “small surplus” 😉
If anyone is eating 250 calories more each day, and is going to deload for 2 weeks (80% and 90%) … are we talking about maintaining those 250 calories during those 2 weeks? Reducing 150 and keeping maybe only 100 calories above maintenance?
Yup, that’ll work just fine. Slightly less can work too.
I never deload because Im superman! 🙂 But superman is getting a bit tired so he might have to go take a nap.
Hey, even superman has to stop by the Fortress Of Solitude from time to time.
Just purchased the Best Workout Routines, and a link brought me to this article. Like all the other links and advice, this is extremely thorough, and very intelligent. I’m a Soldier in the U.S. army, and pretty much devote all my free time to lifting and eating right. I’m only 19, but have made great gains thus far and only see more in the future, especially with the discovery of your programs and advice. I plan on continually reading up on everything you have published, and getting more and more knowledge to make me some more muscle gains. So, I feel as though a thank you for your hard work is due.
Happy to hear it, Jeff! Definitely keep me updated on your progress if you can.
And honestly, if anyone should be thanking anyone, it’s me thanking you for your service.
Your articles have certainly been relevant for me. I also am a Soldier, but much older than Jeff. Earlier in my career, your principles would have been more irrelevant, except in the context of the amount of cardio required for athletic performance. Unfortunately, the Army isn’t so easily categorized. We must have the readiness in full spectrum operations, which isn’t confined to any time and space. In simple words, we must be balanced to run/ march long distance, carry heavy weights, move heavy objects, sprint quickly, and do all this while eating food from the lowest bidder.
However, now that I have grown older, my requirements to do all of these have narrowed. Aerobic requirements are mainly limited to annual 2 mile runs and stamina test such as pushups/ sit-ups in 2 minutes. I hope to see some ways to balance your principles and athletic performance for our younger Soldiers because I do believe you have some legitimate principles.
Thank you for providing great articles for free.
What do you think about deloading one exercise while still training others as normal? The circumstances are strength progression on one exercise had stalled while others are still progressing.
That’s actually something I recommend for stalled exercises. I cover this more over here.
Excellent, thank you.
What a wonderful article!!! I’m one of those people who just pushes myself to the max. I’ve been searching for info. on taking a break and this is simply the best one I’ve come across. Very informative. Thanks a bunch.
Glad to hear it!
So had my 1st deload bout 6 weeks ago, and ever since iv had pain in my lower right quad just above the knee. Feels like the peak of soreness after a work out, but never goes away. Is there anythin you can me as to why it happened and what i can do about it
Assuming you deloaded correctly (and, for example, didn’t try to return to 100% faster than you should have), it could be a million different things… none of which have anything to do with the fact that you happened to be deloading at the time.
So, like every injury, it’s hard for me to say what the cause is.
Have you got an article on recovery?
How do you know if you are recovering between workouts properly or not.
I’ve been using your beginner program for many months with success. Thanks!
But, I’ve just started taking my diet seriously. I’m currently in caloric deficit as I’d like to shift the 10 pounds of middle fat.
I haven’t reduced my freq/volume and haven’t felt the need to. I don’t feel exhausted or less capable from one workout to the next.
So, am I recovering. How do I know!
If you feel good and are progressing well, you’re most likely just fine.
Been training for three months solid and just started feeling really tired and weak for the last four days. Thought i was coming down with the flu but no fever, no headache. I was training six days a week with two gym days. Is this the kind of thing that happens when you over train?
Anyway this is day one of my week off. I got worried that after I get back then this is going to happen more frequently. Can this happen?
Cheers anyway and thanks.
If your overall training is poorly designed, then yes… it’s certainly possible.
41 years old, Powerlifter, been training 5 yrs. I de-load every 3rd week, then every 16 weeks take a week off and believe me i need it! lol
I believed I’ve posted this question the other day but maybe not since I don’t see it, or maybe I did something wrong …
Deloading is coming and I would like to know your recomendations regarding reps when deloading intensity. You say: “when deloading your intensity, you would maintain the total amount of volume being done WHILE you reduce the amount of weight”, does this applies to reps? does this mean that if someone was progressing well but by the time of the deload he was, for example, doing 100 lbs for 7-5-4 (really attempting to do 3×6-8) he has to maintain those 7-5-4 during all the deload weeks? … like:
Week 1: 80 lbs, 7-5-4
Week 2: 87.5 lbs, 7-5-4
Week 3: 95 lbs, 7-5-4
Week 4: back to normal
Thank you very much 🙂
Yup, you have it right.
Hey! You recommend 1 or 2 full weeks off per year. How many those half week breaks do you recommend or do per year?
No real set recommendation. Between deloads, full weeks off and half weeks off, there’s a dozen ways you can set things up (some of which involve all 3, just 2, or just 1).
Hey, I’ll have a week off quite soon which I cannot avoid due to circumstances. At the moment I am losing fat at around 2000 cal a day. So, should I just instantly bump my calories to, say, 2500 or you would do it gradually? If the latter, then how much before the break should I start to increase intake?
If 2000 is a deficit and 2500 is maintenance, you can bring it up to 2250 a few days before the break, then 2500 during the break.
