Recreate the real-life experiences of physique athletes who have used Deloads successfully.
If you want to get in great shape, you have to have great form. But form isn’t just about looks — it can make a huge difference in performance. In fact, many people who aren’t that lean yet can make dramatic improvements simply by applying this one principle with their training.
As I have said on my Facebook, The best way to get into a new program is to start with a deload. Deloading is a period of time where you cut back the volume and intensity of your training and recovery. It can be one day or a week but it is a planned period of time where you take a break and rest from your training. During this period you don’t train but you do allow your body to recover. The result is you will be able to train harder and more efficiently.
Discharge is one of the most important tools you can use to maximize your progress in the gym. Relaxation is a planned period of rest and recovery during which you reduce the volume, intensity or frequency of your workouts.
Relief should help your body recover from weeks of intense training, so you can super-compensate and come back big and strong. If you really force yourself to work out at the gym, sooner or later redemption will be necessary.
Here are some of the most common signs that you need to unload
- After the workout, you’re really, really pissed.
- Your strength begins to stagnate or diminish
- You are less motivated to go to the gym and exercise.
- Your knees, shoulders and elbows start to hurt.
- You have trouble sleeping at night.
Don’t worry, all these signs are perfectly normal and temporary for a serious bodybuilder or powerlifter. If you always feel 100%, you’re probably not pushing yourself enough in the gym.
There are many different ways to unload. Most landfills use at least one of the following strategies:
- Reduce the number of exercises per workout
- Reduce the number of sets per exercise
- Reduce the amount of weight for each exercise
- Avoid rejection in your series
- Reduction of overall training frequency
- Take extra days or weeks off from the gym
As you can see, there are many different ways to unload. This can be very confusing for the inexperienced athlete. Don’t worry, I’ve thought of everything.
In this comprehensive guide, I will introduce you to the 7 most effective reloading strategies of all time. These strategies are used by some of the best powerlifting and bodybuilding trainers in the world, including Josh Bryant, Charles Poliquin and Eric Lillibridge. Here’s a summary of the rest of this article:
Overview of Article
- Part 1: Josh Bryant is relieved
- Part 2: Charles Poliquin goes free.
- Part three: Discharge in the training of mountain dogs
- Part 4: Training period DC
- Part Five: Unloading from Lillibridge
I’m sure one or more of these relief strategies will work well for you!
Message: If you have trouble reading the workout routines in this article, check out this workout reading guide. Let’s get to work…
Part 1: Josh Bryant reformed
Josh Bryant is one of the best powerlifting coaches in the world. He has trained many of the world’s best weightlifters, including Julius Maddox, the world’s strongest weightlifter.
Josh Bryant believes that rest weeks are an integral part of your powerlifting program. Josh calls them reboot weeks because they are proactively organized to keep you on track with your goals. Here are Josh’s thoughts on the dangers of missing those weeks of unloading:
If you show yourself all the time, you will quickly get to know your local orthopedist and you will have few opportunities to stop your progress.
Josh usually unloads his powerlifters once every 4 weeks. Josh has his powerlifters reduce the number of sets per workout AND the amount of weight they lift for each exercise by about 30%.
He also asks his powerlifters to eliminate all speed sets from their workouts. This reduction in volume and intensity allows his clients to recover from the previous 3 weeks of intense training so they can continue to make long-term progress.
Let’s look at some examples of training. Here’s one of James Strickland’s bench press workouts:
James Strickland Bench Press Training
- A1 : Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 3**, 1/1/X/0, 4 minutes rest
- B1 : Fast bench press (competition grip), 5 x 3***, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
- C1 : Reverse bench press (wide shoulder grip), 3 x 2****, 1/0/X/1, 4 minutes rest.
- D1 : V-bar squats (squats with torso forward), 2 x 6, 1/0/X/1, 2 minutes rest
- E1: Deadlift (wide/forearm grip), 3 x 10, 2/0/1/0, 60 second rest
- F1 : Traction on the ground (neutral grip), 3 x 10, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest.
- G1: standing push-up, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, rest 60 seconds
**Achieved 83% of maximum strength for 1 repetition.
***Running at 70% of projected maximum of 1 repetition.
**** Perform 3 sets of 2 approaches and increase to a higher set with the maximum weight. The top set should be tough, but not a true meat grinder.
Here is a training video for this session:
This is a typical bench press workout for James Strickland. He does a heavy bench press set, several speed sets, then several additional and supported exercises. Here’s what one of James’ unloading workouts looks like:
James StricklandBench press backup training
- A1 : Bench press (competition grip), 3 x 3**, 1/1/X/0, 4 minutes rest
- B1 : V-bar squats (squats with upper body forward), 2 x 6***, 1/0/X/1, 2 minutes rest
- C1 : Deadlift (wide grip/ forearm), 3 x 10***, 2/0/1/0, 60 second rest
- D1 : Traction on the ground (neutral grip), 3 x 10***, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest.
