Deloading – What it is and Why You Should Do It

Posted: January 15, 2012 in 5/3/1, Working Out
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I am not posting my workout journals this week and I won’t be every fourth week while on 5/3/1.  This is because the fourth week of each 5/3/1 cycle is called the deload.  Put simply, you’re going to move around some light weights as a form active recovery.

What’s the deal?

Deloading is more than just a technique that Jim Wendler mandates in his 5/3/1 program.   Deloading is necessary for weightlifters at all levels, regardless of goals.  You may have gone years without a planned deload and been okay, and that’s great.  There are two things to consider here:

1. Have you gone on a vacation and not worked out?  Perhaps you’ve had a rough week at college or work, and you decided to take some time away from the gym.  Alas, you deloaded.

2. Did you ever plateau? You may have thought you had an off week or something of that sort, but the underlying problem may have been overtraining.

We deload to prevent overtraining related problems.  A big thing to consider here is that it’s best not to wait until signs of overtraining arise before scheduling a deload.  However, if you are getting those signs (sore joints/tendons, plateaus, exhaustion, mental fatigue) you should surely deload.  The big thing to know here, and if you’ve read Wendler’s ebook you’ll remember this, deloading will not cost you strength.  You know what costs you strength?  Overtraining, injuries, loss of desire/intensity, lack of recovery.

While 5/3/1 prescribes a monthly deload, you can spread your deloads out a bit more depending on your immediate goals and how your body reacts to training at your age and experience.  Just work in a week at least every 2-3 months, or as needed.  If you need more than once a month, you need to reevaluate your diet, workout plan, or pain tolerance.  Perhaps see a doctor.


It’s pretty simple.  Do your normal workout for each day, but cut the weight and/or rep and set count by half.  You should feel like you have plenty left in the tank after you are done.  There will be no training to failure or fatigue.  Simply go in and really focus on your form.  This modest workload should stimulate some growth, but not really cause the damage that your typical, intense training does.  You will also be able to keep your routine in place, which I think is very important.  I think staying out of the gym begets more staying out of the gym: it’s best to keep it a habit.

I did mention vacations in which you didn’t work out.  It is true that relative inactivity can count for a deload.  However, don’t make this a habit because for our purposes that is not always as effective.   As a general guideline, don’t be inactive for more than 25% of your deloads.

So save your joints, muscles, and mind: work in a deload.

For more info and discussion:

Buy Jim Wendler’s ebook


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