Expect some small weight gain to occur, though it will NOT be body fat.
Thank you! What about returning to dieting? Also with a transitional period or straght back to 2000 is ok, since hormonal and other stuff has been reset by the break (which, btw, ended up being 10 days).
Going from maintenance straight back into the full deficit shouldn’t be a problem. Then again, doing it gradually won’t hurt and may help ease the transition from a psychological standpoint.
Hey! Do you think there is any significant difference in hormonal benefits between one and two weeks diet break? I was in a moderate deficit for 5 weeks prior to it, now at 11-12% bf.
Significant? Probably not. Some smaller difference? Could be.
Kind of going along the same lines as what a.j.killer was asking above. I think I have the diet part figured out while I am on vacation next week. I am planning to bump up to maintenance while on vacation and I will be taking the whole week off from the gym. My question is, when I return to the gym the following week, I was planning to ramp back up to my workout weights over the course of about two weeks and use it as a deload, 80% the first week, 90% the next week, and back up to 100% the following week. My plan was to stay at maintenance during all of this, with plenty of protein, and start my deficit again when back up to 100%.
I only have about 7 or 8 pounds to lose to be where I want to start a new bulk and am around 12% BF right now. Does this sound like a good plan to keep muscle loss at a minimum or is there another way I should approach this? I am trying to be as cautious as possible because I will be 39 next month and I know I can’t be as flexible with all of this as someone in their 20’s for instance.
Thanks in advance Jay, You Rock!
Yup, basically stay at maintenance from the day you start the week off until the day you’re back at 100%. At that point, resume the deficit.
And of equal importance… keep protein intake sufficient during this entire period.
As you surely know, Christian Finn in his Muscle Evo advocates 3 weeks of heavy training followed by a 1 week deload, which he uses to lose some fat. I understand muscle can be built during deload and body will recover better in a surplus, but what is your opinion on this? I feel it is something I would have liked since I really want to avoid getting fat and psychologically this is easier than slow bulking for 5 months, at least for me, a former fat boy. Given that the deload is done so often, I assume that being in a deficit that week wouldn´t be detrimental to recovery as much as in the case of a person deloading after (much) longer spent heavy training. Also, the deload I am talking about is the one in volume, at least for the most part. The only thing that really worries me here are instant switches between surplus and deficit and potential metabolic damage.
I think alternating really short cycles (like 3:1) of bulking/cutting can help with minimizing fat gains but will be largely sub-optimal for growth. I much prefer longer, slower periods of focusing on muscle growth WHILE doing everything possible to keep fat gains as low as possible so you never really end up getting unacceptably fat along the way.
I also think deloading every 4th week will be a bit excessive for most intermediates (and I’m pretty sure Christian mentions this as well).
As a compromise, what do you think about a deload every 6th week (low end of your optimal frequency), making it a short fat loss period as he suggests (therefore deloading only volume not to lose strength), lasting 2 weeks (again, within your optimal duration)? Shouldn’t be as detrimental to muscle gains, while still keeps long term fat gains to minimum.
It would likely be better for muscle/strength gains than the first scenario you mentioned, though still not what I’d consider optimal for growth.
It is amazing how deloading makes you fresh. i did the upper body A workout on monday. No workout till saturday. On saturday i felt fresh so i did the upper body workout B. My chest supported row increased by 20 pounds. I am feeling that in next workout i can increase it further by 20 pounds. That is by giving break only to my lower body workout my upper body exercise progressed. Currently i am doing rowing at 220 pounds. And i am confident to do the rowing for 240 pounds next workout
Ha, nice! And while you may feel fresh enough to go up in 20lb increments, it’s still usually the right idea to keep the increments small.
Many thanks, ok i will do in small increments. however my point was that even the break from lower body workout helped me so much in the recovery. It was my 1st break since i started weight training a year ago and i should have taken it 2 months ago.
Yup, training breaks are the kind of thing where people don’t realize just how beneficial they are until they actually do it and see for themselves.
Hi there, great articles as always. I am taking about 12 days off from lifting at the end of the year for vacation and wanted to make sure I would be doing it right. I have been in a calorie surplus while using your Muscle Building Routine since about the end of July and want to continue my bulk until January or February of next year. I have slowly built up to about 2700 calories (2300 was my maintenance) and will continue to slightly increase my calories if I stop gaining at an optimal rate. So my questions are:
-Should I be adjusting down to maintenance (2300) during my 12 days off or perhaps just 125-250 calories below what I am eating the week before I leave for vacation?
-Also, I am currently taking your recommended 5g of creatine a day–should I continue taking it even while I’m not training?
Thanks a lot for your help!
1. Maintenance during the 12 day break would be perfect (although it might get tough not overeating slightly during a vacation).
2. Yup, keep taking it. Unless of course it would be too big of an annoyance in which case you could just resume taking it afterwards.
This was an excellent read and exactly the advice I was looking for. Thanks so much!
What do you think of “setting new PR’s with old weights”?
I have heard this style of deloading works great.
