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Do Beginners Need To Deload

Do Beginners Need To Deload (Is It Necessary)

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been looking into some advanced training principles and techniques. 

This is definitely a good thing because learning from the best in the industry will speed up your progress and stop you from making some common mistakes that will hold 80% of people back in the “beginner” stages of training. One particularly advanced technique with training is the deload period or deload week. 

If you’ve looked into this concept in any sort of detail then you’ll find it usually comes with more advanced training programs and is rarely mentioned in beginner programs. You therefore might be wondering, do beginners need to deload?

Beginners do not need to deload. Deloads are primarily used by intermediate-advanced level strength athletes and bodybuilders as a method to manage training fatigue. Beginners will not be using enough weight, volume, or intensity to trigger this level of fatigue and therefore don’t need to deload. 

It’s easy to get wrapped up in advanced training principles and techniques because they are the things that are used by those you likely aspire to emulate. Some techniques, however, are advanced because they are needed by advanced level lifters. 

In this article, I’ll cover why you don’t need to deload as a beginner (because you don’t) and what you should instead be focusing on to recover. 

What Is a Beginner

JT Strength sums up a beginner quite nicely in the video above, a beginner is basically someone with less than one year of training experience. It really doesn’t matter how quickly you advance in that year or whether or not you are blessed with the best/worst genetics. 

Most people (99.9%) are unlikely to progress enough within one year where they are at a stage that the intensity they train with is placing enough stress and fatigue on their body that they need to be concerned about a deload. 

Sure, you might feel as though you are pushing yourself hard and I’m not saying beginners don’t train hard, it’s just that the adaptations you go through within one year of training are not going to be close to your body’s potential. 

Using myself as an example, I started training in my bedroom at 15 years old and I’m far from a powerlifter. I’ve always pushed myself to lift heavy but it’s more in the 8-12 rep range with some occasional 3-5 rep sets. 

At that point, I’d bench 40kg (under 100lbs) and have nothing to rack the bar on, plus I had a light 1” 4ft barbell so had no idea that a standard barbell weighed 45lbs alone which was half my total bench. 

My point?

I was training hard. I was applying progressive overload, trying to get stronger, lift more weight, do more reps, do more sets, and I’d be tired after my workouts. I thought I was pushing myself.

Then after a few years of consistent training, it got to the point when I’d press more weight with one hand using dumbbells than what I did with the bar in those first few months.

It might feel hard at the time but you’ll soon find that the weights you are lifting as a beginner are not going to cause much fatigue in terms of overload. 

Do Beginners Need To Deload

The vast majority of beginners do not need to deload. It really is a simple as that. 

A deload week is used to manage training fatigue that usually accumulates in muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and the central nervous system. This is done through lifting heavy weights at percentages close to your 1-rep max. 

I’m generalizing a lot as there are other factors that can lead to needing a deload but the main one is the accumulation of fatigue. No one can train at 100% week after week in a linear fashion to make progress. If that were the case, there would be no limit to how much weight you can lift and how much muscle you can build. 

For most though, this buildup of fatigue comes from consistent heavy training and this is one of the reasons why deloads are most commonly used in powerlifting and strength-based training. I covered this above with the example of myself but as a beginner, you won’t be lifting enough to create the level of stress that causes you to plateau. 

Most beginners can progress for a year whilst increasing the weight consecutively week after week. This won’t be true for all exercises but the first year of training for beginners is the quickest in terms of progressions. 

As a result, you’ll accumulate some fatigue and be tired but it won’t be enough to stop you from progressing in terms of weight lifted. A deload is used to manage fatigue in order to lift more weight in your next training cycle and as beginners can progress so quickly, a deload could just slow down and delay progress. 

The one exception I’d say to everything above is that while most beginners won’t be lifting enough to really fatigue the muscles or CNS, there is one trap that beginners fall into that that is excessive volume. 

As you advance, you get better at getting the most out of less. By that I mean you warm-up for longer with fewer reps for strength training and you learn to fully contract a muscle during hypertrophy training so that a single rep brings more stimulation than any set you did as a beginner. 

Beginners will go the opposite route and focus on the less is more approach doing endless sets of curls, 15+ sets for most body parts yet also hitting each muscle with too little frequency. While excessive volume alone won’t lead to overtraining or a deload, it will lead to needing a break to recover. 

When Should a Beginner Deload

It’s worth noting that there times when it’s beneficial to deload, even for a beginner. The most obvious example is if you are following a specific program. As a beginner, you won’t have the knowledge or experience to customize an already detailed program that factors in deload weeks. 

If you are following a set program, just follow the program. Too much progress is lost and wasted when beginners try to customize a program because they have seen something else that seems like it could also work or be a good addition. 

Take this article, the overall summary is that beginners don’t need to deload. If, however, you are following a program that schedules a deload week then just take it. If it keeps you sticking to a proven program fully, you’ll still see more benefit from following it than if you try to customize it and fall off track. 

Secondly, you might need a deload to rehab or reduce the severity of an injury. If you have and soft tissue or muscle injuries that still allow you to train around them, taking a deload week can help reduce training stress/fatigue and manage it better. 

Training with 50% of your volume will keep the adaptation and muscle protein synthesis running but will also help you to manage any niggles in terms of a potential injury. 

** Medical Disclaimer – This is not medical advice, if you have any type of injury then seek medical attention from your health care professional in the first instance before attempting any kind of physical activity. **

Finally, most people recommend that instead of following a programmed deload, people should instead take one when they feel they need to. This is actually the best way to deload because ‘Person A’ could feel the fatigue of a program on week 4 whereas ‘Person B’ may be ramping up to their best week ever in week 7. 

Deloading is not an exact science but most beginners won’t yet have that sense of when they are doing too much and need to pull back. Therefore, if you are strength training and want to utilize a deload, follow a set time rather than trying to be instinctive.  

Final Thoughts

Deloading is something that is considered essential for high-performance strength athletes or those that are lifting weights with a high level of intensity. It helps to reduce fatigue and keeps you lifting and progressing at an optimal level through training cycles. 

As a beginner though, you likely won’t be cycling a program to constantly push your one-rep max, and even if you are training purely for strength, the weights you lift and level of intensity will not be enough to accumulate fatigue and warrant a deload.

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