Basic Brainstorm about Tapers
I was asked today about tapering for big meets, and I decided to turn my resulting Stream of Consciousness into a post. There won’t be any citations this time around as this is my practice and what I do, but even saying that these are strictly guidelines to follow and work from. Also, I’m talking about the last two weeks, or even one week, before competition. This isn’t a full discussion of building a peak for a meet or the last four to six weeks before a meet which, obviously, form a true taper period.
A taper is when you alter your training to be able to hit your best lifts in a meet. There is a reduction on volume, but unlike a deload, there is no reduction in intensity. In fact, the average weight lifted (intensity) will increase during the taper. We can taper for any meet we want to, but for advanced or elite level lifters, we will only really taper for two or three big meets a year. These meets will be our peak meets. For a smaller meet we may have a mini peak or a mini taper, but please don’t automatically think a taper and a peak are the same thing.
For beginners, we use a simple three day/ one week taper. If we lift Saturday, then Monday we will work up to three singles between 80-85% in the Snatch and Clean and Jerk, and to a single at 90% in the back squat. On Wednesday we go to three singles at 70-75% and a single at 80-85% in the Front Squat, and Thursday or Friday we do three singles at 70% in the snatch and clean and Jerk only with no squats. I call this basic Taper “Beginner Meet Week”. However, the taper actually starts on the last test days before a big meet, usually two weeks out for the Clean and Jerk and 10 days out for the snatch.
Our Advanced lifters get a Ten Day taper based off that final snatch day. Since the advanced or elite lifters lift at Multi-Day meets, we’re going to consider our lifter to lift on a Saturday for explanation.
Two Weeks before the meet we’ll test Clean and Jerk and Front Squat. Ten Days before the meet we’ll test Snatch and do a heavy, not Max, Back Squat. That will probably be the last time we back squat before the meet. Some lifters like or need the back squat though, and if they do, we’ll hit a heavy single five days out. After our test days, we will have the following days: 85% for Snatch and Clean and Jerk for a single (on Thursday or Friday 8-9 days before the meet). Then 80% for 1-3 singles a day or two later (Friday or Saturday a week before the meet). The Monday before the meet we will go to 90% for a single in the snatch, clean and jerk and front or back squat. On Tuesday we go to 70-75% for three singles and a double at 80 in the Front Squat. Wednesday is usually travel Day; if it isn’t, we will go to 85% for a single or two and no squatting unless we need a further stimulus. Thursday we will go light again, 70-75%. If Wednesday is Travel Day, we might go to 80% on Tuesday and then only 50-70% after we fly in on Wednesday. It’s very important to lift the day you get off the plane, even if it’s late at night. We’ll do five singles total around 50-70% for Snatch and Clean and Jerk. If Thursday is Travel Day, we MUST train after the flight and we’ll go to 70-75%. Friday we’ll go to 80% for one single, or maybe stop at 70-75% if the lifter looks sluggish. On Competition Day, if the lifter lifts after 4:00 p.m., we will do a quick morning session around 10-Noon hitting five singles total between 50 and 70% in the lifts. Then we kick ass that evening.
The purpose of a taper is to prime the CNS, the Body, and the emotions for a peak performance. The last training cycle should have prepped us for the meet, the taper is merely honing that edge. Because the workouts during the taper take a shorter time to complete, athletes will often ruin their taper by increasing stress. WHEN YOU TAPER, you need to reduce stress. Let things slide that can slide. Pay your bills early or set up auto payments for them. Make sure someone is watching your dog and have a back-up for the dog sitter. Plan to fly a day early and plan a morning flight so if there’s a delay you aren’t missing the meet. Whatever you can let go of for two weeks, let it go. We’ll talk about recovery after a meet next week and a big part of recovery is taking care of the life stuff you put aside.