How to overreach and deload correctly

Are your workouts getting tougher and you’re not even increasing the weight?… Perhaps you’re having symptoms of over-training.


Let’s have a look at what over-training is, how to do planned over reaching and tapering, and how it influences a lot of things in your body.



This is a very rare condition, and experts still dispute if it really exists.

It’s defined as excessive exercise without adequate rest, resulting in perturbations of multiple body systems (neurologic, endocrinologic, immunologic) coupled with mood changes and leads to under performance. (1)

Overtraining appears as a disturbed autonomic (nervous system) regulation, which in its parasympathicotonic form shows a diminished maximal secretion of catecholamines (catecholamine increase testosterone), combined with an impaired full mobilization of anaerobic lactic (lactate causes the release of growth hormone) reserves. (2)

So overall, overtraining will result in decrease in strength, endurance and testosterone. (3)

Overtraining is quite serious and needs lots of time for recovery (many weeks or months). (4)


Over reaching

Over reaching is almost like over-training, but it’s what athletes do to improve their strength and performance. They increases the intensity and/or volume of the training program.

It’s done for a duration of time (12 days to 4-6 weeks or up to 16 weeks) and then they rest, by doing deloading or tapering for a small duration (1-2 weeks).

Over-reaching causes a kind of over-training but can be recovered from in just a few days. (5)

If over reaching is continued without a deloading period then performance, testosterone, strength and endurance will decrease. No further gains will be made and the chance for performance to decline is very possible.

So prolonged over-reaching can result in over-training.

You might then think, why would you even do over-reaching then?

Well short term over-reaching results in:

  • Increased testosterone (6)
  • Improved performance (7)




Tapering is where the volume of the training program is reduced by approx. 50% but the intensity is kept just as high or maybe slightly lower. (8)

Tapering should not be confused with detraining.

Detraining is where exercise is completely stopped. That is when strength, power and physical performance start to decrease almost immediately.

  • Detraining for 6 weeks results in a decrease in strength by 12%. (9)
  • Detraining for 4 weeks after a 16 week training program, resulted in decrease of maximal strength (-6 to -9%) and muscle power output (-17 and -14%). (10) Whereas 4 weeks of tapering further increases maximal strength by 2%.

So tapering is the period where you recover and prepare for the next period of over-reaching.

A great ratio for over-reaching and tapering is 4:1 or 3:1. (11) 3-4 weeks of over-reaching and 1 week of tapering.


So why taper?

Doing consistent weight training at high volume and high intensity and not giving your body the time to recover optimally will:

  • increase oxidative stress significantly and increase the need for recovery even more (12)
  • lead to over-training (13)
  • lead to low muscle glycogen (14)
  • lead to greater muscle damage over time (15)
  • influence your sleep and mood negatively (16)
  • result in weaker immunity (17)
  • lead to decreased sympathetic activation and parasympathetic dominance (performance inhibition, fatigue, depression) (18)
  • lead to low testosterone and growth hormone and higher cortisol (19)


Also, one of the initial signs of doing overreaching for too long, is increased rating of perceived exertion for a given workload. That’s when a workload for an exercise gets more difficult while it’s still the same weight.

So by tapering every so often, will reset the over-training clock so to speak.



Are you experiencing any of these symptoms? Maybe it’s time to give your body some rest.

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