T Nation

Why Start Lighter Than Necessary?

By this question I mean: Why is it important to start weights at a percentage of a number that is a lot less than your true 1RM, such as in 5/3/1? The reason why I ask this is because in 5/3/1 there is a deload week every month, and while you still technically do the lifts, you are supposed to do it a a very low % and only do 5 reps.

So essentially, during the deload week you are not really working your muscles at all. On top of that, you only do each major lift 1 time a week, meaning that on the first week after your deload week, it as been a full 14 days since the last time you lifted strenuously for that lift. FINALLY to my point: being that on 5/3/1 you have a 14 full days where you do not train your major lift with any effort, aren’t you almost “restarting”?

And because of this, wouldn’t it be then necessary to start light all over again? For example, If you can take 14 days off from doing any heavy deadlifting, and then still jump right into 85% of your 1RM without issues, then why do you have to start with a 1RM so much lower than our true 1RM when starting a new program or resetting?

A few observations:

  • I’d disagree with your definition of “not really working your muscles at all”. To me, that would be skipping the workout. The point of a deload is to still exercise your muscles, but allow for added recovery, especially since you’ve just had four rather heavy sessions in the past week. And as you improve, that 60% set you do is going to become a much larger number. Regardless if 160 kg is your 1RM or 15RM for your squat, it’s still moving 160 kg. This is reflected in his 5/3/1 for Beginners template, where he says that intermediates can use it as well, but will need to lower some of the percentages because of how much that extra work comes out as.

  • While you might be doing the major lifts only once a week, you’re using the various muscle groups more than once. E.g. your hamstrings and glutes are being used in both deadlifting and squatting. Don’t forget the assistance and conditioning work as well.

  • You’re also forgetting the bigger picture of what happens as you do multiple cycles of 5/3/1, you add 5 or 10 lb to your lifts each cycle. Those increases apply to your deload week as well, so your deload week will also get harder and harder.

Starting light is important because it gives you room to grow. Strength adaptations can take place even when training below your 1RM. Stating too heavy will only get you stuck quickly.

The deload week is a week where you rest from lifting heavy but you do train. It is designed so that you do just enough work to maintain your strength while allowing your body to recuperate. So while you indeed rest 14 between lifting “heavy” for a given exercise, you do not enter the next cycle in a de-trained state, relative to the last cycle.

The last question becomes irrelevant given what I explained below.

Read (or re-read) the book.

Rep records=stronger.

Nuff said

I can’t answer the question from a scientific standpoint, but from experience if you started at 100% how many cycles do you think you’d consistently progress on? If you start on 90% you’ll be fitting PRs for multiple cycles which means 1.) You’re getting stronger 2.) Its a great mental boost. Don’t forget you can always do heavy triples and doubles above 90% if you want to after you get your required reps.

You could have a deload once every two cycles if you’re sleep and nutrition are on point IMO. But when I do that on the new cycle 5 week which replaces the deload week, I usually only do the minimum reps required and one BW exercise - at least that week has significantly lower volume than normal then.

Honestly, I couldn’t even finish reading your question. Using your logic, why don’t you just go do a meet every weekend for the next 10 years straight. You should lift heavier and heavier weights every meet, forever? Then you can just retire once you hit a 5,000 raw total.

There are about a billion reasons why what you are suggesting won’t work. Here are some big ones:

-Just starting out, you are going to have weak connective tissue. Volume builds these.
-You are going to have bad technique
-You are going to be in terrible ‘lifting shape’

Add these three variables up over any length of time and that will make an injury.

Pick a tested program (5/3/1, BFS, 5x5, whatever the hell) and work the shit out of it. If you eat enough and work hard enough, you will get very strong. Unless you are surrounded by people who do it already, there is no reason to do anything too complicated right now.

If you don’t like the deload every 4th week then don’t do it. It’s only suggested. I used to not do deloads. Pretty sure I didn’t do a deload for like 4-5 MONTHS. I paid for it. My joints were hurting all the time. Back always sore. I figured, “If I stopped to do a deload, I would get weak.” That is absolutely false. You feel fresher for your workouts after a break. You really do have to leave your ego at the door though. I stagger my deloads for each lift so that I’m deloading a lift every week. I wasn’t a big fan of deloading all lifts in the same week. For instance, my first week of a new cycle will look like this:

MP- 5’s
Dead- 3’s
Bench- 5/3/1
Squat- Deload

Then the next week will look like this:

MP- 3’s
Dead- 5/3/1
Bench- Deload
Squat- 5’s

I don’t even do the required sets/reps on the deload week, I skip them completely and just do some light BBB sessions. Try it, might work for you.

Thanks for the replies guys. Just FYI though, I wasnt trying to give reasons why I should skip deload, or even claim that there is no point in starting light, I was simply saying that I dont UNDERSTAND how it is helpful, and how taking 14 days off is okay. But I suppose I am not giving the deload week enough credit.

What percentage of your max are you using to start?

you are not taking 14 days of the muscles or the movements. there is a skill component to weight lifting. that deload week is all about skill in my opinion with a dash of active recovery.

and as others have posted you are working upper body twice in a week. so say you do overhead on friday then tuesday do bench. that is 4 days between upper body workouts not 14.

^^^^ what he said is completely correct, and what storm said, although he was pretty harsh, is also codrext.

Keep in mind you are not doing a deload of the muscles, but off the nervous system. The nervous system recovers more slowly than the muscles, and taxing the nervous system to its limits constantly is one big big reason for burnout.

Your “deload” week is meant to rest the nervous system while still practicing the skill component of the lifts an d also working the muscles.

The 14 days you speak of is the period for which maximal strength “stays with you” before starting to decline, which is why it concerns you. However, that is 14 days without doing anything–not going to train the muscles at all. If you train the muscles, just not tax the nervous system, this 14 day period does not apply in the same manner. That is essentiall what you are doing, and also one of the many reasons for starting at 90% instead of 100%