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Deloading in Maximum Strength

Written on February 4, 2009 at 5:15 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: I am just finishing up Phase 1 of Maximum Strength, and I have a few questions about the loading.

1. When we have deload weeks, like in week 4, do we decrease the load or  is the decreased volume you prescribed the actual deload? I find myself increasing the load on weeks 2 and 4 to compensate for the decreased volume, but I have a feeling I am defeating the whole purpose of the deload.

2. When we are doing our sets, should we try to keep the same load for each set, or do we work up to a RM on our last set?

A:  With respect to your first question, you are definitely doing the right thing. The best answer I can give is to get stronger! And, you will! So, if the reps go down, the weights should go up. And, if the reps stay the same, the weights should still (hopefully) go up.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course – particularly as you get more and more advanced or have a previous history of injury. It’d be worth picking up a copy of my Art of the Deload e-book for details for only $12.99:

art-of-the-deload2

As for your second question, I’d keep working up and only count the stuff that’s at or above 90% of your best working weight for the day.  So, let’s say you’re doing three sets of three reps on front squats, and your progression goes something like this:

45×5, 95×3, 135×3, 165×3, 185×3, 200×3 (heaviest you can go, you discover)

So, you work backward from that 200 pounds to find that 90% of it is 180 pounds.  So, the only two sets that have “counted” thus far are 185 and 200 – so you need to do one more set between 180 and 200 pounds to finish up the 3×3.

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  • Scott

    Eric,

    Does that also apply to the assistance work when not deloading? For example, rows at 4×8, would you want to use the same weight for all 4 sets or work up to an 8 rep max?

    Thank you

  • Bert,

    The only sets I would “count” are those above 90% of your best working weight on the day. So, in your example above, I would count the 185×4 and 200×4 sets (assuming 200 is the heaviest you can go on the day). No sense counting all those lighter weight warm-ups.

    For the higher rep sets, you really shouldn’t even need a warm-up, as they come later in the session and you should be warmed up already. So, it’d be 60×8, 60×8, and 60×8 (a little rep or weight dropoff later on is okay).

    Hope this helps.

  • Scott,

    If we are talking assistance work, I’d say get to your max weight ASAP (over 1-2 sets) and try to sustain it as best as you can. If you have a bit of a rep or weight dropoff, that’s fine.

  • Thanks Coach,
    It looks like I will have to “fine tune” my routine. Not counting enough sets at 90% in certain exercises, most notably the bench press. Whereas my squat and deadlift were going up every week.

  • paul

    Hi Eric,

    When deloading in max strength training, what percent do you drop down to? And how much volume (reps and sets)? is there a formula for hypertrophy and power training phases too.

    Ive heard about tapering 10 days before a major meet. How do you do this properly?

    I am a sprinter and need to periodize my strength training to avoid stagnation.

    Thanks,
    Paul


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