- E1: Standing push-up, 3 x 10***, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
**Executed at 65% of the target maximum of 1 repetition.
***for 70% of the weights used in weeks 1 to 3.
Here is a training video for this session:
As you can see, James does far fewer sets during an unloaded workout. It also reduces the amount of weight it lifts during each exercise. This reduction in volume and frequency helps James recover from the last few weeks of intense training and gives him energy for the next bench press session.
I’ve mentioned before that Josh Bryant prefers a powerlifting rest day once every 4 weeks for most of his powerlifting clients. Here you can see how Josh sets up a 12-week training cycle for a powerlifting competition. Look at this:
Training block #1
- Week 1: Heavyweight triplets
- Week 2: Heavyweight triplets
- Week 3: Heavyweight triplets
- Week 4: Unloading the site
Training block 2
- Week 5: Heavyweight deuces.
- Week 6: Heavyweight deuces.
- Week 7: Heavyweight deuces.
- Week 8: Unloading the site
Training block 3
- Week 9: Heavy individual parts
- Week 10: Heavy individual parts
- Week 11: Heavy individual parts
- Week 12: Unloading the site
- Week 13: Game day!
As you can see, Josh uses one of the four. Relief weeks to ensure your strength continues to grow as you approach the encounter. If you want to know more about how Josh Bryant schedules his powerlifting training cycles, read my article on Josh Bryant’s powerlifting program.
Part 2: The Charles Poliquin Deload
Charles Polikin was one of the best strength trainers in the world. He has worked with thousands of professional athletes and has coached Olympians in 24 sports.
Charles was a big proponent of using programmed relievers to maximize size and strength. One of his favorite offload strategies was to reduce his overall training volume while maintaining his strength output. In other words: You reduce the number of sets per exercise, but keep the intensity of the sets high.
One of Charles’ favorite volume reduction strategies was to significantly reduce training volume every third workout. For example:
Charles Polikin’s discharge strategy #1
- Training 1: 100% of the volume
- Exercise 2: Volume 80
- Exercise 3: 20% of the volume
This is an incredibly simple yet effective learning strategy. You just reduce the total number of sets you do over three separate workouts. If you reduce the number of sets in the third workout, you give your body a chance to recover and even overcompensate for the previous two workouts.
Let’s say you use Charles Polikin’s 6/12/25 training program to increase your arm size. Your workout could look like this:
6/12/25 Training manual
- A1 : Bench press (wide shoulder grip), 4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest.
- A2 : Bench press (to forehead), 4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: head extension on rope (high pulley), 4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- B1: hammer curl squat, 4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, rest 10 seconds
- B2 : 90 degrees rotation (wide/supine grip), 4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B3: Standing cable curl (back grip), 4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
6/12/25 Training manual #2
- A1 : Bench press (broad shoulder grip), 3 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Bench press (forward), 3 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: head extension on rope (high pulley), 3 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- B1: hammer curl squat, 3 x 6, 4/0/X/0, rest 10 seconds
- B2 : 90 degrees rotation (wide/supine grip), 3 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B3: Standing cable curl (back grip), 3 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
6/12/25 Training manual #3
- A1 : Bench press (broad shoulder grip), 1 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Bench press (forward), 1 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: head extension on the rope (high pulley), 1 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- B1: hammer curl squat, 1 x 6, 4/0/X/0, rest 10 seconds
- B2 : 90 degrees rotation (wide/supine grip), 1 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B3: Standing cable curl (back grip), 1 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
Here are the training videos for these sessions: Exercise A1, Exercise A2, Exercise A3, Exercise B1, Exercise B2, Exercise B3.
As you can see, your goal is to perform 4 sets per exercise in workout #1, 3 sets per exercise in workout #2 and 1 set per exercise in workout #3. Charles Polikin believes that this offloading strategy works for many practitioners.
The third workout will help you recover and super-compensate after the first two high volume workouts. Helen Maroulis used exactly this offloading strategy when she teamed up with Charles Poliquin to win the Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling in 2016.
Another of Charles’ favorite de-stressing strategies is to alternate between two different workouts for each body part. These workouts should be similar, but with slightly different exercises.
Instead of discharging every third workout, discharge every 5 or 6 workouts. For example:
Charles Polikin’s Discharge Strategy #2
- Manual drive A: 100% of the volume
- B-arm training: 100% of the volume
- Manual drive A: 100% of the volume
- B-arm training: 100% of the volume
- Manual drive A: 40-60% of the volume
- B-arm training: 40-60% of the volume
As you can see, the first 4 workouts are done at 100% volume and workouts 5 and 6 are done at 40-60% volume. Charles Polikin thinks this is a great strategy for advanced athletes who need to go through a cycle in training to avoid plateaus.
