One of the most important things for long-term progress in the sport of powerlifting is knowing when to push further and when to back off. If you continue to push too much for too long, your progress will stall and your lifts may even regress. But no one wants to take unnecessary time off while the rest of the weightlifting world is getting strong(er). In this article, Team elitefts™ members Vincent Dizenzo, Jim Wendler, JL Holdsworth, and Matt Rhodes talk about deloading and give tips to know when and how to back off the heavy weights.


While training last Friday night one of the guys asked me when I was going to deload. I figure if I was able to train the day after my meet a couple of weeks ago, I don’t really need a deload. Honestly, I am starting to think the planned deload is complete garbage for most people.

I have been guilty of the planned deload. It is often a wasted session. Now I am more likely to just work up to a five rep max on max effort day if I feel spent. By doing this, I’m at least pushing myself for those five reps instead of hitting some useless pre-planned percentage. Working in the five-rep range keeps me out of any percentage that would stress my body too much. After that I might do one or two light assistance exercises and that’s it.

The plain truth is a lot of lifters are not nearly strong enough to need a deload. Take that word out of your training vernacular. Keep in mind most novice lifters cannot produce enough force to really jolt their central nervous system anyway.

It has been said that there is no such thing as overtraining. There’s only under eating, sleeping, and recovering. I know that is oversimplifying things a bit, but it’s a very valid statement.

The truth is I’d rather get weaker from training too much than not enough.

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the deload and if people NEED to do it. It should be done for most people, especially if they are training four days per week. But there is a cool way to touch some heavy weights on that fourth week and still get some rest.

  • Week One – 3 sets of 5 reps (as usual)
  • Week Two – 3 sets of 3 reps (as usual)
  • Week Three – 5/3/1 (as usual)
  • Week Four – 3 x 65%, 3 x 75%, 3 x 85% (do not go for max reps at the end of the last set)

What this does is allow you to still train relatively heavy and not burn you out. This has been used by a couple different people and they loved not taking the regular deload. They did do a “normal” deload when they needed it. Make sure you listen to your body and make the smart decision.

5/3/1 for Powerlifting: Simple and Effective Training for Maximal Strength

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I’ve heard that every fourth week on max effort day should be a “down” week for squat, deadlift, and bench doing just assistance work so you don’t burn out. Is this something to follow, or should I just keep going as long as I’m making gains?


Depending on how you feel and how your gains are going you should just keep doing it every week. Now, if you are feeling beat up or run down then you can back it off every fourth week.

Other options are going up to a single after dynamic day, and taking the preceding max effort day to just do accessories. You will find that the stronger you get the more rest you will need.

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A proper deload is critically important to anyone’s progression and there’s a lot of confusion on how it’s supposed to be done. You need to understand the purpose of a deload, how to set up a proper deload, and the benefits it can have on your performance.

First off, there are a few ways to approach the deload week. Remember, the main idea behind the deload is to give your body a break. That should be the first thing on your mind when constructing your deload plan. If your deload work is beating you up, or you still feel banged up when you get back to normal training loads, then your deload isn’t effective.

A difficult deload defeats the purpose of what it’s supposed to be about. A deload is giving your body an active rest, so that it gets recharged to effectively handle your next block of training. You may have to check your ego at the door, but you have to give your body a break.

There’s absolutely no way in hell you should be doing 15-20 reps for deload work. It might not be max work, but it’s still taxing on your body and your CNS, which defeats the purpose of this. Don’t worry about increasing your volume and don’t think about doing tons of work. That’s a bad idea.

Instead, here are two different templates to follow:

Option One

Pick your max effort exercise and work up to 60 – 70 percent. Do singles, doubles, triples, or even five-rep sets. In fact, you could even do ten if you wanted and if your body felt fine.

Remember, this is a deload. You have to DELOAD.

Option Two

Skip your ME work and simply do assistance work. If you do this, cut way back on your assistance work.

Instead of five sets, do three. Drop your normal weight by 10 – 15 percent and do 10 reps.

These are two simple options that can lead to effective deloads.

I often try to focus on things I neglect when I’m training full-speed. For instance, I’ll spend more time warming up and stretching.

Additional Deload Training Tip:  Coupled with your abbreviated workout, spend the rest of your training time warming up and stretching. Use a foam roller or whatever is your favorite stretching device, but be thorough. This is the week to do it. This is another good way to help your body recover in anticipation of that next intense training cycle.

When it’s time to deload, take the break. When I deload, I feel like I did nothing. Then again, that’s how it should be – that is, after all, the point of a deload week.

Rest, recover and prepare the body for the next block of hard training.

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