Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Do I Need a Deload Week?

by Emily Socolinsky, SSC | June 04, 2019

vacation at the beach

I often get this question from clients, about an hour into their sessions:

“So, when is a good time to deload? I read on the Internet/Reddit/Facebook/T-Nation that it’s a good idea to take a week off and do lower weights. Do I need to do this?” 

A deload is a planned break in the training cycle, usually lasting a week, where the lifter reduces the amount of training volume to encourage recovery. If you are an advanced or intermediate lifter who trains consistently and very rarely misses a training session, then the answer may be “yes.” Your coach will help you figure out when that deload week will be, and what it will entail. 

However, if you are a recreational lifter, or you do not train consistently 3-4 times a week and you do miss training sessions, then the answer is “no,” you do not need a deload week. Why? Because your deload is already built into your training cycle. You are the lifter who decides to buy the book, perhaps seeks out a coach to help get you started, and then starts lifting 2-3 times a week at your local YMCA.  Once you start the program, you get two solid months of training without any interruptions. The numbers are going up on the bar, and you may even start to see a change in your pant size.

Then your 2-year-old gets sick. The babysitter isn’t available, so you have to stay home, and can’t get to the gym to train. A week later, you are back, but you have to reset your weights because you missed a week of training. Two weeks later, you get sick with the flu from the 2-year-old, and miss yet another week of training. You get back in after two weeks, but have to reset again.  You get another good two months of training in and start hitting PR’s again. But now that trip to Japan that you planned with your brother last year is coming up soon, and you are  going to be gone for at least three weeks. Once you return to the gym, it has now been over one month since you trained and you have to take at least 15% off the bar. Sound familiar?

Regular lifters (probably you) are never going to need a deload week, because deloads are already built into your program by default. Illness, vacations, work travel, sick children, visits from family, work functions, parties, weddings, funerals….these are your deloads. 

When clients return from a week or two off, I tell them to either repeat their session from the week before, if they have been training for awhile or take about 10% off their weights. You can see the disappointment in their faces when they learn that they have to take weight off the bar, but I tell them that it is just a part of the training process.

Deloads are important for the advanced competitive lifter. For the recreational lifter who has two kids, a dog, a new baby on the way, a trip planned next month, tickets to see the Avengers tomorrow night and, oh yeah, a job, deloads are already part of the program. It’s called “life.”

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