This is why Charles Polikin is a big proponent of reducing training volume (but not intensity!) as a relief strategy. I highly recommend trying this strategy if you already train in the Charles Polikin style.
Part 3: DCTraining aid
DC training is a low volume, high intensity training program invented by bodybuilding coach Dante Trudel. DC Training is designed to help advanced bodybuilders build muscle mass as quickly as possible.
Most people don’t know this, but DC Training uses a very simple but effective offloading strategy. DC Training uses a very simple but effective reloading strategy called Blast and Cruise.
You alternate between two different training phases:
- Explosion phase
- Sailing phase
Dante asks all of his clients to train to their limits for 6 to 12 weeks at a time. This is called the explosion phase. During the explosive phase, you train to failure and try to beat the protocol in every workout.
After 6 to 12 weeks, you hit a wall where you can’t go any further. At this point you enter the cross phase. The cross phase is a period of 1 to 2 weeks when you do not go to the gym or only do very light exercises to maintain blood circulation.
Here are some examples of explosive and intersecting phases from some of Dante DC Training’s clients:
- Explosion 7 weeks, travel 7-10 days
- Blast 12 weeks, Cruise 14 weeks
- Explosion 10 weeks, journey 10 days
- Explosion 12 weeks, travel 7 days
Dante says the cross phase is absolutely critical. This will help you recover both physically and mentally. This way, Dante allows his clients to train with weights all year round without reaching a plateau or getting injured.
Many other bodybuilding programs, including Dr. Scott Stephenson’s Fortitude training program, use a similar discharge strategy. Even if you don’t use DC training, I highly recommend experimenting with using blast and cruise phases in your own program.
However, this is not the only way to discharge with the DC drive. If you feel exhausted during the explosive training phase, Dante suggests skipping one of the three weekly workouts.
If you z. B. I normally train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but this week I am not training on Friday. This means you have Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to recover.
When you hit the gym on Monday, you’ll feel like a picture again and be ready to work out with weights again. Here’s how an experienced DC trainee can program these mini-loads during the blast phase:
Training block #1
- Week 1: 3 training sessions
- Week 2: 3 training sessions
- Week 3: 3 training sessions
- Week 4: 2 training sessions (discharge)
Training block 2
- Week 5: 3 training sessions
- Week 6: 3 training sessions
- Week 7: 2 training sessions (discharge)
Training block 3
- Week 8: 3 training sessions
- Week 9: 3 training sessions
- Week 10: 0 training session (cruise week)
Note that this is just an example of offloading with DC training. These mini-trucking AND cruising phases are never planned in advance. You should listen to your body and determine when to remove a load based on your body’s reactions.
Part 4: Harnesses for training of mountain dogs
Unless you are a complete beginner, you have probably heard of John Meadows and his mountain dog training program. Mountain Dog Training is a high-intensity strength training program designed to help you build muscle mass without injury.
John knows that most people need to get their hearts out from time to time when they are training hard and pushing their limits. John says there are two steps to having a week of relief in his mountain dog training program:
- Step one: Reduce the training volume by approximately 20%.
- Step Two: Don’t let any of the sentences fail
Here is an excellent video of John Meadows talking about his offloading strategy:
John believes that unloading is something instinctive if you are a bodybuilder. He recommends not planning the release phase too far in advance. Instead, wait until you show signs of overtraining:
- You don’t get a good pump at the gym.
- Your powers are starting to wane
- You are not motivated to exercise
At this point, you move into the relief phase of about two weeks, where you reduce volume by 20% and stop doing sets until you fail. After this two-week break, you’ll feel like new again and ready to tackle the weights.
That’s why John sometimes organizes a 12-week training program for the advanced bodybuilder who needs a break after 12 weeks of intense training:
Phase 1: Weeks 1-3
- 11-14 sentences in total
- Moderate intensity
Phase 2: Weeks 4-9
- 16-20 complete sets
- Moderate intensity
Phase 3: Weeks 10-12
- 8-10 complete sets
- High intensity
Phase 4: Weeks 13-14 (discharge)
- 7-10 full sets
- Low intensity (no load to failure)
In the first phase of the program, a medium volume, medium intensity approach is followed. In phase 2, John increases the volume and gradually increases the total number of sets. In phase 3, John reduces the volume again, but increases the intensity of the sets through various high-intensity training techniques.
Finally, in Phase 4, John offers his clients relief with less volume and intensity. This is an excellent periodization strategy for the advanced bodybuilder who responds well to high volume training.
