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Why Deloads Are Better Than Training Harder for Breaking Plateaus

Sometimes it’s better to take a step back.

Hard training pays off, but sometimes smart training pays bigger. If you’re struggling to continue to improve, it might be time to learn why deloads are better than training harder for breaking plateaus.

What is a deload?

In strength training, a deload refers to a period of training where intensity and aggressive workouts are reduced and a focus is put on rest and recovery instead.

While you can still train during deload weeks (these periods are generally a week long), your training should be modified to leverage recovery to increase gains in the long term.

Jeff Nippard, pro bodybuilder with a BSc in biochemistry/chemistry and a passion for science, explains why deloads are better than training harder for breaking plateaus.

Why Deloads Are Better Than Training Harder for Breaking Plateaus

“I actually don’t think enough people leverage recovery effectively,” says Nippard. “Seems like most bodybuilders are so hung up on the go-hard or go-home mentality that they forget that the gains actually happen when you go home and rest.”

“A properly timed deload allows your body to flush out the fatigue so that overall performance can be maximised,” Nippard explains.

“Deloads can be one of the single best strategies for busting plateaus and driving progress forward.”

Types of deload

  1. Full week off
  2. Taper week
  3. Standard deload

How often to deload?

“Generally speaking, the more advanced you are, the more often you’ll want to deload,” recommends Nippard. This is “because you need to train harder to make progress, meaning you’ll generate more fatigue than someone who’s less advanced.”

Workouts outside with male athleteSource: Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

You can also schedule deloads “reactively”, only including them in your program when you feel like deloading. This is a more auto-regulated approach but can be misguiding as you can’t always tell when you need a deload.

Exceptions

You should focus on harder training if you are a:

  • Beginner: in your first year of training, you shouldn’t be generating enough fatigue to need a formal deload.
  • Hobby lifter: if you’re not maxing out and training with intensity week after week, you’ll be better off being more diligent with your training first than focusing on deloads.

Why deloading is better

  • You need to have periods of rest and lighter training in order to maximise training in the long run.
  • Bodybuilding and strength training are not an exceptions.
  • There are different types of deload that can be effective depending on your goals.
  • The deload is an opportunity not only to recover but also to focus on technique and mind-muscle connection.

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