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8 Reasons Why You’re Sore–#8–Deloading

One of the most common complaints I get from new trainees (most often these come from middle aged men who are just now getting back into strength training) is that of being sore all of the time.  Many people associate muscular soreness with getting a good workout or getting results.  However, the research does not necessarily support this thought process.  Muscles tend to get sore anytime a new stimulus is introduced (new exercise, activity, etc), but this should typically subside within 2-3 weeks of starting the activity.  Anytime a new exercise is introduced, it is expected that some level of soreness will occur.  However, a good program will actually have an introduction phase where weight and volume are intentionally reduced in order to avoid excessive soreness, as this can negatively impact future workouts.  If you are chronically sore beyond the initial 2-3 weeks of starting a strength training program, there are eight areas that you may need to pay attention to.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1


Deloading is a term used to describe an intentional period of time (usually 1-2 weeks) where intensity and/or volume are reduced in training.  In some cases, no training at all is performed (though this is probably not optimal, unless you are injured).  In my experience, this is usually not an issue with the majority of clients.  Most people end up missing time at the gym due to illness, work, kid’s activities, vacation, etc.  If you happen to be somebody that is highly dedicated to your training and don’t ever miss any period longer than a week in the gym, then a scheduled deloading period may be needed.  I usually recommend reducing training volume by 40-60%, and intensity by 10-20%.  In practice for a one week deload, this would look something like this:

Normal Week                                                                                     Deload Week

45 total weekly training sets of all exercises                                      24 total weekly training sets

e.g. squats: 200lbs lifted                                                                     squats: 160-180lbs lifted

If you don’t ever miss time in the gym in a 12 month period, I would recommend the following deload schedule for people who train 3, 4, or 5 times per week.  As mentioned earlier, training more than 5 times per week is likely not feasible for most adults, and less than 3 doesn’t warrant a deload period.

3 days per week: deload for 1 week, 1 time each year

4 days per week: deload for 1 week, 2 times each year

5 days per week: deloa for 1 week, 3 times each year