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Deloading for CrossFit

By brett kokoruda | In Coach's Corner | on April 25, 2014

Deloading for Crossfit: The Basics


We’ve been hitting it pretty hard for three months now. Most of you are acclimated to the volume and intensity of our program, with that being said, I think it’s time we discuss a very important element of Strength and Conditioning and the unique challenge that CrossFit training presents us with. In all traditional strength programs there is what is commonly referred to as a Deload. In basic terms this is an intentional lowering of volume, intensity or loading in your program for a short period with the intended effect of increasing your strength in the long term. It is a basic truth of all exercise that we DO NOT get stronger and fitter from working out. We get stronger and fitter when we recover from working out. At its most basic level exercise is simply putting your body under a clearly defined stress so that during the subsequent recovery period you will adapt to that stress and become fitter. If you constantly go all out, you will eventually stop making gains and/or you will get injured.

A classic deload would entail lowering your intensity, volume or load for the duration of one week or taking more rest days for a short period. It is not uncommon to see people who are worn out, take a week off and then come back refreshed, stronger and generally fitter. For those of you coming from an endurance background, imagine if you just hit long runs every day of the week.  You need rest.

I discovered this first hand years ago when I began CrossFit. I fell in with the “more must be better” mentality, quickly burnt out and found myself constantly nursing minor injuries. To this end, we simply cannot write in Deloading weeks in a group class setting. Many of our members have very different schedules. One person may have come 5-6 days in a one week period and may desperately need a deload period while another just returned from a vacation and is ready to go hard. This simply means that you need to work WITH the coaches on when and how you personally should deload. Those of you with the Unlimited memberships should pay particular attention to this. So what are some of the basic rules you can apply to properly deload your program?

  1. Every 4-6 weeks check in with yourself and consider the volume of your training and how you feel? If you’re worn out, constantly sore, mentally drained, then perhaps a deload is necessary.
  2. A deload doesn’t have to mean doing nothing at all. Just lower the 3 variables we mentioned earlier: Volume, Load, Intensity. If you always go RX, then drop the weight. If it’s a back squat day, go at 50-60% instead of your usual. Come in and do more mobility or skill work rather than a challenging WOD.
  3. Talk to a coach and get some feedback on how to deload for the class. We understand, we’ve been there. 100% intensity has it’s time and place.
  4. Emphasize recovery. Get a massage, take a yoga class, go for a hike. You shouldn’t be working out every day. If you eat a calorie restricted diet or an ultra low carb diet, then take a break from that for a couple of days.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Many people labor under the misconception that if they take a day off or lower the intensity of their training that they will either lose fitness or gain weight. Nothing could be further from the truth. Give yourself a break.
  6. Lastly, a deload period can be of varying durations. It can be a long weekend or it can 7 full days. I have a friend who has been hitting wods non-stop for 3 months and was starting to wear himself out. He took a week off and did nothing but skillwork and mobility. When he returned a week later to full training volume he PR’ed 3 of his lifts in the first week.


If you have questions about how to do this in the context of your membership please feel free to talk with any of the coaches.  Your fitness is a lifelong project and not just an all out sprint. Be mindful of this and you’ll see greater gains over the long haul.


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