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Deloading: What Is It And How Does It Benefit Bodybuilders?


Deloading, just as the name implies, is a period when a person purposely reduces training volumes from what they usually do. The period of deloading usually spans about a week, a deloading week helps encourage recovery, injury prevention, and increased performance before the commencement of another period that requires advanced training.

Deloading is typically done by bodybuilders, and controversies surround the idea of deloading. Some see it as a reasonable idea, some see it as unreasonable. From the scientific point of view, the idea of deloading is reasonable and stems from the theory of super-compensation.

The theory of super-compensation represents three major stages once an individual commences training.

Stage 1: Training stage

This stage consists of rigorous training, so everything that is included in the workout session. These drills and reps are constant repetitions day after day and cause stress, fatigue, muscular damage, etc.

Stage 2: Recovery Stage

This stage has sub-layers underneath, it can be as minor as the period of rest in between sets, an entire day of rest, or can extend up to a whole week. This recovery stage can also consist of a deload week. The main aim of this stage is to allow the body to recover and regenerate strength.

Stage 3: Supercompensation

Also known as the rebound phase, this stage comes last. This is when the body has effectively recovered from a fatigued state to a new rejuvenated state to enable a new and higher level of performance.



There are several reasons why you should deload, here are a few:

  • Deloading helps you reduce your stress level: Athletes and gym-goers don’t know the amount of stress they put themselves through. Workout sessions get more difficult as you climb the ranks. At a particular point, your body might feel sore, your motivation to train declines, you struggle to sleep or you struggle to lift the same loads you usually lift. These and more are exact reasons why you need to take a break (deload), to reduce your stress level and recuperate.
  • Deloading allows your body to heal up: When you begin to work out, your body mass, your stamina, and strength also increase. If you don’t give your body enough time to catch up to your increased growth, you might be harming your body. By deloading, you give your body enough time to adjust to your increase and this usually helps your body heal up.
  • Prepare you for advanced training: Think of deloading as that deep breath when you muster your strength to finish the last set. When you deload you prepare your body to take on advanced training.



Deloading is not for every single gym-goer, a simple casual gym-goer might not need a deload. For gym-goers under a coach, he or she should have the experience to know when you should deload. If you are planning or you already do your training, after about four weeks or more of intensive training, you might see one or more of these indicators below so you know that it is time to deload:


Weakness: It is normal after a workout session to feel “worked out.” This is not what I mean by weakness here. The weak feeling here refers to the point when you find it hard to lift or do what you usually do. This is usually an indicator that your body needs a deload.


Sore Joints: NO PAIN, NO GAIN is a very popular gym slogan. This can refer to your body feeling a little sore from time to time. This is different from your body feeling constant pain around your joints. If this sort of pain is what you are feeling in your body and joints, you should take things easy and consider a deload.


After a competition: This is more common with bodybuilders or athletes. After a competition such as a football season or a deadlifting event that stretches your strength to its limit, it is advisable not to jump into rigorous training immediately, it’s the best choice of action to deload before you begin to train.



After knowing when to deload, the next salient question is how do I deload? Do I stay away from the workout routine while deloading? There is more than one way to go about deloading, a few are:


Reduction of load: Deloading here does not mean the total absence of workout, it simply means to take things easier in the gym. With this option, you reduce what you usually lift to about 40 -60% of the load. By so doing, you deload but keep up the workout enthusiasm.


Reduction of Reps/Sets: With this option, you can keep carrying the same weight or more but lift with fewer reps. For example, if you usually carry ten reps of 250 pounds, you can reduce the volume of reps to about 2 or 3, or hit a couple of singles or doubles. This method is unusual for most people but for competitive strength athletes, this is the preferred way to deload.


Change your Training Selection: Some people might not be with the idea of going to the gym and not breaking a sweat, so it’s always an option to switch exercise selection.

A great selection to consider is to do cardio-related exercises. Cardio exercises are a great way to break a sweat but you should have it at the back of your mind that the idea behind deloading is to take things easy, so you should not be doing strenuous cardio sessions.



 Nutrition is an essential part of maintaining fitness. No matter what level of fitness you want to achieve, you must take nutrition seriously.

While deloading, what you eat is dependent on what fitness goals you want to achieve.

If you’re in a calorie deficit, maintaining your meal routine is a good option. If you feel overwhelmed with the strict meal schedule, you can eat at your maintenance calories level. For individuals who are already on a caloric surplus diet, they can continue at that level or cut down if they feel they also need a break.

The best advice on what to eat while deloading is simply to maintain the same diet plan you use during your workout routine as much as you can.



A deload week is you taking things easier, but there are different things you can do to achieve your fitness goals during a deload week, some of them are:


Correct training bad habits: During a deload week, you can take out time to correct bad habits you have been taken note of. You can correct things such as posture or stance to suit your fitness goals so that as soon as you hit the gym you already know the right way to do the workout.


Learn new exercises: During a deload week you can take to learn new exercises, this could be by observing others or researching exercises. You can go further to try these exercises out, but you should always remember to keep it as light as possible.


Take out more time to sleep: Sleep is very important to every existing creature. It is especially important when it comes to recovery. By spending less time in the gym due to fewer workout sessions, you create more free time for yourself. Take some of those hours to get extra rest.



Helps your body heal: One of the worst feelings while working out is to feel a ligament tear or a bone shift but the good news is that occurrences like this can be more avoided by deloading. When training, you put your body and mind under overwhelming stress and only 1-2 days of rest will eventually start to be insufficient. A deload week allows your body to heal up; physically and mentally.


Helps you prepare for advanced training: By following the idea of deloading, you tap into the theory of super-compensation and you’ll be able to prepare your body to surpass your current limit.


Avoid injuries: when it comes to working out with an injury, you might feel you’re tough and you can still push further, but this is a recipe for a breakdown. Day in and day out, you put your body under pain and if you don’t plan out time to take a rest, your body will force you to do that later on. Think of deloading like a damage control means. So, to avoid your fitness goals being ruined by injuries, it is a wise decision to make out time for a deload.



In an actual workout, there are no downsides to deloading. What might appear to people as downsides are more misconceptions. Here are some misconceptions about deloading:

You would lose your gains: Deloading is usually done for about a week after at least 4 weeks of intensive training for a pro or eight weeks for a total beginner. It is a popular misconception that taking a week off to deload will make you lose your gains and muscle mass. The truth is, it would take at least 20 days of not working out to begin to see a visible loss in muscles and about six weeks before you start to lose your strength.


Deloading is for weaklings: This statement is just incorrect. The idea of deloading is not new. It is still being used by athletes and bodybuilders with years of experience in the game. They include deloading in their workout schedule to ensure optimal performance and they understand they cannot skip this important phase.



The more time spent working out, the more you begin to understand what works for you. One salient point in working out is that you put your body under tremendous amounts of stress and it is wise to make out time to deload.

You can schedule your deload week to fall during a vacation or a holiday. You should not see deloading as a stop in your fitness goal, rather you should see it as a means to come back stronger than before.

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