We’ve all heard about the dangers of too much exercise—overtraining—but you could be doing yourself a serious disservice if you haven’t been scheduling in some deloading downtime.
Never heard of deloading? No worries—just read on and we’ll fill you in.
Let’s start with the basics; what exactly is deloading? If you’re committed to working out and big on building your own fitness routine, 3-4 days on, rest days and recovery days, you may think you’ve checked off all the boxe —but you haven’t.
If you get hot and heavy with your workouts for a couple of months without pause, you might start to notice your body lagging or plateauing. Don't get discouraged; all your body’s trying to tell you is, it deserves some quality deloading R&R time!
Deloading, simply put, is a week off intensive training. Now, this doesn’t mean butt meet couch, remote in hand time; it means taking the load out of the mix.
And, the best part is deload = greater gains.
Why You Need to Deload
A quick Google search on deloading will point out deloading is primarily for bodybuilders. It's when you dig deeper that you realize any super intense workout, HIIT included, puts a huge tax on the body. Any intense form of exercise affects the central nervous system (CNS) —as does external factors like stress, work, life—roll all of these stressors together, and it’s no wonder why your body wants a week off.
Time off means you have a chance to recharge your:
Body: by helping prevent overtraining or injuries.
Mind: to combat CNS fatigue and reduce stress.
When Should You Deload?
Now that you know why you should deload, when should you schedule it in, and what are the dead giveaways that indicate you’re in dire need of a break?
On Paper When You Should Deload
If you’ve gone pro and have an exercise schedule, there are conflicting opinions when you should take a break:
3-1: The most common is 3 weeks on, 1 week off.
6-8: For the advanced athlete, you’ll want to cool it at 6-8 weeks.
Our advice is keep it simple and do 3 weeks on and 1 week off as this is the most common practice and is compatible with any fitness levels. Plus, it’s really easy to remember that once a month you need a week to chill.
Your Body’s Stress Cues
There are plenty of warning signs that you need a week of deloading, and These cues increase in frequency and severity, such as:
Weaker: If you notice your body struggling when it shouldn’t be, like lifting your usual weight gets tougher, or your burpees start sucking, you need some time off.
Pain: Some muscle and joint pain is normal—hello DOMS—but if you keep tweaking different joints or muscles, then it’s a sign your body needs a break.
Stress: It’s unreal how much stress can deplete you. If you’re under greater stress than normal, like you’re not sleeping, work, school or life stress is hectic, then pay close attention to your body because it’s a slippery slope to overdoing it.
Fatigue: It’s a dead giveaway that your body is crying out for a break when you experience fatigue as soon as you wake up or after a workout. You might even have trouble sleeping. Take a hint, cool it. If you begin to notice any signs that your body is struggling, then it’s time to take an unplanned week off to prevent injury or overtraining.
How to Deload
Like the name suggests, the secret to deloading is taking a load off your body so you can give it a chance to recover. The most common ways to give your body a week’s holiday are:
Limiting the Load and Intensity: Whatever you’re lifting, half it for a week, and if you’re not using weights, dial back the intensity while doing a HIIT.
E.g., For lifters, if you curl 40lbs with ease, keep to 20lbs.
E.g., For HIIT fans, skip the Tabata and stick with the exercises you love but instead of bringing it, cut your max reps in half.
Reducing Reps: The idea is to keep with your preferred workout, and if you use weights, continue with the same load but just decrease the reps (volume).
E.g., For lifters, rather than doing 10 bicep curls, half it.
E.g., For HIIT fans, instead of doing a full-length workout, do a quick session.
Switch Exercise: No matter what high-intensity activity you’re involved in, take a one-week vacation by doing something low-intensity, like walking, hiking, swimming or yoga. The key is to stay active, improve your mobility and work on your flexibility, so you don’t lose your edge.
If you’re looking for some different exercises, check out BodyRock+
for a variety of workouts like yoga, stretch and mobility, tone and torch and much, much more! And if you’re light on home gym equipment, check out our Mobility Kit.
Is it Necessary to Deload?
You’ll read a lot of mixed reviews on deloading; many of the haters say it’s not been properly studied, so why bother? We happen to disagree, as sometimes it takes time before wide-spread consensus catches up.
One reason deloading can get a bad rap is that not everyone needs to do it — just the BodyRockers who are HIITing it, hardcore. If you approach exercise with the mindset “when I have a time for it,” or you’re not giving gold-star efforts that would make your high school gym teacher proud, then deloading is not necessary for you.
But if you treat your fitness routine like sacred you-time, you never miss a day and wear your sweat-stained shirt as a badge of honor, you BodyRocker, need to enjoy the benefits of deloading!