Part 5: Lillie Deload Bridge
The last discharge strategy I want to discuss with you is called the Lillibridge method. The Lillibridge Method was invented and popularized by Eric Lillibridge, one of the strongest powerlifters in the world.
Throughout his career, Eric has tried many different training programs. However, he discovered that he got the best results when he alternated heavy and light weeks for squats, bench press and deadlifts.
For example, here’s how Eric organizes his bench press workout:
- Week 1: Bench Press
- Week 2: Lightweight bench developer
This is a very simple, yet effective unloading strategy for advanced powerlifters. Just alternate between a heavy and a light week for your core exercises. Heavy and light weeks can be set up differently.
Here’s how Eric plans his bench press workout for a powerlifting competition:
Eric Lillibridge Bench Press Cycle
- Week 1: 87% x 1 repetition
- Week 2: 70% x AMRAP**.
- Week 3: 90% x 1 repetition
- Week 4: 70% x AMRAP**.
- Week 5: 93% x 1 repetition
- Week 6: 70% x AMRAP
- Week 7: 96% x 1 repetition
- Week 8: 70% x AMRAP**.
- Week 9: Work up to the intended opening x 1
- Week 10: Game day!
**AMRAP means as many repetitions as possible. Perform a set of as many reps as you can without failing.
As you can see, Eric Lillibridge carries a heavy single somewhere around 90-100% of his maximum 1st base. Today’s reps on the heavy bench press, over. He then carries an AMRAP rate of 70% of his maximum 1. Rehearsal on the day of the release of the light bench press. This quiet week is important because it gives your body a chance to recover and prepare for another tough week of bench pressing.
Many other strength athletes use a similar relief strategy in their training. In fact, the strongest man in the world, Eddie Hall, used exactly this strategy when he trained to break his 1,100 pound record! One week Eddie would do a heavy deadlift workout and the next a quick deadlift workout. For example:
Eddie Hall Deadlift Program
- Week 1: A heavy deadlift.
- Week 2: Hoisting speed
- Week 3: A heavy deadlift.
- Week 4: Hoisting speed
This deadlift training strategy works incredibly well for powerlifters and advanced lifters. The strongest man in the world, four-time world champion Brian Shaw, is another big proponent of the biweekly training strategy to lose weight.
Unloading is the most important part of any training program. If you train hard enough, sooner or later you will need a break from your regular workouts. In this guide, we’ve looked at the 5 most effective offloading strategies you can use to build size and strength.
Josh Bryant and John Meadows are big fans of reducing the volume and intensity of workouts for one to two weeks to help the body recover.
Charles Polikin prefers his athletes to reduce the amount of training every few sessions, while maintaining a high intensity.
Dante Trudel uses a simple load off and cruise strategy that works very well with his high intensity bodybuilding program.
Finally, Eric Lillibridge uses a simple offloading strategy by lifting weights every other week during core exercises.
I’m sure one of these discharge strategies will work well for you. So, what are you waiting for? Start incorporating lighting into your workout routine and watch your progress soar!
Decide to have a positive attitude. You have the choice, you are the master of your attitude, choose in a positive, constructive way. Optimism is the belief that leads to success.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your strength training!
Dr. Mike Jansen.
Thanks for stopping by my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT. I am the creator/owner of Revolutionary Program Design. My goal is to make RPD the best strength training resource on planet Earth. if you are from another galaxy, anything is possible! So lean back, kick back and relax. There has never been a better time to train or learn the art and science of developing strength training programs.
a link to Stan Efferding’s deadlifting program!
Stan Efferding’s deadlift program!
Stan Efferding knows a thing or two about training for a big bench press. Stan has lifted over 800 pounds several times in his career, including 837.5 pounds in one match …
Link to press / pull-ups / Chris Bumstead’s legs!
Chris Bumstead’s Press / Pull Up / Legs!
Chris Bumstead is one of the most popular bodybuilders in the world. He won the Mr. Olympia Classic bodybuilding competition two years in a row from 2019 to 220 and has an incredible…To add to the confusion of how to deload and why, it should be noted that there isn’t one single “right” way to do it either. The body is a highly adaptive organism that can acclimate to a variety of stressors. In other words, it can adjust to training methodologies, equipment, and frequency. To complicate things further, every body is different. The best plan of action is to identify how your body recovers best and design a deloading phase around this.. Read more about neurotransmitter based program design and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 5 basic strength training exercises?
1. Squat 2. Deadlift 3. Bench Press 4. Overhead Press 5. Pull-up
What are the 5 main lifts for weightlifting?
The 5 main lifts for weightlifting are the squat, the bench press, the deadlift, the snatch, and the clean.
What are 4 methods of strength training?
1. Isometric 2. Dynamic 3. Isotonic 4. Isokinetic
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