Why you should unload

Why you should unload

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It has been a while since we have continued with the training series. We have talked about, among other things why one repetition is not the other, how to do this apply theory in practicet, how you organize your training sessions for an optimal incentive and which variations are possible. If you want to get more out of your workouts, this series of articles is a must-read! You have seen the word deload in these articles and at the time I received questions about deloading from different angles. Today I want to talk to you about why deloading is so important.

Powerlifters are often more familiar with periodization and also with deloads, but in the bodybuilding / fitness scene we are gradually seeing more interest in periodization (and therefore deloads). Rightly so!

What is loading?

From a very objective point of view, a deload is the reduction of one or more (training) incentives for a certain time. Many people have the idea that a deload soon means a 'rest week', but this is certainly not the case. A rest week once in a while is really not that bad and you certainly will not lose muscle mass if you do not spend a week hanging in the irons (if nutrition is adequate and you do not fill yourself day and night with alcohol or other types of drugs of course), but in a well-designed training program, a deload is much more than just a week of staring depressed at home out of the window, thinking of all the weights that you miss.

When your training has been put together, and you do something every week, you can definitely make progress to a certain extent. However, there is a good chance that you will play a large part of your training volume for free; this does not necessarily lead to more growth, but you have to recover from it (this is also described in previous articles!).

Without any structure it is of course very difficult to determine which stimulus you need a deload from. The more precisely you organize your training, the more precisely you can plan your deload!

Stress and adaptation

Our bodies are made to cope with and adapt to stress. Look at your hands; chances are you will see calluses. If you've recently been on vacation, compare your color with your color before you went. Let someone scare you hard and see what happens to their heartbeat. Take a good shot of caffeine and see how you feel. Start doing a certain sport or exercise more often, and notice that it gets easier with time. We can, of course, continue for a very long time, but these are all examples of adaptations to stress (see also the articles about stress; stress is not always bad!)

However, these adjustments cost energy, and everything in nature is geared to saving energy and not spending unnecessary energy. Our bodies, too. If you continuously expose your body to the same stress, the adaptation to this will become less and less; you feel less and less effect from that one cup of coffee. You don't keep getting infinitely darker due to the same amount of sun.

This also applies to a training incentive; You do not become infinitely stronger by continuing to play with the same weight. And just like temporarily removing all caffeine from your diet can cause you to become more sensitive to caffeine over time, so does training incentives.

Scheduling a deload comes around the corner here. This is immediately why periodization is important; the moment you don't divide your training into blocks, the only way of deloading is 'doing less'. If you divide your training into blocks of, for example, training around a metabolic stimulus, and training around a power stimulus, then a deload of a power stimulus can still be a metabolic stimulus. Of course you can make this even more specific when you have a good grasp of the game of periodization!

Jan Willem Deloaden

The benefits of deloading

Ok, now we know how to load, but why should we do a deload? You may think so. 'Just don't piss around, gas with that trade. I don't need any rest '.

In any case, this has been my mindset for a long time, even when I got deloads in my schedule from my coach. Deload weeks were still a blast, because, I thought, more volume is more growth, right?

From action to rest

However, you have to take into account that a workout does not only affect your body in terms of muscle. Certainly, your muscles do the work during a workout, so if these are recovered the next workout, you can continue as usual, right? However, what is often forgotten is that the entire body is involved in activity; the liver must provide the muscles with energy during training, fat reserves from fat tissue are metabolized, the nervous system drives movements, hormone axes release their substances. And after the training, this state of readiness must go down again; stress hormones must lower and your body must return to a state of rest, digestion must start again during training, the nervous system must recover, the muscles must be supplied with nutrients and nutrients for growth, and the higher concentrations of Glucose in the blood has to go somewhere again because otherwise it can become toxic.


In addition, training can cause inflammation. This may sound negative, but it is not always, and it is even desirable during training. For that reason we also see less effect of training for people who take anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin around their workouts.

Acute inflammation, such as when you hit your toe, or as from a workout, is an essential response of your body. However, it becomes annoying when inflammation becomes chronic; this has a negative impact on recovery, muscle building and also on loss of body fat. In addition, it can negatively influence your insulin sensitivity, negatively influence sleep, ensure that you retain a lot of moisture and a whole host of negative effects.

More intensive training methods generate more inflammation than other methods; for optimal growth you definitely want to take these training courses with you, but if you do them too much or too long in a row, it will be impossible for your body to recover sufficiently. Scheduling a deload in time can therefore ensure that you do not have to experience the above negative effects.


In line with this, intensive training methods place a heavier burden on the liver and the entire system. Because your body wants to recover from the training stimulus and because a large part of this recovery (via nutrients) is regulated via the liver, it may be that if you stay too long in certain training methods, the other tasks of the liver are performed less efficiently . All those detox teas of today are nonsense, but very popular. Your liver is perfectly capable of cleaning and keeping your body clean, but it may be wise to let it catch your breath for a while or to support it. Not only for your progression and muscle building, but even more for your health!

Jan Willem Deloaden

Nervous system

As I have just let through a bit of twilight, the nervous system plays a major role in your training. In addition, the nervous system also controls the transition from an activity phase to a recovery phase. Hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline become peaks due to a signal from the nervous system and are essential during training, but also have to be lowered again because otherwise no or only moderate recovery can take place.

This whole hormone story is very interesting, but I will not elaborate on it for now; if interested, I will devote an article to this with love! If there is interest, let me know.

Frequent, intensive workouts keep you in this higher state of alert for longer and longer and are accompanied by prolonged levels of these stress hormones. In the long term this can lead to insensitivity, as you also notice with long-term use of caffeine. The result is that more stress hormone has to be released for the same amount of activity, after which recovery takes even longer because stress levels are higher, which in turn leads to longer lasting recovery and so on. Some training methods are so intensive that recovery of the nervous system can take up to days after the relevant training. Here too, deloading comes in handy.


Physical and mental stress are almost identical for your body; you have just been able to see this from the example I gave in the beginning; scaring someone, or training, both cause an increased heartbeat, to name something.

And no matter how much you enjoy intensive training, there is more to life. Family, friends, relaxation. Not only does the physical battery need to be charged, the mental battery also needs its charging times. Again, deload weeks are essential.

In the article about rest days I have given the example of scattered rest days versus successive rest days. You could also see a deload this way. During a tough training period it may well be that you have a better shape after a weekend of rest than on training days, while you have not pumped 2 days.

I have said it more often and I keep repeating it (also for myself, because it is difficult), but rest, and therefore also deloading, as you could have read, are extremely important. Knowing when it is wise to charge for a while, so that you can start a new phase full of energy again, is essential if you want to create the best version of yourself in the long term!

Click here to read part 2: Setting up a deload

Jan Willem van der Klis

Instagram: @Jay_Whey

This blog is written by

Jan Willem van der Klis

"My focus is on obtaining and disseminating the best possible knowledge to optimize training and nutrition"

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