A Proper Deload Week, Day One

french toast
Image: Food.com

As usual on a Sunday when we have the grandkids, my wife went for her walk first while I took care of them. If it’s Sunday morning, it’s French Toast for breakfast when the kids are with us, and I was helping my seven-year-old grandson with the cooking when the missus finally returned.

She had someplace to be by eleven, but it was only ten after eight when I left the house so I’d have plenty of time to do my workout and get back home.

It’s deload week, and I decided to do a proper deload rather than not lift at all or just winging it.

I know for a traditional deload, you do your same lifts, but at only between 40% to 60% of your 1 rep max. Usually for all three working sets you do five reps each, but I dug a little deeper into deload technique and found some alternative methods on a forum (don’t recall which one at the moment).

On the discussion board, one person suggested doing 10 reps for the first set, 8 for the second, and 6 for the third. Obviously no jokers, since deload is time to recover, not time to crush yourself some more.

I got into the gym at about 21 minutes past the hour and rushed to the squat rack. Mercifully, it was unoccupied, so I ditched my hoodie in a locker, set the rack up with the correct weight plates, and got to work.

Here’s Cycle 13, Deload Week, Day One.

Main Lifts Deload Week

Barbell Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
8x 115lbs/52.1631kg
6x 135lbs/61.235kg

deload with arnoldBarbell Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
8x 60lbs/27.2155kg
6x 75lbs/34.0194kg

Yeah, it doesn’t look like much. In fact, I was a little embarrassed lifting so light in front of the other guys and gals in the weight room. On the other hand, I could get down pretty low in my squats because I wasn’t moving a massive amount of weight.

Squats and overhead presses were still somewhat challenging because they were above the usual number of reps per set. It’s nice to switch things up once in a while.

I had plenty of time left after lifting, so I decided to do 20 minutes of cardio plus a 5 minute cooldown. After that, the usual mobility work, and I still got out of the gym a little over an hour after I walked in.

Topic change.

About a month ago, I read an article called “You’re all going to die”: A scientifically proven pep-talk for winning. Sounds grim, right?

Basically, it suggests that athletes perform better when reminded of their own mortality in a “pep talk”. This is supported by studies of Terror Management Theory (yes, it’s a real thing).

For those of us who are older, we should have some of that motivation built-in. In fact, many of us are in the gym or otherwise involved in some sort of regular exercise program because we know we are declining.

I know my body is changing, both for the better and otherwise. It’s a bunch of little things, but I know what it adds up to. Doing nothing, I’d just get weaker and weaker due to the natural decline associated with aging.

death and basketball
Image: Bob Demers/UANews – Colin Zestcott (left) and Uri Lifshin conducted two studies showing that athletes are subconsciously motivated by reminders of death. The skull shirt worn by Lifshin served as one of those reminders.

I lift heavy weights (well, heavy for me) to counter that, at least to the best of my ability. I’m stronger than I was. 300 pound deadlifts prove that. But every time I look in the mirror, I see that grey hair getting thinner. It takes longer for me to recover from strenuous effort than it used to. And I’ve got a seven-year-old grandson and a seventeen-month-old granddaughter who call me “Grandpa” (although in my granddaughter’s case, it comes out “Gammpa”).

Young athletes, especially those in their prime, tend to think they’re immortal. They’ll do pretty much any risky and crazy thing just because they can. I watch some of them and remind myself that I’d have to be nuts to risk injury by emulating them.

I don’t have to be reminded of my own mortality in a pep talk. That awareness is with me every time I wake up in the morning. I may not be the strongest guy ever to walk into a gym, but at least on those occasions when I’m at my local suburbian gym, I’m the strongest guy my age in the weight room, and I’m well-motivated to achieve that and keep it as long as I can.

I hope you’re motivated, too. If not, I hope this wee article helps.

Gratitude also opens your eyes to the limitless potential of the universe while dissatisfaction closes your eyes to it.

Stephen Richards


4 thoughts on “A Proper Deload Week, Day One

  1. I sure know about mortality ,my wife passed away almost 6 years ago at the age of 55. I know that at at almost 67 I am well past middle age. I do believe that lifting is the best thing in can do to keep on keeping on. I sure have some aches and pains from the lifting but it beats the alternative.


    1. My condolences on your wife’s passing, Jerry. Mine turns 60 next February (a fact the abhors me reminding her of). I’m 62 and know it, but there’s still a part of me I have to reign in occasionally when my ego is engaged.


  2. Thanks James, I have been dealing with her death pretty well although the holidays aren’t the same. I just received my copy of The Barbell Prescription, a book written specifically for older lifters. It was written by two of the SS coaches. It has plenty of info on why we should train for strength as we age. If you have time check one of the authors, Jonathan Sullivan’s videos on YouTube just look up Grey Steel. . Read your last post, I give you credit for braving the cold mornings to go to the gym.
    The last five years I worked at the NYPD I was a roadside mechanic, going to the precincts to fix cars on site. I worked outside in the cold winter weather,now I try to avoid doing any of that. Luckily my garage is about ten feet from my door and I have gotten some heat available for this winters workouts. .For the past month I have been doing more of a conditioning weight program using lighter weights, higher reps and little rest . Seems to be working ok, but I will get back to the heavier weights next year.


    1. I’m familiar with Sullivan and his gym. Follow it on Facebook. I’ve seen “The Barbell Prescription” advertised but I thought it wasn’t published yet. I’ll have to have another look.


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