So if you were doing 80kg x 6 on the Bench after having conquered 75kg x 6 and 72 x 6 and 70 kg x 6, on your deload week you go back to your 72 or 70 but this time you complete 10 or 12 reps, This, in theory, would help to feel a sense of accomplishment in the deload week as well because you’re literally getting new PR’s since that person had never mastered a 70 x 12 since he went from 70 x 6 to 72 x6 to 75 x 6 and so on.
Some people claim that they see more hypertrophy after the deaload, when using this system, than during their normal routine. Some of them beg their trainer for a “deload”.
This sounds like you’d end up working pretty hard during the deload week, which sort of cancels out the whole purpose of the deload week. 😉
I have not deloaded or taken time off for about a year now. But I am going to Atlantic City next week, so I figured it would be a good time to do this. My question is, what is your opinion on alcohol during your week off? Should I try to minimize it as much as possible or is a night or two of binge drinking “okay”? I plan on lifting Sunday and Monday, then taking the rest of the week off, and not lifting until the following Sunday. How does this plan sound to you?
Thank you for the informative article by the way, I think I really need this.
This one from Alan Aragon is a pretty good place to start.
I saw that before, but was just wondering if it was any different during a week off. I guess not.
One thing I’ve been wondering about (regarding your comments about getting out of deficit while in fat losing mode in order not to lose muscle) is how much does it really matter? If muscle memory does in fact exist (and you seem to agree there) doesn’t it mean the following?
1) In such a short time period as one or two weeks, if you continue losing weight, the potential to lose too much muscle (which you have’t been gaining that fast while losing weight anyways) will be small.
2) You will be able to regain any lost muscle at an accelerated rate due to muscle memory (and your beginner burst)
PS. I know this is kinda moot, as why would anyone deload while in beginner fat losing mode (as you rightly say) but lets imagine its less of a deload and more of or “life” or situational delay in your training. I would still recommend to remain in the deficit and not worry about losing muscle if its such a short period…
Sorry for long comment.
I’m not sure if I fully understand your question, but assuming I do… it would just be a time-wasting setback where you have to redo something you already did.
When you say to ramp up the intensity each week during a deload, are you referring to a training split cycle, or an actual 7-day week?
For example, I’m on your Push/Legs/Pull program, and I’m planning a deload. Should I return to the gym at 80% weight for a full 7 days, or just for that first cycle of Push/Legs/Pull? Bumping the weight by 10% up for each consecutive cycle?
It would look like this:
Full 7-Day Week 1: 80%
Full 7-Day Week 2: 90%
Full 7-Day Week 3: 100%
Based on a rotating 5th day cycle, the former would take only 2 weeks, while the latter would take 3 weeks. Which of these options would you recommend for the most benefit?
I mean hit every workout one time at 80%, then hit every workout one time at 90%… then 100%.
Really exhaustive, detailed advice on deloading. Thoughts on giving your digestive system it’s due deload? I drop to maintenance, and even occasionally fast, during deloads because eating in a caloric surplus is rather taxing on my tummy. Anyway, awesome article. Thanks for this thoughtful advice!
If you feel like it, then sure. I can see benefits there.
Good read and thanks heaps. I am just into my first 6 months but Medial Epicondylitis has plagued my right arm and I need to stop for a week (headed to Maui from Australia) to try and get it under control with exercise to help it heal. It is hard to consider taking a break but I know I need to or ME is going to stop me for too long if it gets chronic.
I will do some laps of the pool at the condo we are staying at and also clock up some serious miles walking to ensure some form of exercise. I hope this break helps my elbow as it getting to the point of stalling progress.
Thanks for the site, I am running your upper/lower program right now and am enjoying it.
Glad to hear it Chris!
Great article! If I do 2 weeks off per year, should I deload every 6-12 weeks also? Thanks!
For example :
Week 26 : Week off
Week 52 : Week off
Week 13 : Deload
Week 26 : Week off
Week 39 : Deload
Week 52 : Week off
The week off would count as a rest/deload week.
can you explain more plz
I did not get the point
If a person plans to deload every 12 weeks, and on the 12th week they take a full week off instead, that week off would count as their deload for that period of time (i.e. they wouldn’t need to deload again until 12 weeks later).
Hi. If I’m using one of your 3 day routines in The Best Workout Routines, with a Monday Wednesday Friday split, and if I wanted to use the half a week deload option, I suppose I would simply skip Wednesdays workout, right? That’s a whole 96 hour deload/4 days.
I’m also guessing that skipping Friday’s workout instead of Wednesdays workout makes it a 120 hour/5 day deload which would be too long since it would bring in the cons you mentioned.
When it comes to 3 day routines. Would you say skipping Wednesdays workout is the better option for those of use who want to use the half a week deload option?
Exactly the kind of information I was looking for. Answered all of my questions and makes a lot of sense. Thank you, Thank you. Keep it up, there are people on the internet who are searching endlessly for this type of information, most of the time ending up with the same bullsh*t copied from someone else’s’ website.
If my goal is losing fat, my strength decrease month to month. Is normal?
Or i just losing my gain?
Caloric deficit 500 kcal
It depends how much strength is being lost. Your goal during fat loss should be to maintain strength levels as best as possible. Significant strength loss typically means muscle loss is happening as well.
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