Take Advantage of Deload Weeks

Deload weeks are a part of our group classes and are typically programmed every fourth week, after 3 weeks of a hard training cycle. During the three weeks of training, the sessions become progressively difficult with increase in volume and/or intensity. This level of effort and stress can take a toll on the body and the nervous system. If you train hard and at a high level for weeks on end, without taking any sort of a break, you will realize a few things:

  • Recovery rate slows down– your body is experience so much stress that it doesn’t have time to catch up and recover

  • Risk of injury increases– you may start feeling nagging pains, tightness, and increased soreness that sticks around for longer periods of time

  • You feel mentally drained– you can experience things like brain fog, poor sleep, lack of desire to continue training

Programming a “deload week” is an extremely helpful tool for preventing one from getting to that point of fatigue and to give the body time to recover. What are deload weeks? Why are they beneficial? Why should we take them seriously ?


Most people are familiar with rest and recovery days– these are the days during the week where we step away from our programmed training and give our body the rest it needs to recover and remain primed for performance. Some people take multiple days per week, while others only take 1 to 2 days. It all depends on the individual, their personal recovery rate, their performance and progress, external stressors, and other factors. 

So what’s a deload week? It is like an active rest week; you still train during the week, however the training stress is reduced by manipulating one or several variables:

  • Decrease volume by decreasing the number of sets and/or reps 

  • Decrease the number of days your training – if you train 5x per week, then 3x a week may be an option

  • Decrease intensity and load – instead of doing exercises at 85-90% of your 1RM, the load prescription will be less

  • Switch up exercises for less demanding ones– for example, instead of doing heavy barbell back squats, you can exchange it for goblet squats

  • Increase rest periods

Benefits of a Deload

As mentioned above, the deload can be extremely beneficial for the mental side of things. It gives you a break from chasing the numbers and dealing with frustration when you’re not progressing. But there is a science behind it too.

For endurance athletes, deload weeks are great for replenishment of glycogen storage in the body. Glycogen is the form of carbohydrate that is stored in the muscle and liver, and used as the primary fuel source for aerobic activity. 

For strength training, deloads still help with glycogen storage replenishment but the benefit comes more from hormone regulation. When we strength train hard and heavy, stress is added to the body which results in the elevation of catabolic  hormones (hormones that break down muscle), such as cortisol. Cortisol increases the production of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the hormone that is known for exciting the nervous system; it binds with beta-andrenergic receptors to increase heart rate and increase the firing rate/contraction of the muscles, which leads to faster concentric movements when lifting. This is great…however, when the catabolic hormone level remains elevated for long periods of time (due to excessive training), the beta-andrenergic hormone receptors will experience downregulation and won’t respond to the adrenaline anymore because they are saturated. This leads to slower contraction of the muscle and loss of performance. 

Chronic elevated levels of cortisol also has  a negative effect on tissue growth due to catabolism, and the athlete experiences symptoms of overtraining (listed below):

  • Stagnation or decrease in performance, increased fatigue, decreased vigor, and hormonal disturbance

  • Decreased circulation

  • Altered excitation-contraction coupling

  • Decreased glycogen storage

  • Increased resting HR and BP

  • Altered immune function and hormone concentration

  • Recovery takes weeks to months

Deloading will allow the cortisol levels to come down and allow for muscle tissue growth, as well as restore the sensitivity of the receptors. 


Just because you are deloading, this does NOT mean you should also alter your nutrition intake by reducing the amount of food you’re eating. Instead, you should keep it the same. With a decrease in training, you are able to store more muscle glycogen and give your muscles more of a pump, leading to strong looking muscles. 

Carbs also are key to lowering cortisol levels; therefore, instead of decreasing carb intake, keep it the same and use it as an opportunity to restore your body. Further, cortisol holds water in the body; therefore if you decrease your cortisol levels, the amount of subcutaneous water will be lessened. 

Treat your body well and take your deloads seriously!