Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Fit 4 Life | Take the load off

Published:Wednesday | April 11, 2018 | 12:10 AMMarvin Gordon
Deloading is a great way to give your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints a break from intense training and allow for proper recovery.


Week after week of intense training will almost always follow the same path: progress to plateau to overtaxing, followed by overtraining and/or injury.

When working within an intense training schedule, we can't afford to be reactive with recovery. Planning recovery into your programme will save you from being forced out of training for weeks by injuries.

Deloading is an active - and proactive - recovery technique in which you utilise periods of lighter work to rebuild. Lighter work can mean reducing load, reducing volume, or changing workouts altogether. Deload periods usually last a week.


Deloading is a great way to give your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints a break from intense training and allow for proper recovery. Deloading preempts the eventual exhaustion that comes with extended periods of overloading, thereby preventing excessive overtaxing and overtraining.


So, how do you know when to deload? If you are following a programme, you should work with the built-in deload weeks. If the programme doesn't have deload incorporated into it, be sure to take a break at the end of the training period.

If you are working with a trainer, he/she will programme deload into your training.

If you are planning your own workouts, however, you should deload:

* When you start feeling weaker - Performance plateaued or is getting worse? You should probably deload. Reduction in performance is a sign of overreach. Time to focus on recovery.

* When injuries and excessive soreness become the norm - getting injured often is the clearest sign you need to slow down. Soreness is normal. But excessive soreness - especially the kind you get at joints while working out - is a message from your body that you shouldn't ignore. Try to deload before these symptoms show up.

* At a predetermined interval - Preplanned deload periods can eliminate disruptions to your training, caused by injury or overreach.


* Three weeks: Take it slow for a week after three weeks of intense training. If you work out with extreme intensity, the three-week interval is something you should consider.

* Six weeks: Take one week to deload after every six weeks of intense training.

* 12 weeks: Take one week to deload after every 12 weeks of intense training. Many training programmes are built around a 12-week interval. If you are working with a 12-week interval, pay attention to your body and adjust your deload period if signs of overreach appear.


Reduce volume or load - the most common way to deload is by cutting back on work. Working at half the volume or load will feel too easy but the reduced stress means you have more time to recover from weeks of intense training.


The deload period is the perfect time to try out that new workout. You can even try a different type of training, as long as it is not overly intense. Remember, recovery is the goal.


Avoid doing HIIT (high-intensity interval training) during deload periods. Light, steady-state cardio gets the blood pumping, bringing more nutrients to the muscles to aid recovery.


While working at lighter loads you can focus on improving form.


Rest is important during deload periods. No recovery can take place in the absence of rest.

- Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email:;