Over 30 and strength train? Lifting less may help you lift more.
Early Monday morning. Your boss calls you into their office.
“Look, to make you more effective, put in half the normal time this week.”
You’re stunned. “I’m sorry, what? I haven’t even sipped my coffee yet ...”
“And your weekly reports? Reduce them by 10-20%.”
That’s the equivalent of a deloading week in the gym. You workout without breaking a sweat and tell yourself you’re doing important work for your physical and mental health.
And you’re not even lying.
Deloading reduces your normal strength training regimen, allowing muscles time to rest, heal, and even grow.
But who should deload, how do you do it, and why bother?
Who should deload?
Just about everyone strength trains consistently for more than nine-ish months. Older lifters especially benefit from deloading weeks.
That said, I didn’t learn about this concept until this year, and I’m 48. Never too late to start slacking off.
How often should you deload?
You should deload every 6-8 weeks.
But listen to your body. You may need more rest than that. If you’re not making gains, consistently lack energy in the gym, or are struggling mentally to maintain consistency, it might be time for an unscheduled deload.
How do you deload?
Don’t spend the week on the couch binging Ozark and Oreos.
Keep moving. But implement a tapered-down version of your normal workout routine.
When deloading, you have three variables to work with:
•Weight (pounds lifted)
•Intensity (reps and sets)
•Frequency (number of sessions / week)
The plan for my deloading week
For my deload week, I’m lowering two variables:
•Weight (decreasing the weight lifted by 10-25%)
•Intensity (reducing reps per set by 50%)
Monday: upper body dumbbell
I zip through this pretty quickly.
Wednesday: leg day
Leg days during deloading weeks are glorious. All of the purpose, none of the pain.
Friday: upper body machine
The Friday workout is usually my favorite. The deloaded version is a breeze.
What about cardio?
If you do strenuous cardio, back that off during deload weeks. We want to reduce all physical stress on the body, and hard cardio is a part of that.
In my case, I do stationary bike sprints 2-3 times per week. They truly suck, but they are brief.
My normal sprint routine:
30 seconds all-out effort at tension setting 18
20 seconds rest
Repeat X 6
This week, I'm doing three sprints at a lower tension for each session.
On non-lifting days, I usually run and walk 5-7 miles total. On lifting days, I just walk about the same distance.
When I run, I lope along at about a 9:30 per mile pace. Walking is in the 13:30 per mile range. That’s not strenuous for me, and I didn’t adjust it for the deload week.
Why bother deloading at all?
At age 48 deloading helps me:
Reset form and cadence
Get excited about the gym again
Rest recurring areas of soreness: neck, right shoulder, and hips
Remember fitness is a lifelong race, not a series of frenzied sprints
All while sustaining consistency and momentum.
And as I reach the end of the week, my physical energy is up. I have the urge to “do more.” I won’t. Not until Monday.
As we age, recovery becomes more important to building and maintaining strength. Joints need time to heal. The mental break from the endless grind can reset your enthusiasm and energy. And you might even make greater gains after the deload week.
If you’re a long-time exerciser, take a load off. You’ve earned it. And your body needs it.